by Galia Berry
A fanny pack can be a terrific way to carry a concealed firearm, but it is not without challenges. In fact, there are pluses and minuses about fanny packs that are gender-specific. Additionally, there are many different brands of fanny packs currently on the market. I will attempt to address these issues as well as review two of my favorite fanny packs currently available.
Where I live it is terribly hot and humid in the summer. Wearing an outer garment such as a vest or jacket over a shirt to conceal a belt-holstered gun can be torture; it gives a whole new meaning to the concept of "hot flashes." A fanny pack provides a cool and discreet alternative to traditional belt-holster firearms carry and offers storage space for all my "stuff."
Law Enforcement Officers (LEOs) will tell you that anyone wearing a fanny pack might as well wear a sign saying "I am carrying a gun." In fact, there are several giveaways with many packs that this indeed is the case. Most quick-access fanny packs operate like this: by tugging at a loop or sturdy snap, located at the top rear corner, the velcro or zipper that keeps the rear pouch closed is forced open, revealing the gun in its "hidden" compartment. The zipper is much quieter than its velcro-type counterpart. However, the packs using zippers usually require a larger loop release on the outside of the pack. These loops easily identify them as gun holster fanny packs. On the other hand, velcro-type packs, in addition to being noisy, have other problems as well. After repeated washings, packs often lose their original shape and the velcro no longer "fits" the same way. You may begin to see puckering, which shows the edge of the velcro: another giveaway that you are carrying a firearm.
A common mistake people make when ordering a fanny pack is that they order the smallest possible size pack to accommodate their gun. While it's understandable that people want to be as unobtrusive as possible, which translates into "size small," the result is that the gun fills the pack completely with no room to spare, straining and bulging along the seams. And the chance of the velcro closure peeking out along the seamline is even greater if you choose to carry other valuables in the pack (wallet, etc.) along with the gun.
How much a fanny pack is part of the cultural mainstream varies from state to state. In California, for example, both men and women carry fanny packs, and most of the packs are not used to conceal firearms. In other states, fanny pack wear is certainly not the norm (unless used for a firearm, thereby "marking" the wearer).
Women have a definite advantage over men in wearing a fanny pack as their selected mode of carry. Cultural bias still prevents many men's subconscious from believing that a woman might be carrying a firearm for self protection, and therefore the element of surprise works greater in her favor, even when wearing a more common, easily identifiable fanny pack made to holster a gun. And, irrelevant of concealing a firearm, many women have given up carrying a purse altogether due to purse snatching, not to mention "purse shoulder".
I prefer nylon Cordura packs, which are usually washable, lighter, and cooler. While leather is more durable and "dressy," it is also more expensive and much hotter to wear in the summer.
Color choice is important. Black, while neutral, is the most common choice in a gun holster fanny pack - - another giveaway. Many companies now offer multiple color choices in their packs. This is a welcome offering indeed.
It is surely a mistake for a woman to wear a fanny pack to house her gun and still carry a purse: this is a dead giveaway that she is carrying a firearm. However, few fanny packs currently on the market have taken into consideration that, unlike men who carry little other than their wallet, women's purses traditionally contain everything but the kitchen sink. If she is to replace her purse with a fanny pack, then the fanny pack must be able to accommodate not only her gun and wallet. Mine also holds a checkbook, cellular phone, pepper spray, tissues, pen, comb, lipstick - - you get the idea.
As with any type of gun holster, a fanny pack requires plenty of practice with a CHECKED, UNLOADED, and RECHECKED handgun to achieve a quick and safe draw. Because of the way the gun lays in the fanny pack, its draw is similar to a cross-draw holster, which means that you must cross the line of fire with the muzzle of the gun. Until the front sight of your gun is resting on its intended target, it will be pointing and swept at an unintended target to your left (if you are right-handed), as it is withdrawn from the fanny pack, a potentially dangerous situation requiring that your FINGER BE KEPT OFF THE TRIGGER until you are ready to fire.
My two favorite packs are "cottage industry" products made by people who put a lot of thought into the design of their packs. The solutions they offer in designing a more "user friendly" pack are very different from one another, but both have a place in my gun holster "wardrobe."
When I saw The Original Tommy's Gun Pack on the waist of a classmate at a self-defense class, I knew I had to have one. The Original Tommy's Gun Pack has managed to solve the problems associated with zipper and velcro openings in a unique and simple way. It has a quiet zipper opening, but the release mechanism, rather than the traditional tell-tale loop, is a patented release buckle which when undone forces the zippers to unzip and reveal the gun hidden inside. The release buckle to unfasten the purse from your waist is on the opposite side of the purse, and matches the gun-release buckle. Having matching buckles on both sides of the purse not only gives a symmetrical look, it totally disguises the idea that this pack is used to conceal a gun. Not to mention that the operation is quick, smooth and quiet.
The craftsmanship and finesse are incredible. I wanted to find out more about this pack, so I called the owner, Pat Williams.
Mr. Williams used to own a camping store, where he often repaired tents and other torn outdoor paraphanelia. One day a law enforcement officer came into his store and asked him if he could repair a torn seam in his fanny pack, which he used off duty to conceal a firearm. The officer was so impressed with Pat Williams that he recommended him to several of his LEO friends, who were experiencing similar problems with their own packs and soon bringing their packs to him for repair.
Tragically, Mr. William's brother Thomas was murdered, gunned down in cold blood by a fellow employee of the Southern Pacific Railroad. Working through his anger and his grief, Pat was determined that no other innocent person die without at least a fighting chance. He decided to create a fanny pack that would be well-constructed and address any deficiencies found in available packs. Receiving input from his LEO customers, he really listened and came up with The Original Tommy's Gun Pack, named in memory of his brother.
Working from his garage, he sewed up 125 packs, which he hoped he could sell at a gun show. Not only did he sell out completely, he was deluged with orders. He closed his camping business, and the rest is history.
The Original Tommy's Gun Pack was contructed to meet LEOs' needs first and foremost. Their request was a durable pack that would hold a large-size .45 all day and still feel comfortable after many hours of continual wear, and function took precedence over form.
This is not to say that The Original Tommy's Gun Pack is unattractive. But several of its features, while sensible, take some getting used to. The belt is a full 2" wide, and has accordingly large buckles to support that width. But the increased weight helps to support a heavier, bigger gun that LEOs commonly carry. It also helps support heavier, bigger stuff that women carry in their purses, and a wider belt gives better support to one's back. Additionally, the compartment that holds the gun has two hidden layers of foam under the cordura nylon, one in back and one in front. This means a more bulky, protruding pack. But it serves a purpose: not only does it cradle and stabilize the gun, preventing internal movement, it provides a cushion of added comfort against the body and prevents the gun from printing when you open the middle compartment to get to your wallet. Finally (and most disconcerting to me personally), is the squared shape of
the bottom corner edges of the gun compartment. I would have preferred a more rounded contour, because of both aesthetics and comfort. Pat Williams explained that he prefers the squared edge at the bottom so that the muzzle of the gun will lie in one of the corners, thereby stabilizing the gun in the same position every time. Mr. Williams noted that every feature included in his standard pack is there for a reason, created through trial and error, but if a customer desires modifications, he is willing to work accordingly and accommodate special requests, which could include leaving out the foam padding, rounding the edges, using a narrower belt, and even adding a magazine holder to the second compartment (for a small additional fee).
The Original Tommy's Gun Pack costs $50. It is available in ten colors, but has a two-tone effect since it has black accents. Each one is made to order, and it's available in four sizes (I found the medium to be perfect for a Colt Detective Special or a Glock 26/27; the large was great for a S&W 3913, HKP7M8, or Glock 19); specify whether you are right- or left-handed. Delivery takes about 2 weeks. There is a lifetime guarantee.
Contact The Original Tommy's Gun Pack at P.O. Box 21, Simi Valley, CA 93062
tel. (805) 520-4767
Northwest Security Products has come up with the best pack out there for the budget-minded. Prices range from $18 for the small bag to $25 for the large size. The gun fits in a hidden rear compartment, opened by an external loop which releases the snap and velcro closure. Two zippered compartments are in front of the hidden gun section. This assures that your gun won't "print," and the compartments hold a fantastic array of stuff with room to spare. I wish that there was a small pocket inside the gun compartment to hold a spare magazine; Northwest Security Products suggests using one of the zippered compartments for that purpose, but I have not found that to be a practical alternative. All seams are double-stitched, and having worn the bag almost daily for nearly a year, there is no fraying. The bag has survived several trips to the washing machine and has come out looking like new (WITHOUT the gun inside!! One fanny pack manufacturer fielded a call from a distraught customer who complained that it wasn't as machine washable as advertised: the pack looked fine but the gun was ruined). The pack should be air dried, however, since the heat of the dryer will ruin the waterproof silicon coating on the inside of the pack. It sure would be nice if they'd come out with a zipper option in addition to the velcro, but that's just my
personal bias speaking. When I spoke to the owner about the possibility of a zipper version, he stated that he "will NEVER use zippers on the gun compartment" because he's "personally witnessed at least a dozen individuals" who have come up to his table at gun shows, wanting to demonstrate how their "Brand X" fanny packs malfunctioned because the zipper snagged, and they could not access their gun compartment.
Not only are there over ten color choices, they can also be made in two-tone, which gives them a unique flair. The pack has a lifetime guarantee. Be sure to state if you are right- or left-handed. Delivery time is usually 1 - 2 weeks.
Northwest Security Products
Copyright © 1996 - Galia Berry, All Rights Reserved, Reprinted with permission