A lot of great articles from Max and DTG on night fighting and low light considerations. We would like to piggyback on their shirt tails, adding in some additional thoughts .
Why do object seem to fade out or disappear when we stare right at them at night?
This is called the “Night blind spot”. It is Located in central viewing axis (fovea), the Absence of rod cells in fovea creates the blind spot. The “night blind spot” encompasses a viewing area of 5 to 10 degrees center of your visual field of view.....
Using peripheral vision and scanning techniques can help overcome the “night blind spot”. Use off center viewing by looking just 7 to 10 degrees off the center of your target. This will allow your eyes to move the “night blind spot” off the target, giving you better visual acuity.
Using the 10 degree circular box method can also mitigate the issues of “night blind spot” when searching an area such as a tree line or other areas that have depth and width.
Food for thought when determining when to use a weapon mounted NOD (Night Optical Device, aka NVD Night Vision Device, aka NVU Night Vision Unit, sometimes aka NVG Night Vision Goggles...I just call it blackmagic, because it is. Really, how can it be anything else).
When conducting offensive maneuvers, utilizing a weapons mounted NOD is extremely difficult. If you are in a vehicle such a car or standard truck, your weapons mounted NOD will be near useless. Consider a head mounted NOD when movement, agility, and confines are a consideration. This will require your weapon to have a mounted visible or IR laser in order to effectively engage targets.
When in a defensive position utilizing a weapons mounted NOD in lieu of utilizing a visible or IR laser as the primary aiming system would be a preferred method. In a static position such as an OP/LP, the intentions to remain concealed would lead to using a passive aiming system such as co-witnessing your NOD behind a red dot compatible sight. Using a visible or IR laser in an OP/LP defensive type position could compromise your location due to the enemy having similar night vision equipment or observing the visible laser.
Fight as you train, train as you fight. Understand when operating at night, many of the functions - operations - techniques which you use during the day will now need to be performed in low light conditions. There are seldom times when you are in complete black out conditions, void of any ambient light. It can happen. Most often, even in the darkest nights, you will be in a very low light condition vice a no light condition.
In low light conditions things that seemed familiar to you will now seem foreign and un-identifiable. Your eyes will give you flawed input based on their degraded visual abilities. The weapon is still in your hand, being held up to your workspace, your support hand has felt its way to your emergency magazine reload site. You move the hand toward what your eyes are telling you is the magazine well, for some reason things are not working properly. The magazine just won’t find it’s way into the magwell.
Relying on flawed feedback from your eyes is leading to the inability to seat the magazine properly. We must rely on other senses to guide the magazine into the weapon. Through repetitions you will gain spatial awareness and understand where the weapon is compared to the support hand holding the new fresh magazine. The sound of the magazine hitting rounds first against your weapons magwell may give you input to recalculate and adjust the angle in which you are pushing the magazine into the magwell. Hearing the audible click, when the magazine seats, the tactile pull on the bottom of the magazine to ensure it is locked into position has now brought you to a loaded weapon system.
Training and repetition will guide your hand to the bolt release, pushing the ping-pong paddle with your thumb, releasing the bolt, and chambering a fresh round. Conducting a brass check by pulling the charging handle just slightly to the real, enough to expose a slight gap between the ejection port and the bolt carrier for your pinky finger to press in between the opening and searching for the feeling of a round on the bolt face, now positively proves your weapon is ready to fight. This was all done without the aid of your eyesight. Train for all eventualities. Fighting at night is like fighting during the day, but just at night...you still need to do all the same things even though you may not be able to visually guide your movements.
Training in day and night conditions is a requirement. You must be able to rely on other senses i.e. touch and sound, and all the others, to assist you when your main sensor such as your vision goes down or is degraded.
We wrote the other day about a dry fire movement drill you can do at home. You can do that drill, and every single other dry fire drill you currently do at home - in simulated darkness. You can start with a nice low romantic dusky light, then move into a more spooky twilight, and if you are brave enough you can turn out all the lights and shut the door and see just how dark it gets in your special part of the house, now continue with your drills.
Low light dry firing is an additional training step. Ensure that you have the basics, the fundamentals down before moving up a level. After achieving a level of proficiency with daytime dry fire drills, moving on to simulated low light dry firing drills would be a useful training experience.
Take every chance you get to train under realistic conditions. Simulated conditions are just a maintenance step in between the gaps you have in your real world training schedule.
These are an outline of some effects of darkness has on people-
Effects of night operations on people
- Hearing and Smelling
- Sleep Deprivation
Dark Adaptation and scotopic sensitivity (Scotopic: Low-Light Vision, Total color loss, one seventh acuity, 20/200):
- Varies between individuals
- Varies over time for single individual
- 30 minutes to acquire: 10K times more sensitivity to darkness
- 2 seconds to lose: flashes, flares, lights
- 45 minutes to reacquire
- Prevented by NVGs. Adapt before using NVGs.
Night time considerations:
- Headlights visible out to 8k
- Bonfire visible out to 8k
- Rifle Muzzle Flash visible out to 2k
- Flashlight visible out to 2k
- Lit Match visible out to 1500m
- Cigarette visible out to 800m
Hearing is Increased at Night
- Rifle Shot 3k
- Oars on Water 2k
- Vehicle on Road 1k
- Unit on Road 600m
- Magazine Change 500m
- Conversation 300m
- Single steps 40m
Smells are intensified at night. This is partly due to atmospheric conditions during hours of darkness, it is also due to the deprivation of sight can increases other sensory receptors.
- Estimating Distance: Usually overestimated
- Identify Objects: Usually underestimate size
- Moving on Foot: Dark adaption allows for Good night vision, allowing hazard avoidance
- Navigate:“Conceptualize” terrain, do not try to see it
- Speed is reduced in order to maintain noise discipline
- Body reaction similar to alcohol use
- IQ drops each hour / Short term memory loss
- Stress increases so night vision decreases
- 20 hours without sleep is equivalent to 0.08 Blood Alcohol Level
- 22 hours without sleep is equivalent to 0.10 Blood Alcohol Level
- “Normal” fear of the dark is ancient, expected and can be overcome through training
- Nyctophobia is an abnormal fear of the night or darkness, unwanted and dangerous
- Under stress of combat, fear is magnified
- Leaders must understand human psychology and take actions to address