The old saying goes, “the third time is a charm.” Between scheduling conflicts and making arrangements, we were finally able to make it down to Swansboro, NC for a behind the scenes tour and inside look at HSGI. The drive to North Carolina was uneventful and scenic. There were lots of trees and not a lot of stop signs. We grabbed a bite and met up with William Phebus, the Director of Business Development and Marketing for HSGI. He greeted us with a firm handshake and a good ol’ “It’s about time you made it.” Instantly he made us feel like family.
As we made our way into the lobby, we were greeted with an open and relaxing waiting area complete with a sitting area, various HSGI advertising posters, and of course – gear!
HSGI had two walls featuring a various assortment of their products. We even got a glimpse of decked out mannequins featuring yet to be released kit that will have everyone thinking, “Oh yeah, that’s a winner.’ However, more on that later. Let’s continue with the tour …
We were escorted through the admin area where we were welcomed with numerous greetings and pleasantries. One would think that a company that operates on a scale as large as HSGI would have a rather large call center for the influx of calls and e-mails they receive, but I can tell you that’s not the case. The ‘Hub’, as I referred to it, was staffed with knowledgeable, friendly and dedicated group of employees working hard to answer questions and respond to customers. There’s no outsourcing here. It’s all done in-house under the same roof, just like their manufacturing and shipping.
HSGI is truly a one stop entity. Everything they use, produce, and manufacture is ALL made right here in the United States of America. That’s right, you read it right here, everything! This facility is where it all comes together under one roof. It’s getting harder and harder to find that these days. After walking around for a bit, we got a good idea of how the floor works. Everyone has a specific job to do and they appear to do it very well. It wasn’t uncommon to see someone jump in and help elsewhere if needed. It’s something I have always felt strengthen’s the entire team. It builds productivity, knowledge, camaraderie and above all else, respect.
There were two areas where we got a really in-depth look at what goes into some of their products. The first area was the production area for the HSGI COBRA Rigger and Duty Belts. I expected to see rows and rows of machines with people behind them, but I was rather surprised to see a rather large area with just a few work stations. One a rather large flat table, there were stacks of belts ready to move into the assembly stage. They were stacked by colors and sizes, all organized neatly and stacked accordingly. When put into final production, the belts are measured accordingly and then sent to the assembly table where the COBRA buckles are attached, the velcro is sewn on, and it is determined whether or not a stainless steel D ring is to be attached. Each belt is constructed of two layers of 1.75″ Type 13 webbing, which is sewn together with five rows of bonded 138 nylon thread. Additional rigidity and stiffness are added to each belt with a proprietary adhesive before being sewn together.
Watching these belts being made is pretty neat. HSGI’s employees make it look as easy as tying your shoes and they truly enjoy doing it. Knowing that men and women depended upon these belts is a huge driving factor to make sure HSGI produces the best belts possible. Quality Control is stringent an adhered to with a zero tolerance attitude. Once the belts come off the line, each one is inspected for proper stitching, assembly, and functionality. They even go so far as to angle the corners of the open edges of their belts to make them easier to put on. I was even offered the opportunity to sit behind the machine and make my own belt! HSGI gave us a couple of their belts to try out. Much like a kid in a candy store, I couldn’t wait to put mine to work! I quickly swapped out the belt I was wearing for my new COBRA belt and felt the difference right away. This belt is sturdy, yet comfortable. It will definitely get the job done.
The next product we took a closer look at was one that all my friends had been asking about. It’s arguably the one thing HSGI is most well-known for – the TACO. Probably one of the most unique and versatile looking pouches out there, the TACO comes in various configurations ranging from a single magazine pouch to the Double Decker, a multi combination pistol/rifle pouch among many others.
The TACO pouches are unique for a number of reasons. These pouches are made of Cordura, an injection molded polymer ‘frame’, and one solid piece of shock-cord. The pouches are able to keep a solid grip on whichever magazine you have inserted, and they also have the ability to be adjusted to the magazine you are using as well. You’ll notice that there are webbing tabs sewn in on the top for use of an additional bungee retainers, which are available separately if needed. An additional section of loop Velcro is sewn in the inside of the rifle pouch just in case you use an adhesive backed piece of Velcro on your magazines.
Part of the HSGI tour is the “tie your own TACO” tradition. It’s all educational and in good fun, but probably un-wise to pass this opportunity up! One of the assembly workers guided us through the process and it went a little something like pull the shock-cord through here, then hold this piece tight and pull, now grab your pliers and pull, and so on. Insert about five to ten grunts of frustration or colorful words just about anywhere in there for the first one too. After a couple, it gets much easier! Once you assemble your first pouch, you gain even more of an understanding as to how they are able to hold things as tightly as they do. I don’t know who initially came up with this method, but I’m sure their fingers are probably still numb to date. In the time it took me to do one Double Decker, a single worker probably had knocked out a handful of them already. When you do this everyday with the passion and drive that HSGI’s team has, you can clearly see why they make it look so easy.
Now if you were paying attention earlier, you noticed that I mentioned seeing something on display that hadn’t been released just yet. HSGI has offered a few options for plate carriers over the past few years, but this year they are launching a new plate carrier system that is sure to get people thinking HSGI. The SPC Plate Carrier system is completely modular and offers the end-user the ability to buy the kit in 2 options: the SPC LIGHT version (includes the HSGI WA/WEE shoulder pads, plate pockets, and a 2″ waist strap) or the SPC HEAVY version (which includes the complete LIGHT version kit plus the ESAPI side plate carriers, a sterile chest panel with an included H harness for a standalone off carrier setup, and field expedient buckles).
Both versions of the SPC Plate Carrier system feature loop Velcro® across the top for unit insignia, morale patches or anything else you have that might be attachable. A feature we discussed that was extremely practical was the 2″ waist strap. For those of you with belt mounted pouches, you can easily slide them onto this strap if you need to carry additional magazines, radios, or first aid kits. The plate pouches are stitched together very well, and leave little to no room for plate movement. Which was a concern a few people had asked me about. The inside of both the front and back plate pouches feature mesh padding for comfort and increased air flow. Permanent mount buckles are sewn into the front plate carrier to facilitate both the securing, and switching out of the front panels. Have a rifle only setup? Clip it in and go. Pistol only? Copy. Swap it and go. Instead of having numerous plate carriers and chest rigs, or having to switch out pouches, just grab the setup you need, attach it, and go! It doesn’t get any simpler than that. The SPC Plate Carrier system will be offered in Black, MultiCam, and Coyote to start and will be available in a S/M and L/XL size. Pricing and an availability date to be announced shortly.
After spending the day with HSGI and talking to their team, you can see that there is a lot of pride in what they do. It’s evident the moment you walk through the front door. There was a sense of camaraderie and teamwork everywhere we went. If you had a question, it was answered eloquently and thoroughly. If you wanted to see how something was designed, patterned out, cut or assembled? They were more than happy to walk you through the process and give you insight into it. I have to say though, the thing I was most impressed with was the flag of this great nation hanging overhead just before the giant roll-up door. I had mentioned that I appreciated seeing it and the story they told me about it was pretty neat. It’s a simple gesture that speaks volumes. Everything that goes out the door, from the pouches to the belts and the bags, and is headed out to Law Enforcement, Military, Federal agencies, or citizens who train to protect their families, leaves under our colors. HSGI is made in America, and proud to stand behind that.