That’s What She Said: Letting the Gat out of the Bag

| August 14, 2015 | 13 Comments

Bag carry is one of those topics that everyone will have to agree to disagree on. Without delving into the philosophy of off body carry, I have developed a set of criteria for a concealed carry bag that make me reasonably confident in its use for defensive scenarios.

  • ease of deployment
  • low profile
  • secure holster
  • option to lock
  • reasonable price

I’ve been testing various purpose built and improvised bag carry options for years. I’ve tested them in full day defensive classes and in force-on-force classes. Here is my best recommendation so far.

The Vertx Commuter EDC Sling Bag

I spent a lot of time at the 2015 SHOT Show looking for new bag carry options. The low profile and smaller size of the Vertx sling caught my eye right away. I am 5’2″ and most of the concealed carry backpacks from leading manufacturers are made for larger men, and are military in style.

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The outside of the bag has very few of the usual tactical tells that might call attention to me. I keep a ranger eye patch on the “Hot Pocket” pull, but apart from that and my 5.11 swallow bomber there’s nothing that would have the PTA ladies looking at me sideways (other than my poor taste to carry anything but Coach or Kors…)

Inside the bag is another story.

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The interior pockets are thoughtfully laid out and lined in Velcro or molle webbing. There is space to secure a laptop, and pockets dedicated to holding armor plate. You can slip your arm into a pass-through to hold the armor supplemented bag like a shield.

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The most appealing part of this bag is its ease of draw. It is important to be able to identify the zipper pull you need without having to look at them. The Vertx bag solves this with an unmistakeable and easy to grasp pull. While nothing is faster than on-body carry to draw from, I think this bag is a solid second choice.

The mechanics of drawing from this bag are as close to my preferred on-body mode of carry as I’ve been able to find. Grasping the pull is a similar motion to lifting my cover garment, and as I would naturally place my weak hand on my upper body, I do the same on the edge of the bag. Because of the versatility of the Velcro lining, I am able to place the holster where it is most natural for my hand to draw and meet my weak hand before moving on target.

The sling style keeps both of my hands free to control the firearm without having to deal with shoulder straps or the bag itself dangling from the crook of my arm. My extra magazines are right where I need them. I have my pistol and magazine in a custom kydex holster. The holster holds the pistol slightly away from the interior of the bag. This makes obtaining my master grip natural and without obstruction. I did test several holster options, but that is a post for another day.

I ran this bag exclusively through 16 hours of live fire defensive training which included vehicles and lots of movement. I found that at distance it performed extremely well. I ran into problems when I had to bail out of a car under fire. It was difficult to handle the pistol, open the door, grab the bag, put it on, and return fire. If I ditched the bag I left my extra mags as well. These issues can easily be worked through with some blue gun practice.

The Vertx EDC Commuter sling is my every day bag. It is sized for an array of body types, well made, and low-profile. Because it is purpose-built, it is fast and easy to deploy in most defensive situations. I encourage you to give it a try.

About the Author:

The She-Shepherd The She-Shepherd is a defensive firearms student, mother and advocate for pushing the boundaries of how we train. She believes that defensive training must balance context, mindset, and skill to be most effective. Her specialty has become testing alternative modes of firearms carry and best practices of less than lethal force options through rigorous force-on-force scenario based training.
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13 Comments on "That’s What She Said: Letting the Gat out of the Bag"

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  1. David says:

    So, first of all, the blog title is the bestest.

    But, more seriously, I clocked the fast draw time at about five seconds. What are your thoughts on that? How does that affect use of the bag and weapon?

    I also noticed that it basically requires two hands – what happens if you’re going one-handed for whatever reason? (I feel like, with kids in the mix, not having both hands might be a realistic scenario.)

    Still, loved the article and video?

    • David says:

      That should be “Still, loved the article and video!”

      • The She-Shepherd The She-Shepherd says:

        Hahah!I’ve been more amused by that title than I should have been.

        The “fast” time in the video is still slowed down for demonstration. I clocked my fastest time at around 3 seconds. However, I’ll never contend that bag draw will best on body draw for speed. I do think that this particular bag is the far more efficient than your typical purse carry.

        Use of both hands, particularly with kids is an excellent point and one that the video snippet does not illustrate well.

        I’m thinking about making another series showing different draw techniques while moving, as well as addressing reloads and off-hand draw. If you think of more suggestions I’d love to test them.

        I can see that from the snippet it might look like I need both hands to open the bag and deploy the pistol. I do place my weak hand on my chest when drawing from my on body holster, and when drawing from the bag it naturally goes to the corner of the bag as a matter of habit. This placement keeps the off hand anchored and out of the way of the muzzle until my strong hand rises to meet it. My instructors teach this because often students will sweep the off hand under stressful drills when they hurry their draw.

        After the pistol is cleared of the bag I have the use of both hands to either shoot or shepherd without needing to manage the bag itself. The sling style keeps the bag firmly in place unlike a cross body strap or handles that slide onto your arm which are typical of most women’s concealed carry handbags.

        Thank you so much for reading, please keep the suggestions coming!

        • David says:

          Awesome response – thank you! I felt like I was being overly nit-picky as soon as I hit submit, so thanks for bearing with me.

          I know off body carry has fallen out of favor, but I definitely think more exploration of efficient draw methods would make for a good article. 🙂

  2. kyliewyotie says:

    Thanks for the article, great title.

    My wife was looking over my shoulder when I was reading the article, and got very interested. So we just purchased her an EDC sling bag. Thanks for the inspiration.

  3. Axman says:

    Greetings, She-Shepherd —

    I’ve been looking for a sufficiently useful, low-profile bag for off-body carry for YEARS. This is by far the most thoughtful and detailed review I’ve ever seen on the subject.

    All my thumbs are up. Many thanks!

  4. Brian says:

    Will this bag work for a Mini Draco SBR with a side folder?

    • Short Barrel Shepherd Short Barrel Shepherd says:

      We tried it, and any AK- or AR15-pattern firearm was too long and too wide to easily deploy from the covert part of the bag. Depending on the muzzle attachment you installed you may be able to fit this in the primary compartment of the Vertx Commuter, but I would recommend a different bag for larger-framed firearms.

      The MAC10 (MPA 930SST) fits very well in the covert compartment, however.

  5. Hawkeye says:

    Hi, Shepherds, something caught my eye in this article. In the criteria list, “option to lock” really got my attention, but I don’t see that addressed anywhere in the review. Is this just me being blind?

    Additionally, Amazon lists the bag’s longest dimension as 20 inches. A Serbu Super Shorty measures 16.5 inches (according to the intertubes). How do you think deployment of a closer-range scatter-gat would work in this bag?

    • The She-Shepherd The She-Shepherd says:

      Hey there!

      You are not blind and you bring up an excellent point.

      What I didn’t mention in this review was my frustration with bag manufacturers for purposely leaving the owner no way to lock the bag if they chose to.

      This is apparently a point of contention in the gun purse industry. Makers worry that if the bag is locked, the owner won’t be able to get to the weapon in time. While I understand their concern, I think there is value in leaving that decision up to the owner of the bag.

      The Vertx bag does not have zippers with integrated locks, or even especially beefy zippers. But it does have the kind of two-way zipper that can be locked with a small padlock at your discretion. I only lock my bag when I visit friends who have small children, rather than locking it in my car. In that environment, I don’t need to worry about maintaining control of my bag like I might in a public space, but I do want to take an extra step to ensure that my friend is comfortable with my bag in their home and around their curious kids.

      I also see value in locking the bag while you are driving with small kids. Most moms ( and dads) drive with their bag on the seat next to them, or on the center console. When your full attention is focused on driving, you leave your bag unattended.

      Maybe my kids were an exception, but sometimes even when I told them to stay out of my purse, their need to assert their independence overrode my authority, and they went for the bag anyway.

      Giving parents the option to use a lock just makes more sense to me.

      Regarding your “Scatter Gat” question, I have carried a MasterPiece Arms MPA-930SST in that bag. Because the zipper on that compartment opens without obstruction it is fairly easy to deploy the rifle with practice. However, there is no way to stabilize the rifle, or cover the trigger guard. I’d love to develop a small rifle “holster” that would mount to the side of the bag and hold the rifle in place while covering that trigger.

      I hope this very windy reply answered your excellent questions! Thank you so much for reading. 🙂

      • Hawkeye says:

        Now you just flatter me.

        Idea for the “holster” for your rifle in the bag:

        Ingredients include three pieces of Kydex, an oven of some kind to heat the Kydex, a sturdy pair of scissors, some sandpaper, a short length (under 2 feet) of parachute cord, a small Kydex book press (with clamps or just standing it), and the type of Velcro that works with the TactiGami lining with an adhesive back. Also a little bit of PVC cement and a drill with a 3/16″ bit or larger.

        Steps:

        1) Heat two pieces of Kydex (approximately 4 or 5 inches square) in the oven until both pieces are at least 260 degrees but no more than 350 degrees.
        2) Remove one piece of Kydex (caution: hot) and place it textured side down on the bottom of the press.
        3) Lay your rifle on the Kydex so the bottom of your trigger guard is just under and right of center.
        4) Remove the next piece of Kydex (caution: hot) and place it textured side up on the rifle, trying to place it as evenly as possible.
        5) Add the top of the press and clamp/stand on it for at least 10 minutes.
        6) Open the press and remove your concoction.
        7) Separate the two pieces of Kydex and, using the rifle, glue them back together in place using the PVC cement.
        8) After it dries, use the scissors to trim it to shape and the sandpaper to take off the rough edges.
        9) Drill a hole in the new creation for one end of the paracord and a corresponding hole on the third piece of Kydex.
        10) Tie the ends of the paracord to the pieces of Kydex.
        11) Attach the Velcro to the back of the third piece.
        12) Stick the Velcro-backed Kydex to the inside of the compartment.

        When you pull your rifle, the paracord should pull taut and yank that trigger guard cover right off. I’d make one for you, but I don’t have one of them fancy guns.

        Oh. Almost forgot step 13. Send me one of those Commuter bags for having the idea!

  6. The11B_youcantsee says:

    Great pack. Did some parkour movements while wearing the pack. Kept all gear stable and in place. The only thing I found was that moving with a pack versus moving without is that some movements are hindered. Besides that, it’s:

    1) low vis
    2) sturdy

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