I see a lot of fun guns, and fun fads, that are not terribly useful. That’s fine, it keeps the gun economy rolling and pays the bills for my favorite shops. After all, if you admit it, when was the last time those of us over 50 purchased something that we needed?
Guns don’t often need replacing, and fads are most often the province of younger generations. The Bag Gun concept, which has gained traction recently, is among these. The bag gun gives a bigger ‘loadout,’ a term best reserved for combat operations.
The need for a bag gun is low on my list. The Secret Service probably needs this type of gear, and maybe we would have a long gun ready at some events in regular local law enforcement circles. But the primary advantage of any discreet bag is that it shields the contents from prying eyes. This means thieves.
An obvious range bag isn’t very low key. Gun people will spot a lot of the gear. If you have disposable income for range toys, it’s all good. As time goes by, I am enjoying range toys more and more. However, some of us have less disposable income and more problems.
Being prepared sometimes puts us at odds with sections of the public. This includes those too timid to take charge of their own safety. Just the same, a good guy with a gun and a bad guy with a gun may be a little difficult to discern when you cannot see inside their mind. So, low key is always better.
Remember, certain sections of the public (with their thumb on 911) think some of us in the gun culture are crazy. My gun culture is filled with wonderful people, for the most part. The shootings in Chicago are another gun culture — like it or not. Discretion prevents us from being Ruby Ridged… we hope.
Theory of the Bag Gun
The bag gun has many nuances and is pretty gimmicky. Giving young folks slack, the bag gun in many cases is a re-discovered truck gun. I kept a light, handy, long gun in the cruiser. One lesson in being outgunned, but not outshot, was all it took. The problem is that some, if not all, the folks championing the bag gun with the thought that bigger is better. This ignores the basic tenets of personal defense and are on the high end of the Dunning-Kruger scale.
They overrate their ability and underestimate their knowledge. The Dunning-Kruger scale demands self-assessment against actual knowledge and performance. Many shooters are simply unaware that they are unskilled. A lack of police, military, or competetion experience is one problem, as they have no bar to match themselves against. They may have had poor or improper training.
A readiness standard and the standard response drill are not understood. An immediate response is needed in personal defense. Deploying a bag gun, or perhaps a bagged gun, is more appropriate and getting this piece into action in 10–15 seconds isn’t a high state of readiness at all. Nor am I willing to say the 9mm pistol with brace, a short barrel AR pistol, or anything else that fits in that bag is superior to the pistol you may carry concealed — if you have not trained.
If you have trained, the pistol caliber carbine may give you much greater range and hit probability. The bag gun simply doesn’t offer a valid response to an assault. If the bag gun is your sole armament, you will be full of holes before you deploy it.
Some folks like to have a carbine ready in a special purpose gun bag or a gym bag. Convenience and price are concerns. Some bags are highly recognizable. In many jurisdictions, pistols over a certain length are illegal to carry concealed. I live in a state with perhaps the best of all possible carry laws. However, there are limits on the size of handgun carried, and an AR pistol is too large.
There is some precedent to keeping a long gun concealed under clothing, which isn’t what the bag gun is about. Doc Holliday kept a shotgun in a special custom rig under his coat. It was roughly similar to the new breed of short, pump-action Shockwave types. The Secret Service has long deployed a shoulder rig for its full-auto Uzis SMG’s and MP5 variants.
Most of us don’t have the need to stitch up a vehicle or clear a sniper from a rooftop. This is perhaps over the top. Among my circle of family and friends are an Army Major (with significant experience) and many who served as peace officers. None of us feel the need for a bag gun, but we all find the severe limit on response time contraindicated.
Handguns Just Work Better
All of us deploy service grade handguns that are, for the most part, unexceptional. Aside from the fact that the carry of many of the bag guns are illegal in many jurisdictions — and a loaded carbine in a bag is questionable — the practical gain is slim at best. A few decades ago, Jack Lewis and I worked on several editions of the Gun Digest Book of Assault Weapons. Jack was the real thing, a combat marine with extensive experience. He came up with challenging experiments. In one of these, I matched myself against a skilled shooter with an UZI Carbine. The semi-auto UZI featured a 16-inch barrel and folding stock.
The goal was to deploy, fire, and address targets at 5, 7, 10, 15, and 25 yards. My pistol was an Action Works Custom Hi-Power 9mm. The whistle blew and the score was tabulated. Although observers didn’t really find it necessary, the winner was obvious. I was much faster in addressing targets, and the Hi-Power’s accuracy was superior to the UZI semi-automatic carbine. To be fair, we have better shooting carbines than the UZI with its heavy bolt and poor trigger.
I think the gun bag is for transport. If you need to have a long gun at ready, it should be on a sling. I often bring along a long gun when traveling or when camping. Feral dogs, the big cats, and feral humans are the likely threat.
Depending on the likely mission, some long guns might fit in a package that looks as if it would hold a ski pole. A sudden change in the safety variable may be addressed by such a firearm.
Security during transport is important. Many folks steal for a profit and many steal just for the hell of it. A nice bag gun is fine when traveling, but rapid deployment is highly questionable. Remember, there is no safety. No safety at all. There are simply varying levels of risk.
As an example, I was impressed by a video I watched featuring a skilled shooter carrying a bag gun. The firearm was a 9mm pistol of the AR type with AR-type controls, a 33-round magazine, and red dot sight. He knelt, and to his credit, kept his eyes on the threat. The case was zipped open, and the firearm was deployed and aimed toward the threat.
From the time the shooter knelt, to the time on target, was 11 seconds. Every layer of concealment denies access to your weapon. With a handgun, the covering garment is reasonable. The bag gun isn’t reasonable.
The bag gun, (even for LEOs) is for the threat you have some warning of. It is good to have a long gun for deployment in such a situation. I would prefer an AR rifle for reaction to an active shooter.
The rifle must be carried chamber empty over a loaded magazine. I have not seen a bag that protects the trigger and safety actuator from movement. In any case, long guns simply are not as drop safe as modern handguns.
Giving Bag Guns a Shot
An advantage of a bag such as the ASAP bag that often accompanies me on trips is that medical gear and spare magazines may be carried. I keep a hatchet, flare gun, and a myriad of well thought out medical supplies in the bag.
Some bags are long and tall and scream gun. My ASAP bag is purely medical. While it is easy to carry spare magazines, they also represent more time to deploy than those carried on the body. Once the bag is carried with a firearm, you must never lose control of the bag. It is bad enough for a laptop to be stolen, much less a rifle or pistol…
I have experimented with the system and find that the magazines may snag, but a sling is counter indicated for most deployments. A pistol caliber carbine with a sling is likely to snag on deployment and I would avoid most trappings. If you have time to deploy a long gun, of course, you are better armed. However, long guns are better served in area defense and home defense, making the bag best suited for transport.
I am dead set against leaving a firearm in a vehicle, although there are times when it is unavoidable. My opinions come from life experience and drills under controlled circumstance. The bag gun concept is theoretical and recreational for the most part. Be certain your training in tactical response makes that response operational not aspirational. Testing only works if the parameters of inquiry are well defined.
That said, I recently tested the new Smith & Wesson Military & Police folding pistol caliber FPC 9mm. This is, to the best of my knowledge, the first factory supplied ‘bag gun.’ It gives me pause. In time of unrest and traveling across unfamiliar areas, perhaps the concept makes sense. You may carry the bag gun in with the luggage with no one the wiser.
My wife knows my work well, yet she walked into the study, spotted the FPC bag gun, and asked what it was. She was surprised.
I practiced deployment. I am not fast at all and not as fast as possible with a bag gun. A folding carbine, such as the FPC, makes more sense than an AR pistol in many ways. It is much easier to shoot well.
If the FPC is properly strapped into the bag, it takes a while to unstrap it. Once you deploy the firearm, the bag is on the ground and may be lost during an engagement. Smith & Wesson has that covered as the FPC features a butt stock magazine carrier.
I caught the folding mechanism on my shirt once. It takes practice to deploy, and this isn’t something you will learn overnight. However, there is promise. I am working up a full review on the FPC soon. For now, the bag gun is promising, and I’m starting to see a light at the end of the tunnel. The bag gun isn’t going to replace my handgun, but when traveling or the right scenario arrives, this is a promising setup.