Letter Re: Tritium Sights and Night Vision Devices

Thursday, Oct 13, 2005

Mr. Rawles,
First let me say that I love the blog. Also, your book ("Patriots") is my all time favorite fictional survival book. You will have to give us an update on when the new edition with extra chapters is due out.
A little background on myself, for the past few years I have been flying helicopters in support of a military survival school in the Northwest. I average a handful of night flights each month and when we fly we use current issue NVG’s. We normally fly at 300 feet above the ground and have little to no cultural lighting (city lights) as we are over National Forest lands. For this reason I would consider the amount of light we fly with to be similar to a TEOTWAWKI scenario (no cultural lights.)
Now I would like to add some thoughts about the tritium sight thread from Monday. The benefits associated with tritium sights definitely outweigh any disadvantages. I consider your comments on tritium sights to be correct for worst case. By that I mean you would get the penlight in the face effect (we call it "raccoon eyes") if you were operating in an unlit building, in a cave, or possibly outside on a very overcast and moonless night with no cultural background lights. Tritium sights should not be overlooked when trying to decrease your tactical profile but I personally would not excessively worry about them. Like yourself, I would use a full flap holster and that would be the extent of my mitigation. To give some perspective on light sources in a different situation, I remember flying a couple weeks ago with a full moon and having a hard time seeing an IR (infrared) strobe. And we had to request the IR strobe after being unable to identify a group in which an individual was swinging a chemical light stick attached to a 2 foot cord around in a circle. I would like to point out to your readers that wearing their own set of NVGs would give them a much greater light profile (very bright raccoon eyes) than tritium sights would. NVGs are a huge force multiplier and I don’t recommend going without them but when they are used they should primarily be used to scan and only for a short duration.
Two things that I would be more concerned about are fire and light discipline. As far as fire goes, even a fire that has no visible flames really pops out when viewed on NVG’s. That is because the goggles sensitivity peaks near the red/ IR spectrum of light. If you must have a fire, bury any left over embers and move far away when you are done. Like I said, goggles really pick up red and IR lights. Brake lights can be seen for miles and those red filters used on flashlights to read maps are almost just as bad. Get rid of the red filters and carry a blue/green filter instead. The blue/ green filter allows you to maintain your night vision while offering a slightly smaller light profile than the same flashlight in plain white.
Regards, - The Northwest Helo Pilot


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