I didn’t know I needed this backpack. I didn’t even know I wanted it. I’ve never spent money on a range bag before. I’ve accumulated a basement full of backpacks over the years, and I’ve always been perfectly satisfied with loading all my range gear into one of those or my “free gift” NRA bag, then maybe juggling three hard pistol cases from the truck to the range.
I mean, you can always make two trips. My gun-earmarked slush fund generally gets spent on an actual gun or some Internet gun-porn-inspired “must have” accessory/piece of kit/equipment directly related to shooting as opposed to the organizational and logistical support for a range day.
The first time I saw G.P.S. Tactical’s Tactical Range Backpack, I was impressed. I thought the backpack was an innovative platform, and it was apparent that a lot of thought had gone into making it a practical and functional piece of kit. The first features to attract my attention were the three internal handgun/magazine storage cases, which made me envision an improvement to my quality of life, as I wouldn’t need to carry a Jenga tower of pistol cases to the range.
Initially, I was only able to briefly see the backpack before having to give it back to the company, but I was interested enough to look for it online. I found some positive reviews from people who’d bought it, but by far the most memorable review was on amazon.com, where “Matthew I.” gave it five out of five stars, writing, “I’d recommend this to Jesus himself.” Matthew didn’t specify whether that enthusiastic endorsement was for a Hispanic friend of his or the Christian Son of God, but I assumed it was for the latter. With an endorsement like that, I needed no further encouragement and ordered the backpack.
When my own Tactical Range Backpack arrived, my impression of it remained as positive as when I’d originally seen one a few months earlier. The pack’s exterior is constructed of DuPont Teflon-coated, 1,000-denier, heavy-duty nylon with stitching reinforced on load-bearing points, and it just seems solid. The three internal handgun/magazine storage cases that originally attracted me to the pack are encased in a rigid internal frame, which not only protects the contents of the removable storage cases but keeps the pack stable and upright when you set it down, even when it’s full.
If we stopped here, I’d already be comfortable justifying my purchase and endorsing the pack based on the features covered thus far, but G.P.S. Tactical added a number of other features to close the deal. The pack has numerous purpose-built compartments and pockets on board, with their intended application identified by what the company calls the Visual ID Storage System. Essentially, it’s idiot-proof symbology to identify where you can stow everything from your eye protection to your stapler and tape, with well-thought-out finishing touches such as lining the eye pro and ear pro pockets with velour to help protect lenses and custom-molded ear pieces from damage. Gone are the days of fishing through the main compartment of a bag to find a sight tool or the right-size hex key. Now they’re in the bottom/front compartment, in the pocket labeled with the wrench/screwdriver symbol. Since good training happens in all seasons and all conditions, there’s even a pull-out rain cover, identified with an umbrella symbol, located underneath the carry handle. Pretty slick.
The pack is an effective range organizer with plenty of additional storage on board for ammo, beef jerky, Skittles or whatever you hoard to get you through a range day, but there’s also MOLLE attachment webbing on three sides if you want to make additions. I added a medical blow-out kit to mine; I’ve seen others add rifle mag pouches.
It’s not realistic to expect that a single product will meet the needs of every shooter, and the Tactical Range Backpack is no exception. In my evaluation, the internal handgun storage cases accommodated full-size pistols such as a 5-inch 1911 and a Glock 21, but if you’re looking for a platform to transport your 83⁄8-inch Smith & Wesson X- and N-frame revolvers, keep looking, because this isn’t it. I saw a few reviews of the bag that criticized its size; some felt it was too big, while others felt it was too small. A few felt it was overengineered and that the carry handle and/or waist strap were unnecessary. I stick by my original assessment of the pack. For a lot of shooters, it’s a well-designed and well-executed piece of kit, available at a reasonable price.
There’s still no word on any divine endorsement. If “Matthew I.” has gotten any feedback, I hope he lets me know.