Two questions: does it ever make sense to carry a carbine concealed in public? And if so, what’s the best way to do it?
The answer to the first question is “Yes, but only in very limited situations.” Nobody is going to carry a carbine everywhere on their person (some might carry “truck guns,” but that’s different). In day-to-day American life carrying a carbine is clumsy and awkward, and might draw the exact kind of attention you’re trying to avoid. On the other hand, carrying in an elevated threat situation might make sense; if your community was experiencing a rash of DC Sniper-style attacks, might you consider stowing a carbine in your backpack just in case? And if you did, is it more likely you’d be in the right place at the right time to fight back against the sniper, or that you’d be mistaken for the sniper? There’s a downside to carrying a concealed carbine in that situation, but reasonable people might still decide it’s worth the risk.
Now, let’s say you’re a cop assigned to work security at a large public event with no security perimeter, like a parade. In this world of a dying ISIS but many living wannabe jihadists plus assorted other terrorist losers, a concealed carbine on a cop’s back makes nothing but sense. Blending into the crowd with a hidden carbine could be highly valuable if someone decides to attempt a shooting or stabbing spree. Plainclothes officers with inconspicuous carbine backpacks, plus means of quick police identification, working among uniformed officers who are aware of their presence, are a fantastic way to enhance public safety.
So what’s the best way to do it?
Grey Ghost Gear makes some of the best gear on earth. Their Apparition concealed carbine bag has been on the market for some time and has been reviewed by our own Aaron Cowan, who had nothing but good things to say about it. I also think it’s an awesome bag, but I’ll add that it works best as part of a complete system; that system consists of the Apparition, GGG’s Magazine Bandolier, and the Law Tactical Folding Stock Adapter.
For the basics on the Apparition, I’ll refer you back to Cowan’s review. But I’ll sum it up thusly: the GGG Apparition is a mid-sized, fairly narrow backpack that looks like a camping backpack but is perfectly engineered to conceal a carbine. While it’s best suited for a shorty carbine, it’s also capable of unobtrusively carrying a regular civilian AR with a Law Folder. It even has a small extension that allows it to hold a standard non-folding civilian AR, but with the extension deployed it looks strange (so I wouldn’t plan on using it).
The Law Folder has likewise been extensively reviewed by Cowan, and I’ll point you again to his video. But for those unaware, the Law Folder allows you to fold your carbine’s stock for transport or storage and snap it back into place in an instant for immediate use. For our purposes, the Law lets us easily carry a regular civilian-legal carbine in our Apparition. No NFA paperwork required, and no extension that makes us look like we’re hiding an ax in our backpack.
Is the Apparition perfect? Not exactly. It’s an awesome bag but can only hold a carbine, a little ammo, and not much else. It’s not a ruck with the additional capability of holding a carbine like an Eberlestock; with the carbine and a few mags inside, the Apparition is almost full. Also, the Apparition has no provision for feeding ammo. There are no mag pouches on the outside of the bag and no way to add mag pouches to the shoulder straps (which would then be visible and defeat the purpose of the bag anyway). The Apparition isn’t a fighting ruck, it’s a weapon transporter.
This means we need a way to feed the carbine we pull from the pack during a disaster. The Apparition has two built-in mag pouches in its main compartment and Velcro in its secondary compartment to attach more, but what are you going to do with all those mags if you’re in civilian clothes? Regular jeans don’t have many places to store mags, while low-pro tactical pants like the awesome 5.11 Apex do hold mags but don’t quite blend in with the civilian crowd. We could add a stock magazine holder, fobbit style, but that could interfere with the Law Folder. So the best solution I can think of is the GGG Mag Bandolier.
The GGG Mag Bandolier is absolute simplicity. It’s just a rugged, adjustable nylon belt with six elastic loops sized to hold one magazine each. That’s it. The loops will hold any standard AR mag, but I don’t recommend smooth-sided mil-spec mags; with enough movement, they’ll fall out. Ridged magazines like Magpuls work much better, especially if they have a wide floorplate or extension. Just make sure your mags all go into the loops the same way, and when you throw the bandolier over your head make sure the bottom of the mags are facing upward (that’ll keep them from falling out, even if you’re running). The Mag Bandolier can be carried in the Apparition’s secondary compartment, yanked out and thrown over the officer’s head in an emergency, and just like that he’s got a combat load. I probably wouldn’t carry more than three mags in the bandolier, but you do what’s best for you, your agency, and your specific threat.
Speaking of your specific threat here’s something to consider. If you’re a cop covertly carrying a carbine, and something happens that requires you to break cover, draw your carbine and go, what are you going to do with the pack? You could drop the pack, pull the weapon and ammo, zip the main and secondary compartments back up (which you’d have to, to keep the bag from flopping open), throw the bag back on, and run toward the sound of the guns. If you’re using the Apparition’s limited storage space to carry an IFAK, radio, or other necessary items, you pretty much have to zip the bag back up and throw it back over your shoulders. But that takes time, and if you’re responding to a mass shooting, stabbing or vehicle ramming attack any delay can mean more innocent lives lost. My advice: if it’s a mass attack, f*ck the bag. Drop it, yank the weapon and Mag Bandolier, and move toward the threat. Don’t put anything in the Apparition that you can’t live without in a crisis. Your IFAK can go on your ankle and radio on your belt, or maybe it’ll even fit in an unused Mag Bandolier loop. The point is if good people are dying you need to respond as quickly as possible. Using your Apparition to carry all your important stuff will delay your response.
Video courtesy of videographer Jacob Santillan
“But wait!”, you might say. “Wouldn’t it be easier to get a shorty 10.5-inch carbine and stick it into an even smaller backpack, like the Crye Precision EXP 1500?” Well, yes, it would be. But not everyone can afford an NFA carbine and not every agency will issue one or allow an officer to carry his own. The EXP 1500 is a friggin’ awesome pack, but the Apparition/Mag Bandolier/Law Folder system is accessible to the average Joe and doesn’t require hundreds of extra dollars for federal government permission.
“But wait!” you exclaim again. “Will this pack make my ass look big in my favorite Shoot Me First so-called civilian tactical clothing?”
Please, for the love of god, if you’re working plainclothes with a concealed carbine, lose the Tactical Gucci clothes. No 5.11s, desert boots, military-issue eye pro, or MOLLE man bags. Dress like a regular guy, and actually be low profile. The value of a concealed carbine is negated by dressing in a dumb way that gives you and your weapon away.
So if you ever do have to carry a carbine in public, whether for LE purposes, as a civilian upping your readiness in response to a threat, or even just surreptitiously moving a weapon from one place to another, the Apparition/Mag Bandolier/Law Folder is the way to go. You can find the Apparition here, Mag Bandolier here, and Law Folder here. Good luck, keep training and stay ready.
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