The Backpack Gun: Extra Firepower In A Small Package

A man’s home is his castle, or so the saying goes, and protecting that castle is one of the reasons why people buy guns. Home defense using a firearm is an essential part of the right to keep and bear arms, however, we’re not always at home. Taking extended trips away from our homes is a fact of life for many of us, and that’s where something like a backpack gun starts to make sense 

Backpack Gun Fast Facts 

  • Your concealed carry pistol is your go-to gun. A backpack gun is at best a secondary weapon 
  • A backpack gun should have more capabilities than a typical concealed carry pistol
  • The backpack gun is your home defense gun when you’re away from home 

Right now, some of you are scratching your heads and thinking to yourself, “Wait, didn’t he write an article blasting the idea of a trunk gun? Isn’t he lukewarm at (at best) on the whole idea of off-body carry? Why is he talking about backpack guns? Isn’t that just the same idea?” Good question.

Carry With You, Not Carry On You

There are two reasons why I’m against off-body carry and trunk guns. The first is that a pistol in a messenger bag or in a purse is not a substitute or replacement for a pistol that’s on your person. Your defensive pistol belongs on your body, not in a bag. There is an entire class of bad guys out there known as “purse snatchers” who are ready, willing and able to take your purse and your gun away from you. If they snag your bag, you’ve not only lost your valuables, you’ve armed a crook. Not a good place to be.  The second reason is more practical. It takes longer to get your gun into the fight when you’re carrying off-body than it does if you carry on your person. The faster you get hits on-target, the better your chances of coming out the winner of a lethal force encounter.  

The Gun For The Destination, Not The Journey

At first glance, there are not a lot of differences between a trunk gun and a backpack gun. Both are usually carried in the same place inside of your vehicle. Both are typically more powerful or longer-ranged than a defensive carry pistol. The difference is how long they stay inside your vehicle and why they are there in the first place.  A firearm should never be a permanent part of your vehicle. Cars are cars, and gun safes are gun safes. The two are not interchangeable.

A backpack gun should be treated like any other piece of luggage and go into your vehicle for a specific reason and for a specific journey. You don’t leave your suitcases in your car in between vacations, and you definitely shouldn’t leave a gun in there either.  The other difference is how each gun is meant to be used. Most, if not all the talk these days is about rifles or shotguns carried inside a car is how to deploy them in case of an active shooter. This assumes that a) it’s our job to chase down an active shooter and b) we’re going to retrieve that gun and get it into the fight in a timely manner. 

Trouble Is Coming, And You Can’t Avoid It

However, our job as armed citizens isn’t to go looking for trouble, it’s to make sure that no harm comes to those who matter most to us. Therefore, getting you and your loved ones out of danger should be your first, second and third priorities.  Geography is the second thing that’s working against you when it comes to getting a gun in play from our car.

For instance, a quick glance at an online mapping website tells me that it’s around 200 yards from the edge of the parking lot to the center of my local mall. That means that an active shooter event at that mall would require me to run 200 yards back to my car, open the trunk, retrieve my gun, then run 200 yards back to where the shooting was occuring. All of this would take about 5-7 minutes, which means that I’d be showing up on-scene at an active shooter event with a rifle in my hands at almost the exact same time that the police show up, looking for someone with a rifle in their hands. 

Not a good place to be. So what is a backpack gun, and what is it used for? 

Definition of a Backpack Gun

Glock brace and backpack

Glock 19 w/Recover Tactical Stabilizer in an ESS backpack

The backpack gun is, in essence, our home defense gun for when we’re away from home. The case that you carry it in is a part of your luggage, so it probably shouldn’t look like something that screams “tactical!” The gun inside of that case should be small enough to carry from your car to your domicile without looking like an obvious gun case. Lastly, the gun inside should bring more to the fight than your defensive pistol. With that in mind, let’s look at three options for a defensive firearm that packs more punch than what you

Glock 19 with Pistol Brace, Elite Survival Systems ECHO Backpack 

At first glance, a Glock pistol brace doesn’t bring a lot more to the party than just a regular concealed carry pistol does. They both shoot 9mm, and both have the same length barrel so there is no added velocity to the rounds headed downrange.  That brace, however, gives you a more stable sight picture and reduces the recoil of the pistol down to almost nothing. This allows you to make faster, more accurate follow up shots and to engage targets at longer ranges than what a pistol alone can do. 

Maxim PDW, sling bag

Maxim PDX in a Hazard4 sling bag

The Elite Survival Systems Echo backpack is an excellent choice for discrete carry of smaller guns like a Glock with a pistol brace. It has enough capacity to easily hold a Glock with a pistol brace, and there are plenty of pockets on the bag for all the other items you carry everyday.  

Maxim Defense PDX, Hazard4 Rocket Sling Bag 

The PDX is a powerful firearm using high-quality components that is based on the AR-15 platform. This particular gun is chambered in 7.62×39, but other models are available in 5.56mm and 300 Blackout. The gun has a linear compensator that directs the muzzle gases forward to cut down on recoil and a handstop on the forend to make sure your hand doesn’t get cut by the muzzle blast when you shoot it.  The PDX is just 18.75 inches long with the stock collapsed, which is substantially shorter than most other AR-platform pistols. This allows it to be carried in bags which normally would be too small for an AR-pattern gun, such as the HAZARD4 Sling bag. This bag is a good example of how the lines between “tactical” gear and everyday carry bags are starting to blur. 

300BLK Backpack gun

300BLK Pistol in a Vertx sling bag

In the past, anything with MOLLE straps like this cling bag used to scream “tactical!” However, times have changed, and more and more people are starting to see the value of a load-bearing system like MOLLE which allows you to hang pouches and gear on your bag. However, if you take a look around any college town or at your local bus stop, you’ll probably see people carrying camouflage packs that wouldn’t look out of place on a Forward Operating Base in the sandbox somewhere. Look around, and make sure what you’re carrying doesn’t make you stand out from the crowd. 

300 BLK Pistol, Vertx Commuter Sling 2.0 Sling Bag 

I must admit, it took me a while to warm up to the 300 Blackout round. I just didn’t see the point of it. It didn’t add more distance to what 5.56mm was capable of doing, and the bigger, 7.62 caliber bullet didn’t seem worth the extra cost.  Things changed when I had a chance to shoot a suppressed 300 BLK pistol. 300 BLK is whisper-quiet when using a suppressor and subsonic ammunition, which can be a distinct advantage when shooting indoors. 300 BLK is also quite effective when shooting from shorter barrels, such as the 8.5 inch barrel on this home-built AR pistol. 

That shorter barrel means that it’s quite possible to use a 300 BLK pistol as a backpack gun, if you use the right backpack. The VERTX Commuter 2.0 looks like a slightly oversized sling bag, but it can easily store a small AR pistol, complete with optic and magazine. This brings up an important point. When you carry a gun off-body, you are not in direct control of your firearm. In this situation, carrying your backpack in a cruiser-ready condition is probably a good idea. Now let’s consider some other ways to take a bit more firepower with you wherever you go.  

Other Options For A Backpack Gun

If you’re a fan of the scattergun, a small, shortened “firearm” like the Mossberg Shockwave or Remington Tac-14 might be an option. These guns may look like sawed-off shotguns, but thanks to loopholes in the National Firearms Act, they are considered to be “firearms” and can be purchased (where applicable) without buying an additional tax stamp from the federal government.  However, opinions are mixed on the use of these small, shotgun-style firearms. Some people, such as the legendary Clint Smith, like these types of guns, while other people like shotgun specialist Ashton Ray aren’t a fan of them. What’s certain is, they are a specialized gun that requires a specialized technique to shoot well, so for my part, I’m going to stick with the guns that I know, and use a backpack gun that is built on either the AR-15 or Glock platform. 

There are other choices out there for a backpack gun if you’re willing to break your gun into pieces for storage and transport. Ruger’s excellent semi-automatic PC Carbine is a small rifle which can use magazines from either the Ruger American line of pistols or higher capacity, Glock compatible magazines. Best of all, the PC Carbine breaks down into two pieces for stealthy transport, but can be easily and quickly reassembled when needed.  If you’re looking for a similar gun, the Kel-Tec Sub2000 folds in half and is available in both 9mm and 40S&W.

Another consideration for a backpack gun, especially for people who live in places where AR-15s are frowned upon, is a lever-action rifle that breaks apart similar to the Ruger PC Carbine. These rifles are available in a variety of calibers, from 22LR on up to 45-70, giving you plenty of self-defense options in a package that can be carried around discreetly. 

Backpack Guns: The Home Defense Gun For The Road

A backpack gun is not a gun for when the fight unexpectedly finds you. Rather, it’s a gun for when you know the fight is coming your way, and there is nothing you can do to stop it. It’s not for carrying around as part of your every day routine, it’s for when your travels require you to stay overnight for one reason or another.  In that sort of a situation, having something more than just your defensive carry pistol can make quite a difference in the fight. More important than having the gear, however, is having the mindset and training to use it when lives are on the line, and that’s something that’s not on the shelves of your local gun store.