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UGCA Fight at Night Display

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Dan Pinto, Moderator +, Photo Editor+

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    Posted: Dec 18 2018 at 4:03pm
Utah Gun Collectors Association Display
"Fight at Night"

2007 show and updated in 2016

Photos courtesy of display's owner John S.



U.S. Army Night Vision, 1945-1980

Darkness ended each day’s battle for centuries.  An army able to see at night has a tremendous tactical advantage over an enemy enveloped in darkness.



Below are cropped pictures with the information from the displays.


Sniperscope Infrared, M2 on T3 Carbine 
(circa 1945)
Type:  Active Infrared light source and viewing telescope
Weight: 5.7 pounds (telescope, light source, and handle) 21.3 pounds
complete with battery and power supply
Effective range: about 100-125 yards 

Based on scientific experiments begun in the 1930s, the “Sniperscope, T120” was developed in late 1943.  Electronic devices could distinguish objects illuminated by infrared light and make them visible in a telescope.  A 6 volt light with an infrared filter mounted under the stock provided invisible light to illuminate an area up to about 400 feet away.  This combination of a light source and telescope using infrared light became the first practical night vision sight.  A handle and a switch for the light was mounted on the stock.  Both the telescope and the light source got their power from a heavy lead-acid wet cell battery carried in a canvas pack.

In 1944 a slightly modified version was designated the “Snooperscope, M1” and in 1945 additional small changes were made, resulting in the “Sniperscope, M2”.  

While the night vision telescope was being developed, the Ordnance Department was working on adapting the M1 Carbine to use a telescope of some sort.  In March 1944, the T3 Carbine was approved for production.  This has a specially made receiver with an integral base for attaching a scope with Redfield Junior style rings.  Only about 811 of the T3 carbines were made by Inland Division of General Motors, and 1,108 by Winchester (compared to over six million standard M1 carbines!).  

About 1,700 of the early (T-120, M1 or M2) Sniperscopes were made during WW2, and about 3,000 more after the war.  All were classified as “SECRET” at the time, and nearly all were destroyed, along with most of the T3 Carbines.  Perhaps a few dozen survive.

About 150 of the T3 Carbines and early Infrared Sniperscopes reached the field in time for the Okinawa campaign (April through June 1945).  Reportedly they were effective in stopping night time infiltration into U.S. lines by the Japanese.

Sniperscope, Infrared, 20,000 volt Set No 1 
on M3 Carbine (circa 1950-1960)
Type:  Active Infrared light source and viewing telescope
Weight: 7.2 pounds (telescope, light source, and handle) 28 pounds complete with battery and power supply
Effective range: about 135 yards 

Mass production of a greatly improved infrared night vision system began in 1950 with the “20,000 volt Set No. 1”. This could be mounted on any M1 or M2 carbine, officially making it an “M3 Carbine.”  About 20,000 of these scope sets were made in 1950-1951, and they were used during the Korean War and remained in inventory until the mid-1960s.

The improvements in this system included better electronics, resulting in better vision, but still limited to about 135 yards.  Heavyweight and short battery life remained major shortcomings.  Moving the light source to the top of the scope instead of below the stock provided better illumination of the target and allowed shooting from the prone position.

While the Corps of Engineers worked on the night vision sights, the Ordnance Department worked on the M3 Carbine.  Instead of the T-3 carbine with numerous unique parts, they decided that a standard M1 or M2 carbine could be converted to use night vision sights using simple conversion kits in the field.  These special parts would be included with the sight sets.  The regular rear sight was removed from the carbine, and a clamp block attached to the barrel with a lug sticking up through a hole in the handguard.  A long bar installed between the rear sight dovetail and the barrel block provided attaching points for the Redfield style mounts for the sniperscope.  A handle was attached to the front of the carbine to control the light source.  A flash hider was added to conceal the user’s position.  When a standard M1 or M2 carbine had these modified parts installed, the designation became “Carbine, Caliber .30, M3.”

Many of the “20,000 volt Set No. 1” sniperscopes were sold off as surplus in the 1960s, with the power supplies rebuilt to use commercial batteries, and marketed to hunters and bird watchers.  

AN/PVS-1 Night Vision Sight 
“Starlight Scope” (1st Generation) 
used on M14 or M16 Rifles (circa 1965-70)
Type:  Passive “starlight” scope intensifying ambient light
Weight: [estimated]
8 pounds complete with battery
Effective range: about 800 yards

Scientific development started on these “passive” systems in 1961, and by 1965 the first primitive “starlight scopes” reached the field.  As a passive sight with no need to light things up with an infrared light source, the enemy was unaware of U.S. troops presence until they were fired upon.  No light source was needed, only the ambient light from the moon, stars or skyglow, which was amplified x 1,000. 

Although a major breakthrough in technology continued work to reduce weight and improve performance and reliability resulted in replacement by newer models within a few years.  

It could be mounted quickly on a variety of small arms and crew-served weapons with no modifications required. 

AN/PAS-4 Weaponsight, Infrared Telescope Assembly used on Rifles (circa 1962-1970)
Type:  Active Infrared light source and viewing telescope
Weight: 28 pounds complete with battery
Effective range: about 300 yards 


As the M14 rifle was being developed to replace the M1 Garand and the M1 Carbines, work was also underway on a night vision sight better than the Korean War era units used on the M3 Carbine.  The resulting AN/PAS 4 used an active infrared light source and an electronic telescope to detect and convert the infrared image into a visible image.  However, the unit was still very heavy, but more reliable, and had a greater effective range.  It could be mounted quickly on any standard M14 rifle with no modifications required.  While the use of an active light source made use on the battlefield a risky job, it did provide the ability to fight at night.
About 4,000 of these sights were made in 1962, the last of the active infrared systems.  Within a few years, they were made obsolete by the passive “Starlight” scopes.  Despite the relatively large number made, few of the AN/PAS-4 scopes are found in collections.


AN/PVS-2 Night Vision Sight 
“Starlight Scope” (1st Generation) 
used on M14/M16 Rifle (circa 1967-75)
Type:  Passive “Starlight” scope intensifying ambient light 
Weight: 6 pounds complete with battery
Effective range: about 800 yards


Development started in 1964 and by 1967 these were reaching units in the field, and by 1969 they were very widely used in Vietnam.  Improvements included the elimination of “blooming” where a bright light would temporarily “white out” the scope.  Battery life increased to about 100 hours.  It could be mounted quickly on any standard M14 or M16 rifle and some heavier weapons with no modifications required. 

AN/PVS-3A Night Vision Sight 
“Miniaturized Starlight Scope” (2nd Generation) 
used on M16 Rifle (circa 1970-1980)
Type:  Passive “Starlight” scope intensifying ambient light 
Weight: 3 pounds complete with battery
Effective range: about 800 yards


The “second generation” units used improved technology for greater light amplification (about 20,000 compared to 1,000x from the 1st Generation scopes) for better performance even with less ambient light.  Further weight reduction, and improved reliability and reduced cost made these very widely used in the closing months of the Vietnam War and afterward.  It could be mounted quickly on any standard M14 or M16 rifle with no modifications required.

AN/TVS-2B Night Vision Sight, 
Crew Served Weapons “Starlight Scope” (1st Generation) 
used on .50 BMG (circa 1967-80)
Type:  Passive “Starlight” scope intensifying ambient light 
Weight: 16 pounds complete with battery
Effective range: about 1,000 yards


Developed concurrently with the PVS-2, but considerably better performance due to larger size and lenses.  These were made for use on the heavy crew-served weapons like the .50 caliber Browning Machine Gun and the M40 106mm Recoilless Rifle.   This was the last of the large scopes for use on heavy weapons, and the smaller PVS-3 and PVS-4 later replaced the TVS-2, simplifying logistics.



Night Vision Battery Evolution
Battery technology advanced along with electro-optical technology.  

EARLY T-120, M1, M2  (not shown)
The earliest infrared scopes mounted on carbines used an 11 ½ pound 6- volt lead-acid wet cell battery carried in a backpack.  A vacuum tube power supply unit attached to the battery converted 6-volt DC to 4,250 Volts DC to operate the telescope.  The small light bulb in a “headlight” type lamp mount used 6-volts DC.  A glass cover on the light with a special plastic film would absorb or filter out all of the VISIBLE light, but allow the infrared light to pass through to illuminate the target.  Battery life was about 5 hours.  Gasoline powered generators recharged the batteries.

20,000 volt sets (left)
The next infrared scopes mounted on carbines used a 12 pound 14 oz  6- volt lead-acid wet cell battery carried in a backpack.  A vacuum tube power supply unit attached to the battery converted 6-volt DC to 20,000 Volts DC to operate the telescope.  The small light bulb in a “headlight” type lamp mount used 6-volts DC.  A glass cover on the light with a special plastic film would absorb or filter out all of the VISIBLE light, but allow the infrared light to pass through to illuminate the target.  Battery life could last through the night if not heavily used.  Gasoline powered generators recharged the batteries as well as units connected to a vehicle to run the charging rack. The later charging rack could charge the eariler batteries as well.

 LATE INFRARED (center)
The AN/PAS-4 scopes used a small BB-429 lead-acid battery carried in a belt case.  The battery and attached solid state power supply weight 6 pounds 12 ounces.  These batteries are nearly half the size and weight of the early infrared scope batteries.

SECOND GENERATION STARLIGHT SCOPES (right)
The AN/PVS-2 scopes used a small dry cell battery (similar to a flashlight “D” Cell)  weighing less than a pound, lasting 100 hours.  The entire scope including battery and mount weigh less than just the battery for the previous infrared AN/PAS-4 scopes. 















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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote LMTmonoMan Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Dec 18 2018 at 6:02pm
Fantastic display...these folks that do these are so generous with their time, and guns. Amazing how far NV has come since WWII...we have color NV units now, and Gen III units are getting affordable enough for many civilians to own them.

I sure would love to sit down with a Marine who used one in WWII, and hear some thoughts on how effective they were, and if they felt the tech gave them a huge advantage.

Thanks Dan for the post, and thanks to Jim S for sharing it with the public.
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