Learning how to fight in the night is as valuable to a prepper as rain is to a farmer. The ability to defend yourself against a gang of looting thugs and to completely Own The Night, requires countless hours of training and discipline. Yet, equally as important to training, is your gear. Learning to function with your gear in the dead of the night is what will help you win the fight.
Like you, when I entered into the world of gear, I failed to realize that there are different requirements for someone fighting during the day than there are for someone fighting during the night. However, many things can cross over and be beneficial in the real world, as well as the green-world of NVG. My mistakes were costly, but yours don’t have to be. So allow me now to take your hand and guide you down the road of gear, and make recommendations based on years of experience, hours of training, and thousands in wasted expense.
First and foremost, as you enter into your journey, regardless of what I say after this point, it’s essential that you have the same gear as your buddies at your retreat. As we jump into training techniques in our DVD, “Own The Night” you’ll see a lot of reasons to carry identical set ups. One reason being the ability to replenish your ammo off of your buddy if you run out, or he has been shot. If you’re running an AK, and he runs an AR, you’re in deep, deep trouble. Since I feel that the AR is preferable for scenarios in which I personally envision, we’ll stick to this as a general format for the time being.
Since buying guns and gear is expensive, it’s best to approach it in small stages. Much like buying a base model vehicle and adding accessories later, we’ll start with a basic AR, and build from there according to your time and budget. I started with a $900 rifle, and now… well… it’s worth a bit more than that. I’ll let you digest that one bite at a time.
Your AR15 will first need a collapsible stock, night vision compatible optic such as Aimpoint or EOTech, an IR Illuminator/Laser, and a fore-grip or bi-pod.
Collapsible Stock: I prefer the magpul brand with a battery compartment. I also can throw a set of orange earplugs in there for training. There are several stocks available, so choose based on what battery size your equipment uses. Since most of my gear uses CR123A batteries, I’ve selected accordingly.
Optic: I’ve chosen to select an EOTech Night Vision compatible red dot optic. Since it’s up to you and your training to determine if you want to look through your optic with your NVG, or not, it’s best to leave your options choices open. If money is a major concern, you may choose to not get the NVG compatible version and save a few bucks, but don’t plan to look through it with your NVG if you cheap out now. People also love the aimpoint, but I haven’t had the chance to shoot with one personally, so I’ll refrain from any comments as I have no working knowledge of them.
Also note that on my weapon, I have a 3x magnifier. This hangs out of the way during my night operations, but is there to flip into position whenever I’m ready to engage during the day. I prefer to keep my weapon set for day and night fighting since I don’t know what my fight will truly require. As preppers, we’re forced with the daunting challenge of preparing for it all, while losing the luxury of setting up our weapons to be mission specific.
IR Illuminator/Laser: This is key. You can’t run your gun like you need to if you don’t have an IR Laser. The illuminator will help, but it’s essential that you have at least an IR Laser. The key is to buy the best output that you can, however keep in mind that even though this laser can’t be seen without an NVG, it can still cause irreversible eye-damage if you look into it while it’s on. If you’re looking for the top of the line, visit www.TNVC.com.
If you need to save money, try doing an ebay search for a DBAL A2. There is a cheap Chinese version available for guys that are into air-soft. I’ve run them on multiple weapons, and have very few regrets about this purchase. The main issue with the cheaper models are that the unit shuts off after firing due to recoil disengaging the switch, and the button has to be pushed again to turn it back on. Not a big deal if it consistently did that, however it’s very inconstant with its on/off feature, and will frequently leave me with a laser that’s on or off during the wrong times. However, after a few hours of running this gun and laser, I was able to compensate for cheeping out, and learned to pay attention to the laser that much better.
Quick tip on the illuminator, make sure you mount it towards the very front of your weapon. This will keep it from reflecting/twinkling on your front post or quad rail and telegraphing your position.
Fore-Grip or Bi-Pod: Combat veterans like Harry Golden have chosen to use a fore-grip simply to mount switches to. You may choose to do the same, or you might find that the kind of I have purchased is better for your needs. Mine has a tactical flash light on it (not good for NVG operations), and splits into a bi-pod for the situation that requires you to go prone and take a long shot. Keep in mind that your maximum effective range at night is going to be around 200 yards with NVG’s, so it may not beneficial for your night fight, but you may like not having to switch your gun around for day/night operations. All things that you need to think about.
Batteries: It’s critical that you have plenty of batteries with you at all times. I’ve chosen to have rechargeable so that I can always recharge them using my portable solar panel from Goal Zero during the day, regardless of power accessibility in the future. Keep these in the butt-stock of your gun, and charge & change them regularly!
Helmet: I’ve selected the MICH Helmet from www.BulletProofMe.com in conjunction with the Norotos MICH NVG Mount. I’ve also purchased a Multicam Helmet Cover from one of my favorite online retailers, Vermont’s Barre Army Navy Store. They’re a fantastic company, and have amazing customer service.
Night Vision – PVS14: You’ll want to select a military grade, Gen3, Night Vision Monocular. I don’t recommend a binocular set up as it’s not as adaptable as the monocular in my opinion. It’s important that you can remain flexible in your battle plans. Since preppers don’t know what threat will present itself, we have to prepare for it all.
I’ve been involved with the purchase of three PVS14’s, all from different sources. Here’s what I’ve found. Check first with JRH Enterprises. He’s huge in the prepper industry, and is very flexible and great to work with. He has a ton of other products as well that I’m sure you’ll soon be drooling over. Another option is a gun show. They were able to do cash transactions for a completely untraceable unit. The advantage is that you get to see the item in person, but the disadvantage is that you don’t always pay less at gun shows.
Another option for your PVS14 is TNVC. They are the leader in the industry, and offer a lot of value, at an additional cost. You may find that you can have them price match with other companies, but I’ll leave the haggling up to you.
Night Vision Mount: Depending on the helmet that you purchase, you’ll need a mount. The most adaptable mount is the Norotos MICH NVG Mount from TNVC. It, like all mounts, is extremely fragile and is probably going to be the first thing to break on your gear, so consider purchasing two of these if you can afford it. Your gear will be virtually worthless without it. The good thing about this mount is GoPro even makes a Night Vision mount for their camera, so you can get action shots of your training during the day, by placing your camera in this position.
SureFire Helmet Light: This was one of those items that I just really didn’t think I needed… until I needed it. During the filming of “Own The Night” I must have used this three-dozen times. The red light is critical to use, the white light is very powerful, and the blinking IR on the helmet is a major safety consideration. They have many options to pick from on their site, and it’s well worth making this a SOP for you and your group.
Safety Glasses: Most people don’t think about using safety glasses at night, but it’s critical! Imagine taking shrapnel without them. So when you pick your glasses for the night fight, consider the WileyX Romer II Advanced. The lenses are changeable, and even available for prescription users. Glasses are a pain in the butt to use under NVG’s, but these fog the least, they fit the best, and are extremely versatile!
Safety Glasses Case: If your group has set a standard camo like multicam, then consider getting the Condor Glasses Case from my favorite army navy store. You’ll want this to keep your glasses safe, and keep additional lenses in.
Tactical Pants: I’ve purchased so many pants over the years, and I have to admit, you get what you pay for! You need a pant that fits your body so you can maneuver flawlessly. I highly, highly recommend the Blackhawk HPFU V.2 from TacticalGear.com. They have built in tourniquets in the cargo pockets, which will force you to buy a dump pouch for your mags, but they fit like a pant should and are well worth the investment.
Knee Pads and Elbow Pads: It’s critical that you invest in some quality knee pads for running any kind of drills. The DNKP Imperial Neoprene Knee Pads are fantastic, don’t slip around, and fit perfectly in conjunction with the blackhawk pants. There is a great “belt loop” behind your knee on those pants, that allow these pads to slide through and stay in place.
Condor Belt: I picked up the Condor Multicam Belt to go along with my pants, and couldn’t be happier with it. The sizing was a bit tricky… I’ve now purchased 3 belts, none of which fit perfectly, but it’s still the right investment. It’s important that you have a belt that fits specific to your pants, and one that ISN’T leather. I made that mistake early on, and the belt didn’t hold up. I’ve now done the purchase correctly, and am very happy with it.
Pistol Holster: I got my pistol holster from VT Army Navy, like much of my other gear. I’ve been very happy with it, and feel like it’s well made and stays in position well. I recommend this if you don’t know how you’ll be patrolling, but I’m also in the process of trying out a belt holster. Either way, you’ll want a holster that functions without getting in the way of your vest.
Bullet Proof Vest: This goes without saying, I’m sure. However, make sure that you buy your vest and plates while you still legally can. It’s critical that you get one capable of holding ceramic plates. And of course, order your plates when you place the order for the vest. I purchased this one from BulletProofMe and am very happy with the purchase. They’re a small company with fantastic customer service! They’re so specific on measurements, and guarantee a proper fit. Mention that you found them through us, and be sure to thank them for what they do. Great guys, great products!
Molle Gear: This is really up to you and your group. You should make it SOP (Standard Operating Procedure), in other words, everyone should be set up the same. Much like you should have the same kind of guns, you should have the same setup on your vest so you each know where everything is without having to look. I’ve purchased all of my Molle Attachments from vtarmynavy.com. I’d suggest buying 4 sets of M16 Mag Pouches. They should each hold 2 wide, and 2 deep. The reason I think you should buy like this, is that it’s easier to move them around than if they hold 3 wide, and 2 deep.
I keep rotating my gear, but what I’m sticking with now is the same as you see in the picture above, but one more mag pouch is visible on the side, for a total of 8 mags. Additionally, having had my buddy run out of ammo in a firefight, I keep two of his mags on my back for him, and he does the same for me. So I have the ability to carry 12 mags in total, plus two pistol mags, a Gerber Multitool, tactical flashlight, and a utility pouch (on my back) to keep things in during the day.
Boots: Like almost everything else, I got my boots from vtarmynavy.com. The key is to buy a pair, break them in, then buy a second pair if you’re happy with them. They should have thick soles, and lots of traction. If you can get some that are Gortex, that’s an added bonus because of the protection it’ll offer you from the rain and snow.
Tactical Shirt: Tactical shirts are important for a lot of reasons. You want to blend in, control your body temperature, they need to be functional, and they need to help identify you at night. When you buy your tactical shirts, be sure they are flame retardant, and they should have ample space to mount your patches.
Patches are used to identify you based on a mission to mission basis. So for example, if you lose a buddy one day and the SOP is to have an IR patch on each arm, and the next day you fight with an SOP of a patch only on one arm… you can identify someone who stole your buddy’s gear if they’re wearing two patches, and retrieve it as you see fit. IR patches are difficult to find right now, but you should consider a set for this very reason. They illuminate through NVG’s only when hit with IR… so don’t mount it on your head like an idiot… keep them on your arms.
Gloves: This is a critical one. You want to make sure you have gloves, and you need to make sure that you’re practicing with them regularly! If you don’t put them on until you’re in the fight, you’ll regret it. It takes time to break in a pair of gloves, and it takes time to see which size fits you best. I got lucky in the fact that these fit me very tight at first, then broke in. My brother, on the other hand, had purchased some heavier duty gloves, and couldn’t feel mags well enough with them to be able to manipulate his weapon at night.
I am really happy with these Condor Tactical Gloves. A cheaper alternative is Mechanix gloves. They’re flame retardant and inexpensive. Whatever you choose, I’d suggest buying two pairs once you find one you like… Another great little tip is to attache a carabiner to your vest, so you can quickly detach and use them or store your gloves on your vest.
Magazines: This is a topic of debate at this point in time, and I suspect that it will continue to be as our country continues to divide. However, it’s important that you have enough magazines and ammo for the fight, and there are several ways to approach this. One, you could simply by a 100 round drum and carry it around with you on patrol. The down side is that this will add a lot of weight to your weapon, and will keep you from being able to execute IMT’s as explained in our DVD, “Own The Night.” However, you’ll probably not have to reload for a while.
I was surprised how quickly you go through 7 standard mags in a firefight. It was about 4 minutes into the fight, and we both went black on ammo. In other words, we each put 210 rounds down range in 4 minutes.. that’s a lot of lead.
Another option you could consider, is SureFire makes a 60 round magazine. I’d strongly suggest this for your first mag in the gun. You can double your ammo, without carrying a lot of extra weight on your gun. You could still perform reflexive fire drills, IMT’s, and other React-To-Contact scenarios.
My personal preference is to carry 7 magpul pmags. They’re fantastic, durable, and have minimal malfunctions. Keep one in the gun, 6 on your chest rig or vest. Then whatever my buddy wants me to carry, I carry on my back for him. So in total, I actually end up carrying 9 pmags. You may also notice that I’ve attached a floor plate to mine to make it slightly easier to grab if I’m fumbling.
You may also notice that I have multiple types of ammo in those mags. Every other round is alternating between 55 grain, and 62 grain. I have several reasons for this, one of which being my budget. If I had a bigger budget, I would stock up only on heavier hitting 62 grain bullets.
Tracers: Now here’s something that you don’t hear many people talk about… tracers. Always keep a mag or two full of tracers for tactical use at night. It’s a great way to point to your buddy where the treat is coming from. If you yell, “Contact, 2 o’clock, 200 yards,” he might not know exactly where you’re referring… but you throw a magazine full of scorching hot tracers towards the enemy, and suddenly the whole team knows where you’re trying to assault. You have to also weigh in the added benefit that they might accidentally set the enemy’s car on fire… so use with caution, particularly during times of peace.
Keep in mind that tracers work both ways, and can identify your position to the enemy as well… which is why you MUST train at night with a battle buddy. If nothing else, check out our DVD “Own The Night” so you can understand the basics of night fighting, prior to needing it to save your own hide.
Water: Last but not least, you MUST stay hydrated. So grab a camel pack or something else that you’d prefer, and stay hydrated. The average human needs eight, 8-ounce glasses of water a day when NOT working out. So keep in mind that you’ll be burning more calories, sweating more, and will need to rehydrate. For proper health, you’ll want to also replace electrolytes with something like Gatorade, or EmergenC.
A word of caution. Without proper cleaning of a water bag, you will start to grow bacteria. Speaking with my friends who used these in combat, it was a good way to get a stomach virus. So either invest in a good cleaning system, or switch to the old-school canteens, as they’re easier to clean.
This is just a basic list of items that you should strongly consider when you’re setting up your gear for a night fight. Many of the items we have listed here have been tried and proven throughout personal use and experience, as well as the experience of others.
No matter how you choose to set up your gear, always remember; Practice like you plan to fight, and train regularly! Please feel free to post any questions, comments, or additions in the section below.
Stay safe, stay legal, stay lethal.