We had a Halloween party at my house a couple of years ago. I came up with what I thought would be the perfect costume: An over-the-top characterization of an off-duty cop. (It seemed like a great idea at the time.) My wife discouraged it, saying no one would get it. She wanted me to dress up as Christ Pratt from “Guardians of the Galaxy.” I think she wanted to play out some weird role-playing fantasy after the party. Anyway, as it turned out, I should have listened to her.
Without naming brand names, I chose a pair of khaki pants with a three-number moniker—the ones with lots of pockets. I placed a tactical folding knife in each pocket with the clip exposed. In addition, I wore one of those skin-tight tactical shirts, the kind that would make even Jake Gyllenhaal look fat. I usually wear a large but I opted for a tight, medium. I wore a ball cap and safety goggles. Furthermore, I sported the largest “chronograph” I could find, one that was able to tell the future in six different time zones.
To top it all off, I wore the hallmark of the off-duty cop: a fanny pack. Not just any fanny pack, though. I had huge one that was actually designed for active-shooter scenarios. It was large enough to hold rifle magazines, belt-fed ammunition, a spare tire for an MRAP, etc.
No one at the party got it, not even my cop buddies. I found myself explaining it over and over again: “I’m dressed like an off-duty cop! Get it?” The low point was when I was explaining it to one of my non-cop friends. He gave me a sympathetic smile and said, “Oh, I thought you just came from work or something.” So, I failed. I couldn’t even look forward to any post-party fun with the Mrs.
I’m actually a fan of fanny packs and man purses—“murses”—for everyday carry in certain instances. For trips to the gym, it can’t be beat. It’s hard to conceal a handgun in a pair of Ranger panties, and it is embarrassing when the gun falls out at the gym. This actually happened to me while on a treadmill. My Glock 27 landed on the belt and flew about 25 feet, coming to rest in the bench press area. I nonchalantly retrieved it, acted like nothing had happened and cut my workout short. It’s also my carry option to and from work as well.
Fanny packs and murses allow you to carry large-framed handguns, extra magazines, pepper spray, handcuffs and more. I usually carry a Glock 27 with a G23’s 13-round magazine in it. For those not familiar with the Glock numbering system, the Glock 23 is the mid-sized .40 S&W, and the Glock 27 is a smaller version that normally uses a nine-round magazine. I also carry a couple of extra magazines. If I chose to, I could probably carry a full-sized gun like a Sig Sauer P226 or a 1911A1.
Since I’m a cop, I have my badge and ID, too. I’ve also got my Gerber knife, wallet, day planner, flashlight and other stuff in it. Try fitting all that stuff in your pockets or on your belt.
So, I know what you’re thinking right about now. That sounds a lot like a woman’s purse. Yeah, I guess it does—minus the makeup and wadded-up tissues. Tactically, though, it is exactly what I need to carry all my stuff on a daily basis. In an active-shooter event, I can grab my bag and go, and it gives me the bare minimum in equipment to help me and my family survive. So I think I’ll keep it.
I recently acquired a more discreet 5.11 bag that pretty much gives me the ability to carry the same amount of stuff. It looks slightly less “coppish” than the standard fanny pack. It’s also set up to carry rifle magazines, too, so it can be used as an active-shooter bag. This makes it pretty practical for pretty much every situation. I have two: one in light green and the other in black.
There are many companies producing tactical murses to match pretty much every style and fashion sense. They can be made to look like laptop bags and tennis racquet cases. There are even types that can carry body armor so they can be used for ballistic protection in a pinch. The larger ones work for personal-defense weapons, or PDWs. This can be useful for dignitary protection teams that need to carry a PDW or submachine gun in something that looks less obvious than a violin case.
It may not be as tactically sound as carrying a handgun in a more traditional inside- or outside-the-waistband holster. But it doesn’t limit what I have to wear or cause me to carry a smaller-framed, ballistically deficient weapon. I’m not particularly fashion conscious, so I don’t worry if my murse goes with what I’m wearing.
The drawback to fanny packs and murses is you look like an off-duty cop (or a concealed-carry advocate) when you wear one. I think an argument can be made that this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s good to let people (good and bad) know you are armed. It’s like the red hourglass design on a black widow spider’s back.
Making the Fanny Pack Work
Like any carry option, you need to train with it. I prefer to carry mine bandoleer style, slung over my neck with the bag on my weak side. This allows good retention if someone tries to take it from you. Dry-fire practice followed by live-fire range training is a must. I clutch the bag with my non-dominant hand. I then open the bag and retrieve the handgun with my dominant hand.
A variation on this is to use my non-dominant hand to open the bag. Either way works, and with a little practice I can draw the gun as quickly as from a holster on my hip or waistband. As with any concealed-carry technique, there is an inherent risk of striking yourself with a negligent or accidental discharge. So, again, you need to put in plenty of time with dry-fire practice first. Also, if you routinely carry a handgun on your hip, you need to retrain your brain to draw from the murse. Through years of muscle memory, you’ll be conditioned to go towards your waistband to retrieve your firearm in an emergency situation.
One option I’ve exercised in the past is carrying a holster inside my murse, either an inside-the-waistband setup or some type of paddle holster. If I need to ditch the bag, I can put the holster on and carry the gun in a more traditional manner. The murse becomes a de facto “docking station” for the handgun. When might you need to do this? If you are going somewhere where you don’t want anyone to know you are armed, such as a restaurant. Think of all the places where you are legally allowed to carry a weapon concealed but wouldn’t necessarily want to advertise the fact. I carry everywhere, but I don’t really want my dentist to know that I am armed.
I’ll bring my murse along on hikes and camping trips. I place it inside a backpack where it’s out of sight. This is a really handy time to have the murse. Without it, there really isn’t any place to safely carry a loaded handgun where it’s readily accessible if you need it. On previous outings, I’ve carried a pistol in a holster in the outer pouch of a backpack, but there is no way to quickly draw it if needed. A murse can be staged in a backpack where the handgun can be quickly retrieved if you run into the boogeyman during a daytime stroll.
As for next Halloween, I’m going to try to avoid an obscure costume that requires an explanation. Instead, I’ll go with whatever will keep me in the good graces of the Mrs. before and after the party. Anybody got a Channing Tatum mask I can borrow?