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First Gear | NRA Carry Guard Exposition II

First Gear | NRA Carry Guard Exposition II

Our minions have completed their exploration of the NRA Carry Guard Expo. As we observed in Part 1, there’s a bunch going on between widely varied vendors and well over 100 seminars and training sessions. Any illusions of remotely covering it all are long gone, but we do have a few more nuggets. 

Browning “Black Label” .380

John Browning’s .380 ACP has long been derided for defensive use along “bigger is better” lines, particularly among American shooters. With access to the .45 ACP—another Browning invention—there’s no real mystery as to why. Modern doctrine and bullet architecture have moderated “.45ness” to some extent, but relatively deep suspicions toward JMB’s shorty 9 mm remain.

Browning Black Label. Photo by Michael Ives

There are two firearms that ought to crater this notion once and for all, and one of them is the Browning Black Label .380. Embodying virtually all the excellences of the 1911, just shrunk to 85 percent, it’s a soft-shooting, tack-driving winner we’ve lauded before.

The line has been expanded by about 300 versions since its introduction, and Browning’s Paul Thompson patiently showed us options at the Browning booth. We settled on a railed, Commander-dimensioned (remember—shrunk to 85 percent) iteration as our favorite. OK: 300 is a slight overestimate, but you get the idea—lots of feature and cosmetic options bring even more appeal to the Black Label.

The relative thinness that makes even a full-sized 1911 an easier carry than most expect (though not the weight) applies to the Black Labels, too. Due to polymer frames, they’re very light, but still superbly shootable in combination with modern .380 ACP ammunition. All things considered, the Browning mini 1911s are worthy candidates for carry application, especially for small-statured shooters or if a manual safety is a high priority.


A hop, skip and longish proverbial jump from Browning was Viridian, which features well-respected green (and red) laser and weapon light technologies. Viridian showed us a couple of slick variations on their existing products, including forward-of-the trigger guard Reactor R5 lasers and accompanying IWB holsters.

Viridian. Photo by Michael Ives

The combo wrapped up an inert trainer of Ruger LCP dimensions in what looked like normal fashion, until we noticed a step had been skipped in the reholster—turning off the laser. Yet sure as, ahem, shooting, the laser was powered down. Out came the faux pistol again, and bright green reappeared without discernible ignition, and designated bullet strike as brightly as one could wish.

The clever bit, it turns out, is the combination of magnets unobtrusively added to the holster wall, and a magnetically sensitive “switch” in the sight body. Holstered, the Viridian senses the magnetic field and obediently toggles to battery-saving off. Unholstered, the field is absent, and on comes the laser (and/or light, depending on the Viridian model).

We frequently acknowledge the challenges of small carry pistols in terms of manipulation—if you choose one, we hope you’re practicing with it regularly, with non-trivial round counts, and over a full range of skills (shooting of course, but also malfunction reduction, strong hand/weak hand and reloads). While a Viridian R5 system, available for well over a dozen varied models and sizes of handgun by our count, can’t help with any of these, it surely can with the most important skill of all—keeping the muzzle on the threat, and nowhere else.

Bronc Box

This is one of those ancillary gun guy or  gun lady things we want in fairly desperate fashion, even though we don’t exactly have a purpose for it (yet). But for folks that do need 12,000-plus cubic inches of ultra-secure storage and transport volume, the Bronc Box looks like it will solve a host of problems, to say nothing of surviving astonishing abuse.

Bronc Box. Photo by Michael Ives

Cracking the top reveals a bottom two-thirds that can be adjustably compartmentalized according to need. Volume unused by a bottom layer of gear can be recovered with trays that suspend from the lip (extra dividers and trays available). The deep upper third (or so) of the lid is similarly well thought out, “clam-shelling” closed on securely strapped-in long items (as you see, rifles fit with ease).

It’s a thick-walled bugger too, but not just for solidity or protection of high value kit. Due to foam-filling of the voids between the inner and outer walls and a tongue-and-groove gasket, the Bronc seals out water and yields buoyant storage. (The seal is so sound that a pressure relief valve is available and recommended if you’re transporting a Bronc Box by air.) Compression latches and corner lock points keep the lid closed and contents secure from prying eyes or fiddling fingers. The box can be tied down without preventing access, too. Rugged handles and rollers round out the über tough package.

A last characteristic we particularly like is the option of colors other than black. We understand the need for this in some applications, but few things will slow down a hasty search—perhaps an emergency hasty search too—than looking for darkish objects in the deeply shadowed interior of a black box. But with “marine” and “military” versions in white and pseudo FDE respectively, you can get at what you need out of the Bronc with a minimum of mumbled—or perhaps shouted—expletives. Well done.

Jamb Brace/Physical Home Defense

While it’s not a “carry” item—or at least not in a way that readily occurs to us—the Jamb Brace is a potent personal security item. As we posited in our recent “Home Carry” series, most of us aren’t as secure as we think, even at home. Given the time we spend there, we’re actually more inclined to encounter trouble there than any other place. Ergo countermeasures like alarms, or as we suggested, either securely cached wherewithal, or home carry.

Jamb Brace. Photo by Michael Ives

But the first line of real defense against the so-called “hot” burglary or home invasion is the doors in your home, and the experts at Physical Home Defense say we actually overestimated the time it takes for a determined assault to breach a domestic-style exterior door: Only 10 seconds according to their research and experimentation. With 2 million home invasions (hot or otherwise) in 2010, their Jamb Brace looks like a sound step in a more secure direction.

In combination with a Grade 2 deadbolt—they recommend Schlage—the Jamb Brace puts an L-shaped bracket on the door itself, and retrofits most existing doors (including sidelight styles with their reinforcing strips) to withstand kicking or attempts to pry your door. Even in the confines of the Carry Guard Expo, their designated door kicker was quite plainly wasting his time on their display (take a look here). Each succeeding kick had enough energy to move the whole display, but the door, as the saying goes, stayed “sound as a dollar.”

Seminars and Training

As guns and gear wonks, the Expo floor was fertile indeed for carry and personal protection gear, and our understandable province. But honesty compels us to concede that the quite literal other half of the Expo had even more appeal.

Disappointingly, aside from the explicit (and excellent) NRA Carry Guard content—virtual reality, et al­—we had a chance to stick our heads in only three of the training/teaching events. But what we found was compelling and encouraging at the same time. A1F contributor Dr. John Lott, friend of A1F Jeff Gonzales, and (comparative) newcomer Dr. Joe Logar were speaking to surprisingly full rooms even by our hopeful estimations, and we’ll be making time to have more from each of them (and others) for you as we move forward.

But our sense of missing out is tempered considerably by that “encouraging” component: In utter contravention of mainstream media contention (read “apparently reflexive lies”), concealed-carry folks are serious about expanding their knowledge and skills. That in turn bodes well for a deserved dress-down of media and elitist naysayers, and for protecting firearms use and ownership by the best means possible—safe and responsible exercise of the Second Amendment.

Part 1

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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