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.

Precision Rifle Matches

I’ve been shooting local precision rifle matches to hone my craft. I completed the second match two weekends ago. If you are near Navasota, Texas, check out TX Precision Matches. They hold matches the second Saturday every month. Shooters need $50 and 100 rounds.

The shooting is challenging, and humbling. The target size is 1-4 MOA, with 2.5 MOA or so being the average. The match features 8 stages. Each stage is 105 seconds, and 8-12 rounds fired. The match typically runs from 0830-1500. The target range is from 350 yards to 1100 yards, with a typical target being at 500 yards. Most shots are from non-prone positions.

TX Precision indexes shooters’ scores off of the leader in your division. The leader gets a 100%, and other shooters get percentages of the leaders score. If the top score in a given division was 60, and a shooter scored a 45, then his score is 75%.

I can’t recommend enough that you go to these local matches to skill build. The shooters are incredibly helpful, and will shepherd first timers through the whole match. Come prepared to be humbled. You probably won’t score well your first few outings. No, it doesn’t mean you suck. It also doesn’t mean that the sport is stupid. It’s a great chance to learn alternate positions, rapid wind calling, and applying the fundamentals under severe time stress.

The divisions are Marksman, Expert, and Pro for bolt guns. Gas guns are a separate division. A look at the scores shows why. I’ve always known from personal experience that bolt guns are more accurate than gas guns, but the low gas gun scores surprised me.

Carbine Drop Charts

Here I will post hold over/under charts for common carbine calibers. The point here is so that users can stretch the range on SBRs, submachine guns, pistols, and carbines. For more information on muzzle velocities out of various barrel lengths, check out Ballistics By The Inch. Of course, I modeled the trajectories in Sendit Ballistics.

9mm, 16″ Barrel

This chart is for a 124gr 9mm fired out of a 16″ barrel. The zero is 25, with re-zero at 80 meters.

5.56mm, XM193, 16″ Barrel

This chart is for a 55gr 5.56 fired out of a 16″ barrel. I used a 30 meter zero, because it re-zeros at 300 meters.

Sendit Ballistics

Check out Sendit Ballistics for iOS if you are interested in an accurate, simple bullet trajectory calculator. I keep an updated page on the app here. The app is so accurate because it models the most important 3 degrees of freedom with painstaking detail. The app is designed for the field user, with a simple interface, range card mode, low light mode, and rapid corrections with minimal information. It is free to 400 meters, and only $4.99 to infinity.

Mountain Guerrilla: Drill-Building for Skill-Building

Balance in training is key. You should drill fundamentals and incorporate more realistic and force-on-force work. Be wary of trainers that suggest ditching square ranges. Likewise, understand the square range is crawl/walk; you need further drills for the run phase.

MG Article

INTRO:

It’s become something of a cliché, in the training world, to point out that “Life isn’t a square range!” The implication—and sometimes it’s not even implied, but violently explicit—being that if you’re doing fundamentals work with your weapons, you’re going to die, because your training isn’t “real” enough. I’ve always found this ironic, since in my experience, the ability to actually hit what the fuck I was shooting at, on demand, as many times as I needed to shoot it, was THE defining factor in success in a gunfight. Where did I learn to do that? On the fucking “square range!” Admittedly, they were actually, usually rectangular, but…

Windage Field Constants for Common Rifle Calibers

For the benefit of the rifle shooting community, I have created this table of common calibers’ wind constants. If you’d like to see another bullet on this table, just post the request in the comment section, and I will update the table (weight, G7 BC, and MV would be helpful). I have gotten it kicked off with 6 common calibers. I made this table using my highly accurate ballistics calculator, Sendit Ballistics. The table is right below. Further explanation is below the table.

You better have some way of getting on paper in this atmospheric shit-storm.

Corrections Table

CaliberRanges Valid To (m)Wind Constant (mil, meter, mph)Wind Constant (moa, yard, mph)
5.56mm, M193, 55gr FMJ, 600206.4
5.56mm, M262, 77 gr BTHP, 2740fps MV800278.6
5.56mm, M855, 62grn FMJ600237.3
6.5mm (CM), 140grn ELD-M10004514.3
7.62mm (300WM), Mk248Mod0, 190gr BTHP11004414
7.62mm, M118LR, 175gr BTHP, 2600fps MV8004012.7
.22 LR, 40gr CCI Mini-mag, rifle40082.5

Having a windage field constant in your back pocket is a great thing for serious shooters. A field constant means a single number which helps you come up with corrections based on a full value wind, and the given range.

The concept of a wind constant works on the following equation:

Meter Line * Windspeed / Constant = Correction

EXAMPLE: 5.56 62grn at 400 meters (meter line 4),
in a 6mph wind. Want MOA correction.

1. Constant = 7
2. Correction = 4 * 6 / 7 = 24/7 = 3.5MOA
  • Meter Line is in hundreds, i.e. the Meter Line for 500m is “5”
  • Windspeed is full value, interpolate for half values
  • Constant is in such a unit that it gives you the desired correction

I made the table with two types of constants. The first row is for shooters who desire a mil correction, with meter distances, and mile per hour winds. The second column shows MOA corrections, for shooters shooting in yards, and using mile per hour winds.

You will notice that some of these constants are non-rounded numbers. I decided to err on the side of giving the rifleman the most information. If you don’t like “27,” you can make the call to round it to “25.”

Methodology

The wind constant calculations are pretty much pure analytical science. I used the ballistics engine in Sendit Ballistics to produce the corrections for the given bullet and wind parameters. From there, it is simple algebra to calculate the wind constant (see the simple equation at the top of the page, we need to know 3 numbers to find the 4th). I modeled the wind constant at every hundred meters, and at 5, 10, and 20mph for each cartridge.

Past those calculations, there is some art involved. I first average all the wind constants to get a baseline number. This number is typically too low. The wind constants change drastically from 100m to 1000m. The constants are higher at shorter ranges, meaning that ultimately they produce smaller corrections for the riflemen in the field. Of course, the small wind constants at long range produce corrections which are too big at medium ranges. The key is to pick a reasonable range for the given cartridge, and then select a wind constant that will give adequate coverage for both medium and long ranges for that cartridge. It’s not too much of a problem if the shooter overcorrects by a large amount at shorter ranges; it amounts to centimeters.

Sendit Ballistics

Check out Sendit Ballistics for iOS if you are interested in an accurate, simple bullet trajectory calculator. I keep an updated page on the app here. The app is so accurate because it models the most important 3 degrees of freedom with painstaking detail. The app is designed for the field user, with a simple interface, range card mode, low light mode, and rapid corrections with minimal information. It is free to 400 meters, and only $4.99 to infinity.

Book Review: Victoria, William Lind

4.7 / 5.0

Bottom Line: Victoria is a teaching tool for 4th Generation War (4GW) students. This book is a very good series of short stories which help readers build an intuition for 21st century and beyond war, which will be 4GW to a large extent.

Review

This book should not be viewed as a novel, although that is how it is presented. It is really a series of short stories, loosely tied together on the theme of a future collapse in the liberal global order. Though the political setting of the book is designed to make Lind’s dedicated fans feel at home, it’s not really important for a serious 4GW student. I’m just as happy studying Hezbollah as I am a movement of traditionalists in the United States, which is the best way to describe the protagonists in Victoria.

The basic pattern of Victoria is to present a seemingly difficult problem, which the protagonists then solve by using a mixed and innovative approach, characteristic of successful 4GW. Lind’s intent seems to be to use each chapter to present a realistic pattern for a future conflict, and to then show how a thinking man would solve it.

In one instance, they defeat local politicians by recruiting friendly media outlets to create a public firestorm. In another, they use WW2 era tanks to make rapid 3GW maneuvers once the danger of air attack as passed. In still another instance, they recruit criminal organizations to set off a bomb near an enemy port, which gives the appearance they have more power than they really do.

Though the book has a loose storyline, it isn’t necessary to read it in order. The book has some value as a reference; the reader can flip back to a chapter that relates to current events or a historical scenario in order to get insight into the power dynamics between the two sides.

Lind’s military background included his part in a very serious attempt to reform the US military in the late 1980s to be a 3rd Generation War force. 3GW is the German Blitzkrieg, Nathan Bedford Forrest, and the US Army in Desert Storm. The point is to break through an enemies lines with speed, and disrupt them at the operational level. According to Lind, the US military generally practices 2GW, which means to bombard the enemy with pre-assault fires, and then assault to take ground.

This background probably explains why Lind seems to strongly eschew 2GW in this book — he figures we have enough examples of it in current events and history and it does not need to be taught. By contrast, the book features a good bit of 4GW, some 3GW, and even a particular scene of 1GW. Part of 4GW also means to use and time the other generations of war to maximum information and strategic effect.

More on Victoria’s Learning Model

I am curious as to whether William Lind intentionally used the experiential learning model (ELM). The ELM is a learning model intended to touch on the primary ways adults learn, and Victoria seems to follow this model to engage as many adult readers as possible.

The Concrete Experience is simply reading an engaging scenario. Observation and reflection is really discussion, and it occurs in Victoria through the dialogue. Abstract Concepts means lecture style learning, and occasionally occurs as during soliloquies by Rumford or Kraft, the two main protagonists. Testing in new Situations is really a practical exercise, and of course cannot occur in a book.

The Bad and Ugly

There isn’t much bad about the book. Parts of it are kind of corny. The storyline is somewhat loose. The depiction of The South is downright cartoonish and grating. I give Lind a pass on this in general, because his portraying nations in stark contrasts allows him to better illustrate subtle 4GW cultural concepts.

Ultimately, this book is a good set of stories that illustrate various realistic 4GW situations. Even the unintelligent will get an entertaining novel out of the deal. Intelligent 4GW students will use this book to build their intuition about 4GW situations, as well as get guidance from the protagonists’ reading lists for further study.

Sendit Ballistics 1.3.0 Released (Thanks Beta Testers)

1.3.0 is an incremental upgrade which makes the operation of Sendit Ballistics smoother. The long and short of it is that I am removing the “default units” switch, which makes a user choose between either metric or standard.

It was a dumb system that made sense in my engineer mind at the time. Unfortunately, it’s just not how real shooters work, as I should know. I use meters and mils, mph for wind, F for temperature, and mbar for pressure. In other words, a mix. Beta tester “E” helped me to see the error of my ways, and for that I’m grateful.

Well, what are you waiting for? Download the improved app!

Terminal Ballistics from The Weapon Blog

Weapon Blog has posted some excellent articles lately on terminal ballistics. Really, they are videos of people shooting things. Is there any other way to conduct terminal ballistics modeling? In terminal ballistics, empirical data rules over analytical solutions.

In the first video, the shooter fires multiple calibers at a pine tree to determine which ones will penetrate.

In the second video, the shooter fires 5.56, 9mm, and 22LR through multiple layers of drywall.


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.

AR-15 Wind Corrections Made Easy

The AR-15 series is a Rifleman’s rifle. It is accurate, customizable, and easily maintained. Even with off-the-shelf Full Metal Jacket (FMJ) ammunition, it’s a 3-MOA gun. In other words, a 5.56mm can hit a man-sized target at 600 meters without any customization or match ammunition. As many users have verified, upgraded stocks, optics, and ammunition can extend this range. This accuracy holds during good weather.

During wind, the burden of accuracy shifts from the AR-15 (accurate 3MOA or better), to the shooter or spotter who is calling the wind. Out to 100 meters, the wind would need to blow at roughly 60mph to move a bullet off of a man-sized target. Even at 300 meters, the shooter can get away with holding on the left edge or the right edge to compensate for any wind under 15mph.

At 400 meters and further, incorrect wind calls will lead to misses. A mere left or right edge hold limits the shooter to a 7.5mph wind. In other words, the AR-15 shooter’s lack of wind calling skill limits the platform’s effective range to 400 meters on a significant number of days.

The Rule of 7 for 5.56

The Rule of 7 for 5.56 is simple. To get your windage hold, multiply the meter-line and the windspeed in mph, and divide by constant 7.

Example 1:

500 meters, 4mph wind, full value. Need MOA correction.

MOA = 5 * 4 / 7 = 2.85.  Round to 2.75 or 3.0 MOA

Now, you need to know the value of the wind. Your gun is pointed at the 12 o’clock. 12 and 6 are no value. 3 and 9 are 100% value. 11, 1, 5, 7 are 50% value. 2, 4, 8, 10 are 70% value.

Example 2:

620 meters, 8mph wind out of the 1’oclock. Need MOA correction.

MOA = 6 * 8 * 0.5 / 7 = 3.43. Round to 3.5 MOA

Perhaps you don’t have a scope or reticle that works in MOA. You want inches so that you can hold off of the target into space. Remember, shoulder-to-shoulder is 19″ on an average male. Simply multiple the MOA correction with the meter-line.

Example 3:

400 meters, 16mph wind out of the 4’oclock. Need inches.

MOA = 4 * 16 * 0.7 / 7 = 6.4. Round to 6.5

Inches = 6.5 * 4 = 26 inches of hold.

Accuracy Check with Sendit Ballistics

We’ll use Sendit Ballistics, my iOS app, to check the accuracy of the rule, assuming 62-grain 5.56 at 2970fps. Wind is full value 10mph.

200 meters: 3 MOA by Rule of 7, 2 MOA by Sendit Ballistics

400 meters: 6 MOA by Rule of 7, 4.5 MOA by Sendit Ballistics

600 meters: 8.5 MOA by Rule of 7, 8.0 MOA by Sendit Ballistics

800 meters: 11 MOA by Rule of 7, 12.0 MOA by Sendit Ballistics

 

In other words, keep the Rule of 7 in your back pocket for windy days! And keep Sendit Ballistics in your back pocket too, in case you need perfection.