Gear Test: Concealed-Carry Bags

The Blackhawk! Diversion wax canvas bag.photo by Barbara Baird

Firearms owners who want to carry concealed off-body need options. The bag must be functional, but it also must accommodate your body type. And do I dare point out that it might be stylish as well?

I reviewed three bags that you can use on a daily basis for carry. Two are made for on-the-street carry, but you can also use them as range bags. The third is made as a range bag that I found worked as an everyday carry bag. There aren’t many range bags that perform double-duty with such panache. Here they are:

I love Lucy

5.11 Tactical introduced the Lucy tote this past year, with female off-duty law-enforcement officers in mind. Still, you don't have to be a cop to like this bag. There are built-in slots for flex-cuffs and a badge wallet pocket, but I've found uses for both.

My Lucy—in black 420D nylon, waterproof twill—has traveled thousands of miles during the past half-year, and it still looks new. The bag’s stitching, bartack reinforcements, hardware, and YYK zippers are first rate. Its faux leather trim isn’t too faux-fetched, either.

The Lucy tote from 5.11 Tactical stays up close and personal.

It’s the perfect size for my Smith & Wesson 642 or Walther PPQM2, or for both with the muzzles down and tucked into the side interior pockets. I can store my wallet in an internal zippered pocket and place my smartphone or a holstered concealed-carry gun into the external zippered pocket, which opens from two sides.

If I were to carry the bag on a busy street, I’d move a gun to the outside, zippered pocket. If traveling alone by car, I’d keep the zippered top open and on the seat next to me in my vehicle.

When traveling by air, I always pack a Kindle, travel itinerary and mandatory Ziploc bag full of small bottles, along with my wallet. When I arrive at my destination, I get my gun out of checked baggage and insert it into one of the many options in the bag. It all fits. And it stands up beautifully, all on its own on a base that measures 7.5 by 12 inches.

If you feel threatened, it’s easy to pull your concealed-carry handgun from a Lucy tote from 5.11 Tactical.

I took this bag to the range loaded with two handguns, four boxes of .38 Special and 9mm ammo, earmuffs, and shooting glasses, and a wallet.

The straps are the only negative feature with this bag. They aren’t quite long enough to carry the bag on your shoulder, and some reviewers want them to be stronger and made of material that cannot be cut easily.

Note: Don’t use this bag (or any bag, really) at the range and fly with it later…unless you check it thoroughly for spent or live rounds, or any accessories for your firearms, such as magazines.

The Lucy tote comes in black and iron grey, and measures 11 inches high, 7.5 inches wide and 19.5 inches long. It retails for $110.

Waxing On About Covert Carry

Move over, Filson and L.L. Bean, there's a new wax bag in town. I (and my husband) really like this Blackhawk! Diversion Wax Canvas bag for many reasons. Based on the Blackhawk! Diversion line of bags, and made of 10.10-ounce Army duck Martex in original wax canvas, this bag not only looks hip, it fits cross body on your hip. In fact, it melds to your hip when you carry it.

The top zipper of the Blackhawk Diversion wax canvas bag makes for easy access to the main compartment.

If you don't want to carry it cross-body, the padded, sturdy strap allows you to wear it courier style. However you choose to carry it, you can access your concealed firearm from either side of the bag, in the loop-lined handgun and accessory storage compartment. Blackhawk! offers an adjustable hook-back holster ($16.45) to mount on the loop panels.

There’s a small pocket on the front flap that closes with a magnet. Open the main front pocket and you’ll find dual mesh pockets, key lanyard and phone and pen pockets. The Fidlock buckle technology takes a little getting used to, because the buckles aren’t the traditional pull-down-to-unlock type. You must slide the buckles out sideways, which seems like an extra safety precaution and might keep your bag safer from pickpockets.

Inside the bag, you’ll find a padded compartment for your laptop, accessed from the top of the back. The main compartment, lined in a waterproof lighter color, offers plenty of space for notebooks, a day calendar, and any other pertinent office supplies you might need to transport. Check the gun and tuck in a pair of socks and underwear, and you’ve got a great carry-on bag.

You could use this bag for a quick trip to the range, too. Just pack it with the necessary handgun items, and your firearm of choice, and head out.

I like the earth color, which will not show dirt or grime and cleans up well. It also comes in slate. Total dimensions measure 12.2 inches high by 18.5 inches wide and 4.7 inches deep. It retails for $235.

The “Skinny Girl (or Guy)” Bag

When I visited Carrie Lightfoot of The Well Armed Woman last spring in Scottsdale, Ariz., she showed me the "No Ordinary Range Bag" (NORB), a slim, funky bag made by Offhand Gear that was a very popular seller. She sent me one in Typhon Kryptek pattern to test.

This is the NORB at the range. It proved to be a very functional bag.photo by Jason Baird

It looks like a cross between a laptop bag and a skinny messenger bag, but it packs a lot of stuff. I used it to carry the S&W and Walther, along with everything else, to the range. I also took it to the mall, because it’s urban and funky. I can get to my gun fast, wear the bag cross-body, and carry all my stuff.

Designed by a woman shooter for women, this bag might also appeal to men--seriously. Made of heavy-duty, non-slip, water-resistant fabric, and complete with a rifle-sling style cross-body strap that allows for a 20-inch drop, the bag looks, well, macho.

Hardware is premiere in a good bag, and the NORB’s beautiful silver clasps come from Italy. You can access the bag without opening it by unzipping the ambidextrous zipper pulls and reach the main compartment or the pistol compartment, which can store two firearms—even big .45s.

A peek inside the NORB reveals two guns. Access is easy while carrying it, too.photo by Jason Baird

Here’s where the bag gets useful on the range. Open the interior flap, lay it out, and voila! There’s a nonskid surface that you can rest your gun on between shots.

Inside the bag, a mesh pocket holds accessories. A double mag holder and another mesh pocket (cell-phone holder) complete the interior containment options.

The NORB also comes in Stormy Swirl and Blue Ripstop. It measures 14 inches wide by 12 inches tall, and has a 3-inch depth; it won’t shift while you’re working with it. It retails for $120.