Gen-1 night vision scopes are becoming rarer and rarer these days with the improvement in technology. This doesn’t mean that they are completely left behind, though. There still are some excellent well-priced options out there. The Firefield NVRS 3×42 Gen-1 Night Vision Scope is a prime example of that. It is one of my favorite mid-range scopes mainly because of its excellent price and decent image quality.
If you are looking for an affordable first-gen night vision scope, then the Firefield NVRS 3×42 is definitely something you should consider. It is easy to use, has decent image quality, and can be quickly mounted to your rifle. On top of that, it has an official IP rating and comes with a rather good IR illuminator. If your hunting or shooting style is mostly short to medium-ranged, then this scope will definitely be able to guide you to your target. For something above the 200-yard mark, you will need to resort to more expensive Gen-3 alternatives.
If you want to check out some of the other good night vision scope models for this year, I highly suggest checking out my full Buyer’s Guide where I’ve gone in-depth on the topic of night vision, the different types of scopes, and their features. Now let’s go through some of the most important features of this scope, see how it handles low-light conditions, and discuss its image quality.
The main theme of this whole night vision scope is that it brings great value to the table without burning a hole in your pocket. There are almost no areas in which it truly shines but it performs well-enough across all areas needed for a medium-ranged shot in the dark. That is why a lot of people get it and that is its main selling point. You want a scope that will give you 100-150 yards of vision on a clear night? That is the one right here…
Magnification & Optics
In terms of magnification, this particular scope doesn’t provide much of it. Since Gen-1 night vision scopes rarely exceed 200yards in their range, these types of scopes rarely have magnification more powerful than 4x. This one right here has a fixed 3x zoom which does an okay job for targets at 50-100 yards but will make things harder for smaller targets at 150 yards or more.
It has a 42mm lens that gathers light quite well, especially in slightly reflective (or lit) environments. I’d always prefer a 50mm lens but those tend to add quite a lot to the price and we shouldn’t forget that this is a well-priced budget option compared to some of its direct competitors.
The optics are multi-coated, and not fully multi-coated unfortunately. To help with protection there is a lens flip-up cover at the front which will come in handy if you are going through tough terrain and are worried not to scratch your scope’s lens.
The optics are complemented by a red duplex reticle on the inside. The reticle is quite nice and it has adjustable brightness depending on your surroundings. That is a nice touch and it is a feature that you can easily adjust. Just have in mind that the brighter you have it the less time you will get our of your batteries.
There is a 4.5mm eye relief distance which is quite a lot and is great for tactical-style rifles. Another important number here is its field of view at 100 yards which is 66ft. That is considerably wide and gives you a good lookout to your target area.
Performance & Range
Gen-1 scopes are limited in their capabilities in terms of pure range. At best, you will be able to detect your target at 200 yards but there have to be near perfect conditions for this to work. For less-than-ideal conditions, you might have to rely more on your illuminator, which we will discuss further down this review.
This particular model here truly shines (no pun intended) up until that 100-yard mark. For targets that are 50-100 yards away such as coyotes at night, this is probably one of your best night vision options for the money. The further you go in terms of distance-to-target, the less of an ideal option this becomes. It might be able to get you a good image at 200-250 yards but you will need to upgrade to a stronger illuminator. The official detection range with the illuminator is 165 yards but I don’t know in what type of conditions that range was tested. If it was in pitch-black ones, then that is just about the upper limit, in my opinion.
The resolution is amazing, though. I cannot stress this enough. With 30 lines per mm, it truly does look great for short to medium-ranged targets even in pitch-black conditions. All that is thanks to the CCD and CMOS chips on the inside, combined with the good intensifier tube. Without the illuminator, though, you will need some extra light source no matter how little it is. In highly-reflective environments with some lighting around you, you will be able to get a good view out to around 30-50 yards.
Night vision generations can be confusing at first, so I suggest you check out my detailed article on the topic before choosing your first model. Still, if you are looking for a gen-3 night vision scope that will have a detection range of more than 1000 yards, head over to my Pulsar Trail XP Thermal Rifle Scope review where I’ve gone pretty in-depth into that particular model. It has an industry-leading identification range of 2000+ yards but you pretty much pay a dollar for every yard of range, so it is quite the investment.
The mounting of this scope is one of the features that disappointed me a little. The hardware seems good at first and the quick-detach weaver mounting system makes it really easy to swap optics or simply switch to your rifle’s iron sight while maintaining reliable zeroing capabilities. However, my issues are with the way it behaves once you get moving.
The mount has a release on the left side of the scope’s base which gets loose so easily simply from carrying it around. Once loose enough it might release the whole scope and it can fall from the rifle or just detach itself from a heavier recoil depending on your weapon.
There are a few tricks that you can do to tighten it up but just keep this issue in mind and make sure you address it once you put the scope on your rifle. It might’ve been just my experience with it or just my particular model, as I haven’t heard too many complaints about this.
Contrary to the mounting, the illuminator that comes with this scope is perhaps the thing that impressed me the most here. It isn’t anything special but it does an excellent job for the price of this scope and for its advertised purpose.
It is an 805nm (IR wavelength) illuminator that can be visible to some animals according to some hunters. I am against that theory as I’ve used an 800nm NV scope for some time and I have never scared an animal with it. If you are concerned about this, you can upgrade to a 900nm+ illuminator that will be virtually impossible to spot by anything you hunt.
My issue here is that it is a built-in illuminator, meaning if you are going to add another one, it will just add to the bulk of the scope, which is already a bit heavy by the way. Let’s discuss that now…
Design & Construction
One of the stronger features of this scope is its design and the way it’s put together. The engineers over at Firefield have done a great job at making a solid product at this price point.
Everything from the body of the scope to its buttons and knobs is very good to the touch and feels like it will last you quite some time. The on and off switch is very easy to use and it is at a reachable distance for your shooting hand. The windage and elevation knobs are nicely made but lack in the feel department, especially if you are wearing shooting gloves. Once you take their caps off they are even harder to turn but once you get used to that they are okay to work with.
The reticle’s brightness is adjusted via another knob just in front of the on/off switch. It can be either off or turned clockwise to increase the brightness setting. Upfront, there is a plastic flip-up lens cover built around the titanium tube. The backside houses a rubber eyepiece that takes up some of the eye relief distance but does a great job of eliminating distractions. As a whole, everything is nicely put together except the mount release which I already talked about.
The scope is IPx4 rated meaning it is splashproof. That is great if you are out hunting and it starts raining, but there is no official rating against solid particles, so I’d be careful with it around dusty environments when shooting from the ground, for example.
As a whole, the scope is incredibly durable compared to other night vision scopes in this price class which are made out of almost entirely of plastic. The materials here will add to its weight unfortunately and make it a rather weighty scope sitting at just over 1.8 pounds.
The battery life that you will be able to get out of this scope depends on the usage and batteries you use (brand-wise). With typical 2xAAA batteries and without the IR illuminator turned on, you can get as much a 50 hours. Turning on the illuminator will eat most of that, though, and you will barely get 15-20 hours by what I tested. That can be fixed with a pair of stronger batteries like Energizer or Duracell. Even so, some scopes barely last 2 hours with the same batteries, so getting that much from this scope is nothing short of impressive.
There aren’t many accessories here but the ones that you get feel like the ultimate gift, especially since other models for a similar price are quite poor in their accessories department.
Here, you get a cleaning cloth, a semi-hard carrying case for the scope, and the typical user manual. If you want to cover your scope once it is on your rifle, you can get a separate case from Firefield.
There is a 3-year warranty on all mechanical parts such as the lenses, eyepiece, knobs, and the on/off switch. The internals like the CCD chip, CMOS chip, and intensifier tubes are also covered by this.
Advantages & Disadvantages
- Easily visible reticle
- Has brightness adjustments for the reticle
- Good IR illuminator attachment
- Decent detection range for this price class
- Great battery life
- There can be some black dots on the tube in reflective environments
- A bit heavy
- The mounting needs some improvement
Conclusion & Rating
In short, all I can say about the Firefield NVRS 3×42 Gen1 Night Vision Riflescope is that it is one of the best values for your money currently out there if you are strictly set on a Gen-1 night vision scope. It is super rigid in its construction, everything is nicely put together, and the IR illuminator will give you the chance to see targets of up to 150 yards. Don’t expect it to do miracles, though, as it isn’t something that will blow you away but it is just the right tool for the money and is enough for anybody looking for a short to medium-ranged scope for some night-time shooting.