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Ready to go — Active shooter bags
By Ralph Mroz
In the latest Police Officers Safety Association training program, "Active Shooter and 4th/5th Generation Warfare" (It’s free to download from www.posai.org.), part of the program addresses the gear that a responding officer ideally should have in some kind of “go bag” to handle the situation. Included in this gear list are extra pistol magazines, extra rifle magazines (assuming you have a rifle to grab), cylube (chem) sticks to mark IEDs that you come across, breaching rounds and additional anti-personnel rounds for a shotgun if that’s the long gun you have, perhaps keys and floor plans to the likely buildings on your beat, a self-rescue medical kit, extra light, and so on. A medical kit is a must, because as Paul Howe (see below) points out, a med kit won’t be in the structure unless you bring it in — remember that EMS won’t enter the structure until it’s secure, a process that can take hours. You may well be the person needing medical attention, and certainly there will be injured victims that will.
The items that you need will depend on the equipment that you already carry, your agency’s policies, and the nature of the likely threats in your jurisdiction. But certainly having an easily “grabable” bag as you exit your vehicle to make entry can make a difference, particularly as the threat from active shooter crimes escalates into full-blown 4th and 5th generation warfare, with something like Beslan the nightmare we hope never happens here. If you are a plainclothes officer, then such a bag makes even more sense, because you don’t even have the full duty belt of weapons available to you.
Many companies are now making and marketing “Active Shooter Response Bags.” Bags are easy to make and inexpensive to purchase, even for high-quality ones. They are easy to stow in a vehicle and simple to throw over a shoulder. On the downside, they are limited in their capacity (you won’t want to be running down a hallway or up stairs with a large, heavy bag slung over your shoulder), can be clumsy to run and maneuver with, and when slung are not securely fixed to you. A very small point: the color of the bag doesn’t matter during an incident, of course, and because it doesn’t I slightly prefer a non-black bag, if available, so that I can quickly find it if it’s stowed in the trunk of my vehicle.
The other option is a vest, but these are more expensive and, to the extent that your agency’s bureaucracy gets involved in issuing and/or approving vest-based response kits, they are more complicated (read: time consuming) to spec because of all the options. Leaving vests for another day, here’s a look at four of the popular “active shooter response” bags you may be considering.
The Eagle Industries Active Shooter Bag is a fairly simple affair, but made of 1000 denier Coudura and with very high quality construction. The flat bag itself is about 11 inches by 11 inches with a 4-inch Velcro closing top flap. The bag is divided into two pockets 11-inches high by 5.2-inches wide by 2-inches deep. The opening for each pocket is through the top 5.2 x 2-inch opening. A web handle on the rear and a 2-inch web shoulder strap are the carry mechanisms, with the shoulder strap able to also act as a waist strap. The bag is designed to accommodate 3 to 5 spare M4 mags, multiple wound kits, light sticks, medical scissors and a tourniquet.
The theory of this bag is that there will be a fairly small amount of extra gear that you’ll take into an active shooter situation, and that organizing it into two pockets won’t be a problem. This bag was designed by Paul Howe, and his reasoning on it and its contents can be found in his article on the subject here (PDF) . (In this article, Mr. Howe also discusses bag alternatives such as a vest or plate carrier, and his articles on active shooter on the Combat Shooting and Tactics Web site are well, well worth reading.) Eagle’s bag is built around a M4 or AR-15 rifle as the responding officer’s primary weapon in this situation (not surprising given Mr. Howe’s Special Forces background); if you don’t have that weapon available to you, the pockets of this bag aren’t the easiest from which to retrieve pistol magazines. Available in three colors, and with a list price of $29.36. www.eagleindustries.com.
The Active Response Bag from Northeast Tactical is a nylon flat-ish bag about 12 x 11 inches from the front. It contains three pockets. A 12 x 11-inch flat pocket on the rear (towards the body) pocket has a non-flap 3/4 Velcro strip closure. Two front bellowed pockets about 12-inches high by 5-inches wide by 2-inches deep have full Velcro flap closures. A shoulder strap of 1 ½-inch webbing can also act as a waist strap due to it’s Fas-Tec buckle. One front flap has a Velcro loop panel to attach an identity or unit label. While the rear pocket can be useful for carrying larger items, a good use for it is as a handy dump pouch for anything you find and need to keep as you negotiate your structure. Available in black with a list price of $29.95. www.northeasttactical.com
Blackhawk doesn’t make a specifically labeled “active shooter” bag, but they do make two “battle bags” and a “tactical handbag”, and these certainly fit the bill for this application. All are more-or-less (but not the same) size. we’ll use the mid-size 11x10x5-inch Battle Bag as an example here. Made of 1000 denier nylon, its features include:
* Integral shoulder and waist strap (stowable)
* Map pocket (9.5x13-in) inside protective storm flap with
side release closure
* Internal pouch for handheld radio with antenna access
* Internal elastic loops for chem lights or shotgun shells
* Internal hook & loop section for handgun and spare pistol
magazine (or any modular hook & loop pouches), including a pistol and mag holster
* 2 dividers creating 3 internal sections in main compartment
* Rear zippered accessory pocket with elastic securing
bands holds three rifle magazines
* Two external (4x5-in) zippered pouches on either side to hold
GPS, phones, pistol mags, etc.
Blackhawk’s Enhanced Battle Bag is slightly larger to accommodate a laptop computer and it has MOLLE webbing on three sides to attach pouches. The Tactical Handbag is smaller and is set up to be more of a small briefcase. They are available in three or four colors, and list priced between $59.99 to $119.99. Because these Blackhawk bags are set up to carry a pistol and lots of gear, including your radio, they make suitable off-duty response bags, or they’re handy ways to have your gear available in situations where you may not have a gun and other gear on your person at the moment (in some court buildings, for example, or maybe just a day in the office trying to catch up on some paperwork.) www.blackhawk.com.
5.11 Tactical/GT Distributors
The Active Shooter Bail Out Bag made by 5.11 Tactical is an exclusive product to GT. Made from 1000 denier nylon, the main compartment is about 12x8x4.5-inches, and it’s lined in a light gray material, making it easier to find stowed items. It has three exterior pouches which will hold six AR-15 magazines, but they are cleverly elasticized so that pistol mags are also easily stored and retrieved from them. The main compartment accepts the 5.11 Back-Up Belt System on one side while the other side is rigged with PALS (MOLLE) webbing. There are two additional side outside compartments measuring 7"x4.5" with exterior PALS webbing, shoulder strap with quick release, and an accessory loop for a knife or flashlight, and the body-side of the bag is padded. This is a well thought-out bag that you’ll find useful for applications other than active shooter. Available in black; list price $36.99, at www.gtdist.com.