Given how popular night vision goggles have become over the last couple of decades, due to the technology improving, you may be interested in purchasing some, but wish to stay on the right side of the law. When it comes to the subject of their legality, there is no straightforward answer. Generally speaking, yes night vision goggles are legal, but there are a variety of factors that come into play as to whether you can actually use them and what for.
In the following post, to help keep you out of trouble, we are going to break down the different factors that come into play.
Is Buying and Owning Night Vision Goggles Legal?
First things first, let’s deal with the easiest question about night vision goggles. Yes, it is completely legal to buy and own night vision goggles and thermal imaging devices in the US. In California, some laws stand regarding illegal sniper scopes, but that’s it.
That particular law states it is against the law to own any contrivance, be it a device or attachment that has been directly designed for or appropriately adapted to be used with a firearm. Particularly, and this is the crucial point if the device provides a projected IR light and works in combination with an electronic telescope and allows the user to visually locate and identify objects at night.
So, Can You Hunt Using Night Vision?
Here is where we come to the more complicated bit. Night vision is, of course, very useful (and safer) for hunting when nightfall, whether late at night or early in the morning.
Although there is not really any control over the purchasing and ownership of night vision goggles in the US, one area where there is strong control in any laws throughout the country is hunting. You will find that there are slightly different rules and laws about hunting from state to state. While some outline date ranges when it is acceptable to participate in night hunting/shooting, other states outrightly ban it completely. Furthermore, some states simply ban the hunting of particular animals.
One thing that all states agree upon with regards to night hunting is that it is prohibited to hunt animals considered game animals like moose, elk, turkey, deer, and smaller species at night. Depending on the state you are in, you may still be able to hunt species like coyotes and hogs for example.
Part of the reason why it is a bit messy and confusing is that the law regarding night vision hunting changes often, especially when it comes to the subject of feral hogs that are a growing problem in the southeast.
The best way to know what the exact rules are for your state would be to contact the relevant Department of Natural Resources.
At a Federal level, there are no rules about night vision hunting. All states tend to regulate it to some degree. As we noted earlier, the rules are different depending on where you live. You may find your state is okay with it, or that they have banned it completely.