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The Bandoleer Doesn’t Get Enough Love

I’ve seen countless internet posts about people’s home defense gear. Some have plate carriers or chest rigs. Some people might have a belt rig that they keep ready to go. Some have nothing other than a firearm. I think all those options fall a bit short,┬áin the context of home defense, to an often overlooked and underappreciated piece of gear – the lowly bandoleer.

What is a Bandoleer?

When I type bandoleer, I am generalizing a bit. Many of the items that I am referring to are really more like shoulder bags than true bandoleers but for the purposes of this article, just about anything that can carry spare ammo and supplies on a single shoulder strap will work.

Hawkepaks ITOA Mod EE

Why Would You Need/Want One?

As armed and prepared citizens, your goals are different than military and law enforcement goals. You are not hunting or apprehending bad guys and clearing structures alone is inherently bad for your health. So, if you can, your first choice should probably always be to shelter in place and call the police when confronted with a home defense situation. However, not everyone can do that. If you have kids in rooms on the other side of your home or large property with outbuildings, you may find yourself in a situation where you have to forgo the advantage of sheltering in place.

This is the reason people set up chest rigs or plate carriers for home defense situations. If you need to leave the relative safety of your room, you will probably want to have a few items with you like first aid, spare magazines, a spare light, and other support gear. This thought process is good but I think that this is where most people would be better served with a bandoleer.

Bandoleers are faster into action. They can be donned and doffed much easier and quicker than just about any chest rig or plate carrier. You simply pass the shoulder strap over your head and you are done unless there is also a waist belt (which are usually optional). Good plate carriers and chest rigs can be secured with just a single buckle or clasp but there are multiple straps and/or a cummerbund to navigate.

Similarly, bandoleers can be staged more easily. A good bandoleer is often more compact than a chest rig or plate carrier. If you keep a long gun for self defense, the shoulder strap can be draped on the long gun so that it is easily grasped and passed onto the shoulder in a single motion. They can even be staged with your handgun already inside (secured in a proper holster of course).

Hawkepaks ITOA Mod EE staged with AR-15

Bandoleers offer more versatile storage. Many bandoleers or shoulder bags have plenty of room for important items in addition to spare magazines and they can serve as a receptacle for items you might otherwise have a hard time retaining, like a cell phone, if you are also carrying a gun. Have you ever tried juggling a cell phone, firearm, and flashlight? Work through that on the range sometime.

You might consider what you need or what would be helpful in your own context. Here are some of the things I use:

  • spare magazine(s)
  • flashlight
  • first aid (with easily accessible tourniquet)
  • a Sharpie with a piece of water resistant paper secured to it (for jotting down a license plate or description)
  • electronic hearing protection

Hawkepaks ITOA with light, TQ, hearing protection, marker, and first aid

Bandoleers may also offer a different perception of the wearer than a chest rig or plate carrier. This one is relative and something that each person will have to assign their own weight of importance to. It may be a complete non-issue for some of you or you may reject it completely on the grounds that a good shoot is a good shoot. I tend to agree but I can also see the line of reasoning that there could be certain perception of someone wearing a chest rig or plate carrier that might not be favorable in a home defense scenario.

Bandoleer Recommendations

I can only recommend bandoleers that I have used personally but lucky for you… I’ve used several.

Hawkepaks ITOA Survival Kit

The Hawkepaks ITOA Survival Kit is an incredible piece of gear at a bargain basement price. $30 buys you a really well thought out bandoleer that is just about perfect in terms of size, it’s built right here in the USA, and it’s ready to use right out of the box.

I had the opportunity to design a special variant of this bag with Hawkepaks that made it suitable for carrying a handgun inside and had external loops for items like tourniquets. It was called the ITOA Mod. EE but that bag is no longer available. We sold a lot of them so they may turn up on the secondary market. The good news is that the regular ITOA is a great bag as is.

UW Gear Bandoleer

The UW Gear Bandoleer is one of the best true bandoleers I have used. It is available in a few configurations that should cover all the most common home defense rifles. It works well without the waist belt secured which is important to me.

You can read a full review of the earliest version of it HERE.

Sneaky Bags SUB (Shoulder Utility Bag)

The Sneaky Bags SUB or Shoulder Utility Bag is another excellent option. You’ll need to add some kind of internal magazine pouches if you want to use it with a rifle but that is easy to accomplish. It has provisions in place already for securing a tourniquet to the outside and handgun magazines internally. This bag is basically purpose built for this application. The Small and Medium sizes both work with the Small being my favorite.

You can read a review of the SUB here.

Other Options

There are a number of bags on the market sold as “active shooter” bags which can all work in this role though I find some of them to be too large. A simple sling style (single strap) backpack can also be effective in this role though you will have to figure out an organized way to carry things like spare magazines. Some chest rigs can be reconfigured to serve as a bandoleer. Chest rigs from Gadsden Dynamics are specifically designed with this feature.

Wrap Up

In the context of home defense… Bandoleers are typically faster and easy to deploy than a chest rig. They do a better job of carrying the things a civilian home defender might need and can help you better organize/prioritize items on the fly. They may also have an advantage in the area of perception. They also tend to cost a lot less!

When I add all that up, I’ve come to believe that most civilian shooters could be better served with something like a Hawkepaks ITOA or similar option before they invest in other support gear like a chest rig.

Open Call for Sneaky Bags Brand Ambassadors

Do you have what it takes to be a brand ambassador for Sneaky Bags? They are looking for people to represent their brand in their every day lives as well as on social media and other platforms. See the image below for details on how to apply.

Sneaky Bags Fall Sale

Sneaky Bags is having a Fall Sale with markdowns on two of their most popular bags – the Sentinel Concepts collaboration Sentinel Backpack and three sizes of the S.U.B. Check out SneakyBags.com.

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50% Off Sneaky Bags S.U.B.

I have good news and bad news.

I’ll start with the bad news. Sneaky Bags is discontinuing the Shoulder Utility Bag or SUB. This is my favorite bag that they make but it is also one of their more complex bags from a manufacturing standpoint.

These bags are basically an entire chest rig/belt rig in a messenger bag form. They let you carry primary and secondary magazines along with other gear in a way that is easy to access and relatively low profile. They can be great active shooter response bags or even a home defense bag allowing you to carry magazines, first aid, flashlights, and more in a bag that is much faster to don than a chest rig. The Medium and Large size even have a very slick integrated dump pouch.

The good news is that there is still time to pick up a SUB and they are all on sale for 50% until they are gone! Check out the Sneaky Bags SUB.

EVADE Backpack from Alpha One Niner

A19-Recon9-04-LoResYou may remember Alpha One Niner from when they launched their first product, the RECON ONE, via Kickstarter. Since that time, the Alpha One Niner portfolio of tactical gear inspired travel and EDC goods has grown considerably.

Alpha One Niner is the brainchild of Helm Ashiblie of SERT, Sneaky Bags, and other ventures. His work literally takes him around the world on a weekly basis which gives him a great perspective on what people really need in a travel bag. Helm previously designed the SERT Penumbra to serve as his ultimate travel backpack (I reviewed that bag on these pages and still use it daily) but this time he enlisted the help of the EDC Forums readership to help design a new bag called the EVADE Backpack.

If you like the Penumbra, you’ll like the EVADE. Helm’s design influence can be seen throughout the bag. In some ways, it looks like a scaled down version of the Penumbra but to assume that would sell short the several new features that the EVADE tucks away in its nylon shell.A19-Recon9-05-LoRes

Starting from the front of the EVADE and moving back, you first find a large loop Velcro field for patches and ID. That loop field is sewn to the outside of the large admin pocket which boasts several organization features included a padded slip pocket for electronics, pen slots, a lanyard, and tons more slip pockets of various sizes. This compartment also has an attachment point for the new Matroskya Pouches which are essentially removable internal pouches that are sold separately.

The next compartment moving toward the back is the main compartment. It represents most of the pack’s 1650 cubic inches of volume. The compartment is designed to open very wide and is secured with a zipper and two side mounted compression straps. It features two internal mesh pockets which is a common element of Helm’s designs and another mounting point that will accept a large Matroskya Pouch. The Matroskya Pouch mounts at the top of the compartment allowing you to essentially segment the main compartment and simply flip the Matroskya Pouch out of the way to access your other gear.

Moving back from the main compartment you find an elastic slip pocket on each side and a generous laptop compartment. The slip pockets are perfect for water bottles or similar gear. The laptop compartment is padded and will accept up to a 17″ laptop or tablet.

Hidden behind the EVADE’s padded back panel is a loop Velcro lined, zipper closed concealment pocket. This can be used for carrying a handgun in a Velcro backed holster or as a place to store documents or a tablet.

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The EVADE also has nicely padded shoulder straps and a padded grab handle. There are webbing loops that can be strung with shock-cord to create a bungee storage matrix on the front of the pack.

The EVADE Backpack is available in a number of color and fabric options. You can check out the EVADE Backpack at Alpha One Niner. If you “Like” Alpha One Niner on Facebook, they will provide you with a 20% coupon code that will save you some cash on your own EVADE Backpack.

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New from Sneaky Bags: Penguin Modular Organizer Pouches

The Penguin Modular Organizer Pouches from Sneaky Bags are the type of pouches that you will never run out of ideas for how to use them. They are a great organizer option for your Sneaky Bag or any loop Velcro lined bag. They work as a typical admin organizer, a grab-and-go type E&E/survival kit, or even a tear-off medical kit.

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The Penguin Modular Organizer Pouches (PMOP) are compact pouches that can be mounted on you belt or fixed to loop Velcro. The back of each pouch features a covered strip of hook Velcro (just peel off the loop cover to use it) and a strip of webbing that is sewn so that it can be used as both a grab handle and belt loops. The back panel is stiffened with an insert so that the PMOP always keeps its shape.

The interior of the pouches feature 4 mesh slip pockets that are bellowed to provide some internal space. These pockets, coupled with the internal space of the pouch, provide a lot of organization potential and the ability to see through the mesh to see the contents. The pouches have a full clamshell opening (like a book) to allow you to view and access the contents.

The front of the pouch has a adjustable shock cord (bungee) weave (2 in the case of the double version) that can be used to affix items like a tourniquet.

The pouches are constructed from nylon and have at least 2 layers of material throughout. The seams are all bound and stress points are reinforced. The overbuilt quality is typical of Sneaky Bags.

I have one of each size in hand and they are pretty slick. Check out the new Penguin Modular Organizer Pouches at Sneaky Bags.

Sneaky Bags Expands Spyder Line

Sneaky Bags has expanded their Spyder line to include two additional larger sizes. The Spyder bag was originally designed to conceal very compact SBRs but users wanted the same feature set for larger carbines so Sneaky Bags has introduced a new 31″ length and 36″ length to go with the original 27″ length bag.

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All 3 sizes have the same features that made the original great. They are relatively low-profile in appearance, having more in common with a sports equipment bag than most gun cases. The clam shell opening allows easy access to the rifle or rifles contained inside and the magazine loadout that can be stored and organized in the divider between the two main compartments. The outside compartments can be used to carry a number of items up to and including handguns or even smaller SMGs if you have need for such things.

Check out the Spyder line at Sneaky Bags.

SPYDER

Black Friday at Sneaky Bags

Sneaky Bags is offering 30% off selected items. These are the lowest prices I have ever seen on the best discreet carry bags I have ever used.

sneaky abgs sale

Sneaky Bags Nautilus

The Nautilus Sling Bag from Sneaky Bags is now available. This is one of Sneaky Bags’ most discreet bags yet. It is designed to be used as an off body concealed carry bag but can also be used to transport smaller shoulder fired firearms.

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The interior features a large loop covered PALS webbing field to offer the user an array of organization options without taking up the internal volume. It also has a zippered front slip pocket for smaller items. The rear of the bag has a concealed carry compartment that is accessible from either side and the shoulder strap can be configured for either right and left handed users.

Check out the Nautilus Sling Bag at Sneaky Bags.

Sneaky Bags SPYDER

The SPYDER Covert Rifle Bag, from Sneaky Bags, is now available. This bag has a similar discreet shape to the larger Covert Rifle Bags but it is scaled down to fit SBRs with an overall length of 27″ or less in the main storage compartment. The main compartment also features a padded divider that can be used to store additional magazines.

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There are two smaller compartments on the front of the SPYDER that feature internal organization features like zippered mesh pockets, loop material, and PALS webbing for mounting hook or MOLLE backed pouches.

The initial released of the SPYDER is a somewhat limited soft-launch. Only Black and Medium Navy are available at this time. Other colors will be available soon. Check out the SPYDER from Sneaky Bags.

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