Camping & Survival

The ‘Grab and Go’ Emergency Gun Bag

Two SIG Sauer pistols with a 20-round magazine on top of a Alps Outdoorz Extreme backpack

I recently went through my ASAP bag and took stock of the gear, replaced perishable stores, and made some weight-saving changes. Shaving off a few ounces here and there is important. I also thought of a specific bug-out bag for firearms. After all, the emergency supply bag is crowded enough with a bivy sack or two, hatchet, flare gun, a couple of knives and multi-tools, QuikClot, sealed water, and the rest.

The essentials of hygiene and health are important. Most emergencies are natural — a flood, tornado, hurricane, or fire. You will have some warning. I don’t expect a civil uprising or gang invasion, and I am certain we won’t see Zombies or aliens. (Although, zombies are at least based on the real-life plague.)

Alps Outdoorz Extreme gray backpack
The gun bag should have plenty of pockets separating guns and ammo and offer wide comfortable carrying straps.

A firearm is a handy thing to have, providing you know how to use it. So, obtaining a gun bag and memorizing the contents of each pocket is a good idea. Think it through, load up what you need, and leave the rest somewhere else.

Many folks carry handguns that I would never trust my life to. In an emergency, pocket guns are useless. You may dream up a scenario in which they will save the day, but reality demands frontline gear. A firearm with enough accuracy and penetration to serve in personal defense is important. It must be reliable above all else.

Weapons selection is important. I would rather be lithe and fast, and have a .22, than terribly out of shape and well-armed. Just the same, well-trained, function, and to be reasonably well-armed is a good goal. If you intend on living off the land, it won’t be viable unless you have actually — at some point — taken game with that firearm. However, that is another concern. I will be discussing hardware today.

Filling the Emergency Bag

Every piece in the emergency bag has a purpose. As an example, I don’t want to be the old dude who slides down a ravine and is found two years later. So, I keep a signal gun in the ASAP bag just in case. When it comes to the gun bag, well, it is in addition to the emergency bag which holds the emergency medical stores. This reflects my life experience.

I have endured a few natural emergencies and have been involved in searches during bad weather. Most folks made a critical mistake; some just got caught in an unpredictable situation. On the other hand, some need a gun bag for their job. Folks called to quickly move to a trouble area, high-level security, and peace officers on call need a gun bag. So do we — if must bug out due to weather.

Alps Outdoorz Extreme backpack internal pockets
The bag should be compartmentalized; don’t simply drop your gear in a sack!

The humble Alice Pack is one choice. The Alice Pack separates ammunition and fighting supplies from existing supplies — things needed for life and hygiene. I don’t think most of us need this type of gear, but it is certainly an option for long-term use.

The gun bag may also be used as a pillow or a shooting rest in my world. The weight is important, and of course, the young and strong may carry more weight than the rest of us, but there is no good reason to do so.

There have been any number of studies on military men and pack weight. Back problems are common with those who served scout and recon roles carrying enough supplies to sustain long patrols. Just because you can pick it up and throw it over the shoulder, doesn’t mean you will be comfortable carrying the gun for hours and many miles.

Wilson Combat CQB magazine bag
The Wilson Combat CQB may be carried in a Wilson Combat ‘gun rug.’ This rug may be kept ready and dropped into a larger pack.

Most of us carry a handgun as well as a spare gun load in daily life. That is more than adequate for foreseeable personal defense situations. Traveling cross country or taking a long hike is another matter.

The gun bag should be segmented with one area for the handgun and another for ammunition and extras. A handgun, holster or harness, ammunition properly boxed, and spare magazines may be carried.

The modern, high capacity 9mm is relatively light, and the magazines allow carrying a considerable reserve in the gun bag. 9mm ammunition is relatively light as well. On the other hand, dangerous animals are a concern, and a quality .357 Magnum is never a bad idea. A modern version that accepts moon clips is a good option for many.

Lightweight pistols just don’t make it for emergency use.The SIG P229 Elite, above, is a nicely-sized pistol for grab-and-go emergencies.

I would include a minimalist cleaning kit and wipe-down rag, a few simple tools in a kit, and a rugged holster. If you store the handgun in the gun bag, it is a good idea to keep it with the chamber empty. I would choose an extended magazine when available, this simply makes carrying ammunition easier. A 20-round magazine for the SIG or Beretta simply makes sense.

The Alps Outdoorz Ghost 30 is my favorite gun bag. It is designed as a day pack that is capable of concealing a handgun. It does this well, features plenty of pockets, and even a hydration option. This is a backpack that is easily carried, well-padded, and designed from its inception for gun carry.

A bug-out bag may also be suited for vehicle storage. I like MTM products for vehicle storage. With segmented sections for magazines or ammunition, they make a lot of sense.

While the gun bug-out bag is gun specific, I like to drop a QuikClot in the gun bag — just in case. Take time when choosing your gear and obtain a quality bag or pack that suits your needs. Don’t overthink, and don’t go too heavy.

Do you have a grab and go emergency gun bag? What items do you stock in it, and what tips do you have for other readers building out a bag? Share your answers in the comment section.

  • Blue backpack filled with emergency gear
  • Three revolvers with speed loaders
  • Two SIG Sauer pistols with a 20-round magazine on top of a Alps Outdoorz Extreme backpack
  • Alps Outdoorz Extreme backpack internal pockets
  • Alps Outdoorz Extreme gray backpack
  • Wilson Combat CQB magazine bag

About the Author:

Bob Campbell

Bob Campbell’s primary qualification is a lifelong love of firearms, writing, and scholarship. He holds a degree in Criminal Justice but is an autodidact in matters important to his readers. Campbell considers unarmed skills the first line of defense and the handgun the last resort. (He gets it honest- his uncle Jerry Campbell is in the Boxer’s Hall of Fame.)

Campbell has authored well over 6,000 articles columns and reviews and fourteen books for major publishers including Gun Digest, Skyhorse and Paladin Press. Campbell served as a peace officer and security professional and has made hundreds of arrests and been injured on the job more than once.

He has written curriculum on the university level, served as a lead missionary, and is desperately in love with Joyce. He is training his grandchildren not to be snowflakes. At an age when many are thinking of retirement, Bob is working a 60-hour week and awaits being taken up in a whirlwind many years in the future.

Published in
Black Belt Magazine
Combat Handguns
Rifle Magazine
Gun Digest
Gun World
Tactical World
SWAT Magazine
American Gunsmith
Gun Tests Magazine
Women and Guns
The Journal Voice of American Law Enforcement
Police Magazine
Law Enforcement Technology
The Firearms Instructor
Tactical World
Concealed Carry Magazine
Concealed Carry Handguns

Books published

Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry
The 1911 Automatic Pistol
The Handgun in Personal Defense
The Illustrated Guide to Handgun Skills
The Hunter and the Hunted
The Gun Digest Book of Personal Defense
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911 second edition
Dealing with the Great Ammunition Shortage
Commando Gunsmithing
The Ultimate Book of Gunfighting
Preppers Guide to Rifles
Preppers Guide to Shotguns
The Accurate Handgun
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