by Ralph Mroz
Off-body carry certainly isn’t the best way to carry a firearm, but sometimes it’s either the only way to do so, or an intelligent choice given the trade-offs. Situations meeting one of these requirements for off-body carry can come up fairly often for many of us. Of course there is now a plethora of concealed-carry bags, packs, and what-have-you on the market, many well-constructed and ergonomically designed, and most with Velcro-panel concealed carry compartments. The problem is that most of them also look tactical. They are black or OD or tan, with MOLLE webbing and a general military look about them. They may be “discrete”, but they aren’t invisible. And invisible is what you want if you’re off-duty or under cover, and many other times as well.
I’ve heard the argument that most people don’t really recognize the tactical look as screaming “gun” – that most of the general public just thinks that these packs look rugged or cool or sporty, and it’s really only cops that recognize them for what they are. Well, 1) it is most certainly not true that it’s just cops who can spot one of these tactical-looking CCW packs – lots of people can, 2) I don’t necessarily want other cops knowing that I’m carrying anyway, and 3) the bad guys certainly understand what they are. No – if I have to carry off-body, I want a pack that doesn’t look even a teensy-weensy bit tactical; I want to blend into the background, not stick out in any way whatsoever.
Good-quality, well-thought-out CCW packs that are completely invisible are actually pretty rare. The Smokescreen™ Concealment Monopack from Elite Survival Systems, however, is one. When it arrived I was struck by detail of thought that went into the design. It is a single-strap sling-type bag of medium size and 420 denier nylon. The main compartment measures 18x12x4, and the front (admin) compartment 14x9x2. A really clever TwinWing™ design allow the pack to be set up for right- or left-shoulder carry with the click of a Fastex-type buckle – this is a real plus since different people carry on different shoulders, and even one person may want to switch shoulders sometimes. The wings on the strap that contact your hip have a Toughtek™ (tacky rubber-like cloth) on the outside of them, which really does help the pack stay stable and in position. There are segmented foam panels on the back of the pack for cushioning, five horizontal Velcro straps on the shoulder strap for attaching modular pouches or running ear bud wires through them, and a mesh phone or music player pouch at the mid-point of the strap. The shoulder strap is quickly detachable via a buckle (in case you have to dump it in a hurry) and even the top carry strap is rubberized and extremely comfortable. The overall feeling when you mount this (loaded) pack is that it is comfortable and secure. Some sling packs feel like a burlap bag on a string – not this one! It really is impressive in its comfort.
The main compartment has a small mesh zip pocket inside and can hold a computer jackets, and other large items. The foam back segments, along with a reinforcing material in the entire back panel, make carrying these larger and heavier items quite comfortable. The front admin compartment has a zip pocket, a slip pocket, and pen holders. Basic, but not complicated – which I like. It is also large enough to carry most of the smaller items that most of us do. This front compartment also has a padded front flap, which seems odd at first. But it’s utility is apparent once you look at the concealed carry compartment. Rounding out the pack is a mesh front pocket and small zip pocket on the wings.
The gun compartment is a pass-through, Velcro-lined pocket behind the front compartment of the pack. It is well thought out. It is accessible by zipper from either side, and the zippers have a snap attached to the end of their pulls. These female snaps are attached to a small square of material of a contrasting color to the part of the pack where the mating male snap resides. Thus you have a secure (zipper and snap) gun compartment, and the thingamabob that you have to pull to access it is clearly marked, although it looks completely innocent. Very well thought out! And now you see the purpose of the front compartment’s padded front panel: it serves to break up any outline of the gun held in the gun compartment behind the front compartment. Another well thought out detail!
To access your hidden gun, you simply rotate the pack to your chest where is assumes a horizontal orientation. You pull the gun compartment’s snap and unzip its side, and your gun is right there in a cross-draw position. The Smokescreen comes with a simple Velcro holster that will fit almost any gun out there. My full-size S&W M&P fits comfortably in the pack’s gun compartment and is easy to withdraw.
Bottom line here: the Smokescreen Concealment Monopack is well thought out for concealed carry, it’s just the right size—small enough so that you’ll actually carry it and big enough to hold a normal day’s stuff, and it is extremely comfortable to carry. I examined all the stitching and could not find any loose threads or flaws, so I expect the pack to last—I know that items I bought from Elite Survival (then known as Assault Systems) in the mid-90s are still going strong.
And here’s what I really like in the pack: it’s available in a completely non-tactical looking configuration and colors. It comes in black/gray, coyote/olive, and blue/silver. I love the blue because it’s the most non-tactical looking color, but even the other two colors are pretty darn non-tactical looking. There’s no MOLLE on the pack and it looks like something that you see every day on people of all ages.
If I sound like I really like this pack, you’re right. I consider it a real find!
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