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First Gear | NRA Carry Guard Exposition I

First Gear | NRA Carry Guard Exposition I

The NRA Carry Guard Expo got off to a particularly agreeable start on Friday. Milwaukee’s polished Wisconsin Center—a few blocks off the shores of Lake Michigan—is home to the three-day event, which brings together nearly 300 vendors and seminars on all things concealed carry and self-defense.

Prowling on your behalf, A1F Daily has encountered the gamut: Interesting and expected right through innovative and useful to, well, unusual? Just remember: Today’s “unusual” may be tomorrow’s “essential” and someday’s “life-saving,” so take a look at a few things we found eye-catching, even if for reasons we reserve the right not to fully justify.

Galco Holsters

Galco. Photo by Michael Ives

With a name that’s new to nobody who has been around handguns for more than about 20 minutes, Galco quality, variety and attention to detail fairly splattered their booth. But don’t confuse longevity and a certain measure of (obvious) success with standing still: We found three gems neatly hanging in their display. Two small-gun solutions (here and here) for pocket carry caught our eye, as well as the “convertible” functionality of their Triton model. “Convertible how?” you ask—but they’ve promised review kit, and we’ll explain it all then.


It’s gotten to the point where the Mantis guys are pals as well as “professional” associates, but even were this not so, we’d make no apology. Their firearms training system was unadulterated genius to start with, and they keep finding ways to make it better. Through a variety of attachment methods—a built-in rail is the easiest, but hardly the only—their little box will make a better shooter out of the oldest hand.

MantisX. Photo by Michael Ives

The original rail-mounted device utilized Bluetooth to "talk" to your smartphone, and with merciless accuracy and scrupulous detail relayed every nuance of correct (or incorrect) handgun trigger press, complete with corrective diagnostics. Dry or live practice were accounted for, as well as handedness.

In the roughly year and a half since we first brought the system to your attention, the utility has pretty much exploded. A long-gun mode is now available, as are extended “log” options to tie your training sessions to specific firearms (answering, maybe, an age-old question—which do you really shoot better?). Session results are stored down to the individual shot to the limit of your smart device capacity.

But we light up MantisX again because of the new “Drill” modes. Here, many classic exercises get a Mantis context, and let you compound correct press with other skills. We took a shot—ha, ha—at the Compressed Surprise Break drill (vintage Cooper), and were astonished once again just how much this technology can add to anybody’s carry—or other shooting—game.

Steel Patriot Pistol Box

One of our pre-Expo whines was along the lines of rapid access/secure storage devices. Suffice it to say the “Steel Patriot” did a whack-a-mole number on this gripe in convincing fashion. It’s an elegant item indeed, but seriously prepared to limit access to any reasonably-sized pistol. (A 1911 fits with ease.)

Steel Patriot. Photo by Michael Ives

The box itself is 16-gauge steel with welded corners and a full-circumference “pry fence.” The locking mechanics are hardened and have a keyed back-up, and the box itself accepts widely available cable-type tethering.

What impresses most, however, are the locking and access mode that come into play when you pair the box with an iOS or Android smartphone. Now, your phone will proximity unlock and relock the box, time lock it, and monitor/report any tampering. Take note, too, that there is no power cord trailing off the SteelPatriot, which makes us wonder: Vehicle applicable?

We don’t think we left much out, and are all but certain a Steel Patriot won’t let anybody but you in.

Tactical Walls

Tactical Walls. Photo by Michael Ives

Here’s another lament, struck from our list. “Hidden in plain sight,” is an excellent notion for defensive/emergency gear, and none the worse for not being a remotely new idea. In our opinion though, the “hidden” has almost always been accompanied by stands-out-like-a-sore-thumb “ugly,” and therefore maybe not so hidden after all.

Tactical Walls has these problems on the run. With end tables, coffee tables, a host of wall mount styles, and even innocuous around-the-house items like tissue box covers and wall clocks, caching defensive wherewithal just got a bunch easier. As you might imagine, if stock styles and stain options still don’t match your décor, they’ll do custom as well.

Full Conceal Arms

Runaway winner of our “What the HELL is that?” award, FC Arms is stretching the boundaries of carry arms in mammoth terms.

Full Conceal Arms. Photo by Michael Ives

Actually, strike that “mammoth” business, because FC is instead chopping defensive/carry arms down to incredibly compact dimensions. Come to think of it, strike “compact,” too, because what Full Conceal does is alter the footprint of some common firearms. Whether it’s a sawed-off SIG (with two magazines) or a folding Glock (20-plus rounds in a modified G19), they both disappear convincingly under a largish smart phone, and that’s a usefully non-gun shaped object.

We gather the SIG-type modifications are a purchasable item, while the “foldable” Glock is a prototype, and we’d sure want to shoot either before making an acquisition. But give credit where it’s due: The imagination on display here is upscale to say the least. It’s also the essential predecessor to genuine progress.

Stay tuned—more to come from Milwaukee!

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.

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