Gear Test: Concealed-Carry Diversion Bags

The Diversion Wax Canvas Messenger Bag from Blackhawk.

It’s easy to conceal a handgun, but a rifle is much more difficult. The trouble is that even a cased rifle looks like a cased rifle. Unless you choose a bag designed specifically to not look like a rifle case.

With the right diversion bag, you can carry your guns out of your house or apartment and not worry about your neighbor freaking out at the sight of a gun case and calling 911.

No matter if you are trying to keep your AR-15 away from your nosy neighbor’s prying eyes for an afternoon of target practice, or if you are carrying a concealed gun in your vehicle or off-body for self-defense, a diversion bag makes a lot of sense. Here are a few I have used and can comment about.

Nothing about this bag looks “tactical.” In fact, it looks like something my neighbor might take to her tennis lessons. But then, that’s the point isn’t it?

The 29-inch case has padded walls with an internal divider for carrying up to two handguns, or an AR-15 with upper and lower receivers (up to 29 inches long) separated. It’s also a great fit for a fully assembled and ready-to-rock AR-15 pistol.

I can slip an AR pistol in one side and another handgun in the other with the padded divider separating them. Or I can break down an M-4 carbine and slip the upper in one side and the lower in the other. Reassembly only takes a few seconds.

It comes in non-tactical color combinations such as red and white to complete the non-gun look. MSRP: $71.45.

Another Blackhawk diversion product is this very stylish messenger bag. It has a pocket in the back for a handgun that is accessible by simply pulling the tab on a zipper. I have also found that the Kel- Tec SUB2000 carbine will fold up and fit nicely inside this bag. I can go out in public and nobody will ever suspect I have a handgun, much less a carbine, with me, both of which I can easily access.

It's 18 ½ inches wide and a bit over a foot high and comes in gray or brown. MSRP: $235.45.

Someone who understands guns designed this rifle pack. It is large enough for a carbine, but looks like a sports equipment bag. The shoulder strap is fully adjustable for right or left shoulder carry. Their “FASTab” zipper system provides quick access to the gun. The padded main compartment is 36x12x2 inches and has fastening points for the gun.

Note that this bag is 36 inches long. Many so-called “diversion” bags are too short for an assembled M-4 carbine. Other bag makers say they keep them short to not signal that there is a gun inside. I get that, and taking the gun apart is fine for transporting, but if you are in a situation where you may need to get the gun into action fast, having it ready to rock is a huge advantage. The longer bag may or may not be a giveaway, but I’ll chance it to have my carbine in one piece and ready for action.

The large front pocket is lined with Velcro so you can attach carriers for magazines or a handgun holster. The padding significantly reduces the “print” of your rifle and magazines. It’s available in two color options. Mine is Coyote Tan, but I think the Wolf Gray might be less “gunny” looking.

This is the bag I grab most to carry my carbines. It's well thought out and well made. MSRP: $149.99.

ThugCase M4

Although the gun must be broken down to fit inside it, this case does not signal what it truly is and may allow you to keep your rifle well concealed.

Inspired by Al Capone and the prohibition-era thugs who favored violin cases for their tommy guns, the ThugCase is a modern day incarnation of the concept.

The outer hard-shell is made from heavy thermoplastic with protective molded lining inside. Velcro straps are installed to secure the contents. Each case includes a lockable latch. The case I have has three latches. The center latch has a lock and comes with two keys.

I have the M-4 size case. It’s designed to take a 16-inch barrel M-4 style carbine that is broken down. It will fit the upper and lower receivers, with an area to stash a couple of 30-round magazines. This case will accept upper assemblies up to 25.5 inches long. It will handle most tactical-style optics installed on the upper. The lower must have a collapsible stock to fit.

This is a very small case, so small that most people would never believe it has a rifle inside, which is a very good thing when you are trying to keep a low profile. But it’s also a very snug fit. My lower has an aftermarket grip that is slightly longer than the standard A2 grip. As a result I had to crush some of the protective lining and wedge it in the case to make the lower fit. I tried an upper with an aftermarket muzzle brake and it would not fit, but one with a birdcage flash hider fit well. For a standard M-4 style gun with a 16-inch barrel fitted with a flash hider and a collapsible stock, this is the best option. However, if you deviate much from that, you may need one of their larger cases.

ThugCase M4

The M-16 size will take uppers to 29 inches. It can handle larger optics and will take a full sized fixed stock. If I had it to do over, I would order this model because it gives me more options with my multiple AR rifles.

There are other models for pistol grip shotguns, AK-47 rifles, M-14 rifles and more. Of course, there is one for a Thompson submachine gun. Plus, there are some generic foam lined cases to fit most guns not specifically listed, or you can simply custom-order a case to fit your needs.

The ThugCase is designed and produced in the USA by veterans. A percentage of each sale is donated to the Wounded Warrior Project.

This hard-shell case provides a high level of protection and diversion. The M-4 model looks like it is designed for a mandolin. When asked, I just tell them I am Vince Gill's long-lost brother. MSRP: $149.00