I carry a backpack everywhere I go. At one point I had what was turning into a collection before I realized how ridiculous it is to have that many packs… and went back to basics. When all was said and done, all that was left was my old 10 year old, black Eagle AIII pack. The size and shape of the pack make it ideally suited for every day carry. It’s a classic, the list of gear I’ve kept around this long, let alone in service, is extremely short. It’s held up incredibly well because when Eagle built these things, they did it right. The exterior of the pack is slick: there is no velcro, no PALS webbing, no straps, buckles or hardware that make it stand out in a crowd. The subdued appearance and build quality make it particularly well suited for the every day carry application. I plan on keeping it around forever.
I also carry a 1911. I don’t like to go anywhere without it. I feed it with seven rounders because that’s what the gun was designed to work with. Being restricted to only 7(+1) rounds at a time means I like to have an extra set of mags or two (or three) on hand. I also haul around a Buck/ Strider folder. And a Gerber tool. My cellphone. Couple of extra batteries for the Surefire X200 that’s mounted on the gun. Sometimes a GPS. Depending on where I go and what I’m doing, I can carry more, a lot more. Get the picture?
The problem is that back in the day, Eagle AIII packs didn’t come with much in the way of internal organization. I don’t know if that’s still the case or not, but the Kifaru Marauder I sold off had a PALS lined interior and the RAID pack that is now gone had mesh pouches sewn in.
I like veclro-in holsters and mag pouches, but I also wanted PALS compatibility. Why not design a panel to run both? So here are the specs: It’s a long, flat, rectangular pocket designed to fit the pack. It’s supported internally by a removable, plastic (HDPE) frame sheet. The exterior on both sides is lined with 1” strips of velcro (loop) tape to form a continuous mounting surface sewn in standard 1.5” PALS columns. Velcro face with a PALS capability, all in one.
After I built my own, it occurred to me that there might be people out there who had the same need. I’ve built a lot of them since then. Since every pack and every pocket is different, I build them to order. You provide height, width and color and I do the rest. Along the way I added a feature to reinforce the velcro strips with binding tape as an option which is really useful if you’re going to be stressing those PALS loops. And one of my customers pointed out that with the addition of a simple harness, these things would make halfway decent tactical seat back organizer in a car. You can do a lot with these things, they’re pretty slick. I’ve been running mine for going on a year now and can’t imagine what it would be like to haul gear in a pack without this capability.
So back to the guns and stuff. Now that I’ve built this great, modular organizer, how do I get my gear on it? First order of business was the gun. I own a Raven Concealment Systems Phantom holster. I love it, but a lot of times it’s just not practical or comfortable to carry, so before anybody tells me that a gun in a backpack is a bad idea, if it comes down to a choice between keeping it in a backpack or not bringing it along at all, I’ll go with the pack option.
Just because it’s carried in a backpack doesn’t mean you have to settle on digging around to get to your piece. Before deciding to build my own, I actually looked around to see what else was out there as far as velcro-in holster solutions. Keep in mind I run a full sized 1911 with an X200 on the dust cover. The elastic webbing loop type holsters were easy to rule out. They’re obviously cheap and easy to build, which is why manufacturers keep churning them out, but they’re crap to draw, even if one could be found to fit my weapon profile. Same story with the velcro fold over holsters. Most of them are 2” wide at best which means your front sight will catch every time. And the velcro backing on both is not exactly substantial enough to hold a gun this heavy. So I had plenty of material, a sewing machine and a list of things I didn’t want in a velcro holster.
The Modular Insert Holster is a velcro backed, universal fit holster. It has a few features that distinguish it from the crowd, but the first thing you need to know is that it was deliberately built from the ground up to be a complete, full featured holster system. It’s not a gimmick and it wasn’t thrown together to complement some other piece of gear. First thing that stands out is it’s size. Although they can be made to order, the standard is a full 6” tall, which greatly improves it’s draw characteristics. The front sight won’t catch, and the pistol travels smoothly out of the holster on the draw and goes back in just as easily (although re-holstering is, admittedly, an administrative consideration.) Sewn into the broad, 4” wide back of the holster is a thick HDPE (plastic) backer which prevents the velcro base of the from rolling or peeling away from the surface it’s mounted on. Full contact is maintained and the holster sticks. I also added a full featured and fully adjustable thumb break for retention.
So how does it work for every day carry?
I like to carry mine in a pocket all by itself. The Eagle AIII has a smaller, secondary zippered pocket forward of the main compartment. I put it there so that access is segregated and distinct from the rest of the pack. The secondary pocket remains zippered shut at all times. Nothing else goes in there, so there is no reason to access it when I’m out… unless I want to draw the gun. I slide the PALS Insert Panel into the pocket it was specifically designed for. It’s a perfect fit. I put a lot of thought into exactly where I would position the holster on the panel. I’ve made a deliberate choice to mount the holster on the inboard side of the pack so that the pistol will not print against the exterior. The extra magazines are positioned next to the pistol and low on the panel. Ideally they’d be higher up for easier access, but in the off chance I need to get into that pocket in public, I want both the pistol and the magazines out of sight. All the same, the pistol rides high enough so that it’s relatively easy (once you’ve accessed the compartment) to index and draw. As it stands there are no physical or visual indicators when I configure and carry this way.
I see I forgot to mention that somewhere along the line I got around to building magazine loops as well. Here’s another area where a lot of what’s out there basically sucks. Elastic magazine loops are common enough, but often pretty flimsy. So lesson learned from my holster building experience: start with a solid backer to maintain full contact between the pouch and the base, surface material. HDPE solved that problem again. My biggest pet peeve with most elastic magazine loops is that they are not very substantial and your magazines shift (sink) in the loops… or worse. Part of the answer was to use really wide elastic webbing. I’m running 3” wide, heavy duty woven elastic. It holds. But I took it a step further and backed the loop with high friction, non-slip grip backing material. The heavy duty elastic is essentially holding your magazine against a non slip rubberized base sewn onto a hard plastic backer that won’t flex. The whole thing was carefully designed to leave a small footprint and not add significantly to the width of the magazine. These things weren’t just built off the cuff, I use them every day, so the design matters to me.
That’s how I EDC. The gear has a lot of other applications, but it has greatly enhanced the use of and extended the useful service life of my old AIII pack.