ATN Night Trek 3X night vision monocular

   08.07.13

I still remember, back around 1994 or 1995, when Russian-made, military surplus, Gen 1 night vision scopes were being imported into the USA by the boat-load. I owned several, and they were a lot of fun, to be sure. However, they were used units, not new — and the intensifier tubes didn’t really “intensify” the ambient light as much as advertised. I remember most of the companies selling these military surplus scopes were claiming they amplified or intensified the ambient light by as much as 40,000 times. Hogwash! And the optics on these Russian-made night vision scopes left something to be desired. They were big and bulky, too, but they were fun to play with, and better than not being able to see in the dark.

Several years ago, I tested several night vision scopes from ATN, from rifle scopes to head-mounted scopes, that you could wear either on your bare head or on a military helmet. I tested Gen 1, Gen II+ and Gen III scopes, and there is a big difference among these in how clearly you can see at night and how far away. I honestly didn’t think there would be “that” much difference between a Gen II+ and a Gen III scope, until I tested them side-by-side. The Gen III was easily the winner for clarity and brightness, but there’s a big difference in price between the various generations of night vision scopes. We all can’t afford to purchase Gen II, Gen II+, or Gen III night vision scopes on our budgets.

Enter the ATN Night Trek 3X that was recently sent to me for testing. I know everyone loves a good deal, and we all want the most we can get for our hard-earned dollars.

First of all, let me explain that, the Gen I night vision scopes are the most popular selling scopes on the market, and for good reason — they’re affordable! The $200 Night Trek 3X, is a Gen I+ scope, and it has a 3X magnification. ATN also has a version of this scope with 5X but, I find that 3X is all that I need for viewing at night, as this scope is rated to clearly ID the shape of a person or big game animal out to 200-rds. With the built-in IR illuminator, in total darkness that distance is cut down to about 100-yards.

Gen I night vision units will amplify the existing light from stars, the moon, or ambient light, thousands of times. (Note that ATN is not claiming that their unit will amplify light 40,000 times, like the old mil-surplus Russian-made scope claimed.)

I’ve been testing my Night Trek 3X sample for several months now, staying up late, or getting up early in the morning, while it’s still dark, and viewing the wildlife in my yard. Most of what I see are deer in my front yard, but I occasionally see a raccoon or a stray cat or dog on my property, too. The amount of ambient light dictates how clearly and how sharp things appear in the Night Trek 3X. If it’s really dark out there, I’ll just press the little button to turn-n the IR Illuminator, and it makes a HUGE difference in how well lit-up the area is.

Alright, let’s take a quick look at the specs on this Gen I+ scope. As already mentioned, it has 3X magnification, and the front lens is 42mm — a nice size. Focal range is from 1-yard to infinity, but I found I could focus on things closer than one yard away. The eye relief is 10mm, and the diopter adjustment is from -5 to +5. I had no problems focusing the front lens and rear eye piece.

I mentioned you can see and ID things out to 200-yards, too. The IR is good out to 100-yards, approximately. The unit is powered by a single 3-volt CR123 battery that is good for up to 30-hours of use, depending on how often you use the IR illuminator light.

ATN claims this unit can operate from -22 degrees to +140-degrees. The Night Trek 3X is is 6.9″ long, 3″ wide and 2.5″ in height, and weighs a mere 11-oz — we are talking small and light-weight, and it comes with a battery and a very nice OD greenish Nylon carrying case with a shoulder strap, and complete instructions.

If you are into prepping, boating at night, security around your house or homestead, then the ATN Night Trek 3X might be a good fit for you. I love going out at night, sitting on my front deck, and watching the deer in my front yard — they can smell me, but they can’t see me, though I can see them. If someone was in my yard or on my property, I’d be able to see them when they couldn’t see me. If you are into prepping, you must get some kind of night vision device, and I don’t think you can do any better than the ATN Night Trek 3X or the 5X for you basic needs at this price point.

One thing you will readily notice about the Night Trek 3X is that it is, very ergonomic – feels real good in the hand, and the two control buttons on the top of the unit are easy to operate, too. The unit comes with a rubber protective lens cap, that must not be removed in bright light. If the unit is on then the bright light will burn out the intensifier tube, rendering your unit useless, and it will void your warranty. There is a pin hole in the rubber protective cap, that will allow you to test the unit in daylight — however, the quality of the sharpness is degraded quite a bit. I would also note that, most night vision units have a screw-on/of lens cap that’s hard to put on and take off; the Night Trek 3X has a rubber cap that’s placed on the front lens, with a friction fit, so it comes right off when you need it to. Again, do not remove the lens cap during daylight or under bright light conditions, when the unit is turned or, or you will ruin it.

You may notice a nigh-pitched whine when the unit is on. I personally couldn’t hear it, due to some hearing loss from a lot of years of shooting, but my wife could hear it. Also, the image you see may be slightly blurry around the edges — this is known as Geometric Distortion, and you even see this in Gen II+ and Gen III+ units. So don’t think you have a defective unit, because it’s common in night vision units. When you turn-off a 1st Gen scope, it may still glow green for some time — again, this is common in Gen 1 scopes and is normal.

In one of the photos attached to this article, you will notice a view through my Night Trek 3X scope, and it’s a bit blurry. This was not the fault of the scope. I had my digital camera lens looking through the rear eye piece of the scope, and the computer in the camera was being fooled — it was trying to focus on what the camera was seeing and not what was being seen through the eye piece of the night vision scope. Still, you can get a good idea of what you might see through the Night Trek 3X scope, it’s much clearer than that picture shows.

The ATN Night Trek 3X retails for only $219.00, and you can find it for around $199 most places. That, my friends, is one heck of a deal, in my very humble opinion, for a top-notch, Gen 1+ night vision scope from a well-known maker. My youngest daughter took an ATN Gen II+ helmet mounted scope with her when she deployed to Kuwait in the US Army (she’s a Combat Medic) and she loves her unit. She also wore it when she was doing her night driving training/certification to be able to drive a Hummer, too.

ATN is a leader in the night vision and thermal imaging fields, and they back all their products with their warranty and with some of the best customer service in the industry. Not all night vision scopes are the same, either – just because a company advertises that their scopes can magnify the ambient light 40,000 or 100,000 times, doesn’t make it true — it’s called “hype” and there is too much of that going on these days. No hype from ATN — just high-quality products, and fair prices. What more could you ask for?


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