Carrying a gun is not the most comfortable activity in the world. Having a pound or two of gun on one hip and a pound of ammo on the other can wear you down. It pokes your ribs. It weighs your pants down. It sticks to you in the heat. You sweat into it and have to clean it after every outing. Cleaning a dirty gun is no fun. Cleaning a clean gun is worse.
But this is the price we pay for the decision to protect ourselves and our families.
Carrying off-body requires practice and confidence. A sling bag is a great option for removing stress and strain from your belt line.
Practice comes with… well practice. Hours in the home (dryfire) and hours at the range will make a sling bag draw as smooth as an OWB or IWB holster presentation.
Confidence starts with practice. Secondly, it comes with quality equipment. I’ll be honest I have a few holsters that never made it into my carry rotation simply because I don’t trust their quality.
Some of the best sling bags for concealed carry or EDC are made by Maxpedition, 5.11, VERTX, Condor, and others. However, there are a lot of other viable options out there as well. Features to look for include materials, volume/size, accessibility, comfort, and organizational options.
Properly selected, outfitted, and practiced a sling bag makes an excellent carry option. One for your primary firearm or even for a backup with extra ammo. Let’s look at a few options on the market.
Why a Sling Bag for Concealed Carry?
A sling bag is a little more specialized than your normal messenger bag or backpack. First, it only has one strap. The advantages of this will become apparent in a little bit. Second, they tend to be smaller and therefore carry less gear. As you will use this bag for carrying your firearm, you don’t want it loaded down. Your bug out bag (BOB) has a different purpose. Keep the two separate.
Since sling bags only have one strap, that shoulder supports the entire load. You will want this bag light. Pack it like your BOB and you’ll regret it quickly.
The single strap is also the source of its speed. With the dual straps of a regular backpack, you end up in one of two scenarios. In the first, you have shouldered both straps and you need to drop one (or both) to access your gun. In the second, you have one strap, usually over your strong shoulder and you have to drop the bag to access your gun.
With a sling bag, you simply rotate the bag around your body and bring it to bear over your chest. As there is one strap and it’s already in position. You need only pull the base of the bag around to get it into position.
Keeping it Light, What to Pack?
As stated above you must pay attention to weight with a sling bag. Consequently, you need to be picky about most items that you carry. Remember, the purpose of this bag is rapid access to a firearm and extra ammo. Keep this as the primary purpose at all times. Carrying your “stuff” is purely secondary!
Content item number one is your firearm. Make it one that you are familiar with and skilled with. Carrying is not the place for an untested gun. Use it and know your limitations with it. Since it will be in a bag, and most are well padded, you have the luxury of carrying a larger frame model if you so choose.
I usually carry a compact Glock 26 or a Sig Sauer P239. My bag gets a larger framed Glock 19. No worry about printing with the bag. A Glock 26 and 19 is my preferred combination. Two guns, one set of magazines.
Next, you need to secure your firearm. Like pocket carry, you still need a holster. Some bags come with a universal holster. For other bags, you’ll need to get more creative. There are a few holsters on the market specifically made to attach to Velcro panels.
Check to see that the holster is secure and covers the trigger. Give it the shake, run, and bounce test. You don’t want it to come loose. Fishing around in your bag is neither safe nor quick. It needs to stay in place under all reasonable conditions.
Along with making holes you need to have the ability to patch holes. The best way to do this is with a trauma kit. Make your own or buy a well-respected brand. Doesn’t matter, just have one and know how to use it. Make sure you train with a quality/vetted instructor.
- Tourniquet – Pack two, they’re small and may be times when one does not do the job.
- Compression Dressing – Israeli Battle Dressing or other similar models, those with hemostatic agents (e.g. QuikClot) stop bleeding fast.
- Chest Seal – HyFin or Halo are superior brands, I know you can improvise one with a plastic wrapping from a dressing, but will the person applying it to you know that.
- Trauma Shears – Quick and safe way to get to a bleed, besides your knife probably won’t be sharp when you need it.
There are many other things you can add. Don’t go overboard. This isn’t a boo-boo kit. It’s for stopping the bleed when seconds count. If you do include a first aid kit, bury it deeper in the pack so it doesn’t get in the way when the seconds are ticking away.
Next is spare ammo. You have an entire bag to fill. Might as well prepare for an extended firefight, but don’t go overboard. Three to six magazines should be more than enough to get you through even the worst events and the reality is that you will probably never perform a reload.
Secure the magazines as you would your firearm. No use fishing around for mags at the bottom of the bag.
Once you have gotten past these critical items you are good to go. Anything else is just window dressing. I keep a small note pad, pencils, sharpies, a list of important numbers, and a spare cell phone battery in the admin pouch of my bag. The next larger compartment gets paracord, an SOL thermal blanket, and a bottle of over the counter medications.
This compartment is also where I store a minimal first aid kit. The main compartment is home to a few maps, a small HAM handi-talkie, and fits a small laptop (rarely carried anymore). The final compartment is dedicated to the gun and ammo.
Okay, now that’s out of the way, let’s look at some sling bag options.
What Are The Best Concealed Carry Sling Bags?
Maxpedition makes some great packs. Their selection ranges from admin pouches to multi-day packs. Everyone is made with quality in mind.
The Sitka Gearslinger is no exception in the quality and ingenuity department. The exterior does scream military. That look is prevalent enough these days that it’s not a huge concern in most environments, but not all. This is situation-dependent though. Choose your bag for the environment.
There are three sizes in the Gearslinger family. From the diminutive Noatak (8 liters) to the Sitka (15 liters) up to the Kodiak (22.6 liters). One is sure to fit your frame and your needs.
Made from 1000-Denier ballistic nylon it is water-resistant and has multiple compression and molle straps. The result is a quality exterior that you can accessorize if needed. For example, if you need to make it home when things have gone sideways. Move molle compatible mag pouches from inside the bag to the outside. A water bottle pocket on the side is sized to fit a 32oz Nalgene bottle or smaller.
The shoulder strap is well-padded and all zippers are high quality. Externally there are two compartments, one admin sized (7.5”x4”) and one larger (7.5” x 8”). The main compartment is a cavernous 8”x15”x3”. The concealment compartment is between the main and the back panel. Rapid access is via a YKK zipper and had a complete hook and loop Velcro panel for attaching your firearm and magazines.
The shoulder strap has a large buckle allowing for quick mounting of the bag and even faster removal.
Full disclosure. I’ve owned the Sitka for about 10 years. I’ve taken it around town, to work, and around the world. I’d still carry it daily however in recent years I’ve taken to a gray look as my international travel has greatly increased.
Even with all the use and abuse, it looks as good as the day I purchased it. The only sign of wear is in the zipper. The corner where my laptop (too big of a laptop) presses on the zipper is worn. Other than that, it shows no signs of the miles on it. These days I’d be more apt to replace the laptop with a body armor panel. This would let me swing the bag in front of me and have a little extra protection.
I have carried two different Glocks and a Sig in the back pouch. Thankfully I have never had to use them. I’ve logged enough hours practicing that I’m comfortable I’d be able to gain access with little trouble under stress.
As I have moved to other options, the Sitka currently resides in my car as an extension to my EDC. The strap is a perfect fit for over the driver’s seat. It hangs over the back of the seat and is retrieved with a quick pull over the headrest. During the next AR500 50% off sale, I plan to purchase an extra III+ panel for the main compartment. Then the Maxpedition Sitka Gearslinger will have a bit more grab-and-go protection.
Similar in look and feel to the Sitka is the 5.11 MOAB 10. This bag comes with 18 liters of capacity and has a military look and feel.
Made from 1050-Denier nylon it is also water-resistant with ample molle straps for accessories. The MOAB includes several smaller pouches for first-aid, cell phones, and a fleece-lined sunglasses pocket.
The MOAB has two main compartments. One on the front of the bag (12.5” x 8”) for smaller items and the main compartment (18” x 9” x 7.25”). A compartment along the back panel holds a hydration bladder. There is no external water bottle pouch, although one can be added via the molle straps.
The innovation in this bag lies in the concealment pocket. Between the front compartment and the main, a Velcro closure conceals the carry pocket yet allows quick access. Of all the bags in this article, this access method is the fastest.
The Vertx Commuter Sling 2.0 looks as non-military as you can get. This “grey” bag comes in 7 colors. One is bound to help you blend into the background as a sheepdog amongst the sheep.
The 500-Denier Cordura fabric withstands even the roughest treatment. Vertx is known for its quality and the Commuter Sling is no exception. The primary comfort feature is the molded back panel. This provides ventilation for the hottest days.
There are two main compartments. One on the front of the bag and a second taking up the bulk of the 23 liters of storage. It is sized to carry a 15” laptop. Finally, the Commuter Sling is hydration system compatible. So, no need for an external water bottle pouch
The concealment compartment is positioned at the back of the pouch and is accessible via a large YKK zipper. The entire compartment is lined with Velcro. This allows you to position your holster and magazine pouches exactly where you need them.
The 500-Denier Cordura Mil-Spec fabric comes in black and grey keeping attention away from you. The back-panel mesh encourages ample cooling airflow. The Sector Sling Pack also includes a removable waist strap.
There are two small compartments in front of the main storage section. These are layered one on top of each other with the inner pouch lined with Velcro.
The innovations start with the main compartment. Sized for a laptop, it also fits am 11” x 14” ballistic panel. A molle panel can also be purchased to add to your organization options.
The innermost pocket is for firearm concealment. It can be accessed either through the side OR the top. Both points are secured with YKK zippers. The dual access points provide unrivaled flexibility and mounting options for your firearm and accessories.
The final innovative feature is a hidden rifle sing attachment integrated into the shoulder strap. Rotate the bag to the front and you have ballistic protection and a rifle mount!
How to Use a Concealed Carry Sling Bag?
Accessing a firearm with a sling bag is quick and easy. All things you want in a stressful situation!
Most bags quickly rotate to your chest with a pull on the strap. Grab firmly and yank across your body. The action will become as natural as clearing your concealment garment on a normal draw.
Now practice with your bag! Each bag will have nuances that you need to learn. Learn them in a controlled scenario, under stress, and with great variability. Can you draw your firearm while hugging a wall? Can you draw it after hitting the deck? How about winter gloves? Try them all. Then try them with stress.
Next, get used to wearing it. With any new accessory, wear it around the house. For days! There isn’t much I do in the real world that I don’t do around the house. As you become comfortable with it you will fidget less and check it less. All are giveaways that you aren’t comfortable in your situation. Uncomfortable people garner attention. You don’t want that.
Oh, and never leave the bag behind! It must become a part of you. Never let it out of reach. Never!
Have a gun. If it isn’t on your hip then have it on your shoulder. Ok, I wrote that before, but it still stands as true as ever. We have all left the house without a gun because it was too hot, too uncomfortable, or just too inconvenient at the time.
We all have a box of holsters that just didn’t cut it for one reason or another. Didn’t fit. Poor retention. Rode too high or low. With a sling bag, these excuses disappear into the ether. Comfortably placed on your shoulder, you can happily include your largest carry firearm in every trip to town! It’s like winter in summer. How great is that!
Give a sling bag a try. Are they perfect? No. But then again neither are regular backpacks. Oh, neither are OWB or IWB holsters. Everything in carrying a firearm is a tradeoff. Pick up a sling bag and take it for a spin around the house. Then the range. And finally, take it into town. You may find it is an easier way to be always armed, or even more armed.