The 4 Best Gen 1 Night Vision Monoculars – Reviews 2023

best gen 1 night vision monocular

Photo by Program Executive Office Soldier / CC BY

Night vision was barely out of its technological infancy when the War on Terror began. The military had lagged behind substantially in investing into night vision technology. However, after the war began, night vision technology became clearer, smaller and more effective. This transitioned over into the civilian market, where Generation 1 night vision became very popular with those looking to own the night. The best gen 1 night vision monoculars represent the ideal compromise in effective night vision and keeping on a budget.

A good generation 1 night vision monocular should, of course, be affordable. The monocular should also provide a crystal clear image. The user should be able to effectively see past 50 yards or more depending on the optic’s magnification. Night vision monoculars should also be suited for outdoor use and be resistant to water, shock, and fog. A modern monocular should also be lightweight, and easy to carry. Modern technology has shrunk night vision monoculars to a handy and easy to carry size. If the monocular is large, it should have an impressive magnification and objective lens. Here are our recommendations for the top 4.

Bushnell Equinox Z

The Bushnell Equinox Z is just one of the hundreds of different optical devices designed and produced by Bushnell. They are a legendary company in the optics realm and their name is commonly associated with both quality and affordability. The Equinox night vision monocular is no different. The outside sleek appearance is just icing on the cake when we consider the Equinox’s features and price.

The Equinox (see full specs) features a variable magnification, with the user able to easily adjust the magnification from 1 to 3 power. The Equinox features ambidextrous, easy controls, which are centered on the top of the monocular. Everything is a simple push button design, including the magnification. The Equinox is even equipped with a Picatinny rail for the adding any additional accessories.

The Equinox already comes equipped with a built-in infrared illuminator to aid in seeing during the darkest of nights. The device is capable of throwing light out to 500 feet and increasing the range significantly. The Equinox can be mounted to a tripod for more stable viewing, and provides excellent optical clarity due to its multi-coated lenses. Priced to move, the Equinox is one of the best gen 1 night vision monoculars period.

Lots of does hanging out in a field - Bushnell Equinox Z 6x50 digital night vision

Night Owl Optics Xgen 2.1 X

The Xgen 2.1 night vision monocular is one of the most budget-friendly devices on the market. Designed with simplicity in mind, the unit is capable of providing crisp and clear picture out to 70 yards with its fixed 2.1 magnification. The Xgen has a small objective lens and is an overall compact package. The device can easily drop in a cargo pocket or be worn around the neck.

The unit wears a mere 7 ounces and features a built-in illuminator to provide a maximum amount of illumination and effective range of the unit. The Xgen features simple an ambidextrous on / off switch and is easy to access while in use.

The Night Owl Xgen can be adjusted for focus, and provides a 40 foot field of view at 200 feet. The Xgen is extremely affordable. At the price, this makes the optic an excellent choice for hunters or nature lovers looking to go nocturnal.

Night Owl Night Vision (2)

SightMark Eclipse

The Sightmark Eclipse is one of the best gen 1 night vision monoculars that are designed to present a very wide and clear field of view. The Sightmark Eclipse is a bit bigger than the previous units but does provide a 50 mm objective lens. Like a rifle scope, the wider the objective lens, the brighter the picture is. This is even more important when it comes to night vision, which amplifies ambient light to give a brighter, clearer picture.

The Sightmark Eclipse (see full specs) has a fixed 4 power magnification that gives the user a nice and clear view at an impressive distance. The magnification may be a slight turn off for some looking to walk and watch, but for those looking to see different animal at a distance you can’t go much better when it comes to Gen 1 monoculars.

The Eclipse has multicoated lenses for increased light transmission and is still lightweight regardless of its objective lens size. The Eclipse features ambidextrous controls and a mount for tripod placement, as well as a convenient carrying case.

#2 Actual image from Sightmark Eclipse 3x42 and or a 2x24

FireField Nightfall 2

The Firefield Nightfall 2 is a drastic improvement on the Nightfall 1. The Nightfall 2 has trimmed weight and size but provides a clearer and crisper sight picture. The Nightfall 2 has a fixed 5 power magnification, which is nice and impressive. A 5 power night vision monocular is quite powerful and is perfect for longer range or more precise target identification.

The Nightfall 2 has a built-in infrared illumination device that allows the device to make up for a lack of ambient light. Without ambient or infrared light, a night vision monocular is a fancy paperweight so the infrared illuminator is a welcome addition on moonless nights. The external design deserves a mention as well. The device is rounded and provides a comfortable grip for the hand. The controls are well placed for easy access and the unit provides a textured focusing ring for easy adjustments.

The Firefield Nightfall 2 is an excellent optic that provides an excellent view at extended ranges. The combination of powerful magnification and a wide objective lens makes the optic perfect for observation and surveillance. The Nightfall is ergonomic, built very well, and, of course, is crystal clear and very easy to use.

Firefield 5x50 Nightfall 2 Night Vision Monocular


With modern technology shrinking night vision monoculars in both size and price, they are becoming more and more popular. These optics have come a long way to provide a clear and consistent picture at any budget. Night vision monoculars are growing in popularity for both hunters and animal enthusiasts. The tactical applications are near limitless, and the best generation 1 night vision monoculars are both easy to acquire and affordable to own. Good luck!

  • Owner of, Boyd Smith is a major handgun enthusiast, and although he owns Glocks, he prefers the revolving wheel type. His go-to guns are a Smith & Wesson 642 Performance Center for carry and a Ruger GP100 in the nightstand biometric safe (he has kids). He loads both revolvers with old-school 148-grain Federal Gold Medal .38 wadcutters. It’s OK if you think he’s a wimp. Email him.

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