Well, things have escalated quickly since my last Friday Night Lights. I wrote about modifying dummy PVS-31 into functional night vision devices. I also mentioned a new night vision housing dubbed the BNVD-1431. In a very short amount of time, I was able to get my hands on a BNVD-1431 housing. It is a PVS-31 clone but more importantly uses PVS-14 optics. There is a bit of drama and mystery surrounding this newly desirable night vision housing so let’s take a closer look.
The Drama And Mystery Of The BNVD-1431
I have to give credit to my fellow night vision nerd friend, JW. If you recall he was the one who owned a set of ANVIS-10. He clued me into the BNVD-1431. At the time of writing this article, the only information surrounding the 1431 were a couple of Instagram accounts. Information was not forthcoming and the content about the 1431 was just photos with a small smattering of videos that provided little to no information about them at all.
Aside from the quad tube GPNVG-18, the PVS-31 is the second most desirable helmet-mounted night vision device. It is what our special forces are using which adds to the demand. The problem is that the PVS-31 is very expensive. If you can find a set it will set you back $10k-$12k+ depending on the seller. The BNVD-1431 functions like PVS-31 with the added benefit of using PVS-14 optics. Why is this critical? Service and repair. PVS-31 uses proprietary optics. So if they break you cannot easily acquire replacement parts. PVS-14 optics, on the other hand, are plentiful.
Additionally, the rear eyepieces on the PVS-31 do not have an adjustable diopter. If you have bad eyesight you will need to keep wearing corrective lenses while using PVS-31s or pony up the cash for the fixed diopters from L3. Also by using PVS-14 optics on the BNVD-1431, you can use any compatible accessory like filters or a COTI. There is an adapter for the COTI to attach onto PVS-31 objective lenses but that is extra.
So how did I get a set of the BNVD-1431 housings? Well due to a minor misunderstanding the self-proclaimed source of the BNVD-1431 housings sent me a BNVD-1431 as an apology for using a photo of mine as his profile picture. It was a photo of my daughter looking through my PVS-7. I appreciated that he immediately apologized and switched pictures and offered to send a 1431 housing. I had my doubts that it would actually show up considering the doubts casted over these housings and the people associated with it. There are a number of unsubstantiated claims that these Instagram accounts are taking people’s money and not producing anything. However, I have found the opposite to be true. They are not taking money because they are not actively selling the BNVD-1431. I am not sure what that is about. Well we got one so lets dive in and see what all the hubbub is about.
The BNVD-1431 Is All The Rage
Articulating NODs (Night Observation Devices) are more desirable than standard binocular night vision goggles. They are flexible in that the eye pods aka monocular pods are articulated and roll upwards like gullwing doors on a Delorean.
Using both eyes is typically better than one eye. Which is why dual tube night vision goggles are better than a monocular. There are situations where a monocular is better. Better situational awareness in mixed lighting environments for example. This is where articulated night vision comes into play. You can roll one up out of the way and use just one of the monoculars. Or in the extremely rare circumstances that one of your image intensifying tubes dies, you can roll the bad one out of the way.
For certain circumstances, it is more desirable to roll the monocular pod up and out of the way rather than fold the entire unit up against the helmet. Like getting in and out of a vehicle. Or in the case of needing to use an optic with one eye but still have night vision in your other eye. Having articulating pods also helps when storing dual-tube night vision goggles upwards. You can swing the pods inwards closer to the helmet. This shifts the center of gravity of the goggles. This brings the weight closer to the helmet and eases the pressure on your forehead.
But articulating NODs are not new. The DTNVG by Act In Black has the same function. PVS-15 sort of articulate but not to the radical degree that the DTNVG or PVS-31 can. Even some of the other BNVD (Binocular Night Vision Device) have articulating monocular pods. What sets the PVS-31 design apart is its light weight and it can use battery packs. Just like the PVS-31 the BNVD-1431 has a Fischer port in the side to accept a battery pack.
I met up with a friend of mine that has a real set of PVS-31A. His battery pack was able to power up the 1431. I removed the single AA battery from the 1431 and sure enough, the PVS-31 battery pack powered them right up. I was also able to power the 1431 using an FMA GPNVG functional replica battery pack.
There was some speculation that the BNVD-1431 were just modified FMA PVS-31 dummy housings. That is not the case. You can see the mold lines are not the same. The mold lines on the 1431 are actually similar to the real PVS-31. Also, the BNVD-1431 appears to use glass filled nylon polymer for the housing whereas the FMA is just molded plastic. It looks very similar to the polymer used to make ANVIS housings.
When compared to the DTNVG, the DTNVG has a lower profile than the 1431. The tower on the 1431 sticks up a bit more than the dovetail on the DTNVG. This physically lowers the 1431 which means you need to raise your mount higher to get the monocular pods to line up with your eyes.
As mentioned earlier the PVS-31 are famous for their light weight. They weigh somewhere shy of a pound. Something like 15 ounces. However, the BNVD-1431 weighs a bit more at 21.2 ounces. That is 1.2 ounces more than my DTNVGs. The DTNVGs have polymer infinity focus stop rings whereas the 1431s have aluminum but I do not think that is where the weight difference is. The 1431 uses a AA battery which is a little bit heavier than the CR123 that powers the DTNVG but that only accounts for 7 grams according to my kitchen scale.
Some people have asked me what the quality of the housing is like. It seems decent. Comparing it to the real thing I do not see much of a difference. The real PVS-31 housing appears to have a sandy texture to it whereas the 1431 has splotches like galvanized steel. As I said earlier it looks similar to ANVIS polymer which leads me to believe it was made with glass filled nylon. I have seen a handful of photos and posts about broken PVS-31s. So it is not like the real ones are super robust either.
One thing the DTNVG lacks but the 1431 and PVS-31 have are PD stops. Pupillary Distance is the space between your irises. The silver screws you see below are attached to black plastic knobs. You tighten or loosen them to set the screw distance properly. That way when the monocular pods roll downward the screw will hit the side of the bridge. As long as you do not touch the knob and screw, then the pods will always stop in front of your eyes.
One feature that the 1431 shares with the DTNVG is the auto off/on when the unit is stored vertically on a helmet. However, just like the PVS-31, the 1431 can be programmed. The DTNVG can supposedly be programmed as well but it is not something the user can perform. On the 1431 you press the power button 4 times and a red indicator light will blink inside the left eyepiece. You are now in auto off mode. If you press the power button 4 times again then the unit will no longer shut off when stored vertically. You must do this when the 1431 is turned on.
The DTNVGs do have a slight advantage over the 1431. When you roll up a monocular pod, it will shut power to the intensifier tube. Not the case with the 1431.
BNVD-1431 VS. PVS-31
Here are some comparison pictures of a real PVS-31 next to the 1431.
There are pros and cons to using PVS-14 eyepieces. They are larger and therefore block more of your peripheral view. It is much easier to see around the PVS-31 than it is to look around the PVS-14 eyepieces. However, the lens is also smaller so you can push the 1431 further away from your eyes before the eyepiece starts to restrict your view. The other downside is the weight. The PVS-14 eyepieces are a big chunk of the weight. I ordered a pair of DEP Ether eyepieces that are reportedly lighter weight and have a larger eyebox.
The PVS-31 eyepieces are longer than the PVS-14 eyepieces used on the 1431. But the objective lenses are longer on the 1431 compared to the PVS-31 on the right.
Just like the PVS-31, the 1431 came in a Multicam pouch that resembles the real 31 pouch.
How Can You Get A BNVD-1431?
That is the real trick. Aside from the generosity of others, the BNVD-1431 housing retails for $1200 without optics. Compare that to the DTNVG which costs $2,800 also without any optics or tubes. The 1431 price is similar to a Sentinel or RNVG housing but you have the added benefit of articulating monocular pods. The price is attractive and there are people chomping at the bit to get their hands on the 1431s.
However, the people surrounding the 1431 seem to not be bothered to make a website or actively market this highly desirable night vision housing. There are some movers and shakers in the night vision community trying to get these into the US. Oh did I forget to mention that these are coming from China? That in of itself is another hurdle to deal with. The other real major concern is that the 1431 could violate L3 patent and copyright of the PVS-31. While I am not a patent lawyer, there are some similarities yet noticeable differences in the BNVD-1431 design. Is it enough to avoid copy write infringement and patent infringement? Only a patent lawyer could say for sure.
As I mentioned earlier, the PVS-31 uses proprietary optics. However, L3 does make a different night vision goggle called the 1531. It is dubbed 1531 because it is sort of a hybrid of the PVS-15 and PVS-31. I have not seen one in person but it is rumored the 1531 uses PVS-14 optics. If that is true then it is a little disappointing when the PVS-15 is well noted for having better optics. The 1531 also has an onboard IR illuminator like the PVS-15 but it lacks the refocus lens that allows you to change the flood illuminator to a tight hot spot.
Are the BNVD-1431 better than other offerings? For the price, it is the most affordable articulating dual tube housing right now other than making your own. But function wise it is not that different than other established night vision housings. Think of the 1431 housing like a rifle chassis. The heart of a good bolt gun is the barrel and chamber, well that is the image intensifying tube. Then you have the glass. Unfortunately in the night vision world there are only a small selection of objective lenses and eyepieces to choose from and your housing will dictate which one you can use. In the case of the BNVD-1431 you are limited to only PVS-14 optics. So what does the 1431 give you that you can’t get in other housings? Simply the aesthetics and functionality that is similar to a PVS-31. One major difference between the 1431 and a real PVS-31 is manual gain. You can adjust the brightness of the image coming into your eyeballs on the real PVS-31. As far as I know, that is not possible with the 1431. The power button looks like a knob but your press it to turn on the unit. On a real PVS-31 you can spin this knob to adjust gain and it has tactile clicks. The 1431 does not do this.
The BNVD-1431 is truly interesting though. They could be the harbinger of affordable articulating dual-tube goggles that are not some homebrew DIY setup. Hopefully, someone will be able to import these into the US and make 1431s available to the masses. Although it will be a more complicated issue than just importing and selling them. Most notable night vision companies offer warranty and support for their devices. Whoever imports the 1431 will have to consider offering support for the housings. Sending them back to China for repair is not that easy. If allowed into the US, the BNVD-1431 will be similar in status as the DTNVG from Act In Black.The DTNVG is made in Luxembourg and when the housing enters the US, it is subject to ITAR. So if it breaks or stops working you need to get an export license just to send it back to Act In Black if you need warranty repair. The same would apply to the 1431. In fact, China may be a prohibited country that we cannot export night vision to at all. Which makes owning them even more complicated.