It's been two days drinking from the tactical gear fire hose here at Blackhawk's corporate HQ in Norfolk.
When people think of Blackhawk, they usually think about pouches, belts, holsters and packs. And that's not surprising because the vast majority of what Blackhawk does is design and manufacture a pouch or attachment for just about everything you could possibly need -- or imagine you need -- in a fighting situation.
Tom O'Sullivan, the company's product director for Nylon gear explains that they can take an idea out of thin air and in some cases have a working prototype within a few hours. They can make custom products for elite units with specific needs, adapt existing products from, say, the outdoor market and ruggedize them for military use or they can imitate military issue to satisfy a trooper's preference to keep his own gear the way he wants it.
The sheer amount of pouches, packs and web gear -- including attachment systems -- is down right intimidating. How O'Sullivan and his crew keep these products straight is beyond me.
Clearly the Urgent Needs Statement money and discretionary funds available to units for their own gear needs has helped companies like Blackhawk carve out quite a niche in the military market. Company officials declined to say how much they make since they're a private company, but from the looks of their HQ with its glass facade, lunch room, well-appointed gym and pro shop, there's money coming in.
It's also interesting that Blackhawk has carved out quite a bit of international business as well. O'Sullivan is on his way to Australia to chat with their military about some upcoming contracts. They've built products for Tier One units for both the U.S. military and, interestingly, the Brits, Italians, Aussies and Germans.
I guess in the end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have really helped create huge business opportunities for companies like this that were started by a couple guys in specialized units -- in this case SEALs -- who wanted more out of the gear they were issued and found themselves in a market that's just exploded since 9/11.