Using a laptop sleeve to avoid printing

One of the strongest advantages of a purpose-built bag is that they are made of heavy, durable materials and have a lot of padding inside. These attributes protect your firearm and accessories inside, but also serve to break up the outline of your gear. There’s a famous picture on the Internet of a woman carrying an innocuous, black leather purse — with a clear imprint of a revolver inside.

In most cases, a “common” bag such as a laptop bag, backpack or even purse can help you stay off the radar by blending into your environment. However, they can also betray you, as they may not be built to support the weight or shape of a gun.

One thing I do to protect my common bags plus guard against printing is put my SBR / PDW in a laptop sleeve.

A laptop sleeve is not going to render your firearm completely invisible. There’s too much weight at one, maybe two points in order to do so. But it can disrupt the outline enough to avoid attention.


If you know what you’re looking at and looking for you can see the barrel of my SBR AK47 in this bag. But to most observers (seventeen months and counting) you can pass unnoticed.

There isn’t one brand I recommend over the other, but here are some attributes you should look for in a laptop sleeve:

  • You need to buy a padded sleeve. You don’t want a thin neoprene one (although a padded neoprene sleeve would be fine).
  • If you plan on carrying your firearm vertically (up-and-down) inside of a backpack, skate pack, etc you’re going to want a sleeve with a top opening. If you plan on carrying your firearm in a laptop bag, messenger bag, racquet bag, or similar you will want a sleeve with a side (long-edge) opening.
  • Get the longest / biggest one you can find. Most of the time this means a 17” laptop sleeve.
  • If possible, find a laptop sleeve with a rubberized, “grippy” exterior. This will help keep the sleeve inside of the bag when you draw.

You probably aren’t going to be able to fit your entire firearm into the sleeve. Neither my Mini Draco-based AK47 SBR or my .300 Blackout AR pistol will completely fit in a sleeve, and they are 17.5” and 17” folded, respectively. Everything else I own (except for the KPOS, which I don’t carry) is longer than that.


The goal here isn’t to completely house the firearm in the sleeve; it’s to provide padding for the barrel and break up / reduce the printing of things like a charging handle or grip.

I also recommend getting the least expensive sleeve that will fit your needs. Laptop sleeves may be durable, but they aren’t built to deal with the specific stresses a heavy firearm will put on the padding and the materials. Expect the sleeve to wear on the front sight, gas block, grip, hinge, charging handle, whatever over time.

Aside from trying to get a grippy / textured exterior, the outside of the sleeve doesn’t really matter. I purchased a dark-colored sleeve (very dark navy blue) so that the rest of my firearm would blend in if someone shot a quick glance at my bag while I was working with it. If you select a brightly colored sleeve it might be easier to see a dark grip, folded stock, or sling flopping out of the sleeve.

There are other ways to craft a reinforced bottom for your bag, such as modifying a flexible, thin cutting board, or cardboard, or foam, but the laptop sleeve is an easily obtained item that requires no fitting or modification.

I’ll post a video about using a laptop sleeve soon — I shot and edited the entire video before I realized most of the bottom of the bag was out of frame. :\


About the Author:

Short Barrel Shepherd Short Barrel Shepherd is a regular guy and works to make Web sites and mobile apps easier for people to use. He spends his free time attending fight-focused firearm, knife, and combatives training, motorcycling, writing, and playing games. His daily carry is a Glock 19 pistol and an AR15 .300 Blackout pistol in a backpack.

1 Comment on "Using a laptop sleeve to avoid printing"

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  1. B R KURTZ B R KURTZ says:

    GREAT Idea! Ive used a cardboard box inside a pack before as a “cover” shape; but it wears out fast. Adding a shipping tape works as additional strengthening and to distract if the open bag is seen BUT even with the tape the box still wears out. The good thing is your government supplies the boxes free of charge at the local Post Office….

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