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Nightvision Diaries: Let There Be Light!

Night Master has gained a good reputation in the few years that they have been trading, offering the night hunter a wide array of standard and IR illumination devices, their NM800 being a notable example! After 6-years as one of the market leaders, MD Tony Jones thought it was time to take this quality hunting lamp to the next level.

Over the past 3-years, the Night Master team has been gathering feedback from customers, taking note of what they like and what they would improve on the NM800. They also teamed-up with an electronics company who were tasked with producing a state-of-the-art lamp that goes above and beyond the standard NM800.

Total overhaul

Not only was the user interface (the way it works) totally overhauled but the NM800 was upgraded and modernised too. 20 improvements and 12 months later, the result is the ECLIPSE. It comes in two different models, the 800 and 1000, each with a choice of white, red and infrared LEDs. The former has the standard 56mm head and runs on 1 x 18650 rechargeable battery, which gives a maximum run time of 3-hours on high power. The 1000 comes with a bigger 72mm head and uses 2 x 18650 batteries, with a 6-hour run time.

When I received the first prototype I did not think it looked right and told Tony. He came back with: “You’re right this looks bad.

I’ve got carried away with making it functional, but it really needs to look good too”. He redesigned the first prototype to create something that you would want to mount on your rifle.

To get the functionality right, Night Master collaborated with professional night hunters and gamekeepers who wanted certain features to suit their criteria. Sometimes, the smallest of changes can make the biggest differences in the field. The main feature for NV users, when using the ECLIPSE with an IR LED, is the ‘Active Light Indicator’ (ALI). When it’s ON, a subtle blue crescent-shaped light appears around the tail button to show this. I know from experience it’s all too easy to leave an IR on by mistake!


Going wide

Many people felt a wider white beam would be useful when using the lamp for spotting. Different LEDs were tested and one was found that produced four times the size of the NM800’s white beam. I was amazed, as it produced a wider and longer beam, so I could see further.

The ECLIPSE is quieter to use because a soft-touch electronic switch has replaced the original loud mechanical design. The glow-in-the-dark button has also been replaced with a very dim blue light under the button, which allows you to locate it in the dark – very handy. Now switching it ON/OFF is quieter and quicker! Mode selection is easier too. No need to twist parts anymore; it’s now a simple press or press/hold to scroll through the modes.


Mode lighting

There are four modes; Turbo, High, Medium and Low and also a hidden SOS mode, which can be activated to signal for assistance. It also has a memory, so that when you turn OFF and ON again it remembers the last setting used, along with a low battery indicator too. Here, the subtle blue light under the switch flashes slowly to indicate that there’s only 10% power left, so the batteries will need to be changed.

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Another important feature was to make it directly rechargeable, which is done via a micro USB port. However, this section needed to be hidden away from the elements. Tests indicated that the best place for the port was in the threads at the top of the battery tube, which is completely sealed from dust and water ingress. Witness lights indicate when the batteries are charging and full.

Performance-wise, the smaller 800 will pick up eye-shine at over 800 yards with the white LED and is capable of identifying quarry up to 250-300. Whereas the larger 1000 increases this to 1200/450 yards accordingly; which is impressive for a lamp that will fit into a large coat pocket.


Bright eyes

Using the 800, I tested the red LED on top of my scope and could pick up eye-shine through it no problem. Even though the red seems quite subtle to the eye, it’s a different story when you look through your scope, as it really picks out those eyes, out to a good 300 yards. Same goes for the infrared (IR) LED. I put it to the test in conjunction with a couple of NV scopes that was sent to me for testing. The ECLIPSE completely transformed their ability; I was picking eyes up like two shining gold coins at around 800 yds.

The first people to get their hands on the Eclipse range were the visitors of the British Shooting Show. It was pretty much a last minute decision to take them, because they were due to be launched at the Northern Shooting Show at the start of May. But Tony did not want to miss an opportunity and decided to have a pre-launch preview at the BSS! The general response was better than expected as no real marketing had been done to inform people that the ECLIPSE would be at the show.


Real time testing

With the new lamp back up in Scotland after the show, I took it out for the second time - not to test, but to go out and use it properly. My trusted Pulsar XD75 thermal weapon scope came off, and back on went my daytime scope. It’s nice to go ‘retro’ sometimes and look through an optic with a lamp, especially after using thermal imaging equipment for so long.

It reminded me of where I started with lamping, because I have been looking through both thermal spotter and night vision/thermal scope for a couple of years now. It’s a different outlook completely, as the thermal is a computer-generated image and the optics are ‘real-life’, if you like. I mounted the lamp on top of the scope with a high mount, due to the lamp head diameter, as I chose the bigger ECLIPSE 1000 to test.

I headed up to a bit of ground in Perth that I’ve been hitting hard over the last few months, as lambing time is just around the corner and there are a lot of sheep in the fields. An hour or so after arriving, there was nothing to report on the fox front, so I decided to have a look at a couple of deer I picked up with the thermal spotter. As you might know, it can be difficult to determine distance with the thermal spotter, so when I looked through my scope/Eclipse combo, I soon realised that the deer were around 800 yds away and they looked like they were standing in daylight with the white light on them.


Clarity check

A ten minute drive away there was a field full of rabbits, which I often turn to if the are no foxes appearing when testing new equipment. This gives me the chance to get a shot at something and check out the clarity and accuracy of the product I’m testing. I started off with the white light, looking over the field and could see eye-shine from the rabbits at over 1000 yards, then worked my way back in again and started to identify that those eyes were indeed rabbits at around 400, which was pretty good, as they are not a big target at that distance. A quick dismount of the lamp from the scope and a change over to the red and the same procedure as the white light; started out as far as I could see eye-shine, which would be around 600 and identifying out at around 250.

Having been involved in the design and testing of the new Night Master ECLIPSE models, I can tell you that I’m very happy with the end result. These are easier to use and offer more sophisticated controls and functions and a big step from the legendary NM800, which revolutionised lamping for a lot of people. Which I feel is quite a statement; but the simple truth is nothing cannot be improved upon as the old NM800- and the new Eclipse proves. Tony told me there’s plenty more ideas in the pipe line; so, as they say- watch this space.

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  • Name: Night Master ECLIPSE 800 & ECLIPSE 1000
  • Dimensions: 800: 58mm head, 175mm long 1000: 72mm head, 250mm long
  • Power output: 1000: 1,000m eye shine and 350m shootable range 800: 800m eye shine and 250m shootable range (both with white LED)
  • Power source: 800: 1 x 18650 rechargeable battery 1000: 2 x 18650
  • Approx run times : 800: 3 hrs (full power) 1000: 6 hrs
  • Prices: 800: £139.95 1000: £179.95
  • LED heads: White & Red: £44.95 Infrared (IR): £74.95
  • Contacts: Night Master on 01535 611688 / 01535 610066 www.nightmaster.co.uk