Clothing for armed professionals comes in three categories: uniformed, professional and blending. Uniforms are obvious, and in them you’re advertising to the world you’re armed. Professional clothing (from 5.11 Tactical, BLACKHAWK!, Woolrich Elite, etc.) doesn’t hide who you are and that you’re armed, but it does present a neat, professional appearance. Blending clothing refers to garb, which allows you to blend in with your environment. For undercover cops, this is anything the people in your target group wear. For off-duty cops and armed citizens, it’s whatever blends with your local scene. The term for this kind of clothing is “gray” — meaning no one notices you.
It’s the same with off-body carry bags. The terms I use for them are: obvious, discreet and hidden. Obvious means carrying your gun in a noticeable gun case (hard or soft). Discreet carry means most people won’t notice you’re carrying, but it would still be pretty clear to someone who knows what they’re looking for. Most rectangular, black (or Coyote tan, OD green, and certainly camo) rifle cases fit this bill. Many MOLLE’ed-up tactical-looking sling packs that conceal pistols do too.
These low-key or discreet carry packs have their place, but they don’t really conceal your armed status from both good and bad guys who recognize them. If you don’t want to be made, you need hidden carry, not discreet carry. You want no-key bags, not low-key bags. You want them to look like something an ordinary citizen might carry, such as something bought at a sporting goods store, not the local cop-shop. If they are typical tactical colors, or have webbing or Velcro areas on them, they should look like outdoor gear and not tactical gear.
Any bag technically can carry any weapon that will fit in it, but that doesn’t necessarily make it useful. The bag should protect your weapon and hold it positioned for rapid-as-possible access. It should prevent the weapon from sloshing around inside, and should carry — all properly positioned and packaged — the other stuff you want to have handy along with your weapon: magazines, med kits, active shooter gear, dope book or whatever.
You’ll probably want to carry some regular items too, so if someone’s watching, it will appear as though you actually use your bag for ordinary, innocent purposes. Obviously, not just any bag will do. And while it might be tempting to go for the most unlikely colors for a no-key bag: hot pink, chartreuse, etc.; this defeats the purpose because it draws attention to you. There are precious few places a man can stroll around with a hot pink bag and not attract second glances. Ladies … we’ll leave that to you.
Some people like to carry a rifle in a soft guitar case (or even a trombone case) and a pistol in a padded camera bag. These are clever ideas, but musical instrument and camera bags — and other unlikely cases — invite theft and are sure to make people look your way as well.
The Maxpedition Fatboy Versipack is available in a number of truly
non-tactical colors, including the blue here. The original design is
legendary, and essentially fostered the entire tactical bag explosion
today. It’s still an industry leader in design and quality.
This Maxpedition Neat Freak is an elegant carry bag, but to the experienced
eye, the hook and loop, MOLLE loops and green color label it “low-key,” not
“no-key.” Their new blue FatBoy Versipack delivers no-key perfectly, though.
Both have their place.
Several years ago when Maxpedition hit the market, their gear made a splash. The look was a combination of button-down neat and orderly, testosterone-drenched tactical and stylishly hip. They originated what’s still the most copied look in tactical gear; everyone in the LE, military and tactical communities had to have their stuff — and they still do. Not only does their gear look great, it also has a deserved reputation for high quality, sturdy materials and strong construction.
The only “problem” with their gear was it screamed tactical, which of course, was part of the design. If you truly wanted to fly under the radar, you couldn’t use it, which is a shame because it’s full of the correct-size pockets, is extremely strong and many of the items feature properly designed, easily accessible, concealed carry compartments for handguns. Maxpedition took notice and began offering several truly “no-key” variations and colors like royal blue, dark blue, red, yellow, orange, green and maroon. Overall, these bags meet the criteria for hidden, not merely discreet, carry.
The Versipack Series in particular, are superb shoulder bags, just right for carrying your gear and handgun without the MOLLE and tactical look. The Fatboy Versipack is a favorite for off-body carry, with a draw-string closure main compartment measuring 6.5×8″, two side pockets and several other compartments including the concealed carry loop-lined pocket that accepts Maxpedition’s hook-attaching holster. While the Fatboy has a few tactical-type elements, the new colors make them appear sporty. I like the S-Type Fatboy (“S” for southpaw), which is set up for left-side carry. If I have a gun in it, I can draw it cross-draw, and if I don’t, it won’t interfere with the gun on my right hip.
If you need a larger shoulder bag with, say, an 8×9″ main compartment, the Jumbo Versipack is your answer, and the Jumbo K.I.S.S. is a no-key simplification of it. By removing or changing a few features and reducing the weight by using 800-denier nylon, the K.I.S.S. is the same as a Jumbo, but reduced to its essential function. With its water bottle side pocket the K.I.S.S. truly passes for a civilian pack, and, like the Jumbo and Fatboy, has the hidden loop-lined gun pocket.
The 5.11 Tactical COVRT 18 Backpack is your standard, approximately
2,000 cubic inch business daypack, made with 5.11 quality and all the
standard features … and two methods of carrying a concealed handgun.
It can even accept 5.11’s Backup Belt System holsters and pouches.
5.11 Tactical COVRT 18
Many of 5.11’s packs look like the tactical units they are. However, the new COVRT 18 is a true no-key pack. Available in five non-tactical color combinations, this approximately 12×19″ pack looks like a normal-size daypack of the kind you see all over the place. Made from 500- and 420-denier nylon, it features the usual array of compartments: an admin pouch (with flip-out ID panel), hydration bladder compartment, soft-lined valuables pocket, main compartment with laptop sleeve, two side water bottle sleeves and even more no-key features and pockets.
Concealed carry can be accomplished with either of two compartments: a MOLLE-lined front compartment with a roll-down access panel, and a hidden, side-access, loop-lined, concealed carry pocket. The COVRT 18 is a well-designed plainclothes/undercover/concealed carry system designed not only for individuals, but for team access to tactical items in your pack too.
CamelBak’s new UAC is a 2,075 cubic inch computer daypack with hydration,
admin compartment and the usual array of good stuff. It also has three
compartments for concealing a handgun. The main compartment features
a MOLLE-like web-loop arrangement through which you can thread a
standard concealment holster, no special holster is required.
CamelBak has recently introduced the Urban Assault Concealment, or UAC; it’s a concealed carry version of their popular Urban Assault pack. In addition to a strong admin area, laptop compartment, several hydration pockets, a great overflow compartment and lots of other well thought out features, the 2,075 cubic inch UAC has three weapon concealment areas: a frontal zip pocket, a zip-away lumbar pad and a MOLLE-like strap in the main compartment mating to a standard belt holster. It’s made with typical CamelBak quality and available in several non-tactical colors. The lumbar CC compartment allows you to get to your gun without taking the pack off.
BLACKHAWK!’s Covert Carry Messenger Bag is an ordinary looking
messenger/business bag that will pass muster anywhere.
The rear of the BLACKHAWK! Covert Carry Messenger Bag has a hook
and loop-accessible compartment with interior loop panels for attaching
a hook-holster and concealing a handgun for quick access. There are also
two hidden mag pouches on the rear of the bag.
BLACKHAWK! Covert Carry Messenger Bag
This isn’t a new product, but it’s a non-MOLLE, ordinary looking messenger bag in what’s probably the most common size for them, about 14×20″. Available in black or Coyote tan, this bag is quite “gray” as-is. The interior has a laptop sleeve, main compartment and admin pockets. More pockets are on the flap and front. The rear of this bag has a loop-lined handgun pocket and two separate concealed mag pockets. The large cam buckle on the shoulder strap is just like the adjustment buckles on real bicycle messenger bags, adding to the “normal” look of this very handy everyday bag.
By Ralph Mroz
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