Every time I turn around, there's a new "subject matter expert" screaming that their particular piece of kit is better than the rest. While I agree that all are entitled to their opinion; I often find that they are steering consumers in the wrong direction, or blatantly just regurgitating what they read in the manual. As with most things in life, when it comes to Night Vision, there is NO one system that is the best for ALL mission requirements. I'm a retired Green Beret, with 18 years in special ops; most of which was with a special mission unit. All operators need good night vision for their heads or helmets; but my missions often required me to use weapon-mounted Night Vision, on medium thru long-range sniper rifles. So, I've seen what has worked and what hasn't worked, over the years. Some NV systems are great for "in close" encounters, while other NV systems work great only at extended ranges. What Armasight has here, in the CO-MR, is a high-quality NV system that provides the consumer a balance of both long and short-range capabilities... the Best of Both Worlds.
So you, the consumer, have decided to buy a Night Vision system; but you're on the fence as to what system you want to buy. you'll notice that I call them "systems," as all good Night Vision is more than just an intensifier tube with a battery? Mounting features, tube performance, caps, storage cases, and all the other little accessories are what separate the great systems from the good.
If it's your first Night Vision System; I recommend that you go with a high-quality hand-held GEN-III monocular, such as the Armasight NYX-14 or the Military PVS-14. Why? I'm glad you asked? A small monocular is very utilitarian. It will provide you easy situational awareness, when the lights go out. Being small, you are more likely to take it with you. It will fit in your small travel bag or hunting pack. You can use it to move at night, by simply holding it up in front of your face; try that with a heavy night scope. This can be made even easier with the addition of a simple head harness. You can even shoot with it, with the addition of a simple weapon-mounted IR laser.
That said, once you have a good monocular in your personal inventory; I recommend you next purchase be a good GEN-III NV weapon sight. The type that you buy will depend on your mission requirements.
What is your Mission? As a dedicated sniper, running around the battlefield with a 300 Win Mag bolt-gun, you would want a night scope with as much range as possible. That's an easy choice. However, what if you mission requires much shorter ranges; or better yet, you don't really have a "mission." For you the consumer, think of it as "what do I want to be able to do?" and what is your situation?
What is your Situation? What type of terrain will you be moving in? Urban vs Rural, and Vegetated vs Desert, all present different requirements. What type of weapon system will you be mounting your NV system on? Do you require a system that can support multiple weapon systems, switching back and forth? Will you be required to move long distances dismounted? If so, weight and battery-life will also affect your NV scope selection. Do you have room for a separate "dedicated" Night Rifle, with a dedicated Night Vision Scope? If not, you'll want to get a Clip-On Night Scope that you can mount in front of your day optic.
What is a Clip-On? Traditional Night Vision Weapon Sights were designed to stay mounted on the weapon. They could be used (barely) during the day, by leaving on the front lens cover, but performance was terrible. This meant that marksmen had to have one rifle mounted with a good day optic (for daytime use) and one rifle mounted with a night optic (for nighttime use). While this is possible for many law enforcement agencies, working in a permissive environment; it just isn't practical for the military marksman, as humping two complete weapons up the Afghani Mountains would suck. Another poor alternative was for a marksman to remove his zeroed day optic at sundown, and replace it with his night optic, hoping that it would hold its zero as well as the manufacturers claimed. He would then have to swap optics back again, at sunrise. This does not lend itself to confidence in your weapon's retained zero.
Then, the Clip-On arrived on the scene. When the first of them arrived at my SF unit, we were very skeptical about their claims of "not shifting your zero." The laws of physics make it very clear that any time you add another lens in front of the front objective lens of a rifle scope, you are going to move the point-of-impact (POI). The engineers claimed that they culminated the clip-on scopes at the factory and that we would have zero shift of POI. The reality that we found was that ALL Clip-Ons (regardless of manufacturer) do shift the POI slightly (those damn laws of physics). However, shift is often minimal (.5 to 1 MOA) and, more importantly, it is consistent in some models. By consistent, I mean that a particular Clip-On would move my POI in the same direction and same distance every time I mounted the Clip-On. It was repeatable. That meant that (at sunset) I could mount my clip-on NV scope and then dial in the "correction" on my day optic. This allowed me to use my sniper system effectively (and accurately) at night, without sacrificing the zero of my day scope. The clouds parted, rays of sunshine came down from the heavens, and all was right in the universe. That is, IF your clip-on scope was consistent.
Short range vs long range? Watch the media coverage of our military and you'll see that most of our operators are carrying AR carbines with "red-dot" sights. The carbines are reliable, and the red-dot sights (roughly parallax-free) allow the user to accurately engage targets quickly during daylight. On these weapons you'll also see weapon-lights (for close up night shooting) and weapon-mounted laser/illuminators. These lasers are usually IR and assist the user in aiming his weapon while wearing his helmet-mounted night-vision goggles. This setup is good for several hundred meters, but does not lend itself to accurate target engagement; still, good enough for the masses.
I prefer to run a 1-6x variable magnification day scope, such as the Leupold MK-6 or Horus Talon. This allows me to dial down to 1x (same as the Red-Dots) for close-range engagements, but it also allows me to dial up to 6x magnification for those further shots. My experience, after 90 seconds, all the target building is secure, and now all the bad guys are 300 meters outside the wall. If it takes 45 minutes to exploit the target building; That's 45 minutes that we need to be able to accurately engage fleeting targets at 300+ meters. I still run a weapon-light and a IR Laser/Illuminator for close work. However, I also like having the option to attach a Clip-on Night Vision scope, to use in front of the 1-6x day scope. If you have a good rail on your AR, you can easily mount a small Clip-On in front of a Red-Dot scope or a short variable scope, again like the Leupold MK-6.
These small Clip-On NV scopes will fit in front of the day scope of a large-bore sniper rifle. However, they don't have the "illumination" needed to allow long-range snipers to make proper use of their weapon's capabilities. This requires the use of larger Long-Range Clip-Ons, such as the Armasight CO-LR. These scopes allow trained snipers to engage targets, at night, at ranges limited only to their ability to identify "friend or foe."
The only disadvantages of these large long-range clip-on scopes, is their weight and the fact that they wont fit on the rails of the relatively short AR carbines.
So, why the CO-MR? Armasight offers small clip-ons, like the CO-Mini (ideal for AR rifles); and large clip-ons, like the CO-LR (ideal for large Sniper Rifles). I have them both, and can speak of their excellent quality and capability at the mission that they were designed for. However, the CO-Mini just doesn't provide the extended range capable of the CO-MR. Additionally, the CO-LR is just too long to mount on a short or medium length rifle.
For my "ever-evolving" mission, in my "ever-changing" situation, I need the best of both long and short range capabilities. I need a light and small NV scope that does NOT interfere with the zero of my day optic or require a separate weapon to haul around. My choice?... I chose the Armasight CO-MR?
Why is the Armasight CO-MR the best? To start with, Armasight ensured that it has a solid weapon mount that consists of an adjustable throw-lever. This helps it hold a zero and handle the recoil that our rifles are going to hit it with. By being adjustable, you can "fine-tune" it to mount snuggly on your particular rail. Not all rails are created equally. Some are ever so slightly different in diameter, and often vary by manufacturer. Remember, it's the repeatability of the POI that will make or break your choice of a clip-on NV scope. This Armasight mount makes it repeatable. If you have a standard Picatinny Rail or Weaver Rail, you can mount a CO-MR.
All night vision scopes (except Thermals) are built around an Image Tube. These you will often hear called as GEN-I, GEN-II, GEN-III, and about a dozen other fancy names (for slight improvements or variations). GEN-I: think Vietnam-era technology... good for hunting coyotes in the back yard. GEN-II is slightly better, and GEN-III is what our military is using today. The CO-MR is available in GEN-II and GEN-III. Which tube you buy depends on what your budget is. However, I recommend you buy the best that you can afford. you'll thank me later.
The CO-MR has a bunch of great features, and you can read them right off the internet without having me regurgitate them. My favorites are the Automatic Brightness Control and the Battery Box. That's right, I said the Battery Box. I've spent decades putting batteries into every shaped and angled battery box that these night vision engineers could come up with. I swear some of them have never touched a real gun. If you've seen the battery box on an old PVS-4, you know what I'm talking about. The CO-MR (and most Armasight NVDs) has an ingenious battery box and cap that allows the unit to use both CR123 Lithium batteries and standard AA batteries. I get about 55 hours out of a CR123; twice that of a AA battery. Yeah, CR123s are a little pricey, but I'm worth it. However, you can't always find CR123s. I was out on a Hog hunt, in a little town in Texas, and couldn't find CR123s to save my life. You can find AA batteries anywhere on the planet, literally. If not for this really cool Armasight feature, I would have missed my last night of hog hunting.
The small size of the CO-MR (7 inches) allows me to mount it on all my AR carbines. At a pound and a half, I don't even notice it in my go-bag or hunting pack. The Armasight website will say that it is Waterproof. That means when you trip and drop your rifle in a foot-deep tire rut, filled with frosty and soupy mud (yeah, been there), you can pick it right up, wash off the mud with your canteen (I actually used coffee), and it will even hold a zero.
Zeroing the CO-MR is easy.
- During the day, confirm that your day optic is zeroed.
- Mount the CO-MR, as close to the objective lens of your day optic as possible (without touching), ensuring that the quick-release mount is very tight. If not tight (or too tight), adjust by turning the adjustment nut on the opposite side of the scope.
- Now, slightly loosen the throw-arm lever, and try to slide the scope forward. This will take any play out of the space between the mount and the slots in the Picatinny Rail. If you don't do this step, the gun recoiling will slowly slide it forward, as the gun recoils below it. This will move your POI.
- Retighten throw-arm lever.
- Once the sun goes down, return to the same range and fire a shot group.
- Measure the shift of the shot group from where you were aiming (POI shift) and record.>
- Remove CO-MR; reattach CO-MR (you MUST take care to mount the scope the SAME WAY EVERY TIME or your POI will not be repeatable)
- Shoot another group, recording POI shift
- Repeat until you have established what your POI shift is.
If you POI shift is consistent and repeatable, record it, and place data-card in your CO-MR case. Now, every time you mount your CO-MR, just dial the adjustment onto your day optic (or use holds) and you'll be dead on every time.
If your POI shift is NOT consistent and you can NOT repeat it; focus more on methodically mounting your scope. Take your time, learn to do it right, and this thing is scary accurate.
The list of great features would go on for pages. The best would have to be the great customer service from Armasight.
So, is the CO-MR the best choice for any one mission? I would dare say "No." A large dedicated Night Vision Scope, mounted on its own rifle will definitely hold a zero better, but is worthless during the day. A smaller clip-on would fit on smaller ARs and sub-guns than the CO-MR, but suck for long-range viewing. Larger clip-ons are much better at longer ranges, but weigh a ton more and won't fit on half the guns that a CO-MR will fit on. However, what if you want a NV scope capable of in-close use, which is just as comfortable in the open desert? What if you want a scope that is light and small, yet packed with all the great features and capabilities of much larger scopes? You're not asking for the impossible; you just want the best of both worlds. You want the Armasight CO-MR.