Once again, our spies are headed for a major get-together in the shooting community. As if that weren’t enough reason for glee, it’s the very first NRA Carry Guard Expo, and it's set in Milwaukee’s Wisconsin Center (darn nice time of year to be on the shores of Lake Michigan too—just saying). Carry Lifers will be in good company if they make their way to the Brew City: By our count, more than 150 vendors will be in attendance, and more than 140 seminars and courses will be offered on carry and personal security topics.
As we often do with these industry gatherings, we’re offering some thoughts about things we’d like or hope to see, or at least see more of. In no particular order:
A quick scan of the vendor list makes us confident we will see some innovation here—with 30 or more vendors, it’s hard to imagine not getting an eyeful. About a dozen of these seem cognizant of the need for more and better women’s gear too, an area with plenty of room left for improvement, or so our ladies tell us.
While there are—can we still say unisex?—choices in almost bewildering variety, there’s a comparatively yawning hole in an important “off body” vector that would serve either gender, so we’ll be looking for this with some intensity. We’re talking about vehicle stowage here, and man or woman, and carrying however, there are still places you can’t legally go while physically carrying a firearm. A trip to the “boot” just before going into such establishments is an engraved invitation to several sorts of trouble if you’re observed off-loading your firearm to the iffy safety of your trunk. Therefore, we’ll hope to find something discreet, quick and secure for the car or truck.
Nothing we don’t like about the RFID (keyed back-up) Hornady system. Hoping to find a car analogue, however. Photo by A1F Staff
In the wake of a longish series on “Home Carry” considerations, we’ll also be looking around for innovation in this arena. By innovation, we mean secure but rapid access. Don’t get us wrong: Hornady, for instance, has some very good options, but there is still a partial vacuum here, especially for long guns. Obviously we aren’t talking about safes, as they generally flunk the rapid access part of the equation, nor would we suggest a rapid access device (or two or three, if caching appeals) as a substitute for a safe. They have different purposes, and require different solutions.
There’s been a lot of progress in sights in the last few years, and we like to think we’ve put a bunch of them in front of you. Better still, sets of these—like the Trijicon HD and new HDXR of which we are especially fond—are now routinely available for smaller firearms. Our favorite capacity is the ability to have the identical sight picture from pistol to pistol to pistol.
The HD XR boasts a thinner front blade than these HDs. Very much to our liking. “Night” sights on a match gun, even. Photo by A1F Staff
Red-dots have been keeping good pace for some applications including carry—sorta. Especially for older eyes, they’re a compound advantage, putting as they do both target and aiming cue on the same visual plane (easing the need for razor-sharp acuity). And, with practice, they allow for very rapid aiming in defensive circumstances where time is historically and often dangerously short.
Our beef, and hence our hunt, however, is based on an apparent size “floor” that mostly keeps these off pistols like the Glock 42/43 or Smith & Wesson Shield. And yes, we know small-gun complexities make these more demanding choices for carry, but that doesn’t change the fact that they are deservedly popular, reliable defenders that scream for diminutive red-dots better suited to their scale. At present, we know of only one from the UK’s Shield—the “RMS.” We’re steadfastly hoping to see others that don’t transmogrify into over-hanging tumors perched atop the smaller defensive arms (though a very nice accommodation can be seen here at Suarez International). We’ll keep a sharp eye out …
No delicate way to put this: There’s lots of room for improvement here. Truly carry-suited clothing—that is, gear that doesn’t advertise by cut, color, label or material “I’ve got a gun on me somewhere!”—is loitering on the low end of ho-hum by our grading.
Our mini-litany of criticisms start with “tactical-wannabee” characteristics, namely, the absence of non-camo colors.
We’ll also hope to find some pants that aren’t full range gear, with the cargo pockets moved up on the leg by dumping the flashlight/magazine (or whatever the heck those smallish, can’t-get-my-fingers-to-the-bottom-of pockets are). This is so that a pocket-holstered pistol doesn’t slap small children in neighboring zip codes in the schnoz if you try to move with some pace. We’ll also hope for both hook-and-loop (Velcro) and a single, centered button-like closure for these pockets. Think this through, and we bet you’ll calculate why.
And in non-camo colors.
Slash pockets in the rear are actually a good thing, but ones that don’t go three-quarters of the way down the back of the leg are hard to find. OK, that’s an exaggeration, but just an inch or two shallower makes these considerably more navigable and useful. We’re keeping our fingers crossed, at any rate.
Did we mention non-camo colors?
True “summer” weights, especially for shirts. This also implies a little imagination about the structure of these garments. Simply lighter is not what we hope to find, but cover wear that won’t bring on a flop-sweat yet also won’t furl when a draw is needed would be a wonderful thing.
And in non-camo colors, got it?
Finally, we’ll be looking for improvements in closure technology across garment types. We believe an unencumbered, rapid draw is an under-appreciated fight stopper when Condition Orange finds you, but that traditional closures—buttons, hook-and-loop, zippers—on many supposed “carry” garments all have shortcomings.
Defensive Ammo/Training Ammo Pairings
If you happened across the tale of our own recent transit of NRA Carry Guard Training, you’ll know we were impressed. Very impressed, in fact. The hope of Messrs. Severence, Frohardt, Jarrett and Houston to mint a gold standard for carry training is well within their grasp.
All but indistinguishable in your pistol—defensive on the left, training on the right, and 15 percent lighter in the magazine too, due to SST cases. Photo by A1F Staff
A small but characteristically clear-headed detail in the Level I courses of fire was a trial of your defensive ammunition in your defensive pistol—not “a” or “some” (other) exemplar. The results were not reassuring: To varying degrees of horror, several classmates discovered mismatches manifesting as malfunctions. Yes: Even $1-2 per round ammunition can malfunction in good quality, well-maintained modern firearms.
Er, gulp. That’s not a good thing for reasons that should need no explanation. Ergo, we’ll hope to find more items like Federal’s Protect and Defend, and especially L-Tech’s combo offering. These are cartridges that pair defensive-style bullets (generally hollow-points) with training ammo built to essentially identical performance characteristics. Granted, you should still test in your own firearms, but we’ve found both to be superbly reliable in a comparatively huge variety of pistols. (The Federal [9mm here, for instance] is packaged in a 5-to-1 ratio of training to defensive, and L-Tech allows you to order by the box to satisfy whatever ratio you choose.)
“New” Glock Pistols
We’re also hoping to gather more intelligence on the loudly rumored new Glocks. You’d have to be living in a cave somewhere not to know these are in the offing, with speculation running the gamut from goofy to glorious—different finger grooves, all MOS/some MOS/no MOS, new factory sights, new barrel, new texture, old texture, old internals, completely new internals, a carbine, a 1911, a whole new “Gen.” You get the idea—guesswork and misdirection, if not literal blarney. Suffice it to say it will be a very high priority; anything we can relay, we will, and right away. Our minions will be hot-spotting it from Booth 726 on the Expo floor if necessary.
Whaddya mean we’re obsessed? Just because we’ve memorized the booth number? OK … maybe a little.
Now Carry on.
Frank Winn has been studying arms and their relationship to tyranny, meaningful liberty and personal security all his adult life. He has been a firearms safety/shooting instructor for more than 20 years, and earned state, regional and national titles in several competitive disciplines.