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Carry Life | Carry Christmas, Take 2

Carry Life | Carry Christmas, Take 2

Photo credit: A1F Staff

We’re pretty square here at Carry Life: We still dig the whole Christmas thing in a major way. As the years go by, we’ve noticed that the “better to give than to receive” business actually has taken hold, too—to both our (slight) surprise and (genuine) relief. Could it be the onset of actual adulthood, perhaps, as opposed to the mere appearance?

Either way, we have some more goodies to help with any Carry Lifers on your list. It’s a collection we are especially enthused about: Those “tactical” or “accessory” rails are certainly widespread on carry-class firearms, but finding truly good stuff to attach thereto is not as easy as you might think. 

MantisX Firearms Training System 

You trade about 10 boxes of ammo for the cost of a MantisX–relative peanuts for the unmistakable, very long-term benefits. Photo credit: A1F Staff

We returned home from the 145th NRA Annual Meetings & Exhibits with this slightly inscrutable little gadget. And when we say “little,” we mean it: Fractions over or under a single inch in each direction size it accurately. Attached to the rail of your firearm, the impact of the weight of a couple rounds more or less of ammunition would be easier to sense.

But the value of the device—as you can likely anticipate—is something we’d peg far beyond size, or even (relatively modest) cost. Short of carefully coached range and drill work over a long period, we don’t know of anything that we think helps an individual improve their shooting more than the MantisX hardware and software

If that sounds like an outsized claim, consider: It will take you, dawdling lavishly, perhaps 10 minutes to get your sensor installed on your pistol, and the software downloaded from either the App Store (iOS 7.0 and up) or Google play (4.3 and up) to an appropriate smart device (your phone is perfectly adequate), assuming you can run the tasks concurrently. No need to gird yourself for a fight, either—the lucid instructions will fit legibly on a business card; granted, both sides. 

The device itself would be genius enough. Once on your handgun, it culls moment-of-trigger-press movement data from your technique, and shows it in real time in one of several presentations on the display of your device. If your trigger press is very “quiet,” your score will be high on the 0 to 100 scale. Nineties are tough to get (at least at the beginning), 95s rare, and 100s, well; “hen’s teeth” ring a bell? But we’ve seen and done it. 

Just one of three shot scoring/diagnosis displays. Photo credit: A1F Staff

The MantisX isn’t limited to dry practice only. You can—and we have—used it extensively for live fire, and the most recent version of the software (still free) tracks and differentiates pre- and post-shot movement in recoil, too. And a rifle version of the app is coming. And it records “history” (so you can see improvement, or, er, not). And it coaches you with specific help on a shot-by-shot basis. And, and, and … you get the idea. (See our full review here.) 

The point is simple: For the price of several boxes of ammunition, you can add a rugged, “unfoolable” concomitant to your Carry Life training that is fun to boot. We think very few shooters indeed won’t find this a serious benefit to skills development, as well as one that doesn’t fade with the passage of time. ($149

SureFire XC1 

Last week’s “First Gear” featured a small, powerful, eminently gift-able flashlight from SureFire, and we make no apology for a reprise of sorts in “Carry Life.” When their stuff stops being good, we’ll stop talking about it. 

For the carry practitioner, the XC1 is even closer to home. It is SureFire’s lightest and smallest firearms light—a paltry 1.6 ounces including the single AAA power source (Lithium, and provided). Like the SideKick, however, it’d be a miscalculation to equate that small size with iffy power—to wit, a formidable 200 lumens. (Take a look here, and you’ll understand that a good light is a defensive technology in and of itself.)

If the small footprint and storied toughness don’t immediately enthrall, the great controls probably should. The XC1 has both steady- and momentary-on, but not on the same switch(es), a config we prefer: You never get one when you want the other. Like most SureFire products, it’s fabricated from the best and toughest materials, and features the latest in LED and the MaxVision Beam reflector technology. 

Size, weight and performance of the XC1 will be hard on some … other competitors, mostly. Photo credit: A1F Staff

Three related cautions with the XC1: Don’t fiddle with one unless you’re serious—it’s an intoxicating product that you’ll quickly classify as “gotta have.” When this happens, be sure it’ll fit your rail and holster—a few of the smallest compact pistols are a notch too short (like one of our favorites, the FNSc), and holster accommodation always needs confirmation. 

We would hate to have you unwrap it—or give it—only to discover a new firearm is needed. On the other hand, the downside there would beeeeeeee … ($269-299). 

TruGlo Micro-Tac Laser 

The name says it all for this wee offering from our friends at TruGlo: It’s a laser (easy), fits your tactical/accessory rail (at least all we’ve had a chance to try—M&Ps, Glocks, XDs, FNs and several 1911s), and at 1.1 x 1.05 x .625 inches and less than an ounce, “micro” is beyond question. 

With apologies to the Bard: “And though she be but little, she is fierce!” Photo credit: A1F Staff

Sussing out what’s wrong with it is proving much harder. In the first case, it’s one of those products that is so well designed that it needs virtually no instructions. Short of a reminder not to overtighten the attachment hardware, there’s just about nothing you can’t work out. Battery orientation is dead easy, as is access to the compartment (hex wrench provided). Beyond that is operation, and with recessed, ambi on/off, and auto-off at five minutes, not much is left to chance or guess. The zeroing part—again with a provided wrench—is so easy a caveman … well, never mind. Up/down, left/right, and done. 

Other than the über-obvious benefits of small size and all-but-inconsequential weight, our favorite feature is the ability to switch between constant-on and flashing modes. This isn’t a trivial benefit in our view: In the profoundly unwelcome circumstance where the TruGlo would be called on for defensive use, it’s our opinion the flashing designation mode is easier to spot on the target. We acknowledge you may not agree, but at least you can test the theory and pick the mode you prefer. 

This gets us to an important admonition: Adding a laser (in either red (TG7630R; $97) or green (TG7630G; $182)) to a defensive handgun is not a reliable shortcut to magically better marksmanship. It is, rather, a different sort of marksmanship that helps in very specific types of shooting situations, particularly those where the firearm cannot be brought to eye level for aiming. As with all such circumstances, the responsible Carry Lifer will get instruction in how to do this properly, and continue to train to keep those new skills sharp. Without such knowledge, designation-type aiming can actually slow you down, and runs the risk of introducing some bad (and even dangerous—for you) habits that will sabotage other aspects of your shooting. 

As with our SureFire, you’ll want to be sure the TruGlo fits the holster or holsters you’re planning to use. 

But a fumble here would not be the fault of the fine Micro-Tac. This rugged mini looks to be an outsized performer in the footsteps of many predecessors from TruGlo. 

Now Carry on.