Carrying Guns in Backpacks: Is This a Good Idea?

As people look for ways to keep a gun close by for protection, carrying a gun in a backpack is now trending. Companies are producing backpacks and sling bags with hidden gun compartments. Some even include an area for ballistic panels to slide into the bag. There was a time when I would say never carry a gun that isn’t on your body. But times change, and now I find myself often using a backpack for carrying and concealing a firearm. You may be wondering if a backpack is a good choice for you.

Backpacks for every ocasion.
There are lots of options when it comes to backpacks. [Photo: Jason Mosher]
If so, what bag should you use? Is there a benefit to a sling bag over a traditional backpack? For me, a bag is just another tool to help me achieve my goal. Carrying a .380 micro pistol is not my first choice, but sometimes it’s my only choice. A backpack often provides that other choice when nothing else is possible. It may not be as ideal as a gun on your side, but it’s better than no gun, isn’t it? When, how, what gun, and what pack are all a matter of preference. But making that choice starts with ideas and discussion. Planning, training, and execution come next.

When to Use a Backpack for CCW

For me, a backpack is another tool I can use to help keep a gun within reach. As I mentioned, I prefer a weapon to be on my body with a good holster. That keeps it from getting lost, dropped, or stolen and is quicker to access. However, there are times when even the smallest micro-sized gun will not work for CCW. Going to the gym is one example of this. Besides the difficulties of workout clothes, wearing a gun while you work out sounds like a disaster waiting to happen.

Everyday backpack for emergencies.
An everyday carry bag can be in a variety of sizes and carry random things you need for different trips. [Photo: Jason Mosher]
This is one instance where I use a small sling bag. Going to the lake for a swim or other recreational activities can make carrying a gun more difficult. They make waterproof packs that allow you to keep your gun, phone, and other items close by when spending the day at the lake. Another reason I use a backpack occasionally is when I’m carrying a larger gun. If you are traveling in a high-crime area, why not increase your ability to defend yourself?

A compact pocket gun is easy to carry but not ideal in a gunfight. I often use a backpack as an addition to a small handgun on my side. An AR-15 with a folding or removable stock or some type of PCC works great. A larger gun in a backpack is not nearly as accessible as a gun on your side, but at least you have the option. I’ve been through places where even stopping at a stop sign felt risky. In these cases, I opened my bag and had my larger weapon ready to deploy if needed.

Size and Style of Backpack

When you start looking at sling bags and backpacks, it’s no different than picking out a gun. There are so many you become tempted; just close your eyes, spin in circles, and pick one. I would start by deciding what size of bag you need and then selecting the size and configuration. If you only need to carry a small handgun and a few other items like a cell phone, wallet, etc. I would recommend a small sling bag. Larger bags are not as comfortable to wear, but a sling bag is much quicker to pull around and access a handgun.

Backpacks can be a good way to carry firearms
Backpacks are great for carrying and concealing larger firearms for self-defense. [Photo: Jason Mosher]
If you need to carry a larger gun and other gear, a traditional backpack is recommended. The support of two straps and even a belly strap makes it much easier to carry around. I have several sizes of backpacks I use depending on what I need to carry that day. My larger packs are for AR and sub-gun-size weapons. What I would call “normal” size backpacks are used for carrying a handgun, laptop, water, and other items.

Some of my favorite brands include Vertx, Viktos, US PeaceKeeper, GPS Outdoors, and 5.11. Not all, but some of these bags will come with a soft holster made to Velcro to the inside of the CCW compartment. Normally, the CCW compartment is near the back of the bag, so you can just pull down the zipper and grab the gun.

What are the disadvantages of backpack carry?

I’ve already mentioned some of the biggest concerns people have about carrying a firearm in a backpack. That is, keeping it on you. A backpack isn’t as easy to keep on you all the time as a firearm is. Setting it down could lead to some major problems, such as someone getting ahold of it. Besides thieves, you must also worry about children becoming curious and trying to unzip the pockets. If you can always keep the backpack on, this isn’t an issue. But when you sit down to eat, get in the car, etc., people tend to take them off.

CCW backpack.
Carrying a gun in a bag requires extra attention to where you set the bag when taking it off. [Photo: Jason Mosher]
Other than the gun not being on you all the time, it takes longer to access. I mentioned a sling bag is easier to pull around and draw from, but a backpack can be more difficult. Finding one made for carrying a weapon is essential because the pocket will be more accessible. Most backpacks made for CCW are meant to be pulled around to your side or front while you access the CCW compartment. Having a lot of other items in the bag can make it hard to maneuver.

Ready to find a bag?

Everyone has their preference for carrying a gun. I don’t use a bag all the time, but I still use them. If a mall sling bag or larger backpack works best for you, then use it. It’s important to select a quality bag if you’re going to carry a gun in it. Think about what else you plan to carry in the bag and how you will keep it secure when it’s not on you. And don’t forget training. Just like we do with our EDC holsters, make sure to train with your backpack. Don’t wait until an incident takes place to try and draw your gun from a bag for the first time.

Sheriff Jason Mosher is a law enforcement generalist instructor as well as a firearms and tactical weapons trainer. Jason graduated from the FBI-LEEDA (Law Enforcement Executive Development Association) and serves as a Sheriff for his day job. When he’s not working, he’s on the range, eating steak, or watching Yellowstone.

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