Gear Review of the P-14 Gen II+ Night Vision Monocular

3.8 / 5.0

Pros: Excellent value. Near parity with PVS-14 during high illumination. Can use AA or CR2 battery. Couples well with IR lasers for night shooting.

Cons: Only partial PVS-14 BII compatibility, and no company-provided BII.

Bottom Line: This is night vision for the masses. I liked it enough to buy the test unit.

The PRG (Potomac River Group) P-14 flashed across my radar one morning as a deal on Dvor, $750 for Gen II+ night vision. I was intrigued, along with quite a few other people. A few emails later and PRG sent one my way to test. My testing consisted of walking around, shooting, and taking pictures through the unit. What else could you do?

Looks like a bargain basement PVS-14, and pretty much is (in a good way)

As an experienced night vision user can see, this unit is meant to occupy the same niche as the PVS-14, except for the frugal. With the typical PVS-14 costing $3000, the P-14 is very attractive at $1000 or less. Of course, the market is full of cheap night vision that is so ineffective as to not be worth it at any cost. I have used numerous of the sort of units people buy for $500 or less at sporting goods stores, and found that they are worse than paperweights — the user can’t see anything, but they destroy the wearer’s natural night vision for the following 30 minutes or so.

The P-14 boasts some impressive features. Gen II+, a very low price, made in the USA, automatic brightness, an IR illuminator, and at least the appearance of PVS-14 compatibility. What’s the catch? Well, that’s the point of my testing and review.

P-14 Performance

The last time I wore anything other than Gen III was 14 years ago when I briefly used PVS-7s in a schoolhouse setting. For Gen II+, I read what to expect from other night vision experts: near parity with Gen III under good illumination, and near uselessness under low light. That is exactly what I found.

On a walk through the woods with 0% illumination, I had to use the IR flood light to make any sort of movement. The unit alone was almost worse than nothing. I couldn’t make out branches about to swipe me, yet the night vision eye was useless.

Toyota pickup under partial illumination from ambient light. 40 meters.

On the other hand, during 100% illumination (full moon), the P-14 image quality was only slightly worse than the Gen III PVS-14. On that particular night, I could make out trees, terrain, structures, and animals at several hundred meters. Additionally, shooting with the P-14 was a breeze. A friend and I used a Streamlight TLR-2 IR laser on a 9mm XDM. Shooting 8″ plates with this combo was almost comically easy. At one point my friend had a target at 10 meters and another target at 50 meters and alternated most of a 19-round magazine between each target without miss.

Pup at 25 meters. Treeline is at 150-200 meters.

When I wore PVS-14s on a near nightly basis, I didn’t worry much about the illumination level. If it was good, that was all the better. With the P-14, the illumination level, and the moonrise and moonset matter. That isn’t PRG’s fault, it’s just a fact of life for Gen II+ tubes. However, potential buyers should be aware of this performance gap between Gen III and II+ tubes.

House and barn at 250 meters.
Creek crossing at 25 meters. Poor focus. Far treelike is on the order of 500 meters.

The P-14’s automatic brightness feature works well. Though I prefer manual brightness control in general, I never had a problem with the unit not adjusting well. Additionally, the onboard IR flood light did a good job of illuminating the immediate area.

PVS-14 Compatibility

When I saw the pictures, I was really hoping that the P-14 would act like a drop-in replacement for the PVS-14. That way, those of us who own PVS-14s can also have the P-14, and both units can use common basic gear. The P-14 works with PVS-14 gear to a large extent. The J-arm screws in to the P-14, but it doesn’t keep the unit from swiveling. As long as it’s tightly screwed, it’s not a problem. The P-14 doesn’t have the same automatic shutoff that the PVS-14 has when the unit is swung upward by the user.

It fits my existing PVS-14 gear reasonably well.

The P-14 works with my DSLR camera adapter for PVS-14s, but only if I add a bit of padding to the eyepiece ring. The eyepiece ring of the P-14 is just not quite big enough, so the adapter tends to work loose off of it. It is in no way a deal-killer, but I’d rather the ring just match the PVS-14 standard. Why not?

P-14 Quality

The P-14 does not feel like flimsy junk. I think it could take a little kicking around. It’s stamped Made in the USA. The rep told me the unit is made in Arizona. I’m not sure precisely what that means. While I think PRG is a company with integrity and does make the units in Arizona, that doesn’t necessarily mean all the glass and the tube is also made in the USA. I have no idea where each component is made.

I walked in the unit during a light mist without trouble. There is some distortion at the outside edge of the lens. Overall the quality seems to be present. Time will tell.

One Caveat…

I am fairly enthusiastic about the P-14, so much so that I went ahead and bought the test unit to serve as a backup or loaner. My one caveat is that I can’t vouch for the reliability of the P-14, nor the tube longevity. Tubes are known to last anywhere from 2,000 to 10,000 hours, and I have no idea how long this will last. I will certainly update the review if it fails prematurely.

Book Review: 4th Generation Warfare Handbook, William Lind

3.6 / 5.0

Bottom Line: Good read from a great thinker. This is an important book for people trying to understand 4th Generation War (4GW). Light on coverage of the internet, immigration, corporations, and NGOs, which I believe are key pieces of the 4GW battlefield.

Review

A most appropriate title for this book would be “The Infantry Commander’s Guide to 4th Generation War.” The meat of 4GW Handbook is discussion of the shortcomings of traditional military forces in the information age, and how commanders and senior NCOs might retool those forces for a 4GW fight.

William S Lind is one of the preeminent military thinkers of our age. In January 2004, Lind correctly called that the Iraq war would be a loss for the US, and would set in motion a chain of disasters for the west:

Will Saddam’s capture mark a turning point in the war in Iraq? Don’t count on it. Few resistance fighters have been fighting for Saddam personally.

I suggest that the war we have seen thus far is merely a powder train leading to the magazine. The magazine is Fourth Generation war by a wide variety of Islamic non-state actors, directed at America and Americans (and local governments friendly to America) everywhere. The longer America occupies Iraq, the greater the chance that the magazine will explode. If it does, God help us all.

In the appendix of 4GW Handbook, Lind gives readers a brief explanation of the four generations of war. In short, the first generation begins with the nation-state, after the Peace of Westphalia. Tight control of formations governs the battlefield. Second generation war came about as a result of industrialization. In this generation of war, nation-states use artillery and aircraft to bombard enemies prior to ground assaults.

Third generation war is the tactics of Rommel, Patton, and Forrest. They key is mobility. Third generation commanders use their mobility to cut off enemies, and to rapidly change the battlefield. The United States military fancies itself a third generation force. Lind argues, successfully, that the US military is in fact a second generation force.

4GW is modern war for the information age. The Vietnam war was a preview of this confusing type of war: perception beats reality. The bomb is 1/5th of the fight, the Tweets and social media posts afterward are 4/5th’s the battle. But the elevation of propaganda over reality really misses the big point of 4GW.

4GW: Total War

4GW is the making of every single aspect of life a battlefield. Much as every aspect of our lives has been politicized by partisans, in the fourth generation of war, everything is an act of war. It’s vicious and nasty, and debases us all. Having a baby is an act of war, because it slightly alters the balance of power between two groups. Boycotts are an act of war to punish those who think differently.

Some parties now use the law, once considered a way to ensure fairness in society, to punish one another. Rival groups use internet mobs to create controversies and chase one another off the digital battlefield. 4GW is one part guerrilla warfare, one part terrorism, one part Sharia-style population control, one part Rules for Radicals, and one part 1984. 4GW is low intensity war, everywhere.

Lind’s book focuses on the military aspect, and how commanders can avoid the poor optics of well-equipped militaries slaughtering freedom fighters. At times, the book feels like a primer on counterinsurgency for infantry commanders.

Where the book falls short is in discussing the unique battlefield of the internet. Lind also spends very little space on non-state actors, global governance organizations, and big business. Overall, the book is a worthwhile read from a truly great and fearless mind in the world of military strategy.