Ten years ago, the closest thing to a discreet rifle bag came in the form of either a guitar case (for an actual guitar) or a black ballistic nylon soft case with squared off corners that looked like, you guessed it, a rifle bag. Today, several more options are available that do a mediocre job of looking the part, but they leave a lot to be desired when it comes to functionality.
The Covert Operations Rifle Backpack acts just as its name implies. It is a normal looking, albeit long, backpack that is designed to carry a rifle and support equipment.
The backpack portion of this system is what separates it from other transport bags in its class. It actually carries like a real backpack, one that can be hauled for long periods of time and with surprising comfort. We would happily use the bag for day hikes or even as an overnight pack; it is supportive and rides well.
The back panel is heavily padded and vented with lumbar support. The removable waist strap is padded and features a pair of zippered pockets on each wing, just like many of today's casual-style backpacks. These pockets will fit a small rangefinder, energy gel/bars or even a couple of spare pistol magazines.
A sternum strap keeps the heavily padded S-shaped shoulder straps in the optimal position for prolonged carry. The sternum straps buckle doubles as an emergency whistle, similar to those found on many high-end mountaineering packs. A pair of mesh water bottle pockets fit standard 32-ounce Nalgene-type water bottles and complements each side of the pack by adding to its unassuming appearance.
The lockable main compartment is fully lined with loop Velcro to attach hook-backed pouches or other accessories for complete customization. The backpack comes with a pair of adjustable tie downs and a muzzle sleeve to secure a long gun. The compartment is designed to house either a disassembled carbine for secure storage or an assembled short-barreled rifle (SBR) for fast access. The sides and bottom of the pack are completely padded, ensuring the firearms remain protected at all times.
The forward panel of the main compartment features an additional pocket ideal for a full-size handgun, magazines or sunglasses.
The middle compartment's rear panel is lined with PALS webbing and will accept any MOLLE-backed pouches. All PALS webbing is covered in loop Velcro ready to accept hook-backed pouches or a combination of the two.
The front compartment is an administrative-style pocket with a variety of slot pockets and compartments designed to organize keys, cellphones, business cards or other sundries.
The outer portion of this compartment features a daisy chain that is mostly for looks. However, small carabiners can be clipped onto it. Two quick-detach (QD) buckles are fitted on either side of this compartment and adhere to the back panel. If the bag is weighed down, these straps can be tightened to prevent any of the compartments from sagging and appearing full. It's a nice touch.
Elite Survival says engineers designed the Covert Operations Rifle Backpack as a method to store an AR-type carbine, but I opted to carry SIG Sauer's new 11½-inch barreled MCX pistol chambered in 5.56 NATO.
I tucked a two-point adjustable sling into the stabilizing brace, added a Trijicon MRO and SureFire's M300 Mini Scout Light, then simply folded the brace to the side and slid the pistol right into the main compartment. It all fit with plenty of room to spare. There was even enough space to accommodate a 30-round magazine.
SIG Sauer's MCX is a relatively lightweight platform. When loaded and as described, it weighs about 8 pounds. When carried within the pack by itself, it is hardly noticeable. Once I added two more loaded magazines, an individual medical kit, a pair of binoculars, a couple of spare handgun mags, a Gore-Tex shell jacket and couple of bottles of water, I was just shy of 20 pounds.
The pack handled the weight like a champ and remained comfortable whether I threw the pack on one shoulder as I exited my house in the morning or carried it on both shoulders for an extended trail walk. Unknowing passersby only smiled.
Drawing my firearm from the rear compartment was pretty straightforward: Swing the pack off of your shoulder(s) and place it at your feet, pack straps facing your body.
Depending on your distance from the target, the SIG Sauer MCX can be fired with its brace folded to the side or in its extended position.
If gray with orange zippers isn't your style, a model with black fabric and gray zippers is also available.
I received plenty of criticism from my tactical-minded friends about my color choice, which just means the bag is doing its job.