About Me

I am a full-time law enforcement officer with experience in the Patrol, Tactical, and Gang Divisions and a part-time martial artist. I believe that law abiding citizens should learn to defend themselves with whatever tools they may legally carry. I am currently in the process of starting the "5 Rings Tactical" training school where I hope to encourage good people to become protectors of their own lives and the lives of their families. This blog will contain reviews of defensive and tactical products, all of which I have purchased with my own funds. I will try my best to give my honest and unbiased opinion of all the products featured. I hope to eventually make the items that prove to be of quality available to customers of 5 Rings Tactical. Before distributing any of these items, they will be purchased privately by me and evaluated. I do not pretend to be any type of expert or master. I'm just a guy trying to share my experiences with others. I am always looking for more training and good people to learn from.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

GEAR REVIEW: 5.11 Tactical - "Active Shooter Bail Out Bag"

     "Active Shooter Bags" or "Bail Out Bags" have become very popular in recent years. These are simply bags containing important survival items that can be snatched up and taken with you in a hurry.  The specific contents of each individual bag will differ from person to person.  You may load up a bag with water and protein bars to prepare for a natural disaster. A police officer may configure his or her bag to carry spare ammunition and extra handcuffs to handle active shooter situations like Columbine or Virginia Tech.  If you're a long time virgin and fervently wish to stay that way, you may decide to load your bag with sweater vests and your Pokemon card collection.  Take only the essentials though. In case of a disaster it's important to travel light. Pikachu can go but Charmander may not be worth lugging around, unless he's evolved to at least a level 16 Charmeleon.  

     If you have a trash bag and fill it with Power Bars and jugs of Gatorade, you technically have yourself a bail out bag geared for survival during a possible disaster, it just won't last very long.  But before you go out and just switch from the off brand trash can liners to the premium Hefty sacks and call it a day, you may want to consider a purpose built bag that is durable and easy to grab and go in a hurry.  There are a lot of great bags on the market right now.  I wanted to buy a few of the more popular models out there to do a comparison review, but I ran into a few hurdles, like being poor.  I noticed that the 5.11 Active Shooter Bail Out Bag was conservatively priced and seemed to offer a lot of great features for what I needed.  So I decided to try it out.

     5.11 Tactical is a company that makes affordable, quality products geared towards law enforcement, military, and people wanting to dress like G.I. Joe.  Don't be ashamed.  It's not like owning a Justin Bieber CD or anything. 5.11 makes everything from tactical pants and shirts to boots, glasses, gloves, vests, holsters, gear bags, etc.  They even partnered up with retired special forces badass Sgt. Kyle Lamb of Viking Tactics for many of their product designs.  Here is a promo they recently shot with Mr. Lamb decked out in 5.11 from head to toe:

I've run some 5.11 nylon gear in the past and it has always held up well.  So I felt confident the 5.11 Bail Out Bag would also be of decent quality.

Being a law enforcement officer, I decided to configure my bag as an active shooter bag.  We used to think that if a couple of turds armed themselves with assault rifles and started blazing away at innocent citizens, we could just call a SWAT team.  Then a ninja and 20 commandos with armored vests, machine guns, and barbed wire tattoos would pile out of a black tank and start throwing grenades at the bad guys while chugging Mountain Dew and chopping wooden boards.  The problem was that it takes time for these SWAT guys to finish bench pressing 18-wheelers, get assembled, and make it out to the shooting.  Sometimes it can take an hour or more to get a special team to respond.  A lot of innocent people can get killed in an hour.  In the Virginia Tech incident, 30 people were killed and 25 were wounded, all within 7 minutes.  That is 7.9 murder attempts per minute.  The math is right.  I'm Asian.  The law enforcement community is coming to believe that in some cases, there may not be time to wait for SWAT and whatever officers get on the scene first may have to go in.

Now I don't think anyone plans on running into a gunfight with a little pistol where bad guys have AK-47s and shotguns. We are going to grab a long gun of our own right?  The problem is that a typical carbine holds about 30 rounds in a magazine.  You may need a lot more than that in an active shooter scenario.  You may also need medical supplies to administer first aid to a citizen, a fellow officer, or even yourself.  What if there is a long stand off and you are stuck behind cover for hours and hours?  You might need a granola bar and water, or maybe a Klondike.  A bag with the proper provisions comes in handy.  Everyone is going to set their bags up a little differently and only you can determine what is right for you.  I tried to set mine up so that if I had to walk into a bad situation, I could just grab my rifle and my 5.11 bag and be decently prepared.  After filling my new shoulder pack with goodies, I grabbed my rifle and hit the range where I ran through some tactical shooting drills.  I ran through lots of drills including reloads, transition to handgun, move and shoot, and unconventional shooting positions, all utilizing the 5.11 bag.

     PART II

     Sorry it has taken me so long to get the second part of this review posted.  I was having trouble with pictures and ended up just retaking them inside of my house, which explains the orange walls.  Yes, my house has orange walls.  No I was not at the Gap store in the Galleria mall waving my guns around.  And yes I am barefoot in some of the these pictures.  I'm Asian.  We don't allow the wearing of shoes in our cribs.  It's savage.

     First of all, the construction of the bag is standard 5.11 quality, and that's a good thing.  The stitching is straight and feels strong.  The bag itself is made of 1050D nylon.  This is a ballistic weave nylon that has an incredible level of strength and durability for its weight (This is according to Wikipedia, I'm not no seamstress).  The zippers, of course are heavy duty YKK zippers.  Quality components stitched together correctly mean that when you are running into that elementary school to save those children, your bag won't fall apart and spill your deviant porn collection all over the floor.  That would be incredibly inappropriate during an active shooter situation... especially when young children are present.                

     The bag is a shoulder bag or messenger style bag.  Though a backpack is more stable, it would be impossible to access the contents of a backpack as quickly as a shoulder bag.  Jack Bauer uses a shoulder bag and he saved America like 7 times.  Do you really need to question it?  I am not sure if 5.11 designed the bag specifically to be worn on the right or left side, but I ran the bag in both configurations and both seemed to work fine.  One of the biggest problems with these types of bags is stability.  Sure you can get to the contents easily, but in a dynamic situation where you are dodging bullets and roundhouse kicking terrorists, your man-purse is going to be flying around all over the place.  5.11 makes a noteworthy attempt at solving this problem with an added velcro belt strap.
The back of the bag features a belt strap and aero-mesh 
material to help keep the bag comfortable against your body.
     The belt strap is located on the back side of the bag.  To use the strap you just adjust the bag so that it hangs off your shoulder and rests next to your belt line.  You then open the velcro strap and feed it under your belt.  Fasten the velcro and presto, the bag is now attached to your hip like an emotionally needy girlfriend (or boyfriend).  The strap works okay, but it still has some shortcomings.  If you are a police officer using this bag as your "go bag", you will probably not be able to use this belt strap.  It is not long enough to fit over the 2" and 2.25" duty belts that most police officers wear.  My other problem with this strap is that it is not that fast to put on.  When attaching the strap to my shooting belt, it was a little difficult to feed the velcro through and then close the strap.  If people were getting shot and I was grabbing this bag I doubt I would even bother fiddling with the strap.  I'd just grab and go.  Then things would just go flying everywhere like on a regular shoulder bag.  I think this piece of gear would be better served with a thigh strap and a quick-release buckle.  This way you would be able to throw the bag on and just clasp the thigh strap around your leg.  Fastening a large buckle is much faster and simpler than trying to weave nylon and velcro through your belt.

     The bag's shoulder strap is easily adjusted and features a quick-release buckle so you can drop the bag easily if needed.  The shoulder strap also comes with a pad to make wearing the bag more comfortable.  A heavy load with all your guns, bullets, and claymore mines is going to take its toll on your shoulder.  The pad does a great job spreading out the weight a little and also comes with molle on the top side so you can add even more pouches if you choose.
Quick-Release Shoulder Strap Buckle
For REAL urban ninjas
At the base of the shoulder strap is a small pocket.  I really can't tell what it is for, to be honest.  I tried clipping a folding knife in there and even shoving my keys into the pocket, but it just didn't feel secure.  From what I can gather, it's a pocket for stowing folded notes that you plan on passing to that cute girl in homeroom.  Either that or 5.11 actually designed a bag with a built in ninja throwing star pouch.  I guess if the situation gets really bad and you run out of bullets, you can now switch to shuriken.  Even if you choose NOT to use this feature (although why you WOULDN'T want to carry ninja stars is beyond me) it doesn't get in the way at all.

The main compartment of the bag is big enough to fit anything you might need to bring to a gunfight.  Chem lights, flashlights, grenades, and urine filled water balloons will all fit inside the 5.11 bag.  Just throwing all your equipment into a cavernous void isn't really efficient though.  You don't want to reach into the bag for your pistol and pull out that banana you packed for lunch.  To aid with organization, 5.11 has added a wall of MOLLE webbing on one side of the interior of the bag.  This allows you to attach any MOLLE compatible pouches to help keep your handcuffs, radio, and other items where you want them.
Rows of MOLLE inside the bag
I used the 5.11 LBE Universal Holster and an Eagle Industries double magazine pouch to hold my full-sized M&P handgun and two extra magazines.  An idea I would pitch to 5.11 would be to add velcro to the opposite side of the interior of the bag.  This would give the user even more options when attaching pouches.  Maxpedition makes some great velcro pouches that I think would have worked great in this type of set up.

5.11 LBE Holster attached to interior MOLLE
On both sides of the bag are zip-open pockets that are great for additional items like notepads, pens, GPS, or whatever else you can think of.  I shoved my Android smart phone, Ipod Touch, notepad, Surefire E2d Defender flashlight, and digital voice recorder into one of these pockets and it still had room for more.  There are also several rows of MOLLE webbing on the exterior of the pocket so you can add even more pouches if for some crazy reason you actually need more.
I shoved light sticks into the exterior MOLLE.  The zippered pocket was easily
closed all the way even with all my crap inside of it.  Clipped to one of the magazine
pouches is my Surefire flashlight.
When running the bag as a concealed carry "man purse" on my weapon hand side, I was able to effectively use the velcro belt strap.  Drawing my pistol from the bag was easy and surprisingly similar to drawing from a standard belt holster since the position of the gun was basically the same.  I did not find that the bag got in the way of movement when shooting and even re-holstering was not as difficult as I originally thought it would be.
I'm not a messenger bag kind of guy, but I can see how this bag would come in handy as an alternative to carrying your gun on your belt then trying to cover it with another garment.  Using this bag allows you to go out in just a t-shirt when it's hot and it even carries spare magazines and other everyday carry items.

I did have to make one major adjustment when using my handgun with this bag set up however.  Most of the time I wear my magazines on the support side of my waist.  This way I can easily grab the magazines with my left hand and feed my pistol, which is held in my right hand.  Since all of my gear was inside the bag, including my spare magazines, I had to reach my left hand across my body to get into the bag and access my reloads.  It was definitely slower and a little awkward, but probably something that a little bit of training could cure.  If this is the way you choose to carry, then train that way often.

The 5.11 Bail Out Bag also features three built-in magazine pockets on the exterior of the bag.  Each pocket holds two AR-15 magazines making a total of six mags.  There is no divider between the magazines when two are placed into the same pocket.  I thought that this would cause problems during magazine extraction, but reloads were smooth.  I was able to pull out one magazine without disturbing the other that was in the same pocket.  When running the bag as a support bag for my rifle, I wore it on my support side.  My thinking was that I would probably already be wearing a pistol on my right side so throwing the bag on the left just seemed to make sense.  This also made reloading rifle magazines from the bag more intuitive by simulating the wearing of magazines on the support hand side.
Be aware that you may have to adjust the bag to ride OVER
your belt if you are running a police duty belt with lots of gear.
With six fully loaded magazines the bag had a slight tendency to pull out and away from the body.  This and the tall pouches made it a little difficult to get a good grasp of a magazine when doing a reload.  You can see in the picture above that I don't have a great grip on my mag.  This was more prominent with an empty bag.  Having the main compartment filled seemed to help balance things out a little bit.  The magazine pouches work very well and hold your AR mags securely, even if you choose to just put one mag in each pouch.  The velcro flaps are great for added security but are not necessary.  The elastic in the pouch does an adequate job of securing your spare ammo.                      
6 magazines with the flaps closed for security and discretion.  Note that the
flaps will not close properly if you are running Magpul plates on your mags.
6 magazines exposed.
When deploying a rifle, I think it's easier to reload from a tactical vest.  Shooting from awkward positions is also smoother with a vest as opposed to a bail out bag.  However using the bag is plenty effective for times when you just don't have a vest.  I suggest you actually train using the bag though so you know what to do when it gets in the way of shooting from prone positions.  It may also fly around and land in awkward places during dynamic movement if you aren't able to secure the bag with the belt strap.  When quickly transitioning to prone positions, especially roll over prone, I found that I had to push the bag out of the way with my support hand before dropping to the ground.  If I didn't, I'd end up trying to lay on top of the bag.  This felt like belly-flopping on to a rectangular shaped rock.  Once I got used to maneuvering with shoulder bag, it didn't present much of a problem.  Another plus is that the shoulder strap does not get in the way of a rifle sling during transitions.  I tried this with a single point and a 2-point sling and everything was smooth.  This is of course if you put on your rifle and sling OVER the bag... and not the other way around.

Overall I think 5.11 has put out a great product with this Bail Out/Active Shooter Bag.  The only modification I would make is to add a leg strap to the back of the bag to aid in quickly strapping my gear on.  There are a lot of different styles of bail out bags on the market, but I don't think anyone would be disappointed with the 5.11 version.  It's well made and is of a decent size without being so big it's clumsy.  It is also competitively priced, retailing at $59.99.  What more can you ask for?  Besides the leg strap....  So whether you are looking for an active shooter bag, an emergency supply bag, or a manlier way to carry your baby's diapers and bottle, give the 5.11 Bail Out Bag a chance.
Police Potato Approved


  1. Wow. impressive review! You should get paid for this!

  2. Thanks Anthony. I appreciate your encouragement. Was the review helpful to you?

  3. Very helpful review. I purchased one based of this.

  4. Thanks Mike. Glad to hear the review was helpful to you. How do you like the bag so far? If you get a chance I'd like to hear your impressions of it. I've got a new website now: www.5ringstactical.com Please check it out.

  5. After reading this review last year, I bought one of these so I could carry spare BBs, water and sandwiches at my local airsoft site without having to own a 'tac vest' or some 58 pattern surplus webbing.

    it turns out that as long as you don't have to carry anything in A4 paper size, it's actually a great school bag and the loops hold colourful marker pens and usb cables really well. I used it every day in my final year of university as a media student instead of playing in the woods with toy guns.

  6. Thanks for posting this detailed review. After reading yours and this one Dan's Review I knew I couldn't go wrong with this bag.

  7. I am a deputy in a rural area and am weighing the options for an active shooter bag. Essentially I want to carry some mags for my AR, first aid equip such as TQ, quickclot and gauze, perhaps some water and a snack in case I get stuck in one place for a while. I was thinking the 511 Active shooter bag would be the ticket but now am also considering the Moab 6. There are not stores within 200 miles where I could actually handle and compare the bags. Thoughts on using the Moab 6 as an active shooter bag?

  8. I am a deputy in a rural area and am weighing the options for an active shooter bag. Essentially I want to carry some mags for my AR, first aid equip such as TQ, quickclot and gauze, perhaps some water and a snack in case I get stuck in one place for a while. I was thinking the 511 Active shooter bag would be the ticket but now am also considering the Moab 6. There are not stores within 200 miles where I could actually handle and compare the bags. Thoughts on using the Moab 6 as an active shooter bag?

  9. Thank you for your interesting and informative blog. I have enjoyed reading it and appreciate the work you have put into it. Here is some relevant information for you to review .
    Kids Tactical Vests