To begin with, let’s figure out what the equipment is that allows you to see better at night. It’s divided into two groups: thermal imagers and, in fact, night vision devices. Several generations of both the first and second varieties have been released in America. How long ago the device was invented, depends on its technical characteristics and cost.
Generations of night vision devices and thermal imagers
Equipment manufactured before the end of World War II is labeled «Generation 0». This includes the first military night vision devices introduced by the German army. Whether they could identify the image at a distance of up to 600 cm, and the infrared beam worked up to 30 cm. Most often they were installed immediately on weapons or tanks.
Further, already in peacetime, the «first generation» appeared, focused not on military operations, but on reconnaissance, hunting, and infrastructure protection. A photocathode was installed on such equipment together with an infrared beam. It amplified the rays of light about a thousand times.
The second generation appeared already in the seventies of the last century. Microchannel plates and a photocathode were used in its production. Therefore, the image at the edges of the lens was much brighter and sharper. The amplification of light was already 20,000 times.
The third generation came out in the late eighties. In its production, a photocathode made with gallium arsenide was used. This solution improved the image separation ability and increased the service life of the equipment.
After that, the «three +» generation was released. It was not too different from the previous one. But in its design, not a microchannel, but a gray plate was used. Thus, each electron released several additional ones. The image in the thermal imager turned out not gray, but green.
The «fourth generation» of night vision was developed already at the beginning of the 2000s. It received an automatic power supply that regulates the voltage of the photocathode independently. Such equipment has already adapted to any lighting. That is most often used by the US intelligence agencies at the moment.
In 2011, a new feature was added to these devices to improve eye protection from bright light. It guarantees the best resolution and contrast at any time of the day.
It’s these technologies that help hunters, ornithologists, the military, police, security, and many other people who need to see at night as well as during the day.
But now we return to the legality of the use of these devices in America. And, if the use of the military or other law enforcement agencies is not even discussed, let’s consider whether they can be used for hunting.
The legality of Night Vision
Hunting with night vision in America isn’t legal everywhere. In some states, regulations were adopted prohibiting the use of such optics:
- in 13 states, it’s completely prohibited;
- in the legislative framework of 17 states, various restrictions are set: only certain expensive types of devices are allowed or a certain range of calendar dates is established;
- in 20 states, you can use night vision optics for hunting without restrictions.
Incidentally, the legitimacy of thermal imagers across the country has also been questioned. In some states, these devices may not be used while hunting.
In California, equipment designed specifically for use on firearms, incorporating infrared rays and an electronic telescope, is completely prohibited. And as you can see, the thermal imager just partially fits this definition. Optics of 0 and 1 generations are also prohibited here. As early as 1995, attempts were made in the state to expand the restrictions, but they remained at the stage of the bill.
In 2014, Minnesota passed a law banning both thermal cameras and night vision optics. It’s said that a person doesn’t have the right to use such equipment with weapons. An exception has been made for the military and police. By the way, night vision devices were banned back in 2007, and in 2014 thermal imagers were added to the list. In 2016, an attempt was made to partially allow these devices for catching predators and hunting wild animals that are not protected by law. But this proposal was not supported at the proper level.
So if you decide to buy a night vision device, first find out if it’s legal in your state. If the application is restricted, you can receive a large fine, a ban on a certain field of activity, and also go to jail.