In 2012, Alessandro “Alex” Bosco returned to the United States with just $3,000 in the bank. After years of military service and private business experience, he was ready to pursue a career in law enforcement, sitting for agency interviews and hoping that his prior service would land him a position that would allow him to provide for his family. Little did he know, a short trip to the range would lead to the creation of SB Tactical – a company that would soon alter the perception of U.S. firearm laws.
At the time, Bosco knew little about the legal classifications of different firearms. For him, a rifle was an M16 and a pistol was a Beretta or a 1911. That’s not to say he wasn’t experienced – in his past life in the Army and Marine Corps, Bosco, besides being a linguist, was a trained armorer. But on this one trip to the range in the Fall of 2012, he was introduced to something different – an AR15 pistol by a friend and fellow shooter that happened to also be disabled.
With a target at the 25 yard line, Bosco watched as his friend shot one handed, what he had always considered to be a rifle. Unfortunately, also watching closely was a range safety officer, who took notice of the one-armed shooter and his AR. Even though all the rounds had hit the target, the RSO approached Bosco and his friend and ask that they deck the weapon because it could “create an unsafe condition”.
“Something was wrong with this picture,” said Bosco. “I was pissed off.” First, the fellow veteran was not violating any of the core rules of firearms safety. But more importantly, Bosco went home that day thinking that there had to be a better way for disabled shooters to shoot short barreled AR15 pistols.
That night Bosco broke open a Pelican case and used the “pick and pluck” foam to carve out a rudimentary shape that he thought would help his friend shoot his AR pistol more easily. With side supports and a strap, the first pistol stabilizing brace was born.
Back at the range, Bosco shared his new invention with his friend as well as the very same RSO. After a short inspection, the one armed shooter was allowed fire his weapon as a pistol, safely braced on his forearm. However the RSO had offered some advice, stating that Bosco might want to check with the ATF on the legalities of his new device.
“At the time, I knew very little about Short Barreled Rifles (SBRs) or the National Firearms Act (NFA),” said Bosco. Still, believing that he was on to something big, he called the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE) Technology branch looking for clarification. Luckily for him, at the other end of the line was a knowledgeable examiner who said that the idea sounded fine, but he should send in a sample for a determination.
After two weeks of teaching himself injection molding in his garage and cutting up various materials, Bosco had a working prototype to ship off to the ATF. Meanwhile, anticipating a favorable opinion, he was gearing up for production by scouting manufacturing companies and actively pursuing firearm manufacturers who might be interested in his design. Almost two weeks to the day that he sent his sample, the ATF responded that his now patent-pending stabilizing brace was approved for use on firearms classified as pistols and would not constitute the making of an NFA item.
It was this moment that Bosco knew he had created something that had the potential to change the industry. Not two months later, he was on the floor of the 2013 SHOT Show in Las Vegas, pitching his design to anyone who was interested. “There were a couple of companies that laughed in my face,” he said. But in the end, exclusive use rights were granted to two manufacturers – Sig Sauer and Century Arms. “Somewhere during this time I posted my ideas on AR15.com and within a week I had 30,000 emails from potential customers. It broke our website.”
Whether innate, trained or a combination of both, Bosco exudes true leadership qualities. He takes pride on surrounding himself with a handful self-motivated, intelligent and energetic individuals. “It’s my job to give them an idea then step back and let them work without creating roadblocks.”
Armed with the support of Sig Sauer, production and sales rocketed. For two years the AR pistol market grew exponentially throughout the industry. And while Bosco acknowledges that many who bought braces during this time did so to avoid NFA registration, he stayed true to his original goal of producing braces that would assist disabled shooters. Supporting organizations like HAVA, he is passionate about helping injured veterans pursue their love for shooting sports. “This was really personal for me,” said Bosco.
Then, on the Friday before the 2015 SHOT Show, the ATF issued a dramatic reversal of their original approval letter stating that using a brace in a manner that was not consistent with the original design (shouldering) could constitute the weapon being reclassified as an NFA item. The path that led to the reversal was convoluted – outside letters flooded the ATF about use cases seeking clarification. “The gun industry has a tendency to eat their own,” said Bosco.
But individuals writing letters weren’t the only trigger for the ATF’s reversal. A few unnamed manufacturers and distributors, sitting on large stockpiles of SBRs, underhandedly lobbied against SB Tactical’s braces through back channels. Eventually, news of the stabilizing brace “loophole” made it to the top levels of the Department of Justice who in turn “advised” the ATF to reinterpret their use. And the reversal was issued.
Over the course of nearly two years, Bosco spent an enormous amount of time and money lobbying the ATF, his congressmen and other industry leaders to reverse the 2015 reversal. During this time, sales initially spiked in the first few months and then plateaued. He attributes the period of slower growth not because of the ATF’s decision, but to a momentary lack of innovation. “Businesses need to keep innovating to be healthy.”
After relentless lobbying, in the Spring of 2017, the ATF finally clarified that the incidental shouldering of a pistol stabilizing brace would not be considered as making an NFA item – the latest letter being specific to SB Tactical’s products. Coupled with their newly released designs like folding, collapsing and adjustable models, sales once again skyrocketed.
Although obviously humble, Bosco is aware that he and his team have reshaped the pistol AR, AK and pistol caliber carbine (PCC) market. Once a niche area littered with padded buffer tubes and pistol endcaps, platforms that had originally been considered NFA-only territory were now opened to a whole new segment of shooters. And a look at SB Tactical’s diverse product lineup is proof – alongside the AR pistol designs and Sig Sauer offerings are Heckler & Koch roller locks, B&T, 12 gauge firearms, CZ USA, AK47 and a host of other manufacturers and platforms.
Now in the Fall of 2017, SB Tactical shows no signs of slowing down. With plans on introducing a product every week leading up to the 2018 SHOT Show, the company is still pushing forward. But Bosco wants to remain true to his mission – supporting disabled veteran shooters with products that make platforms easier to handle and manipulate.
A veteran leading the charge for disabled shooters in America with all products being manufactured proudly in the USA. A worthy Veteran’s Day success story.