Since the advent of Active Shooter Response Training there has been an identified need to have a bag, pack, vest or SOMETHING in your patrol vehicle trunk that you can grab and go (with your gun) and be ready for the event at hand. Forward thinking administrators – and motivated patrol guys – have recognized that this need extends past active shooter events and have developed the concept of a “trunk go bag.” In this article we’re going to discuss the concept; identify what the contents should be (at a minimum); and identify which products have been proven through testing to serve the need.
So what is a Trunk-Kept Go Bag”? The general idea is that this bag would be kept stocked and stored so that you can grab it and go when you arrive on the scene of a crisis incident. For those law enforcement professionals workign in rural areas that crisis incident doesn’t necessarily have to be an Active Shooter or Spree Shooter type of event. It could just as easily be a missing child. Picture this: You arrive and find out that your Sergeant is preparing a search line in a wooded area that goes on for miles. We all may take on faith that our radios work; helicopters can find us if we get lost, etc. But we also know that Murphy rears his head at the ugliest possible moment. Wouldn’t it be prudent to have a bag ready that we can grab to take with us? That way if we DO get stuck out in the wilds we have the bare necessities of life to sustain us. Another example: You respond to a spree shooter event and end up on a perimeter – for hours. Leadership is aware of your need for relief but circumstances simply don’t make it a priority. Your duty is on the perimeter and you can’t abandon your post. Wouldn’t it be good to have some food and water if you’re stuck there 12, 16 or more hours?
Let’s start with the bag. It can be as simple as any cloth satchel or it can be any design up to those packs specifically designed as Go Bags. Because I’m an organization freak (I hate things in disarray) I lean toward selecting a pack or bag that allows me to put items in their own pockets (when I can). For the list of minimmum items delineated below the bag has to be a certain size, but given how much stuff we call carry around in our trunks anyway, we don’t want it to be any bigger than necessary. For the list I’ve developed I’ve found that the Maxpedition Jumbo VersiPack works pretty well. Pictured to the above right it has enough different pockets and compartments that, once you’ve set it up, you have a place for everythying. Although it doesn’t have a hydration system incorporated it does have a specific pouch to hold a water bottle such as the one show to the left (nalgene bottle from BLACKHAWK!). I like that the VersiPack is big enought to carry; I like that it is designed to sling over one shoulder (yes, it’s the RIGHT shoulder; 92% of the population is, after all, right handed). I like that the pack isn’t SO big you can’t easily maneuver it around your body. While you’re moving it can be slung back behind your duty weapon. When you need it you can sling it around just front of your duty weapon. Under ugly circumstances small sacrifices in comfort will have to be made to serve utility and necessity. As you can see from the photo it also has “hidden” pockets to hold a pistol. Whether or not you choose to carry a second pistol in your TKGB (Trunk-Kept Go Bag) is up to you and your agency’s policies.
Whether you carry a 2nd weapon or not, something that should absolutely be in every TKGB is spare magazines. If the situation you’ve arrived at requires you to be grabbing your rifle, then you’d better be smart enough to take extra magazines for it with you. It’s just short of impossible to disengage a firefight when you run out of ammo to return to your vehicle to get more. And, although we hopefully all train with proper transition drills so we can go to our duty handgun when our rifle runs dry, we shouldn’t have to! We should be able to eject the spent mag and be reaching into our TKGB for another one. How many you carry is up to you. When I was in the Army our basic “load out” was seven magazines: one in the weapon and six spares full. That line of thinking has never left me even though, historically, responding officers / deputies haven’t need THAT much ammo. Is there such a thing as too much? Yes, there is: when you’ve got so much that it hinders how well you can move then it’s too much. Until that point, no. Note that I include spare pistol magazines as well. If you ARE carrying a second pistol in the TKGB then you should have at least two spare magazines available for it. Optimally those same magazines would also fit and function in your duty handgun. If not you have to make sure you don’t confuse them.
Let’s talk about that second pistol for a moment. Remembering that the TKGB is packed and ready for emergencies – deployments that were unexpected – it might not be a bad idea. The other side of that is are you ever without your duty handgun? Where I live all of the deputies and police officers have take-home cars. Many of them drive those cars off-duty to run every-day errands. When they’re away from home, in civilian clothes, enjoying time off, they will still respond to emergency situations. Most are required to monitor the radio when in the vehicle and respond to emergencies; it’s a requirement for driving the car off-duty around here. If that’s the case, is your rifle available? Maybe or maybe not, but the strength of a second gun might not be a bad thing to have. As this may be the bag you grab when you’re off-duty, and as many of us carry smaller, more compact, lower-capacity weapons when we’re off-duty, having a full size weapon in the bag might not be a bad idea. A duplicate of your duty weapon would probably be best. On the other hand, if your agency isn’t providing that 2nd weapon cost can get prohibitive. Each of us has to make those kind of decisions for ourself.
Finally, if your long gun is a shotgun and not a rifle then you should have a supply of suitable ammo for that. As fast as you can blaze through a 30-round magazines of .223 or .308 ammo, it takes about the same amount of time to burn through a shotgun full of shells. My shotgun holds seven rounds and a side mount for six more. That’s only 13 rounds. Fifty is a nice round number. I like fifty. Carrying 37 more rounds of 12g ammo isn’t weight or space prohibitive.
Since you may be going into unknown areas and working for unspecified amounts of time under challenging circumstances, there are a few other tools I believe you should include. That list would include:
- a folding knife
- a good quality flashlight
- spare batteries for same
As in all things you get what you pay for. When you select what knife to put in the bag consider all of the various circumstances you might need it to perform under; think about the cutting chores you might need it to handle. A cheap folding knife is not what you want to have in there. The same can be said for your flashlight. I’d recommend one with an LED lamp assembly because they are so much harder to break and usually regulate power usage better. You get more run time out of the same batteries. And speaking of those batteries, a flashlight htat doesn’t work because the batteries are dead is useless, so carry some spare batteries. SureFire makes the “spares carrier” shown. I have one of those in my travel bag as well as in my gear bag. Shelf life on most of those 3V lithium batteries is close to ten years. Go online: spend the $40 to get two-dozen batteries. Keep one out so you have fresh batteries anytime you need them. Split the other dozen between two spares carriers. Put one in your duty bag and the other in your TKGB. They’re better to have and not need rather than need and not have.
Again, remembering the circumstances you’d be grabbing this bag under, I’d highly recommend you put in some first-aid trauma items. This isn’t a lot of stuff: one tourniquet, a couple pressure bandages and some hand-sanitizer. The pressure bandages and tourniquet are for you or your buddy or a victim if you take a round. If it’s an extremity wound it can be tourniqueted if the pressure bandages don’t control the bleeding. When you think about working in rural areas – places where sometimes help is a half hour or more away – you’d better be able to control bleeding on any wound. The hand sanitizer is for when you’re stuck out there for hours and have to eat. You want to do that with dirty hands?
Speaking of eating, you will need to keep food and water in that bag as well. The water was addressed above in the nalgene bottle. If you use a bag with a hydration bladder system built in then remember that it has to be changed out and kept clean. We make think it’s gross to drink week-old tepid water but reality is that’s better than dehydration. That said, we don’t want to make ourselves sick. Creating, having and depending on your Go Bag means maintaining it. It’s not something you can throw in and simply forget. You have to check it on a regular basis. Weekly is good. As to the food: I’d include a half-dozen energy, protein ro survival bars. I like the food bars that HooAh! Bars makes. One of them can last you six to eight hours to having six of them is about two days of survival food. They taste just as good warm or cold – and you’re not eating them for pleasure anyway.
These final items are what I consider environmental adaptation. Hopefully you were dressed appropriately for the weather when you bailed out of your cruiser and grabbed this bag, but if not – or if the weather changes (which it likes to do at the most inoportune times), you should be prepared to protect yourself accordingly. Depending on the circumstances you find yourself working in I’d recommend you have at least a pair of gloves and some clear eye protection in your bag. The gloves are to serve two purposes:
- To protect your hadns from abrasions, wear and tear, and
- To keep them warm.
It’s not easy to find the perfect gloves to do both but under ugly enough circumstances almost any gloves are better than none at all. The clear eye protection can be glasses or goggles. I prefer well-fitted glasses such as the HellFly system made by Revision Eyewear but other manufacturers make good protective eyewear as well. You don’t want to risk your sight so protect your eyes.
That leaves me the two smallest and perhaps very valuable items – even though you can buy quantities of them cheap. An emergency poncho and an emeregency blanket. Both of these items can be had in packages about four inches square and less than a half inch thick. Whether you get an emergency poncho that is clear, yellow or blaze orange is entirely up to you and your agency. But if you’re out long enough and it starts to rain that poncho will be something you appreciate – even if you don’t like to wear it (see the comment above about comfort and utility). The emergency blanket is something you’ll likely never pull out unless you get unexpectedly stuck out overnight – but it can also be used to wrap around or place over victims. For the $2 it might cost and purposes it can serve it’s just a good idea to have.
So there you have it. If you have ideas on other items you think should be included I’d encourage you to email me and let me know what the item is and why you’d include it.
Comments received via email: adds and suggestions:
As an ex-military and current law enforcement officer I have been around and in the same situations as others that require a quick reaction kit. I don’t know if anyone else has ever used that term but several of us think we may have made it up and call it a QRK (quirk). Most of us already have a standard “bug out” or “go” bag. I personally use the Camelbak BFM for up to a weeks worth of supplies (Southeast Louisiana @ Hurricane Katrina was educational…). However when practicing and training for active shooter type scenarios a pack or bag is inconvenient and cumbersome. If it is not worn regularly it can even be distracting. Most of us have selected a form of tactical vest for our trunk or passenger seat QRK. It can be tailored to carry as much or as little as needed. A simple tactical vest will do. Although more expensive, many have elected to purchase a vest and hard plates that will stop rifle rounds (I like the Blackhawk cut-away). They have the ability to add storage and configure it as necessary. Since officers should be weraing a soft armor vest anyway the act of wearing an additional vest is hardly noticed. Things such as med kits, ammo, lights, chemical devices, hydration, food bars, knives, etc can all have a place AND you can gain extra ballistic protection. We size the vest and pre-set the adjustment straps to fit over our standard duty wear. The officer is able to put the gear on and engage in seconds. Anyhow, just thought that I would share another option that works well for us.
Speaking of getting stuck in the boonies on a deployment – maybe include some iodine tablets for water purification (we have nasty bugs living in some of our Rocky Mountain streams) and something to start a fire. Cotton balls soaked in hand sanitizer or petroleum jelly (as you have mentioned) work great. Also, I’ve used, believe it or not, lint from our dryer in the laundry room with a dab of hand sanitizer to kick off a fire as well and it burns like nobody’s business.
Your recent article on the above was of great interest. As you have already included a poncho and emergency blanket, would it not be sensible to have a number of tent pegs and paracord / bungies to make an improvised shelter. In addition to the emergency blanket, a plastic survival bag might be an idea. The inclusion of a decent knife is great, but a multi-tool might be more versatile.
When I was a deputy, my bag also contained a metal match, 50 feet of 550 cord (doubled and then daisy chained), tube of sun screen (I live in Florida), bottle of DEET, 50 feet of 7mm rope and 2 carabineers. (I used a small assault pack) I kept all my extra clothing in a separate bag in my trunk all the time. (Winter jacket, wind breaker, boonie hat, watch cap, gloves etc) More than once I started the shift off wearing a windbreaker, then ended up on a perimeter or some other detail, and needed something warmer. I also kept a set of heavy insulated coveralls and 2 pair of dry socks in there, just in case. For water, I kept 3 – 24 oz bottles of Aquafina. (Write the date on the bottles with magic marker and change out every 6 months.)