Stealth Range Bag

My normal range bag is a Columbia back-pack that has the S&W logo all over it.  Not exactly incognito, it broadcasts “I likely have a gun in here” to anyone even passingly familiar with the firearms industry.  I’m obviously okay with that, but sometimes I want a little more discretion with how I transport my gear – but I still want to be able to carry a lot of stuff without necessarily throwing up a flag that says “I have guns”.  Enter the stealth range bag; perfect for those occasions where you need 9 mags, 300 rounds of ammo, ear and eye protection, your gun, and holsters and mag carriers for everything.

Start with a mild-mannered lap-top/messenger bag.  Bonus points if it has boring branding on it, such as my Nationwide branded bag.  Bags like this are ubiquitous in today’s professional environment.  Given out at trade shows and conventions, they’re usually all the same flat black nylon bag with a decent shoulder strap and most importantly, lots of pockets.  Fitting quite nicely in to the “gray man” strategy, someone wearing business casual with a bag like this slung over their shoulder will attract precisely zero attention from nosy passerby.

However, when the bag gets cracked open, well you can see that it’s quite a bit different from what a lot of people would have in their messenger bags.  I’m not a huge fan of “off body” carry, but when the choice is “having a gun in a bag” or “not having a gun” I’ll put the gun in the bag every single time.  That’s where I’ll also make use of an easy on/off paddle holster like the one from Comp-Tac that’s pictured (no, you don’t have to get it in red).  That bag has everything I need in it to shoot an IDPA match, or hold off a small group of zombies until reinforcements arrive.  9 17 round magazines give me 153 rounds of ammo on tap, and I’ve got enough mag carriers in the bag to carry 6 on my body.

I really like all my “branded” gear.  S&W bags are great for the range and matches, but sometimes you’ve got to fly a little bit under the radar.  With a little thought and some ingenuity, you can turn an ordinary convention chotchkey into a useful CCW and every day carry tool.


  1. I’d be careful about trade show messenger bags. While they’re up to hauling around pens and papers for the length of a show, they’re cheap which is why they can be given away. Eventually either the stitching will give out or the fabric will pull through it under load.

    Another option is to go more blue collar. A lot of tool bags make great range bags. Tough with lots of carrying capacity and cargo space. Plus lots of little pockets for mags and fiddly bits. But when carrying them around in a T-shirt and jeans, you look like you’re about to fix a sink.

  2. My range bag consisted of this pistol case that looks similar to an old style doctor’s home visit bag and a tool box I got on sale at Lowes that I store all of my ammo, spare ear plugs, glasses, stapler , etc in. If you look at me it looks like I’m going to help fix a friend’s steps or something.

    Now I use a red Victornox book bag for my IDPA gear. It doesn’t look like anything but book bag but it’s easy to carry around from stage to stage.

    A few years ago I was looking for a discrete rifle case so I went to my local Guitar Center with a tape measure measuring the inside of a few guitar cases. A salesman came over and asked me if I could help him and I told him I’m looking for a guitar case for a guitar that is 44″ long. He asked what kind of guitar it was, maybe they had one here and we could test fit it so I told him the truth, “It’s a Mossberg 151m(a) from 1943.”

  3. “A few years ago I was looking for a discrete rifle case so I went to my local Guitar Center with a tape measure measuring the inside of a few guitar cases.”

    Yeah I looked for small cases I could tote an AR-15 while broken down into upper and lower halves. I ended up looking at inexpensive soft-side violin cases. Then I realized that I’ve seen two people carry a violin around in my entire life to date so it probably wasn’t going to be inconspicuous. I’d probably be better off with a modified gym bag.

  4. There is something to be said for being a fashionable young woman at a time when giant purses are all the rage. Although I have since down sized, I discovered fairly early on that a decent sized designer handbag (and I do mean decent sized, not obnoxiously huge) can carry everything necessary for a practice match (plus lipgloss). Admittedly, a full frame 1911 and a couple boxes of 45 do make it look like you’re one of those girls who just cannot live unless her hair dryer and entire make up kit are strapped to her arm at all times, but that’s what a passerby is going to assume. Pretty woman with large bag just doesn’t scream “Prepared for IDPA or zombies” like it used to.

  5. I find it funny that using an old laptop bag is now branded as “being stealthy” rather than “being a cheapskate”. I’ve used an old laptop bag as a range bag because it held my stuff and I had one lying about.

  6. Try a Samsonite Briefcase.
    Hard sided, lockable, fairly cheap, and with a foam insert glued in and cut to fit what you want to carry very securely, at least remove the ‘original equipment’ folders in the lid for some extra room.
    No-one would look twice at a guy in a suit carrying a briefcase in a city, and being hard sided there will be no strange bulges from heavy objects (Gun, bullets, etc.).

    Also think about where you will be, the above would work great in a city setting, move it to the subburbs and sort of works, move it to the country and you might as well have a big neon sign saying “Look at me, I must be up to something as I don’t fit in here!” !

    The Tool Bag with jeans and a T-shirt would definitely blend in well where I live.
    Of course around here you can walk around most places with a pistol on your hip and no-one even notices…..

  7. Also consider sports bags – I started out with a tennis bag that had a pocket for a racket, that was open to the outside, and deep enough to conceal a handgun that was still accessible.

    This wasn’t a duffel bag style (round w/ zipper), but a rather tall bag with a racket pouch on the front, complete with a strap for the racket handle.

    I’m sure there are other bags tailored for specific sports that could be pressed into service – Hockey bags would carry rifles; so would golf bags.

  8. My father used to live in the country, and he still occasionally jokes that the golf club was at one point debating if a shotgun counted towards the club limit. So, I would say that a golf bag would be ideal for this kind of thing. And everyone carries golf bags in the city these days, don’t they?

    The shotguns, of course, were used for various Australian shotgun uses.

  9. Another vote for the tool bag. I have an ultra small one that probably came from HD or HF. It is just big enough and has sewn in interior pouches on the perimeter that perfectly fit even double stacked magazines. It carries ear protection, up to 8 mags, small cleaning kit and oil, eye protection, ammo, holster, and mag pouches, etc. The cool thing is that it looks like a tool bag and when I throw it in the back of my car I feel safe leaving it there and it does not stand out. It is also small enough to easily hide in the car – just throw a jacket on it.

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