Welcome once again night vision aficionados. Today we take a look at an oldie but goodie, the AN/PVS-5. The PVS-5 was the US Army’s first binocular night vision goggle. They were actually used for the USAF in the 70s. The Friday Night Lights series is brought to you by ATN Corp, manufacturers of night vision and thermal optics like the THOR LT. As with all of our sponsored series, Friday Night Lights will continue to bring you unbiased news and reviews from a variety of companies.
Before the PVS-7 They Had PVS-5 Dual Tubes
It does seem strange that the Army went from dual tube goggles to a single tube biocular design in the PVS-7 but when you look at the PVS-5 it sort of makes sense. The biggest reason to upgrade to the PVS-7 was due to image intensifier technology. The PVS-5 uses either an MX-9916 or MX-9648 image intensifier and they are Gen 2 technology. The PVS-7 uses a 10130 tube and they are Gen 3. There are no Gen 3 tubes for PVS-5.
The PVS-7 simplified costs since it is a single image intensifier and it could be mounted on a helmet using a shroud and mount. The PVS-5 was never designed for helmet-mounted usage other than for pilots which we will go into later. It has a head strap that you wear the goggle on your head and most of the time under your helmet. If you reposition the head strap, you can wear the goggles on a PASGT helmet.
See the image below? The horizontal head strap is snapped into the lower snap. There is another snap further back and higher up, you use this position for helmet mounting the PVS-5.
The PVS-5 has a pupillary adjustment that is quick and easy. Simply push the two monocular pods together or pull them apart. They are connected to each other so if you reposition one, it will affect the other side.
Inbetween the monocular pods is an infrared illuminator. The position is not ideal since the monocular pods are so close and stick out so far. You get two circular shadows in the upper left and right corners of your night vision image.
Since the PVS-5 is basically like a giant scuba diving mask, it is cumbersome to adjust the rear diopters. So ITT/Litton designed an arm that spins around the monocular pod, reaches rearward and bolts into the eyepieces so you can adjust the rear diopter.
Below you can see those rectangular protrusions on the small eyepieces. That is where the diopter adjustment bolts in. As you spin the collar around your monocular pod up front, the arm translates this and spins the ocular.
The PVS-5 is powered by two AA batteries. Below is the battery compartment. The batteries are placed in series across the top of the goggle housing.
The power knob for the PVS-5 is positioned underneath the goggle.
The power knob may seem familiar. Turn it to activate the goggle, pull and continue to turn on to activate the IR illuminator. This is just like the PVS-7 and PVS-14.
Since the PVS-5 has an integrated skull crusher/face mask, ITT/Litton incorporated the ability to tilt the monocular pods for added customization for the user.
PVS-5s In Hollywood
The PVS-5s were prominently used in the Stargate SG1 series.
Probably the most iconic use of the PVS-5 is in the classic Ghostbusters although there were never utilized as night vision goggles.
Upgrading The PVS-5
As mentioned earlier, the PVS-5 was utilized by the US Air Force. There was an alternate mounting solution called the COBB mount. This made the PVS-5 compatible with ANVIS goggle mounts.
Even though the PVS-5 are a Gen 2 night vision technology, they are adequate at allowing you to see in the dark. You used to be able to find PVS-5s for under $1,000 but due to a recent interest in them, the prices have increased. They go for over $1200 right now for a broken unit. Working units are fetching $1600+. Why the sudden interest in the PVS-5? Nocturn Industries has been converting them into articulating binos.
Send us your PVS-5 and we will modernize it with an articulating bridge complete with switches that power the pods on and off individually when rotated to the sides just like the UANVB Katana. This enables you to use a single eye while aiming down a weapon sight or operate a vehicle without having headspace limited and eliminates back splash when the pods are rotated to the sides.
This conversion comes default with a “deans” or T-slot battery connector.
If you do not have a deans connector 3 volt battery pack, please specify the connector you want or send the connector you would like installed when you ship your unit to us. There is an up-charge for other connectors such as LEMO 0B for ANVIS.
Required Power Supply: Remote 3 Volt Pack
Connector: T-Plug (Deans), LEMO available option additional $40
Warranty: Adapters and wiring are guaranteed for life, any repairs to craftsmanship or adapters are covered you just cover shipping. This does not cover tubes, lenses, or the bridge. We will repair the bridge at cost of parts.
Nocturn’s conversion reduces a bit of weight. Regular PVS-5 weighs just over 2 lbs.
Nocturn offers an objective shroud upgrade as well. This is both cosmetic as well as functional. This increases the outer diameter of the objective lens as well as adding knurling to make it easier to adjust focus. Also, you can now use 09A Butler Creek flip caps just like PVS-14 objectives.
My PVS-5 Upgrades
While I do not have a PVS-5 yet, my friend Cajer lent me his PVS-5. It is the one you see in the photos earlier in the article.
The first upgrade I did was add my Jerry-C thermal clip on. The only modification needed is to increase the outer diameter of the objective lens. It is too narrow to fit the Jerry-C mount. I just used some painter’s tape and paper to increase the diameter so the mount could clamp on.
As expected, the Jerry-C works with the PVS-5.
The second upgrade I performed was to improve the eyepieces. I had heard, from a friend a while ago, that ENVIS M703 monoculars can use PVS-5 eyepieces. If that is the case, then the PVS-5 can use ENVIS eyepieces. For those who do not know, PVS-15/18 also have compatible eyepieces with the ENVIS monocular.
You need to remove the diopter adjustment collar so you can unscrew the eyepiece out of the housing. Then you just thread the PVS-15 eyepiece in.
The diameter of the PVS-15 eyepiece lens is 28mm while the PVS-5 eyepiece is just 22mm wide.
I do not have another PVS-15 eyepiece but I recently came across some ENVIS ocular housings. They are compatible with PVS-14 lens cells. So it was a simple matter of removing the lens cell from the PVS-14 eyepiece and installing it into the ENVIS ocular housing.
Here is the ENVIS/14 eyepiece installed into the PVS-5.
You can collimate the PVS-5 with ENVIS/14 eyepieces.
Why would you want a bigger ocular lens? If you have Nocturn’s PVS5-31 or a PVS-5 with COBB mount, the wider eyepieces allow you to more comfortably move the goggle further from your eyes without sacrificing the image. With the narrower 22mm eyepieces, the lenses have to be physically closer to your eyes to see the entire image.
Final Thoughts On The PVS-5
Lately, I have been exploring older night vision systems and seeing how viable they are. The PVS-5 is really not that bad as long as you have decent tubes in it. The housing is a bit antiquated and it is bulky. With some upgrades like the Nocturn Industries conversion and some wider objective lenses, they should work really well for recreational activities. Unfortunately, the current pricing for AN/PVS-5 is bordering on the ridiculous. $1600 for a Gen 2 binocular? The AN/PVS-5 is now somewhat like the H&K SL8. Before H&K reissued them, SL8s were getting scarce. Most people who have them sent them off to Tommybuilt to be converted into an XM8 or G36. Supply and demand constantly at odds.
For the current pricing of a PVS-5, you are better off saving just a bit more and getting a PVS-14 with a good Gen 3 tube. It will be lighter and better for any activity. If you already have night vision and want something historically interesting and can find it for a decent price then sure get a PVS-5.