PNW-57 night vision

I was intrigued when I saw Bowman Arms was selling surplus Polish PNW-57 night vision goggles on Gunbroker.  I wasn’t expecting much from them but they were described as functional and lightly used to unissued condition it seemed worth checking out, particularly at the $125 price point.  They were apparently intended for use by armored vehicle crew members that had access to external power however in the auction description they mentioned that they could be rigged to run off of lantern batteries.  There was also mention of being both wood and metal cased versions so I went ahead and ordered one of each.

Upon arrival it was in a strangely long box cobbled together box mummified in black plastic and packing tape.  Slightly odd packaging but it was intact and sometimes that’s all that matters.  The cases themselves smelled very strongly of some kind of unpleasant chemical preservative, it took a couple days sitting open outside in the sun for the smell to dissipate.  I really can’t emphasize this enough, they reek, at minimum open the case up and let it sit in the garage for a few days.

Inside the cases both sets of goggles appear to be lightly and are complete with accessories which appear to be entirely unused.  The most significant of these accessories are a set of four IR filters.  Additionally there was a scribbled note indicating that the power should be switched from 24 volts to 12 volts.  Easy enough however there were no further instructions on their operation.  No need to remove the center screw, just remove the outer screws and rotate the switch to the 12 volt position and reinstall the outer screws.

A few minutes of experimentation with some lantern batteries got the scope up and running however they aren’t particularly practical unless you want to carry them on your waist.  Additionally there is no on/off switch that I can locate.   The easy fix was to order up an 8aa battery holder on Amazon which included a power switch and can be easily velcroed to the back of the transformer on the rear of the helmet. I’m not sure how long they might power the goggles however I will update this article after I get a rough idea.

Initial performance inside a darkened room was extremely underwhelming with only minor improvement over the naked eye.  With the addition of illumination from a small $10 infrared flashlight the situation looks much better.  It’s nowhere close to more modern western night vision beyond just the need for supplemental illumination.  The field of view is small, there is a good amount of distortion….. but they definitely work and would give a distinct advantage over the unaided eye.  For $125 I would consider them a “must have” item for those who could not otherwise afford night vision goggles.  After adding the cost of shipping along with battery  pack and Ir flashlight the total cost is around $170.

Although I have not had a chance to try this out for vehicle use I’m intrigued by the possibilities.  Rather than messing with a battery pack it would be much more practical to swap the original plug for a cigarette lighter plug and power them straight off the vehicle as they were intended to operate.  The IR filters which came with the lights are very effective at blocking visible light and are well sized to cover vehicle headlights.  Add a roll of aluminum tape to black out other vehicle lights and the PNW-57 seems like an ideal option to keep under the seat of your SHTF bugout vehicle.

I’m not sure how many of these that Bob Bowman has left but they are selling them either $125 each or 5/$500.  I can’t remember where I left my IR laser so I haven’t had chance to see how they might work with weapons but as a very basic way to get into night vision it seems hard to go wrong.

This is the IR flashlight I have used thus far…. it runs off a single AA battery and seems to illuminate quite well and is compact enough to zip tie on top of the goggles. One potential downside is that it emits a very faint red glow visible to the unaided eye.