Preparing a Covert Gearbag or Warbag, by Racker

This site is known for material geared towards protection and preparation for some ultimate tests of social interaction. While we may be working to prepare ourselves for a high end threat, keep in mind that there are levels between normal and end situations; we may not go from normal to end in one quick swoop.  We must be prepare for various levels and react accordingly when we or our families are threatened. Knowledge and our equipment are tools to better prepare us to deal with any serious social situation.

After writing a previous article on Weapon Use, Slings, Web Gear, and Associated Weapon Equipment, I thought I would elaborate a little on the covert aspects of weapons carry and related gear. Again, most of this is based upon my experience of “blending in” while wearing plain clothes as a detective and non-uniformed Sheriff’s Deputy as well as off-duty handgun carry.
Disclaimer: I am not advocating that anyone break the law. In your home or on your own property the described items are usually legal. Please confirm as location and the laws vary so you must check your state and local laws regarding how you would utilize firearms and under what circumstances. I offer this information for consideration but the ultimate decision would rest upon the person possessing and using any firearm and in some states, even the possession of types of semiautomatic weapons and the magazines used. And, remember, depending on the timing and end result of the situation, you will probably have a review and investigation of your actions by law enforcement as well as a review by a prosecutor. This is where training and topic study comes into close play.
What do you grab in the middle of the night or when you see you are about to be in a possible gun fight? Personally, I have always scribed to a quote from author Robert Heinlein, “Always keep your clothes and your weapons where you can find them in the dark.” Hopefully, if authorized to carry a handgun, you at least have a good concealable pistol with an extra magazine, and a good flashlight. I advocate it is also nice to have at least your trousers and some shoes on in these situations (heaven forbid we shock someone who sees an armed but undressed person). At the very least, you can typically carry a weapon in your home or on your own property. A better idea in a serious social situation is to also have a long-gun along with some extra magazines/ammo backed up by the pistol. What we carry and how we carry it is a part of blending in and we would at least get hard looks if we are seen carrying a long gun (or any gun) in most neighborhoods, but we should have equipment available to handle most situations (just balance safe storage with reasonably fast access to your weapons).
I should also comment on law enforcement response time. The law enforcement officers I have dealt with have always tried to quickly get to people in need in cases of possible violence. But most of us do not have a cop living next door and in many parts of the country, with reduced local budgets requiring reduced numbers of first responders, we have fewer cops and response times to reports are getting longer or put off due to other calls-for-service. Even if you can call but are told that a response will be “extended,” you should have a practiced plan (with the proper equipment) to protect yourself and your family until they arrive (“Have your musket clean as a whistle, hatchet scoured, sixty rounds powder and ball, and be ready to march at a minute’s warning.” – Standing orders of Rogers Rangers, circa 1758.
Take a look at yourself in a mirror. In any scenario you picture yourself in, do you dress like G.I. Joe or do you intentionally wear natural earth tone, low key clothing? Cargo pants are common but a camo pair may cause people to look closer at you. The whole idea is that your attire and equipment should not look like a soldier or cop. If you carry a long-gun in a bag, is it a baseball bat bag or a custom gun bag? Can you have someone modify a sports bag, case, or even a cloth briefcase to hold your carry gear, attachable to you, and allow access to your equipment and mags? For a canvas or nylon briefcase, try finding a stiff piece of material that fits in the case and sew MOLLE strips or loops of webbing on both sides to hold mags upright as well as other “nice to have” gear. Add some “D” rings and detachable straps so the bag can hang from your neck with another strap around your chest/waist.    
Long before we had “active shooter” protocols or plans, while working for a Sheriff’s Office, I carried my “warbag” in the trunk of my unit (a marked patrol unit or an unmarked unit). As an operator on SWAT, this included my camo uniform and all my equipment in a parachute bag along with a SMG or AR. For the AR, I carried three 30-round mags, and a 20-round mag on the stock and a military cloth bandoleer with seven loaded 20-round mags (in the carbine or rifle, these mags let you get closer to the ground when someone may be shooting at you). When I went into plainclothes, I usually reduced the gear to an issue Remington 12 gauge Model 870 shotgun and ammo carried in an over-the-shoulder strap bag at a minimum and a rifle when authorized or needed (bad guys may not recognize some rifles but they respect the big hole at the end of the shotgun barrel).
Later, I put an AR and the same ammo load in my unit – with the ammo and gear in a sports bag that could clip onto my body for carry. In that bag, the AR mags and two extra pistol mags were quickly accessible, the adjusted bandoleer easy to put over my shoulder, a radio in my back pocket, my old Cold Steel Tanto in place for quick access in the bag along with a full water bottle and some snacks. Oh, my protective vest was either under my shirt or in the bag as well.
After I retired, I used the same bag for a while but I have now transferred the mags and gear to a plain over-the-shoulder black nylon bag. It can carry up to 220+ rounds in AR mags (30 and 20-round mags) plus other gear. One bag is marked, “Nintendo” and a new one is marked, “Old Navy.” I got these and others at Goodwill for about $2 to $3 each. This bag goes with my red-dot equipped 5.56 carbine that is carried in a sports bag. Even if someone sees the bags, they do not think tactical.
For my “serious duty,” extended tube, Remington 870 shotgun, I have a similar black nylon bag that says, “AAA” (in red letters). I took a black felt-tip pen and shaded the “AAA” a lot darker. It still does not look like an ammo bag, and it carries a selection of Winchester PDX12 (“buck and ball”), 00, slug, and #4 12ga. Ammo in smaller pockets. You can equip other bags of this type for each weapon you have.
In any social context, long-guns should be primary and any support or added a level of protection comes from handguns (while some may say it should be the other way around, for now, this is reality). For the handgun, obtain good quality holsters, pistol (trouser) belts, and mag pouches. Next, ensure you have a good and tested sling on the long-gun. All your gear should work together for you and not against you.
I wish to make a point here that your gear does not have to look, “Tacticool.” Until we reach an end of normal social actions, if you need to carry and use your weapons, think covert – not overt on you own property. Wearing a military or tactical looking rig draws a lot of attention; some of it unwanted. At first glance, most cops see weapons as an immediate threat and treat it that way until they know better. Think, plan and train for this. Think out how you will react to reduce the chance of a melancholy end to a law enforcement encounter. If there are no cops involved, run through scenarios in your mind — and with trusted advisors when you can. Obtain training or practice these scenarios. Remember, where a firearm is aimed is a big part of any situation. Can you record a confrontation on a cell phone or on a recorder so that you know about it but anyone being confronted does not know about the recording? This may help you protect yourself by knowing it is recorded but document the confronted person’s verbal responses and actions (you can do this by calling 911 and setting the phone down). As to what you should say, it should be clear, firm, but not profane or overly aggressive. I sometimes use the words of others to set the tone for these kinds of thoughts. Here are two: 1) “A kind word only goes so far, a kind word and a gun goes a lot further.” –Al Capone (1924) and 2) “Let us speak courteously, deal fairly, and keep ourselves armed and ready.” – Theo. Roosevelt (San Francisco, CA, May 13, 1903). Between these two men, there is a lot of room for the reader to determine a fair course of meaning (both being fairly determined men but at different ends of the social spectrum). 
If you lawfully carry a handgun, practice with it until you know where it is on your person, how to gain access to it (pulling up a vest or coat, etc.), where the extra mag or speedloader is, where your flashlight is (set to the beam you want when you turn it on), where your folding knife is, how you will retrieve and show ID if confronted by a peace officer and become comfortable (as you can) with all this gear. It is too easy to telegraph carry by constantly pulling up a gun belt or otherwise broadcasting your gear to even bad people. The idea here is that people (even ex-cons) do not know you have your gear ready for use. Really, this comfort level is not as easy as it seems. Again, practice it until it is easy then add layers of other covert gear that go with a long gun.  
By the way, if it is not too warm or raining, a long light jacket or a blanket or Clint Eastwood western type serape will cover most long guns as well as what you may be wearing around your waist. In cold or wet weather, a rain coat or other long coats will cover a long-gun if slung with the sling over the shoulder and the weapon nestled under the strong side arm.
I have found that most people, when they do practice with their weapons and related gear, they do so in daylight. We need to think beyond daylight and practice during hours of darkness. With any weapon, target identification is a primary function in a confrontation; before pulling a trigger, know who will be shot due to that action. It would be better if the target was illuminated by a source not attached to the shooter but as a last resort, there may not be an alternative to holding or using an attached light to perform this identification.
If someone comes looking for you (in any serious social situation), access is always an important consideration with carry equipment and should be considered by anyone defending themselves or their family. Find the time to practice changing mags and other equipment from these bags. Practice weapon functions without looking at it in daylight and in the dark. Practice until it is automatic and done with little thought (trained “muscle memory”).
So, in addition to you short gun and extra mag, have quickly at hand:
1.  An accessible carbine or shotgun with a good sling (and, my preference, a good red dot sight);
2.  A useful amount of proper mags and ammo;
3.  A manner of carrying this gear that does not make you look like G.I. Joe; and
4.  A strong and sharp knife, extra pistol mags, a good flashlight, water and energy food.
To be covert, you need to think about how many mags and ammo you think you need to carry to support both the short and long guns. Think minimum with more available close by.
In any serious social situation, you do not want to run out of ammo until you have cleared the threat or you can back out of range. Figure out how you can carry your weapon in your version of a, “plain brown wrapper.” Find a para-rigger or knowledgeable show repair person to help you modify your gear to meet these carry needs.
So, in review, train and practice with all this gear. If you have knowledgeable friends available, talk through your scenarios and ask their advice. Discuss how to react now to these situations and you will be better prepared for any future eventuality; consider a non-tactical bag with a over-the-shoulder strap to hold your gear or a smaller size briefcase kind of bag that you can sew “D” rings on each corner and attach a strap to go around your neck and another around your chest to hold you gear. Until you can wear tactical gear in the open without gaining negative attention, a covert set may be better for your welfare and still meet your threat set needs.     

Keep your musket clean and your powder dry.