Build a Grab ‘N’ Go Pistol Bag for less than $500

A long while ago (almost two years now!) I wrote an article on SHTFblog.com asking people for advice and thoughts on keeping Bug Out Pistol Bagweapons in your Bug Out Bag (BOB). At the time, I had kind of an entry-level setup, with a Home Depot Husky tool bag loaded up with ammo, pistol, magazines, and redundant gear that was already in my BOB. (you know, in case I couldn’t grab my BOB in time…) The separate weapon bag weighed a ridiculous amount, and I thought I needed it all.

By Drew, a contributing author of SHTFBlog & Survival Cache

My Bug Out Pistol Bag

I got tired of transferring a 30-lb BOB AND my 21-lb gun bag between vehicles and sites I went to…and I ultimately came to the realization that the theory was sound, but pack mules don’t exactly go with me everywhere I go.  That setup also happened to be a stuffed-full bright red bag that stood out everywhere; if you brought it into an office building for a doctor’s appointment, say, it just wouldn’t fit in. Stuck out like a sore thumb. I eventually shelved the idea because it was just…clunky.  Obtuse. Instead, I compromised and simply just carried an extra mag for my small every day concealed carry gun, and made sure I always had a small flashlight, a clip knife, and a lighter with me…worked well enough.

However, my weapon bag idea came rushing back to me one day when I went over my father’s house a while ago.  There was a bug out pistol bagsmall, tan, innocuous looking nylon case on his kitchen table. “Hey, that’s cool.” I said. “Where’d you get the FDE laptop case?”  A glimmer in his eye. “Open it up!”  I did, and to my delight I saw that it was a pistol case, with a simple strap-type Velcro-secured holster incorporated, along with several mag pouches and a couple universal-use pouches that were removable and able to be re-arranged inside the case.  I would have sworn till I was blue in the face that it was a small notebook/laptop case or a large padded tablet case.  Gears started grinding.  Wheels turning.  Ideas flowing.  Had to get one.  I wanted a slick, incognito pistol bag that wouldn’t set off alarms, yet leave me able to arm myself with the pull of a zipper.  I sat down to figure it out.

And what I figured out was that, first and foremost:  I had a 14-month old baby and a new mortgage, with winter’s accompanying heating bills…in other words, I was operating on a budget.  I did a quick mental inventory on what I could sell or trade, so as not to pull from the household dime, and I set myself a hard figure of $500.  Five hundred smackers for everything that I would need in a firearms-related light-travel grab ‘n’ go bag.  Also, I wanted to keep it inconspicuous looking so I could bring it into the office, or to the mall, or a coffee shop, and nobody would be the wiser. Off to the internet!

The Bag

I liked the old man’s bag, so I got one identical, just black. It is the model 149 soft pistol case, made by Condor Tactical…in Bug Out Pistol BagChina. Yeah, I know…I can hear you all groaning now.  There ARE other USA made options, but I bit the bullet on this one because I really liked the look and layout…and as a bonus, cheap.  Like $26.56 with free shipping from Amazon cheap.  It came in a few days after I ordered it, and I was just as pleased with mine as I was with my father’s. It’s actually pretty well-made, sturdy, padded. A removable foam-filled divider goes between the two halves so that your magazines and other goodies won’t scratch up the gun.  The holster and three other pouches reside on a full Velcro panel, and they are all removable, to customize the arrangement to your heart’s desire.  One of the pouches is perfectly sized for a medium-sized flashlight or pepper spray dispenser, one is suitably sized for a single box of ammo, and one is more of a band that you can fit items with clips to – knives, cellphones, flashlights, what have you.  You can even order more of these Velcro components on Amazon.  Want to have two handguns in there?  Order another holster up and go for it.  But all in all, it satisfied me as well laid-out for the purposes I had in mind.

One of the key features of this bag is the zipper setup.  The twin opposing direction zippers interlock with each other, and Bug Out Pistol Bagemploy loops that line up to allow you to run a small padlock and secure the zippers together, locking the bag.  The advantages of this are many, security being the major point.  However, it also means that the bag qualifies as a de facto “locked container” so the firearm may travel (laws allowing – check up on them for your area.) inside your car or truck unloaded (no magazine in the gun), even state to state, as long as your starting point and destination allow you to legally have the pistol.  For example, where I live in Maine, it’s fine if I have the gun in the case to travel to and stop in New Hampshire – but if I go to Massachusetts, it’s a definite no-go. So be sure to do your research if you plan to utilize a setup similar to this.  I use small Master Lock set-your-own combination locks so I don’t have to worry about whether or not my key made it with me in an emergency situation.

The bag also sports carrying handles and incorporated loops for a non-included over-the-shoulder strap. In a pinch, I could see a clip-on rifle sling like the Magpul MS3 being used, no problem.  I’ve been using this setup for a few months now, and while the bag collects dust (see the pictures – my house is having sheet rock work done and the black case picked up dust when it was set on a horizontal surface), it’s relatively easy to clean with a wet cloth. I haven’t had any problems with stitching pull out, zippers breaking, or anything inside the case getting damaged, even if it just gets unceremoniously tossed onto the floor of my truck, or dropped when carrying in lots of groceries. It’s actually holding up much better than I thought it would for the price. I’m actually (begrudgingly) pretty impressed here. I’d say it’d hold up quite well for rough duty for some time.

Contents: The Pistol

Of course, the bag you carry everything in is great and all, but what about the real reason for the bag…the stuff that goes in it? Best Bug Out PistolWell, keeping with my $500.00 self-implied limit, I was able to successfully assemble a good starter security kit that I can add to later as the need arises or my needs evolve. The basic contents comprise of a pistol, three magazines with ammunition, a flashlight, a compass, a fire-starting tool, and a small pocket clip knife. Later on, budget and space permitting, I can add a Aquamira Emergency Straw or similar water filter, a couple Clif bars or something similar, and maybe a burner pre-paid cellphone…or anything else I may perceive I need.

Let’s start with the biggie, the handgun.  If you already have one, you can toss this expense right out the window.  My every day carry gun is a Smith &Wesson M&P40C, and it’s on my person pretty much all the time. But for the situations where I needed to leave it home but could take the bag,  I wanted something similar that I was already familiar with. But since the gun didn’t need to be small to be hidden, I could go with a full-sized gun.  I decided to try to look for a full-sized M&P in .40 S&W, to maximize accessory and magazine compatibility with my carry gun.  Also, since I was already familiar with the platform, there wouldn’t be any transition training time.  Since I knew I was looking on the cheap, the police department trade-in scene seemed like a good place to start.  Luckily, the M&P is a very common police carry gun, so I didn’t think it would be too hard.

Also Read: Smith & Wesson M&P .40C Review

And it wasn’t. A quick search of a couple sites turned up blow-out PD guns through CDNN Sports, an on-line surplus retailer. Bug Out Pistol BagCDNN had .40 S&W PD trade-ins with some wear – this didn’t concern me much, as PD guns generally go through a very strict maintenance regime – and they were scooting them out the door for $299 apiece with one magazine on an end-of-the-year sale. Score!  CDNN has a list of local FFL dealers, and after some communication with a recognized FFL and the departure of some greenbacks from my wallet, I soon had in my hot little hands a previously enjoyed full sized M&P40. Price: $339 with tax, shipping, and transfer.

Of course, you don’t have to run an M&P.  A quick perusal of CDNN’s site as I write this (April 30, 2015) comes up with many low-cost options, some of them new guns, some used trade-ins.  For example, a Taurus PT111 G2 9mm is going for $239.99 right now. Ruger MKIII 22/45s in .22LR are going for $259.00. Walther PPXs in 9mm or .40 S&W can find new homes right now for $279.88. Ruger SR45s in .45ACP can be had for $369.99. And this is just CDNN; there are myriad online retailers and auction sites that are out there for your perusal. A few hours spent searching and drooling will likely net you a good gun at a budget price. End-of-year sales are always great at sites like these, just as a heads up.

Magazines

One magazine is just a bummer – I prefer to have a minimum of 6 per handgun platform to use and rotate as needed. I Bug Out Pistol Bagpersonally consider three magazines a bare minimum for this personal carrying-around setup.  New guns generally come with 2-3 magazines; alas, my PD trade-in gun had but one.  So, a couple more magazines were needed. CDNN came to the rescue again – used factory mags in excellent shape were $16.99 apiece, so I ordered two up. With their flat rate shipping, I had them at my door for $43.97. Considering new magazines are $35-40 new at the local gun shops, this was something of a bargain, even if I had to order up replacement magazine springs. The magazines function just fine, but I’m keeping an eye on them as I shoot them for signs of magazine spring fatigue.  $409.53 so far.

Illumination

I don’t go anywhere anymore without a flashlight. You never realize how often you’ll use one until you actually have one on your person all the time.  I have a Streamlight Microstream with an extra battery taped to it that I keep in my pocket every day. It’s a great little flashlight, but it is small. If we have the luxury of a bag to contain larger items like a full-sized pistol, why not have a full-sized flashlight in there as well?  I bought a Streamlight Polytac 88850 polymer flashlight from Amazon for $38.22.

Also Read: Compact Flashlight Comparison

It comes with two CR123 lithium batteries that have a 5+ year shelf life, so I don’t need to worry about updating the batteries all the time like my little AAA-powered MicroStream. It has three settings: standard 130 lumen light, strobe, and low-power 14-lumen setting for longer run time.  It has a small pocket clip on it, though it’s a bit bulky, in my opinion, for every day carry on my person. I own a couple of these lights and they are just awesome – a fantastic bang for the buck that is just about indestructible and very reliable.  Keep a couple extra batteries with the light and you’ll be set for illumination.

Knife

I don’t need a huge knife in my kit; something that’s enough to do basic utilitarian knife duty is fine. But that doesn’t mean we have to spend a ton to get a good, rugged knife.  One of the daily carry knives I have is a Gerber EVO with a 3.4” titanium nitride coated blade. I think I bought it for $19.99 a few years ago, and it’s been a rugged little beast. I’ve used it to chisel out hinge locations on doors in my old house, whittle wood for marshmallow sticks, cut cardboard, and I even gutted the deer I bagged last year with it.

Also Read: Fallkniven F1 Knife Review

I sharpen it with a belt sander on occasion, or a coffee mug bottom, or a whetstone. It takes an edge easily and holds it well. It’s a little worn, but it looks way more “operator” that way. (Yes, that was a joke.) They’re on Amazon right now for $20.78, and for the price, you can’t go wrong. I put my used one in my bag and pocketed the new one.

Compass

A good compass is a must, and I try never to cheap out on my direction-finding. Luckily, excellent compasses by Suunto can be Bug Out Pistol Baghad for very low prices. The Sunnto Clipper is a tiny clip-on compass that has an adjustable bezel that you can snap on your watch, rifle sling, pocket, lapel, backpack strap…anywhere it fits. It’s a bit more rudimentary than standard baseplate compasses, but it’s only a tad bigger than one inch in diameter.  And as they only cost $15.64, they fit the budget nicely. If you prefer a base plate style compass, the Suunto A-10 entry level compass costs even less at $20.  Cheap insurance indeed, no latter your environment.

Fire

This is an easy one: I grabbed a Bic lighter at the local convenience store for $0.99.  I keep it in a zip-lock bag so it doesn’t get wet.  Throw some stormproof matches and a few homemade pieces of tinder in with it just in case.  We’re now up to just shy of $485.00. Depending on deals you find or shipping costs or what you already own, you could be in this for far less. But I had $15 for extraneous items, like a freeze-dried food packet, or maybe some energy bars and a small whetstone. Maybe you want to grab a ferrocerium rod and a P-38 can opener in there, or buy extra batteries for the flashlight. Stuff a collapsible water container or a cheap nylon holster for your belt in the bag. Maybe a nice little first aid kit?  Options are endless, and you can really tailor a small carry-around bag for your personal situation easily, and on a reasonable budget.

Conclusion

In the prepper community, many of us idolize the gear…but there’s a reason for it. We gotta have item “X” in case “Y” happens as we get to location “Z” and if “AA” happens we have item “BB” to back up “X”. that’s just the way we think.  We keep our minds open to any situation that may arise, and we try to have the proper items to see us safely through.  However, having a firearm being an integral part of a get-home or bug-out plan is a big decision to make, especially where technicalities, legalities, and practicalities come into play. Schlepping the extra 5-10 pounds of gear, to me, is an easy decision to make, because it means that in the worst of the worse-case scenarios, I can provide immediate close-range security for myself and my family if things so awry.  I’m not Rambo, I don’t carry the pistol to get into long, dramatic firefights – and I hope I never have to use it.  But with a nice, lightweight, easy-to-grab little setup like this I know that I have the equipment needed to provide a little extra peace of mind when the chips are down, even when I don’t have a fully stocked BOB/GHB present.  And to me, that’s worth every penny of the $500 budget.  What are your thoughts? What would you put in your $500 pistol grab-n-go bag?

Sound off in the comments below!
Stay safe!
TRW

All Photos by Drew

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24 comments… add one
  • j.r. guerra in s. tx. May 6, 2015, 8:12 am

    Thanks for the post. Some very good thoughts. I’ve tried to find a bag that ‘hides in plain sight’ too. Use a little league baseball bag to conceal one of my kits but its hardly secure. More of a ‘why bother looking in there’ sort of thing.

    Reply
  • Doc Montana May 6, 2015, 6:49 pm

    Good read Drew and great idea.

    Since you asked, I’d suggest that given the purpose of this kit a couple compression dressings and a tourniquet would make essential additions. Might I suggest this tourniquet:

    http://survivalcache.com/survival-gear-review-sof-tactical-tourniquet-softt/

    It is a good one if you have to put it on a leg alone while seated in a car.

    And while at, maybe a compass upgrade to one with a mirror housing so you can find north and see around corners and over barriers without putting your head in the line of fire.

    On the flashlight front, it looks like the spec’d Streamlight only has one speed. I like my light rides to have at least two gears since most of the time I drive in low. Better mileage as well.

    A Sharpie pen and small note pad would round out the kit in my book.

    All IMHO of course.

    Reply
  • Doc Montana May 6, 2015, 6:55 pm

    A point of clarification. I based my flashlight comment on the Amazon specs with do not mention any additional settings then full speed. Sorry if I’m in error.

    Reply
  • Drew May 6, 2015, 7:31 pm

    Doc,

    I think the shown Streamlight flashlighton Amazon may be an older generation of Polytac. I have three of them; one of them is one-speed, as you mention, and two of them have the high/strobe/low function. Outside dimensions on all three are identical. I linked to the one on Amazon so people could have a frame of reference; it may very well be incorrect. Here is the one I recommend, from the Streamlight site: http://www.streamlight.com/en-us/product/product.html?pid=159#tabs .

    Tourniquets, dressings, and/or quick-clot would all be fantastic additions. Thanks for the thought!

    I had someone on the Facebook site give me hell because I chose not to put a cleaning kit in the bag. To each their own; I didn’t see a need for one personally, but it’s anothr excellent addition.

    Reply
  • Doc Montana May 7, 2015, 4:47 pm

    Thanks for the update Drew.

    Cleaning kit? That’s a stretch.

    I’d suggest a pair of flex cuffs before a bore snake, but you could use the snake to tie up the perp.

    Quick questions…one of your pics shows a Streamlight TLR-3(?) on the M&P. Why didn’t that make it into your kit?

    Reply
  • Drew May 7, 2015, 7:02 pm

    Doc – That’s the M&P Compact EDC gun; I think some added photos were needed so some were pulled from past articles! I didn’t feel the need for the added expense of a weapon mounted light for this kit. I’d rather have the added versatility of a separate light for something like this.

    Reply
    • Doc Montana May 8, 2015, 7:29 pm

      Hi Drew,

      I have moved to weapon-mounted lights as much as possible. It’s more than just having both hands occupied, but these new high power flashlights (my go-to lights are 500 and 1000 lumen Surefires) are great until you get close to something.

      To keep the gun ready, that means the hand with the light must also work doors, gates, switches, light the ground in front of your feet, etc. which also means that the light must be pointed in a direction that usually intersects a close object or surface producing a blinding light back towards the holder.

      In that same vein, I also mounted a laser on my tactical shotgun.

      Reply
  • Rambo May 8, 2015, 6:52 am

    Good read. I need a pistol bag like this. What if your car is broken into? Do you keep this in your trunk?

    Reply
    • Drew May 9, 2015, 9:40 am

      Rambo, I usually take it with me if I get out of the truck.

      Reply
  • irishdutchuncle May 9, 2015, 3:50 am

    I really like spending less money, for a better pistol, and nothing for the ammunition required to get it broken-in.
    I hope my local FFL makes enough on the deal, to keep his door open…

    Reply
    • Drew May 9, 2015, 6:33 pm

      It’s worth a shot! PD trade in guns are among the best deals out there if you don’t mind finish wear.

      Reply
  • TPSnodgrass May 9, 2015, 7:04 pm

    Good article, Drew! Well done. AS someone who is approaching “old man” status, I LOVE looking grey at all times, and subscribing to the Gomer-Pyle-School-of-Tactics-Surprise!Surprise!Surprise!
    I think your bag is well laid out and well done.One cannot EVER have too many mags in my personal and professional experience/s. Also, agree on having at least one tourniquet, preferably two IN the bag and on board.

    Reply
  • irishdutchuncle May 10, 2015, 6:37 am

    I’d love to visit Maine sometime, but you can’t get there from here…

    Reply
  • Sebago Dad May 10, 2015, 11:05 am

    Good Overview Drew. About the only major item I can think of that you may want to think about adding is emergency currency. Even in smaller bills such as a couple of $20’s and $10’s it doesn’t take up much space. I used to always keep a roll of dimes in my glove box back in the days when pay phones were on every corner… I know that having a new son of your own might make this a challenge, but in reality I bet that a few bucks in the hole will be just as handy as an extra magazine for the S&W.

    Reply
    • TPSnodgrass May 16, 2015, 5:31 pm

      “…a roll of dimes….” hence the Tough Old Guy term, “dropping the dime.” Thanks for the reminder! Didn’t “think” about that one at all!

      Reply
  • Jason May 12, 2015, 1:40 am

    Great overview. I always make sure to keep some walking around money in mine as well just like Sebago Dad mentioned in the previous post. While I love the .40 cal, I have my CZ SPO1 as my go-to for about any situation due to the full metal frame for lower recoil and the higher capacity mags that the 9mm offers. Enjoyed the write up!

    Reply
  • Kenneth OC June 20, 2015, 7:54 pm

    The bag looks so light. I d consider carrying it especially when travelling with bikes. looks cheap, that means I can pay more for my pistol :) but just didnt like the zip and the lock. maybe we shd consider a better quality and pay a bit more.
    the best useful is the ammo case. anyway 26$ worth it. gonna check online now!

    Reply
  • Jadm August 31, 2015, 7:52 pm

    what about a small first aid kit?

    Reply
  • My Gun Safe Guide April 6, 2016, 11:04 am

    Thank for the great informations.i think i found what i’m looking for from your site. Thank you so much!

    Reply
  • Gun Safe Review October 6, 2016, 10:00 pm

    I really like spending less money, for a better pistol, and nothing for the ammunition required to get it broken-in.
    I hope my local FFL makes enough on the deal, to keep his door open…

    Reply
  • Sofia January 11, 2017, 5:31 am

    great article I likey to publish in my tweet and facebook, but gun safes is akways good for us

    Reply
  • Sofia January 11, 2017, 5:36 am

    Can You Tell me about any girl use this item ? These Days Women,s use best pencil eyeliner
    but not use pistol for her personal safe :D

    Reply
  • Sofia January 19, 2017, 5:11 pm

    You Can Use Shoes for top10footwear.com

    Reply
  • Edward Blocker December 12, 2017, 11:46 am


    I must say this site is eye-opening!
    Literally exposes a lot of gun safe myths, many of which have been repeated in this thread. 

    Reply

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