Hawkeye’s Gear

A lot of times I get asked what type of accessories and gear I use.  I just returned from the Kane County Tactical Tracking School in Southern Utah last week and thought it might give a good example of what I use.

On my M4 I have a Trijicon ACOG TA11F.  It has the red chevron reticle.  I prefer red reticles over green.  I would never buy a green one.  I think green (and amber) Trijicon reticles wash out on light colored backgrounds – especially in bright sunlight.  I’ve never had that problem with red.  I pick the TA11 which is the 3.5×35 model over the TA31 4×32 models because of the eye relief.  The 4×32 ACOG models only have about 1.5 inches of eye relief.  You have put nearly put your eye right on the scope to see through it.  I’ve owned a couple of them before, but never liked them much for that reason.  The TA11 ACOGs have 2.5 inches of eye relief and have a wider field of view.  In my humble opinion, the TA11F or TA11H are the best combat optics available.

Additionally, I have the Magpul ACS Stock, Magpul MIAD Grip, Streamlight TLR-1HP, and Grip Pod LE.  The sling is the Magpul MS3.

I tried out the 5.11 TacTec Chest Rig during the four day tracking school and it’s a keeper.  It’s highly versatile, comfortable and lightweight.  I was very pleased with it and it’s not my main field vest.  I have a plate carrier with hard armor plates, ect, but I don’t wear it for backcountry ops.  It’s just too heavy.  The 5.11 Chest Rig can be worn with the straps in a X shape or H shape.  I kept mine in the H configuration.  It’s much easier getting in and out of it and I didn’t have to play around with the adjustments much.  I noticed a couple other guys down there wearing the same thing, but they had the straps in X configuration and seemed to have trouble getting into it.  The shoulder straps are padded and wearing them in the H configuration means they’re not digging into the sides of your neck.  The outside pockets are perfect for radios.  At one time during our final op for the school, I was carrying two radios, one for main comm and another for inter-team comms and the helicopter.  Both radios fit into each outside mag pouch.  The other cool thing about the 5.11 rig is it holds both 5.56 and 7.62 mags so you can use one vest for a variety of different rifles.

I wore Under Armour SpeedFreek boots.  I have them in Multicam, but they’ve since been discontinued in that color.  I also really like the Under Armour Valsetz Boots.  I think the Valsetz boots are the most comfortable boots I’ve ever worn.  I have a black pair I wear as duty boots when on patrol and I need to get a tan pair for stuff like this.

I’m also wearing the Tru-Spec Multicam Pants and Combat Shirt, Oakley Gloves and the Blackhawk Omega VI Tactical Holster.  I’m carrying a Glock 22 handgun, with the Streamlight TLR-1S tactical light.

That pretty much sums up the gear I use in the field.  As I’ve said before, when lives depend upon you and your gear, you need to buy the best gear possible.  If not, then there are a lot of great accessories out there that don’t cost near as much.  It comes down to looking at what you’re using it for and then buying the best you can afford.

A few other essential items I carry: SOG Trident folding knife, Leatherman WAVE Multitool, 5.11 ATAC L2 Flashlight, and Steamlight Sidewinder Light… oh and lest I forget, the Surefire Minimus Headlamp.  Probably a bit of overkill on the lights.  The Sidewinder is my main light.  It offers options of White, Red, Green or Blue LED lights.  The white light is quite bright normal flashlight uses.  The colored LEDs are not quite as bright and designed for map reading, etc – to not give away your position as readily as white light.  The Surefire Minimus is so handy and versatile that I just can’t leave home without it.  I love the rotary switch to easily dial the brightness of the light.  Most headlamps have a couple of brightness settings and you just have to use the one best suited to your needs.  The Minimus has a knob and you just turn it to the exact brightness you want.  I love it.  I need a few more, but they’re a bit spendy!  As for the 5.11 ATAC, it’s just the back-up.  Two is one and one is none!

As for the tracking school, I highly recommend it.  It’s open to local, state, and federal law enforcement.  I’m sure they wouldn’t turn away military.  It was some of the best training I’ve ever been to.  They do it every year.  I know I’m planning on going back in 2015.  For more on the school, see Kane County Tactical Tracking School.

.380s Suck!


Ok, I know I’m gonna piss some people off, but I just have to say it….  .380s suck!  It seems like .380s are taking over the self defense handgun world and I just have to speak my mind.  Glock pushed me over the edge with their new Glock 42 .380 and I’ve snapped!

The gun industry is going the wrong direction.  All they seem to care about is what they can sell someone… not if it’s effective or not.  Guns are not fashion accessories.  They are tools… and like any tool, a certain gun has a specific purpose.  Self defense guns are exactly that, they should be intended for self protection from violent attack.  Making them small and cute – and in less-effective calibers such as .380, .32, .25, etc – is a dis-service to people who just don’t know better.

A lot of people buy .380s for minimal recoil.  Gun stores love selling them to women… hence all the feminine colors in many .380s out there.  But here’s the truth, smaller guns are harder to shoot, harder to manipulate safety levers, magazine releases, and other controls because they are so small.  In a high stress situation, like defending your life from violent attack, you lose fine motor skills and thus the little mouse gun becomes harder to operate.  Additionally, smaller guns have more felt recoil.  A little .380 will have more felt recoil and a bit larger 9mm.  So the idea of less recoil is more of a sales pitch than truth.  The same size, weight, etc gun in .380 will have less felt recoil than the exact same gun in 9mm…. BUT most .380s are quite a bit smaller, so the felt recoil is often more than what you’d have in a sub-compact 9mm… not to mention the loss of stopping power.

There are a number of small, 9mm handguns on the market that should completely remove any .380 from your mind.

#1 Smith & Wesson M&P Shield


  • Caliber 9mm or .40SW
  • Barrel Length: 3.1 inches
  • Overall Length: 6.1 inches
  • Frame Width: .95 inches
  • Overall Height: 4.6 inches
  • Weight: 19 ounces





#2. Springfield XDs

  • Caliber 9mm or .45acp
  • Barrel Length: 3.3 inches
  • Overall Length: 6.3 inches
  • Weight: 23 ounces






#3 Sig P290

  • Caliber: 9mm
  • Barrel Length: 2.9 inches
  • Overall Length: 5.5 inches
  • Overall Height: 3.9 inches
  • Slide Width: .90 inches
  • Weight: 20.5 ounces






#4 Ruger LC9

  • Barrel Length: 3.12 inches
  • Overall Length: 6 inches
  • Overall Height: 4.5 inches
  • Slide Width: .90 inches
  • Weight: 17.1 ounces









All of these guns are better for self defense than any .380 made.  The felt recoil will be about the same, or maybe even less, than the tiny little .380s and the effective stopping power is considerably greater.  So why would you buy a .380 when you have these four great 9mm pistols to choose from?

Why Does Anyone Buy a .380?

That’s what the gun store sold them or a mis-informed friend, relative, husband or boyfriend suggests.  You go into a gun store looking for a “concealed carry gun” (I hate that term by the way… it’s a self defense gun that also happens to be concealable).  If you’re a woman, or buying a gun for a woman, the sales clerk (that’s what most of them are – just sales clerks) will pull out a .380 or .38 Special revolver.  He will explain that it’s small, lightweight, and has very little recoil.  It even looks kinda cute with the pink grips.  Well, there you go, you wanted  a gun and you were just sold on the small size and minimal recoil – and it looks cute and will match your shoes…. WAY BAD CHOICE.

The first thing to consider when picking a self defense firearm is to ask yourself this question… IS THIS THE GUN I WANT IN MY HAND IF I HAD TO USE IT TO SAVE MY LIFE?  If not, then don’t buy it.  If you already own it, sell it!

“Yes, but I need something small and concealable”, people whine.  I agree that it needs to be concealable, but the smaller you go, the harder it will be to shoot and use in a self defense situation.  The smaller the gun, the training required to use it effectively increases dramatically…. and most of these tiny little guns are in the hands of people with basically no training or experience in armed self defense.  It’s a recipe for disaster.

So, the big gun makers are doing us a big dis-service with their .380 revolution.  With the advent of these smaller 9mm handguns, the .380 needs to go into the archives as a bad idea rather than becoming the latest and greatest self defense pistol.

Redfield CounterStrike

Redfield CounterStrike

If you’ve been around guns and optics very long, then you’re probably familiar with Redfield.  The Redfield Gun Sight Company was founded in 1909 by John Hill Redfield.  From that time until 1998, Redfield was known for making high quality, affordable optics.  In 1998, Redfield closed up shop.  Then, in 2008, the Redfield Brand and intellectual property was purchased by Leupold – another huge name in American shooting optics.  Since then, Redfield has introduced a line of highly innovative optics for hunters.

Recently, the Redfield CounterStrike was developed for tactical and sporting shooters.  The Redfield CounterStrike combines a Red Dot Sight (you can switch Dot color between Red and Green) with a visible red laser sight.  Both units can operate independent of each other for maximum sighting flexibility.

Redfield CounterStrike


The 4 MOA Dot, as mentioned earlier, can illuminate in Red or Green.  It features multiple brightness settings as well as night vision compatible settings.  Windage & Elevation feature 1/2 MOA clicks.  The Redfield CounterStrike is powered by one CR123A battery and runs 5000 hours on lowest setting and 500 hours on highest setting.

The laser sight is built into the base.  We wish Redfield would have offset the laser sight to “see” around AR15 front sight posts.  Other than that, we love the Redfield CounterStrike.  The the world of low cost Red Dot Sights, Redfield gives you a high quality option backed by Leupold.  You just can’t go wrong with that combination.

It Happened to Me… Part 1

What’s your “Craziest” gun nut, way out there, Doomsday, “what if” scenario…and what if it actually happened on a normal Tuesday night?

There are those of us in society who are just normal folks.  We have kids, lead cub scout and boy scout groups, go to work, come home and do homework, get on the tractor for a minute to put out some hay for the cows and take one of our kids up to the “little clinic” at Kroger in town to have an ear ache double checked.  Of course, pick up some bread, milk and a tube of biscuits for breakfast the next morning before school/work, when we we do it all again.  Just typical life on a small farm in central Kentucky.

I watch “Doomsday Preppers” every once in a while, and get a kick out of some of the “crazy” ideas.  With that said, I also watch and wonder…hmm…what “IF”?  I stay prepared, I stay ready, I do my little bits now and then, you know, just in case.  I’m a competitive shooter and adventure racer, and consider myself ready for just about anything.  Seriously though, what are the chances I would have to barricade my family in my house under full siege from a large force of Mexican drug cartel members in the middle of the night in a full on running gun fight.  I mean, lets keep it in perspective right.  I have a model of the Coliseum to build from Styrofoam for 4th grade history due in three days.  Even scarier, whats the chance that my house is under full on siege from a large force of Mexican Cartel members and I am NOT THERE to help.  Just my wife and kids….but again, what are you, some sort of right wing NRA gun whack-job?

Hmm..my cell phones ringing here in Kroger…hey, its my nearest neighbor, from the next farm over.  Me: “Hello, whats up man?”.  Neighbor: “HEY, ARE YOU HOME??!!”…ME: “No dude, why, whats going on?”.  “There are helicopters with spotlights all over your farm, dudes running everywhere!”.  ME: “CRAP, call you back, have to call my wife, find out whats happening for me, call you in 2 min”.

Call my wife: “Honey, whats going on”.  Wife:  “No idea, helicopters spotlighting the fields and woods around the house.” My neighbor calls me…”Honey, hold on, have to pick up Bob”.  Me: “Bob, what up?”. Neighbor:  “Talked with Joe, DEA just hit a drug house and about 20 dudes ran out into the corn fields and woods.  DEA, State and Sheriff chasing them, they are all around your house”. ME: “SH&*&#$%, Gotta go”. ME: “Honey, this is real. Outside lights on, inside lights off.  All doors locked.  Get Son1 out of bed, get armed.  Son1 only downstairs, everyone else upstairs on different plain of fire….”…more to come in a further episode.

OK, game on.  How did I get here?  What now, do we have plan to be under siege?  We have mix of a few friendly and a LOT of bad guys.  I’m 30 minutes away.  Wife home with my oldest (22, military Spec Ops) and three little kids….think fast, think clear, don’t make a mistake.

Think it can’t happen.  That is is a true story as it unfolded two days ago.   I will have another segment on what actually happened, how it turned out and what we did.  Some things right, and some things we would do different.

Here is the point of this discussion.  There are a lot of us who try to stay prepared for bad things to happen.  We get laughed at by many, “look at this guy waiting for the zombie ‘pocolipse”.  “What kind of a crazy right wing wacco, NRA nut job needs and assault rifle?  You really think your are going to war against some squirrels on ‘yur farm..har har?”  In reality, I do try and stay prepared.  I stay in shape, I have some food put away, I am armed and my family all know how to shoot.

Fact is, I don’t really expect to fight off a hoard of wondering zombies for the rest of time. I don’t expect to join a local town militia and reestablish the United States as part of the Star Wars rebellion against thousands of blue helmet minions.  I would challenge everyone though.  Think up your worst case, and then think of a a realistic way, “what would it take for THAT to happen”.  My worst case crazy scenario would have to be pretty close to a hoard or marauding criminals placing my little country home under siege with my wife and kids there and me gone.

I also live within a few hundred miles of a major fault line.  “What IF?”  “Whats your Worst Case?” If you think its really that far out of the realm of possibility, you might want to try NOT looking for the Zombie Apocalypse.  That outlook is THE MOST dangerous frame of mind. When you look at a “Zombie Apocalypse” scenario, or a “total global breakdown”, it is VERY easy to dismiss as to unlikely.  “That could NEVER happen to me, and if in the case of the absolute craziest thing happening, I would have some time to get ready, see it on the news and get my family prepared.” My challenge would be, look smaller, look local, and look realistic.  Doomsday doesn’t have to happen for the entire planet. Understand that if YOUR FAMILY are the only ones in the middle of a dangerous situation, its the exact same considerations, preparation and reactions as if every family was involved in a global apocalypse.

There are a lot of real world worst case scenario’s that happen every day.  That can happen to you.  Make sure you have a plan, make sure your family knows what to do and how to do it.  Don’t get a phone call at Kroger, and realize that you really wish you had been more prepared. Understand clearly that you are not crazy, for being prepared.  If you really think we will be overrun by Zombies, well, you might want to have that checked.  If you think that you could NOT have an encounter with drug dealers, or get caught in a WalMart riot because food stamps didn’t work for a day, or have to defend your family against looters because of an earthquake or hurricane, equally, you might want to have that checked!  I’m not worried about a global apocalypse, just the one that effects my wife and kids.

Part 2 with after action and thoughts to come.


Valhalla Defense – Picking the Right Caliber of Self Defense Handgun – #3

We believe too many people are buying and relying upon sub-caliber guns for protection.  If you’re buying a gun for self defense, buy a 9mm, 40sw or 45acp.  This new batch of .380 concealed carry guns are cute (I guess), but we don’t think they are effective self defense guns.

Valhalla Defense – Should You Have a Gun For Self Defense? #2

Simply having a gun does not make you safe.  You must have the Will and the Skill to use it.  In the last couple of days, people have come into the shop asking for “intimidating guns” to scare away a bad guy.  BAD IDEA!  Never use a gun to intimidate or scare someone.  If you’re not willing to use the gun, sell it…. or don’t buy one in the first place.

Valhalla Self Defense Episode #1

Self defense is a right and responsibility of each individual.  We each have the inherent human right to defend and protect ourselves from harm – even to the point of taking the life of an attacker if necessary.  Depending upon someone else to protect us is not always practical.  Even with the 911 system, there is a time period – we call it The Gap – before law enforcement can arrive.  You must be able to survive that gap.  Law enforcement often arrives too late, because most violent attacks last only a few seconds.  You must have the Will and the Skill and the Tools to defend yourself, your family, and those around you until help arrives.

In the Company of Heroes

I have this picture hanging in my house.  Saturday morning I was eating breakfast and glanced over at it.  The caption, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friend” seemed to take on greater meaning.  I sat there and pondered at how privileged I have been to live my life in the company of men who embody those words.  It’s never said, but sometimes a glance or a look in their eyes conveys the values and ideals they live by.  I am privileged to live in the company of heroes.

The picture above is from artist Jason Bullard.  On his website, http://nogreaterloveart.com, it says, “America Breeds the World’s Finest Heroes”.  I agree.  Generations of American have been taught to give more than they take.  That’s why you’ll find American Military cemeteries around the world.  Even before JFK talked about not asking what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country, a core belief of Americans was focused on giving rather than taking.

Today it’s not that way.  Too many Americans ask “What can the country give me?” and offer nothing in return.  Too many people want a free ride and it will eventually end our freedom and our way of life.  I was taught that my purpose in life was to serve others.  My parents taught me that by word, and more importantly, by deed.  I was raised to figure it out, solve my own problems, and make my own way.  That has always been the American Way.

People, until now, didn’t come to America for the free ride or to get a hand-out.  They simply came to make their own way and stand on their own two feet.  I count myself lucky to still live around those kinds of people.  It gives me hope in the future.  It gives me hope for my children.  I try to teach them, what previous generations tried to teach me… Give more than you take.  I’m trying to teach them to Live Free… Be Secure… and Have Peace of Mind.  That’s the Valhalla Way and I believe, it’s the American Way.

Night Vision Devices

The price of night vision is coming down, and the quality/performance is going up.  So let’s talk a little about the various options in night vision so you end up buying what works best for you.  There are three main categories of night vision; Digital, Intensified, and Thermal.

Digital Night Vision is the newcomer so lets start there.  Digital night vision works basically like a digital video camera.  Sensors magnify light onto a viewing screen and microprocessors auto adjust the resolution and pixels to provide fairly clear images in nearly complete darkness.  Like standard amplifying night vision, InfraRed (IR) Illuminators can be used to increase the amount of light to enhance and/or brighten the image.

Digital night vision is fairly inexpensive and provides results similar to 1st Generation amplifying night vision devices.  Rather than the tradition green hue of amplifying night vision, you get a gray-scale or black and white image.  For the money, Digital night vision is probably a better choice than 1st Generation traditional devices.  The resolution and clarity will be a little better – especially when using the IR illuminator.

Unlike an Intensifier tube, “Ultra Bright” digital scopes do not have to worry about exposure to bright light. These issues simply do not exist in the digital products.  This means digital night vision devices can be used during the day as well.

Digital devices offer the ability to adjust brightness levels according to your need. Most Intensified systems do not offer that ability.  Many of the digital systems offer various ways to record what you see. With classical Intensified systems is also possible to record night time scenes but require additional camera equipment that is attached via camera adapter to the device.

Here are a couple of comparison images:








The first image, of each set of pictures, is 1st Generation Intensified and the second is from a Digital System.


Intensified Night Vision is what most people are familiar with.  They give you the green hued images seen in the movies and on CNN.  Intensified Night Vision does exactly as its name implies.  It intensifies existing light and produces the image on a screen.  A Night Vision Device can be either a 1st, 2nd, 3rd or 4th generation unit. What this stands for is what type of image intensifier tube is used for that particular device; the image intensifier tube is the heart and soul of an NVD.

1st generation is currently the most popular type of night vision in the world. Utilizing the basic principles described earlier, a 1st generation unit will amplify the existing light several thousand times letting you clearly see in the dark. These units provide a bright and sharp image at a low cost, which is perfect, whether you are boating, observing wildlife, or providing security for your home.

2nd generation is primarily used by law enforcement or for professional applications. The main difference between a 1st and a 2nd generation unit is the addition of a micro-channel plate, commonly referred to as a MCP. The MCP works as an electron amplifier and is placed directly behind the photocathode. The MCP consists of millions of short parallel glass tubes. When the electrons pass through these short tubes, thousands more electrons are released. This extra process allows 2nd generation units to amplify the light many more times then 1st generation giving you a brighter and sharper image.

3rd generation systems add a light sensitive chemical that greatly enhances light magnification over and above 2nd generation systems.  3rd Generation is the standard for the U.S. military.  Additionally, resolution increases with each generation as well.  3rd generation systems are very expensive… generally starting around $3,000.

4th generation Gated/Filmless technology represents the biggest technological breakthrough in image intensification of the past 10 years. By removing the ion barrier film and “Gating” the system Gen 4 demonstrates substantial increases in target detection range and resolution, particularly at extremely low light levels.  Filmless inverting image intensifier tubes improve night operational effectiveness for users of night vision goggles and other night vision devices. The filmless micro channel plate provides a higher signal-to-noise ratio than standard 3rd Gen. tubes, resulting in better image quality under low-light conditions. An Autogated power supply further improves image resolution under high light conditions and a reduced halo effect that minimizes interference from bright light sources. The reduced Halo maximizes the effectiveness of the Night Vision device in dynamic lighting conditions such as those experienced, for example, in night operations in urban areas.








1st Gen                                                2nd Gen                                                      3rd Gen                                                     4th Gen

Thermal Night Vision – All objects, both natural and manmade, emit infrared energy as heat. By detecting very subtle temperature differences of everything in view, infrared (or thermal imaging) technology reveals what otherwise would be invisible to the naked eye. Even in complete darkness and challenging weather conditions, thermal imaging gives users the ability to see the unseen.

First developed for military purposes, thermal imaging has since been adopted by law enforcement, fire and rescue teams and security professionals.

For law enforcement and security staff, thermal imaging detects suspicious activity over long distances in total darkness and through fog, smoke, dust, and foliage.   This allows officers to approach in stealth mode and make better informed decisions more quickly. Cameras may be handheld, vehicle-mounted, tripod-mounted, or weapon-mounted.

For security and surveillance systems, thermal imaging cameras complement CCTV cameras to provide comprehensive threat detection and integrate seamlessly with larger networks.  For predictive maintenance, thermal imaging reveals “hot spots” where failure may be imminent in many electrical and industrial facilities and installations.

In order to understand thermal imaging, it is important to understand something about light. The amount of energy in a light wave is related to its wavelength: Shorter wavelengths have higher energy. Of visible light, violet has the most energy, and red has the least. Just next to the visible light spectrum is the infrared spectrum.

Infrared light can be split into three categories:

  •  Near-infrared (near-IR) – Closest to visible light, near-IR has wavelengths that range from 0.7 to 1.3 microns, or 700 billionths to 1,300 billionths of a meter.
  • Mid-infrared (mid-IR) – Mid-IR has wavelengths ranging from 1.3 to 3 microns. Both near-IR and mid-IR are used by a variety of electronic devices, including remote controls.
  • Thermal-infrared (thermal-IR) – Occupying the largest part of the infrared spectrum, thermal-IR has wavelengths ranging from 3 microns to over 30 microns.

The key difference between thermal-IR and the other two is that thermal-IR is emitted by an object instead of reflected off it. Infrared light is emitted by an object because of what is happening at the atomic level.

A special lens of thermal scope focuses the infrared light emitted by all of the objects in view.  The focused light is scanned by a phased array of infrared-detector elements. The detector elements create a very detailed temperature pattern called a thermogram. It only takes about one-thirtieth of a second for the detector array to obtain the temperature information to make the thermogram. This information is obtained from several thousand points in the field of view of the detector array.

The thermogram created by the detector elements is translated into electric impulses.  The impulses are sent to a signal-processing unit, a circuit board with a dedicated chip that translates the information from the elements into data for the display.  The signal-processing unit sends the information to the display, where it appears as various colors depending on the intensity of the infrared emission. The combination of all the impulses from all of the elements creates the image.

Unlike traditional most night-vision equipment which uses image-enhancement technology, thermal imaging is great for detecting people or working in near-absolute darkness with little or no ambient lighting (i.e. stars, moonlight, etc, )



So, what’s the best night vision for you?  If you need to detect things like people, animals, etc, then Thermal devices are your best choice.  They’re also the most expensive.  Cost is going to be a major determining factor.  You can get a good Digital Night Vision Monocular for around $250.  Thermal is going to start out around $2,500!  Standard night vision is tougher and generally more durable than Thermal systems.  Additionally, you get longer battery life from standard night vision.

New Home for Valhalla Armory

Valhalla Armory is in the process of moving into a new location and opening a retail showroom.  We’ll be located at 181 N Commercial Street in Morgan, Utah – next door to the Browning Factory Outlet.  We’re still a couple months out from opening to the public.  We’ll keep you up-to-date on our progress and let you know once we’re fully open.  We plan on stocking firearms from Smith & Wesson, FNH, Springfield, Glock, Walther, Remington, CMMG, and more.  Just like our website, the showroom will focus on Self Defense Firearms, Tactical Accessories and Survival Gear.  Additionally, we’ll be adding firearms to our website so you can buy online.

Keep watching our emails and “like” us on Facebook for ongoing coverage of our expansion.

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