Curious about alternate carry methods and strategies for regular people? Look no further than the concealed carry fanny pack.
Recent years have seen a massive influx of people exercising their right to carry. Not only is the market growing exponentially, it has also spawned some interesting and creative means to make sure you have your gun at the ready. This has consequently spawned many schools of thought regarding just how to carry and what readiness is, and what self-defense looks like.
The Training Echo Chamber
I’ve studied up on many philosophies regarding guns, defense and situational preparedness. What I can say is that, despite the adamant assurances of a slew of popular authorities, there remains no one way to be 100 percent equipped for 100 percent of situations. You just never really know what will happen.
As you read these words, where is your nearest firearm? Can you get to it in the time it takes you to finish reading this sentence? What about the end of this paragraph? Is it loaded? In a drawer or in your belt? Are you in public or at home? I can go on, but I think you get the picture. The feasibility of having a loaded gun ready to draw isn’t a guarantee, and in most cases, it’s best to just have a plan of escape.
I’m sure plenty of you are armed around the clock, but everyone has to sleep at some point. Vulnerability is just part of the human condition. What we see in the training community is what I’d largely call playing make-believe. Classes I’ve attended want outside-the-waistband holsters, mag carriers and sometimes even plates and rifles … for a home defense course. Once, I was at an event and the instructor flat-out said he kept night vision goggles in his drawer and a carbine next to the bed—a statement that has become my favorite example of this type of thinking.
I fail to see how this is realistic or relevant, as I seriously doubt he has the main power beaker to his home in the nightstand as well. I’m at a loss as to how he expected to clean house when the power was still on. Moreover, what would happen if a bad guy simply flipped on the lights and washed his NVDs out? There’s such thing as being over prepared to the point of absurdity, and much of this has to do with how people perceive readiness and threat level. Some of the tactical guys I know, while honest and well meaning, are simply unaware of how the average gun owner perceives this level of prep.
Much of the breakdown in carry methods comes down to the fact that there’s a large rift between people who carry reluctantly and those who carry enthusiastically. I’m a reluctant carrier these days. I often don’t wear a belt on my pants. I prefer to have my guns available to me, but I’m not usually in the mood to carry in a holster, which I find to be uncomfortable and bulky.
There was a quote, I forget what personality said it or if it can even be attributed to one, that went something like “carrying a gun is the comfort, and it may not be comfortable.” I just don’t agree. If a gun is heavy or hurts to carry, people just start leaving them at home to avoid the inconvenience. I’m one of those people. If I can’t carry in comfort, I don’t like to do it.
Yet, there’s a prevailing group of enthusiastic carriers who expect people to carry a gun with dot sight, light, holster, two mags, a backup light and occasionally more lest they be unprepared—that’s often comparable to the weight of, if not heavier than, a full two-gun cowboy rig. I now glaze over when I get asked what “retention system” I’m “running.” I’m not sure one can “run” a pocket holster or a fanny pack, but hey, it’s a brave new world.
You don’t need to be a member of a SEAL team to carry. It’s not an all-or-nothing game, and having a firearm is substantially better than not.
Off-Body Types, Strategies And Awareness
Depending on where I go, I may want extra discretion. This usually means trying to hide the gun in plain sight rather than altering my wardrobe around a holster setup. I rarely, if ever, “kit up” to just go pick up some dinner or hit the hardware store, but I do have a gun on me. It’s usually carried in what I call “near off-body,” meaning in a discreet fashion but still not in a holster directly on my body.
Off-body carry is usually defined as having your firearm in a completely separate bag or pack, usually not directly attached to one’s body. Concealment purses have been common for a very long time now and, for the most part, reached a point of perfection in terms of construction and draw speed. I don’t know a single super tactical trainer who likes them, and none that allow training with them at classes.
This has to do with the fact that these purses are essentially cross-draw setups in that they’re carried under the weak arm and drawn across the body, technically resulting in a sweep of the instructor or rest of the class. This is a valid concern, but I want to see more out there in terms of practice since it’s a common carry method. It’s arguably one of the most popular methods among women, with virtually all armed women I know carrying in a purse at least part-time.
Tactical backpacks that men often carry can easily mark you as the guy with the gun, especially if you cover it in patches denoting your blood type or other obvious meme moral patches. I’d rather carry openly than carry something everyone knows has a gun in it that will be slow to draw.
But how does a person carry their AR pistol if not in a backpack? Easy. Carry it back to your house and leave it there. Generating liabilities for yourself isn’t a particularly wise thing to do, and while you may feel vulnerable in public, I repeat myself by saying that it’s fully possible to be overdoing it.
When I go into public, my favorite method of carry is in a fanny pack. I’m a young father and dress in flexible athletic materials; the fanny pack doesn’t look out of place with a stroller, diaper bag and look of exhaustion. I never wear a Molon Labe shirt or put those awful Punisher stickers on my car. I don’t want to be noticed in public or be seen making a statement or taking a stance; I never want anyone to suspect I’m armed.
The cool guys call this being a “gray man,” but even then, there’s a certain flavor to that sort of individual. I can often tell if I see an off-duty cop or a former high-speed guy, usually due to their mannerisms. A preceptive person is always looking for rip-stop pants and that baggy look common to people trying too hard to blend in as regular Joes. Cop, operator or wannabe, I’m avoiding you immediately if you appear to be armed or give off that vibe. Even if you’re a good guy, I still want nothing to do with you because I don’t want to be noticed.
An important note, as mentioned above with carry purses, is to practice your draw from off-body or near off-body. Knowing how to draw under stress is the most important thing, and I do this regularly at the range. It’s different than from a holster, but if it’s the way you carry 99 percent of the time, you need to master it knowing you won’t be as fast as Doc Holliday.
Speed of draw is really quite irrelevant if you’re not actively being shot at, and even then, you should be focused on getting yourself and loved ones to cover—not trying to play catch up from second place in the surprise quick-draw contest. I certainly think that there’s a time and place for the stand-and-fight mindset, but getting away and actively creating distance between you and an attacker is a substantially better bet. I don’t want to be drawing fire when I have my kids with me; I’m not looking to be a hero and save everyone at the price of risk to my own family.
Best Gear And Concealed Carry Fanny Packs
I’m a huge fan of the fanny pack for near off-body carry. I like it because it’s on my person, and I know which direction the pistol is secured. Gen Z has popularized this accessory again, and they’re now in every store at the mall.
Surprisingly, the generic fanny pack you get at places like Zumiez or Hot Topic are completely functional in this role so long as you find one with a robust zipper. I need to stress the zipper thing here. The zipper is absolutely critical for your draw. I strongly recommend against a fanny pack that screams “tactical” or is covered in webbing, but there’s nothing out of place with a hiking or recreational variety.
The fanny pack I use regularly is the Hill People Gear (HPG) Snubby Belt Pack. This little guy is small enough that it’s almost unnoticeable on the body but roomy enough to fit a Glock 19. If you carry guns like the G19, P365, a 2- to 3-inch 357 or 38, and other small guns, it’s a dream come true. Unlike a carry backpack, this item is always on me but easily removed if I need to and has no risk of being accidentally left on a bench or at a restaurant. Because I’m wearing it, it’s far less likely to be swiped like a purse.
The nice part of the HPG Belt Pack is that it’s available in bright, sporty colors that don’t look tactical. Mine is in a rather basic elk brown, as I intended it to not be a feature item of my wardrobe but rather a part of a somewhat generic look where no particular part of what I’m wearing stands out. I’ve worn this pack for thousands of hours so far, and it has been my most common carry method for 2021.
The main problem with conventional fashion fanny packs is that they’re not as good with smaller guns, such as a little J-frame or P238. These tiny guns just tend to float around in there, and you don’t want that. The HPG product has a dedicated gun pocket with a hook-and-loop backer, allowing for a holster to be added.
Guns like the G19 take up the whole pocket, and I don’t use an internal holster if carrying one that size. The pocket is the rearmost one, so it sits closest to the body and is the most supported. I like this because it keeps the gun tight up against the torso and prevents the pack from sagging forward. There are two other zippered pouches ahead of the gun pouch, allowing for carrying regular items like your phone, wallet, keys and other daily items.
Have Gun, Will Travel
If your gun is too heavy or over accessorized to the point where you stop carrying it, you really should look for a way to make sure you’re armed, even if it’s at the cost of draw speed or looking a bit dorky with a fanny pack. The first rule of a gun fight is to have a gun, and your fully kitted-out pistol does you no good sitting back home in your safe.
Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in the 2022 CCW special issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.
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