Slings and Arrows

By Aaron Brudenell

The styles of yesterday were perhaps more forgiving than those of today. The “day pack” and the “fanny pack” were both accepted equally, messenger bags were becoming the new briefcase, and even a fancy “European man-purse” (though viewed with slight suspicion) was otherwise not shunned by the public at large. These days, unless you’re a student, air traveler, or a balaclava-clad protester, a normal-sized backpack is at least mildly suspicious and out of style. Fortunately, there has been a resurgence of a diminutive example that still carries more stuff than the average person can shove in their pockets but doesn’t stand out in the urban or suburban public sphere.

The “sling bag” seems to occupy the happy middle between an unfashionable waist pack and a college student’s book bag. Also, unlike the most tactical Maxpedition™ Active Shooter Response Bag™, a sling bag looks more like the kind of thing “Dad” would have at Disney World to keep track of his kid’s graham crackers and baby wipes than what a plain clothes SWAT team member would drag from his surveillance van on a raid. The capacity of the new class of sling bags is big enough to manage all sorts of daily carry items and some might even accommodate an iPad or small tablet, though most are in the same category as a small- to medium-sized woman’s purse.

Sling bags are essentially smaller-than-average backpacks intended to be carried with a single shoulder strap crossing over the front to the opposite side. This mode of carry allows the pack to be worn securely (free from the easy snatch of a thief) and still permit relatively rapid access by tugging the strap up or down to bring the storage compartments to the front of the wearer. A number of sling bags are available today, and while some are particularly crafted with the concealed carrier or plain clothes cop in mind, those that aren’t still offer resources and options for the defensively minded consumer. In either case, the principal advantage to the gun carrier is that it eliminates the necessity of a small-sized handgun for concealed carry.

All quality sling bags feature smaller compartments for organizing essential everyday carry items and larger compartments well suited to the user’s primary sidearm or other defensive tools. Reversible models are more adaptable for left- or right-handed use with two-sided access, while single-sided models are intended specifically for a right- or left-handed shooter. Where possible, hook and loop attachment points are designed to secure a firearm holster to a compartment in contact with the wearer’s back to avoid giving away the bag’s contents. Some models will incorporate outer compartments (for cell phones or other small items) and exterior straps that can be used to mount additional items to the outside of the pack.

Kelty, a leader in top-quality outdoor gear, offers two or three options depending on how you choose to approach the issue. The Versant Sling Bag is a non-tactical option with dual and reversible main sling attachment points for left or right shoulder carry and plenty of options for the exterior attachment of items on adjustable straps. They also offer a similar item that’s tailor-made for the concealed weapon carrier that includes a dedicated Velcro pocket close to the back for a holstered firearm. This version is offered in left or right shoulder geometries that correspond to the user’s chosen draw position and offers slightly less storage space than the Versant but retains the generic and non-military style you’d expect in civilian camping/travel gear. Because these are right- or left-handed by design, they only allow access from one side of the pack, but the Versant is more flexible in that it’s accessible from either side while lacking the hook and loop attachment option.

TRU-SPEC and Tactical Tailor both offer quality options for the sling bag consumer. Both offer specialized Velcro-equipped compartments for firearms and magazines with additional compartments for other essential items. While slightly larger than the other offerings, both of these items will carry a light load center to the back and do not stand out in a crowd. Because of its larger size and specific geometry, the Tactical Tailor model is marketed through Gemtech, the prominent suppressor manufacturer. The larger size and accessory requirements of a silenced pistol often require additional storage and logistical space—Tactical Tailor rises to the occasion. The TRU-SPEC offering has a more “tactical” outward appearance but is also more affordable and available in more color options.

The Blackhawk Diversion Carry Sling Pack is similar to the Kelty offerings and has ample space for the daily carry of the most prepared hand-gunner. The dual-access zipper and sling arrangements, as well as interior Velcro compartment, offer the best of both worlds—left or right access with the capacity to mount a carry system securely to the interior. The smaller front-face zipper compartments and small exterior mesh pockets make this a versatile and affordable option without sacrificing its discreet style. This particular model is competitively priced and virtually indistinguishable to the casual observer from other comparable models.

The selection of sling bags covered here is just a sampling of what’s available. Specific styles may come and go, but the intrinsic advantage of a medium-sized carry option for a larger, service-size pistol and associated accessories will not fade. Users can choose to carry their favorite small sidearm and all the other goodies they need to get through their day.

Alternatively, they can avoid compromising and carry a competition, duty service or “bump-in-the-night” pistol complete with a weapon-mounted light and all the magazines they could ever need. These virtues, when coupled with the discretion and anonymity of a non-tactical-looking carry solution, will justify the current models and future options in the marketplace for years to come.

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V21N7 (September 2017)
and was posted online on July 21, 2017


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