Since the fall of the Soviet Empire, we've seen a massive insurgence of optics from the newly formed Russia. Some have been good, some bad and some indifferent. However, our cold war bias toward all things Russian has, over the years, required more than a little reevaluation. It turns out that good things really can come from our former "enemy." Into this frenzy of products came a cornucopia of night vision devices. Most, at first, were laughable; Gen 1 and barely that. While on a short training gig, I can recall sneaking up on a buddy at 9 p.m. and getting to within 50 yards of him before he saw me rise up off the ground and fire a blank or two at him. He had a set of Gen 1 binoculars and to call them junk was doing junk a disservice.
My, how times have changed. Yukon is one of the major importers of Russian night vision, and today's subject, boys and girls, is their NVRS 3x50 Tactical Gen 2+ Rifle Scope. I will be up front with you; I am not particularly experienced with the latest trends in night vision. As a former soldier, NV was an awesome tool and I reveled in my unit's ability to use this kind of gear at any and all opportunities. As a TOW gunner in the late 80s, I absolutely loved the AN-TAS 4 Thermal Imaging sight on my TOW II anti tank missile system. That was 1980s technology and the best of the breed at the time. My MOS didn't allow me much opportunity to play with the rifle scopes of that era, but when I did I found them fairly effective. As a civilian however, NVDs (Night Vision Devices) will always be a simple novelty to me. My budget doesn't allow me to indulge. I can't hunt legally with them in my state and I am not in law enforcement, where they really do have a special purpose. However, this doesn't mean I cannot recognize a good thing when it comes across my desk. At roughly $2,700, this particular scope's listed retail cost, it's about half the price of what I recall a moderately expensive NVD costing just a few short years ago. Better still, shopping around will net you a substantial savings off the list price!
As I said, times have changed. Yukon recently sent a Model 26022T NVRS 3x50 Tactical Gen 2+ to me for evaluation. Without a steeped background in NV development, the best I could do was mount the thing up and take it for a test drive. I had no preconceived ideas of what should be expected and maybe this is a good thing. Here in the States ITT is the brand to beat, but it's been years since I have looked through one and I'll never be able to afford it. This lack of exposure, I hope, has allowed me to go test without any real bias toward a single brand.
The test rig for the review: An AR15 Flat top with a stainless Steel 24-inch Olympic Arms Ultramatch bull barrel. This rifle has proven to be very accurate and it happens to be the only flat top I have at the moment. I would have preferred to test a carbine length rifle, but in a way this particular rifle makes sense too. For law enforcement use, this scope could easily do double duty on a sniper weapon system or a shorter-range weapon. Ammunition used was over the counter ball ammo. Due to the extreme weather conditions (snow, sleet, 20 odd degrees), I knew I'd not be doing much good on the bench and didn't see the point in using match ammo. The ammo used was good for about 1 inch at 100 yards at best.
The Yukon Model 26022T, 3x50 NVRS (Night Vision Rifle Scope) Gen 2+, is approximately 9.75" long including the rubber eyecup, making for a short, handy package. On the rifle, it balances well and seems tailor-made for the AR15 series. The titanium housed unit makes for a fairly lightweight system at 26.5 ounces. The sight operates on 3 volts, in other words it takes 2 AA batteries. Nothing oddball or funky about keeping the scope electrically fed. The batteries are claimed to last 50 hours and I would assume this is close to accurate as I have been using the scope, on and off for about 30 hours so far with no sign of degradation. As stated in the name, the magnification is 3x and the objective is 50mm. The objective comes with a flip-up cap, which in the closed position allows zeroing in daylight via a daylight filter and an extremely fine pinhole in the cover. More on this later. The scope has an angular field of view of 15 degrees and a vertical resolution of 32mm. Yukon claims it has the ability to resolve and recognize a target to 1000 yards. They also claim it will operate from -30 to +40 degrees CENTIGRADE. That's -22 to +104 Fahrenheit. The scope comes with an "on-rifle" carrying case/removable cover, which can be affixed to the device during travel. The case/cover also contains a compartment with a Camera Adapter and another for a remote activation switch. The remote can be attached to your weapon and used to toggle the system on and off like you would a combat light or laser. Inside the cover is another pouch for lens cleaning equipment. The cover is held in place via Velcro and also has a zipper which splits the case open for removal. That's the basics.
The overall feel of the mounted scope is a compact and well-balanced design. The control layout is simple. A flip lever switch allows starlight mode in the center position and throwing the lever to the bottom of its travel enables the Infrared spotlight. A rheostat controls the level of intensity of the reticle. After a flip of the switch, one finds the covers for the elevation and windage adjustments, which are set to a specific range and left alone. Once set, you will need to hold over for ranges in excess of your zero. The scope comes equipped with two Picatinney/Weaver rails for additional equipment, located on the top and left sides of the scope. Each rail has 9 cross-slots and measures four inches long. The rails are handy mounting points for combat lights, lasers or dot sights. The scope comes equipped with an infrared illuminator. In use this lamp literally brightens up the darkest environment as if a flare went off – at least for a reasonable distance. Close range details jump out and mid range, defined as under 100 yards, are easily brought to light. However, like all infrared lights, it works both ways. Anyone with an IR detector will see you. The range of the illuminator is limited but even at 100 yards it makes quite a few objects stand out that would have otherwise been hard to pick out on the darkest of nights.
Mounting is via the now ever present Picatinney/Weaver rail type clamp. My one and only problem with mounting was that the threads on the retention nuts were very tight at their extreme end of the adjustment range. I had to use a wrench to loosen the nuts up enough to allow the mount to attach to the AR15s flat top rail. I torqued the integral scope mount in at 65-inch pounds. Eye relief was not an issue and I am an eyeglass wearer. The eyecup is large enough and soft enough to allow people like myself plenty of room, however, those with good vision or contacts will much prefer the view if they can press their eye into the cup as designed. The cup can be rotated for left or right-handed users.
The image at night is, at least to my somewhat inexperienced eye, excellent. I did not expect to see as much as I did with the NVRS Gen2+. My last look through a Russian NVD was through those old Gen 1 NVDs from the late 1980s. This was a whole new experience. The Gen2+ gathered an amazing amount of detail. With the scope removed from the rifle, I followed my son for several hundred yards through the woods, as he walked to a neighbor's house in complete darkness. As the "target" approached the house, I wondered if blooming would be an issue when I focused on the well-lit windows of the home. The image did not flare or wash out. Instead only the windows themselves glowed bright, with very little bleed-over on the surround surfaces. In fact, the surrounding area was well defined and easily identified. The scope is equipped with flash protection circuitry and it works. Making a shot in these conditions would not appear to be particularly hard. Target ID could be an issue at longer ranges but only in that it's hard to make out facial detail at those distances. Seeing a human body was easy enough and never an issue. Telling WHO you are looking at could be, beyond maybe 100 to 200 yards. This is probably non-issue, as I would not expect one to use an NVRS for law enforcement use over what could be considered a court defensible distance. On the other hand, a military type could easily make a body hit at a fairly long distance given a less restrained rule of engagement.
Image quality appears to be good; a slight granular appearance, which seems typical of night vision in general, but nothing distracting. You can see photons bouncing around inside, which is interesting when you consider how sensitive these scopes must be to work in darkness! Focusing is achieved via a ring at the ocular end. The diopters range is plus or minus 2.5, which seemed sufficient for my eyes and those I asked to look through the device. The only negative I could mention is that there appeared to be a few permanent dark spots on the screen (see image to the right), like small spots of black ink, all outside the important central area where the reticle is located. The reticle itself is fully adjustable for brightness and is an illuminated, red duplex cross wire with a heavy outer line and thin inner cross hair. To give myself an idea of how the scope would perform in changing lighting conditions I focused on a home about 150 yards away across a road. Vehicle lighting did not wipe out the image at all. Again, recalling the blooming issues of so long ago, I half expected the image to wash out when a car drove by but instead the device just seemed to take it in stride. What was amazing was how easy it as to tell if an automobile was coming, even before I saw its light reflected off various road side objects with the naked eye. The scope would pick up a pole for instance, as it illuminated brightly in reflected light, well before I realized a vehicle was coming down the road. As with the IR illuminator, detail would pop out for a moment until the vehicle passed but at no time did the image become unmanageable. On the contrary, the scope just soaked up the added light and presented even more detail. Starlight, moonlight, car light. It's all good! As a point of interest, the image to the right is of the range in sleet and snow. Neither condition seemed to effect the way the NVRS viewed the target area and contrary to what I thought might happen, the falling flakes did not cause any noticeable artifacts on the screen. The furthest targets are 200 meters distant and the reticle is resting on a 100 meter target.
So, we know as a night vision device, the NVRS Gen 2+ works pretty well. But how did it perform at the range? I have to say, again, I was surprised -- it's that soldier's bias against all things Red, which I admit is silly, considering they kept up on our toes for 50 years. It's been many years since I fired using an NV riflescope. To be honest I didn't know what to expect. Zeroing was achieved during daylight hours with the filter-cover in place. The small pinhole in the center of the flip-up lens cover does cast a slightly annoying beam onto the image but it's easily ignored. At night, of course, this small ray is not an issue as the cover is up and out of the way. The scope came well centered, as I only had to go a click or two to achieve my horizontal zero. As you will see in the photographs, the first two rounds were only slightly left of center at 25 meters. Two more shots were required to get close enough to the bull for me to try the scope at 100 yards. The range conditions were switching between rain, snow, and occasional sleet. The temp was probably around 22 to 28 degrees. Either way I wasn't a happy camper, but the NVRS performed without issue. I fired a three shot group at 100 yards without bothering to fine-tune the zero and the results are in the second range photo. A follow up rapid-fire group, off hand opened up the group a bit, which is expected. Follow up shots all the way to 200 yards proved the scope able to hold zero well. I'd like to say the groups were excellent but I was shivering too much to worry about proper bench technique. Next time, I'll remember to bring gloves to the range!
At the close of the range session it was just dark enough to open the flip-up lens cover and have at it. The image instantly improved without the daylight filter in place. Target ID to 200 yards became quite easy and even the face of Osama (you can see him under one of the targets) became discernable at 100 yards.
If you have a real need for a night vision device for law enforcement use, training or just for grins, it would appear the Yukon Model 20015 NVRS Gen 2+ has what it takes. I used the device in both extreme cold and moderately warm temperatures without any undue issues arising. Its compact size and weight made it a joy to work with compared to what I recall from the Army Circa 1989. Depth of perception, even in wooded areas, was good as under nothing more than starlight. I was easily able to see intervening branches that would have hindered a shot. My experience with Star Light scopes is limited and I apologize if this review does not include the minutia it might have had I a great wealth of experience with these devices. However, I can say, for the length of time I had this scope in my possession it did everything I asked in it conditions that I personally did not want to be in. Testing in the dead of winter used to be more enjoyable. I think I am getting old!