How Far Can You Use a Night Vision Monocular? – All You Need to Know

Are you wondering how far can you use a night vision monocular?

Let’s find out.

How Far Can You Use a Night Vision Monocular?

With quality night vision goggles and scopes you can see people, animals, and objects up to 1,000 yards away on a dark night.

Night Vision

Why Is Night Vision Green?

Let’s take a closer look at night vision technology to get a better understanding of how it all works. The simple answer is that green is deliberately chosen because our eyes are more sensitive to that color.

Night vision technology was invented to help amplify our ability to see at night, and as such, the inventors had to come up with a way to capture what little light there is in darkness and amplify it enough for us to see.

Here is a quick look at how night vision binoculars work:


Dim light from the night enters the front lens. This light has particles of all colors called photons.


These photons hit a photocathode on their way into the night vision goggles. The photocathode is a light-sensitive surface that converts these light photons into electrons.


The electrons are then multiplied by a photomultiplier. Every single electron leaving the photocathode is then taken to a photomultiplier that multiplies them into so many more electrons.

Phosphor Screen

These electrons then go to a phosphor screen. After leaving the photomultiplier, the now quite numerous electrons hit a phosphor screen, at which point they create tiny flashes of light.

Now, night vision goggles work so well at night because, by the time the electrons (original photons from the outside world of darkness) hit the phosphor screen, the screen gives you a much brighter version of what entered the lens, to begin with.

General Technology Used in Night Vision

While the explanation above gives you a simplified look at how night vision goggles work, understanding how this technology all comes together in concert is key to helping you understand how else we can see in the dark.

While the technologies mentioned below are often perfected in their own right and their own separate night vision devices, the general principles are used to a lesser degree in some of the most advanced night vision devices on the market today:

Thermal Imaging

This is the kind of technology that can differentiate between the heat signature of your subject against that of the surrounding environment.

Simply put, it can tell whether there is a living thing (human or animal) within your line of sight by differentiating its temperature from that of surrounding objects such as rocks and trees.

Active Illumination

Thermal imaging probably sounds like something you only hear in military movies, but illumination is a day-to-day term that most people will understand.

The kind of illumination process used by night vision devices is nowhere close to what your light bulb would give off. Night vision devices use light that is very close to the infrared band.

This light tends to bounce off of objects and illuminate them in the process. This also adds just a bit more light to the surrounding environment, allowing whatever night vision equipment you may be used to harness that light and enhance it into a discernable image.

Image Intensification

This is exactly what the photomultiplier and the photocathode do to help you see through your night vision equipment, even in the dark.

Can You Use Night Vision Goggles in Total Darkness?

No, you can’t use night vision in total darkness because there is no light to be enhanced.

Image Intensifiers

Night vision goggles are technical “image intensifiers.” From the explanation above, you can see that night vision goggles take the original image, break it down into electrons, multiply those electrons and enhance their appearance giving you a much brighter version of what you are looking at. It does this because there is some light even in near-dark environments.

Thermal Imaging Devices

In completely dark environments, however – like a smoke-filled room – night vision goggles wouldn’t work. In this case, you can go for thermal imaging devices that detect the heat your subject radiates as opposed to depending on the light that an object reflects.

How Far Can You Use a Night Vision Monocular? - All You Need to Know

How Far Can You Use a Night Vision Monocular?

Who Invented Night Vision Goggles?

First Practical Night Vision

The very first practical night vision – well, not goggles – devices were invented in Germany around the mid-1930s. These devices were used by German Tanks and infantrymen called Nachtjägers (night hunters).

These devices were almost as big as a dinner plate and required the soldier operating them to carry a huge battery pack on his back. They were active infrared devices that were used to brighten up whatever the soldier was looking at in the dark.


The idea was that the soldier would shoot a beam of near-infrared light in the general direction of his target, and that would reflect off the objects around him and bounce back to his lens, creating an image of what he was looking at in the dark.

Clearly, that was night vision technology in its infancy. Today, night vision devices are much smaller, more efficient, and more effective.

Commercial Night Vision Goggles

Commercial night vision goggles were invented by Vladimir K. Zworykin, a Russian-American engineer, and inventor who worked at Radio Corporation of America.

How Far Can You See in Night Vision Goggles?

Assuming that neither you nor your subject is standing in total darkness, with the right kind of night vision device, you can see someone standing more than 200 yards or 183 meters away from you. And this is on a moonless, cloudy night.

Can Civilians Own Night Vision Goggles?

While there has been some debate about this, there really isn’t an express law against civilians owning night vision goggles. The issue often arises when someone tries to ship military-grade equipment out of the country without a license.


The Night Vision Device (NVD) is a device used by the United States military to detect and identify infrared radiation. It was developed in the late 1970s and first fielded in 1981.

NVD consists of an image intensifier tube that converts the visible light into ultraviolet light, which then passes through a phosphor screen where it is converted back to visible light. 

If you have questions feel free to comment below.


  • John Moses

    John is the Editor in Chief here at The Outdoor Stores. His area of expertise ensures that there is no one better to suggest which rifles are most suitable for your hunting experience. He is also available for you to contact him personally to discuss the types of animals you want to hunt and the terrain you will be hunting on. Feel free to read his posts for expert opinion on Rifles, Scopes, Rangefinders, Bonoculars and Monoculars.

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