Equipping an individual SWAT officer may total many thousands of dollars. Yet, despite the overall cost involved, many officers are simply issued equipment in a piece meal fashion and are left to find appropriate storage on their own, often times devolving to the “cheapest is best” mentality. Quality equipment deserves an equally quality means in which to carry it.
The two giants of the tactical nylon equipment world are BlackHawk Products Group and Eagle Industries. Both were asked to submit what they felt would be the best gear bag for storage of an individual officer’s equipment kit.Eagle Industries
Founded by John Carter, Eagle Industries
lives by the motto, “Quality by design.” Tactical officers and military operators have been turning to this company since 1982 for everything from belts and bags to packs and holsters, all of which are designed to be the best that is produced.
Carter offers the following guarantee: “If you do not shoot it, cut it or blow it up, I will repair or replace at no charge, any Eagle product that ever fails to perform.” Headquartered in Fenton (St. Louis), MO, Eagle has long held the title of innovator within the tactical equipment world and is justifiably proud to wear the label “Made in the USA.”
While many have followed, Eagle has led. Carter is firmly at the helm of this company and has assembled around him many people who have a vast array of experience in the operational military and law enforcement community. Able to draw on their unique experiences, Eagle continues to produce some of finest equipment available. Sigma III Bag with M4 Insert
Eagle sent along a Sigma III bag that had inserts specific to the M4 carbine for testing. This bag is large without being cumbersome and is laid out in a very logical pattern. As with all things Eagle, this bag is built to take the punishment of day-to-day use with no ill effects.
Originating as an offshoot of the Sigma travel bag, the Sigma III shows that Eagle takes the design of all of its gear seriously. Though this is a modification to an already existing platform, it is so well thought out that it would seem as though it was originally constructed for this exact purpose.
The bag was given to a SWAT entry team member who was able to store all of his personal gear with room to spare. On one side of the bag are two large pockets, each measuring 15” x 13”. These pockets are of a size that allows for each of them to store ballistic helmets and other large items. In fact, in the case of this officer, these two pockets are capable of accepting a pair of Oakley Assault boots in one pocket with a ballistic helmet and flight suit stored in the other, giving the officer immediate access to his baseline equipment rather than having to wrestle with all of his gear at once.
On the opposite side of the bag is an area that has been specifically configured to carry a rifle. In this instance, the bag is sold with a padded insert that allows for this pocket to carry an M4 or similar sized rifle. This compartment runs the length and depth of the overall bag and features a zipper that allows for it to completely open and allow easy access to the weapon.
Inside the pocket, one will find a padded case that is capable of being lifted completely from the rig. While this case is somewhat simple in construction, it does an excellent job at its intended function—protecting the rifle. Using a Velcro® closure at the top along with dual carry straps, the rifle case is not meant to be used independently of the Sigma bag and does everything that one would need with this style of carry.
The main pocket of the bag is extremely large, measuring in at 33” x 15.25” x 10.5”. Opening so that the bag is capable of being essentially laid flat, the main compartment easily holds tactical body armor, a load-bearing vest and the officer’s “war belt,” complete with a leg-mounted holster and sub-loads. As with all of the pockets, the main compartment uses a #9 YKK zipper, long held as the best in the industry, with a storm flap that snaps down and completely covers the zipper when not in use so that there is no possibility of the bag inadvertently opening.
The bag has two detachable shoulder straps that can be used to convert the bag to a backpack-style carry. Along with these, the bag also features double carry handles so that the bag can be used without the padded straps.
The officer involved in this test thought that the bag offered everything he was looking for in equipment of this type. He felt that the design offered a great deal of security while at the same time allowed him to access his gear in an easy manner.
The only thing he would have preferred is for an increased amount of padding to be built into the shoulder straps.
Overall, this bag offers a total of 7,720 cubic inches of storage space. Available in black, olive drab and khaki, as well as other colors upon special request this bag, the model TS-1201-M4, is one of the top offerings in this field.NATO Balkans Load Out Bag
Eagle also sent the NATO Balkans load out bag. This bag is perhaps the best of the lot tested as it was designed with specific goals in mind—taking American and NATO soldiers into the Balkans with all of their individual gear in one place. While originally intended for the military, this bag is perfect for law enforcement tactical officers.
When one first gazes upon the NATO bag, it appears as though it were a very advanced ruck-sack. However, it is actually purpose-built, load-bearing gear capable of holding everything that a modern tactical officer requires as individual equipment. Featuring six exterior pockets as well as a large main compartment, there is room in this bag for everything an officer will need.
The main compartment, which is capable of accepting more 4,800 cubic inches of gear, is recessed into the top of the bag and has a built-in storm flap that not only protects the zipper and helps guard against inadvertent opening, but also protects an officer’s back from abrasion when the bag is carried. While the design and placement of the main compartment sounds somewhat odd, in practice, the bag— specifically designed to be worn as a backpack—allows easy access to the main area and all exterior pockets.
The main storage compartment is capable of handling an officer’s tactical body armor with ceramic plates, a full load-bearing vest, ballistic helmet, Oakley assault boots and a pistol belt with attached leg sub-loads and holster. In addition to all of this, the main compartment is also roomy enough to contain a set of night vision goggles, as well as knee and elbow pads without a problem.
The exterior pockets, while not as large as those on the Sigma III M4 bag, are capable of accepting a wide range of gear as, when combined, they will hold about 1,100 cubic inches of equipment. At either end of the bag are two large, expandable pockets that are ideal for uniforms, spare “soft gear” such as cold weather protective apparel, and gear such as gloves, harnesses and the like. On the side of the bag are three medium-size pockets that are well-designed and are perfectly placed to hold a wide variety of gear that an officer would need to access quickly.
Constructed of #1000 Denier Cordura nylon, this bag is easily the class all of the bags and cases that Eagle offers. This bag has been designed with the tactical officer and soldier in mind. As Eagle realized that bags such as these are often carried over a long distance while being subjected to carrying a large amount of weight, the shoulder straps are heavily padded and are designed in true backpack-style rather than the adapted nylon strap that many other manufacturers use.
The shoulder straps on the top of the bag, which will come into contact with an officer’s back when carried, are also heavily padded and are designed with channels in the padding for improved airflow and comfort.
Available in black, olive drag and khaki, as well as other special order colors, this bag is built for the serious professional and has been designed to take on the worst travel and storage conditions that the military and tactical law enforcement fields have to offer.BlackHawk
Former U.S. Navy SEAL Mike Noell founded BlackHawk
. His company has come on strong in recent years, quickly expanding and improving its product line until it became a leader in the tactical equipment industry. While a substantial portion of its offerings are still within the realm of tactical nylon equipment, the company also has expanded into Night-Ops illumination tools, SERPA holsters, HellStorm gloves and MOD knives, as well as many other tactical-oriented products. BlackHawk continues to offer a vast selection of nylon load-bearing equipment, much of which has been tailored specifically for tactical use. Load Out Bag
Put simply, if you cannot fit the gear that you are carrying in the BlackHawk Load Out Bag, you probably should not be carrying it in the first place. This bag easily offers the most capacity of any in our test. It measures a whopping 43” x 15” x 13” with a total volume of about 8,385 cubic inches of storage space.
Built of two layers of BlackHawk’s NyTaneon 1000 Denier nylon, this bag is capable of carrying an officer’s entire equipment kit in the main interior compartment alone. Inside the main compartment, there are nine mesh pouches designed so that gear can be separated by need and arranged per an officer’s preferences, so that one does not simply need to dump everything inside the one cavernous main space.
All of this is accessed by means of a fully opening top that allows instant access and viewing of everything inside. In addition to the interior storage, there are four clear vinyl pockets on the exterior of the bag for storage of smaller items that might be difficult to locate in a pocket with many other items under low-light conditions. These pockets, arranged two on the top and one on each end, are ideal for paperwork, identification and other small but potentially crucial items such as flashlights, gloves and other gear that must accompany each tactical officer.
The overall bag is built to be rugged with wrap-around nylon straps made of heavy-duty webbing, which double as carry handles. On the bottom side of the bag are found two shoulder straps that are used when an officer would prefer to carry the bag in a backpack configuration. These shoulder straps can be tucked away under a provided flap should this option not be needed.
Officers who tested this bag found that its size was quite useful in that all of an officer’s necessary gear could be contained in one bag for storage and transportation. Tested by a SWAT entry team breaching officer, this bag lent itself well to everything that was asked of it.
When questioned as to what the officer would change about the bag, he said that it needed some type of stiffening in the floor of the main compartment to ease carrying. Because of the size of the bag and the amount of gear he carries, the bag would tend to “droop” under heavy loads.
The test officer also thought that the main compartment could benefit from some type of officer configurable internal divider so that large gear would not slide around and could be separated for quicker location. He offered great praise for the bag as a whole, indicating that the bag was a good bet for officers who had a large amount of specialized individual equipment to keep on hand and would be one that he would recommend to officers for this purpose.Generation 4 S.T.R.I.K.E. Molle Deployment Kit Bag
The BlackHawk Generation 4 S.T.R.I.K.E. MOLLE Deployment System is a bag that, while the smallest in overall capacity in this test, has much to offer an officer in terms of organized storage of needed equipment.
This bag is built with the entire interior compartment covered in MOLLE style attachment webbing. On the outside of the interior compartment and on both sides of the internal center divider, this webbing system allows for attachment of the myriad of accessory pouches and carriers that are available to hold any imaginable piece of equipment securely. The bag also features three exterior pockets for carrying and organizing smaller gear along with a clear vinyl identification pocket.
Good looking, the bag makes for very discrete carrying of tactical equipment. In fact, the bag looks remarkably like many pieces of high- end nylon luggage common on the baggage carrousels of many airports.
Tested by a SWAT entry team officer, the bag was found to be easy to work with as it opens in such a manner as to lay completely flat, allowing access to all of the interior contents of the bag at the same time. The bag was of a size and design that the officer was able to organize gear according to priorities of need with first line equipment on one side of the center divider and second line and auxiliary gear stored securely on the opposite.
While the officer would have liked to have had more overall space in terms of the width of the bag, he found it functioned well for routine duty use. The only other concern over the design of the bag was that he would have preferred to have a few interior pockets built into the bag, but the capability of attaching any MOLLE-style pouch to the interior effectively negates this criticism.
Equipped with straps on the rear of the bag that allow for backpack-style carry, the S.T.R.I.K.E Deployment kit meets its design parameters in a good fashion. This bag is perhaps the best bet for discrete deployment should that be a concern.
Equipment bags are like anything else in the world. Buy cheap…buy twice, or in many cases, buy multiple times over the course of a career. Should an officer or department elect to use cheap, department store style carrying bags to contain and transport tactical equipment, an officer can quickly find himself looking for his gear on the ground when his load-bearing equipment fails.
Carry bags, such as those offered by these companies, can make a difference between tactical equipment making it to the scene of a crisis incident or being left behind in storage or on the ground somewhere along the route.Scott Oldham is a supervisory sergeant with the Bloomington, IN Police Department where he is assigned to the Operations Division as patrol supervisor, as well as being one of the team leaders for the department’s Tactical Unit. He and his partner, Sergeant Mick Williams, provide contract instruction on a wide range of subjects, including tactical and patrol-based skills. He can be reached at email@example.com.