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Fanny Pack Holster Comparison

Posted Posted by steelnerve in Detective Estes' Corner     Comments No comments

Fanny Pack Holster Comparison

In this article, we’ll look at fanny pack holsters.  In my opinion, fanny pack holsters are a comfortable method of concealed gun carrying, as well as providing a fast draw.  When I was a police officer, naturally I had to carry a gun in the issued equipment.  But off-duty, and as a detective I used only two types of holsters.  One was an outside the waistband, open top holster.  The other was a fanny pack.  Upon retirement, I remain with only these two holsters.

In 1978, John Bianchi wrote his book, Blue Steel and Gunleather.  He opined that a gun carrier should use the “one gun, one carry” method.  Mr. Bianchi believed this method of gun carrying would present the least problems of drawing the gun quickly when needed under duress.  I subscribed to Mr. Bianchi’s opinion until fanny packs were modified for gun carrying.

Fanny packs gave a gun carrier an opportunity to carry a gun in a place that was easier on weight distribution on the body than a belt holster.  Belt holsters pulled the gun carrier’s pants downward.  Polymer guns weren’t out yet, so all steel guns were usually carried which weighed a good bit.  At that time I was carrying my on-duty S&W Model 65, .357Magnum, 4” barrel for both on and off duty.  It weighed near 40 ounces unloaded.   I was all for a break from that kind of weight in on my waistline.

Fanny packs have been around for a good many years.  Usually seen on bicyclists, or tourists, they carry small items that are easily accessible.  Most of these packs weigh hardly anything.  Usually less than a pound.  Usually the items inside also don’t weigh much as well.  Items such as small change, or small cameras, or maybe a sandwich, or snack were generally what was carried.

Someone decided to modify a fanny pack for gun carriers, and the idea immediately took off.  The two main differences in ordinary fanny packs were that they were brought around to the front so a gun could be removed quickly, and they had some sort of easier access than zippers with the tiny pulls.  This access was usually in the form of a cord, attached to a zipper, with an end that would pull the front of the bag away, or hook & end (Velcro) with a snap to pull a hidden compartment away.  Another way was a complete front attached with Velcro which was manually pulled away from the gun.  After some time went by, several of the fanny packs were manufactured in different colors or leather.

There were some differences of opinion with the fanny pack makers as to how to carry the gun.  Bianchi made a fanny pack that had a pull tab to zip open the front and side of the gun pouch.  The gun was then inside a neoprene slot which held the gun in by tight elastic but could easily be removed.  Uncle Mike had the “Gunrunner” pack, that had a main gun compartment with Velcro across the top, and the top corners had metal snaps to allow the compartment to open about 6 inches wide.  The user pulled open the front, and reached into the compartment and removed the gun. There was no actual holster keeping the gun in place.  Desantis had the GunnySack which had a main gun compartment at the back held in place by Velcro all the way around the compartment. A cloth holster held the gun in place, inside the compartment, and this holster was velcroed in place as well, in the direction the user wanted the gun to face.  Desantis’ GunnySack was ambidextrous. The drawing was accomplished by grabbing the front of the holster and pulling against the Velcro until the front pulled away, then removing the gun from the inner holster.

Most of the fanny packs had some zippered pockets to the front of the holster, with the gun compartment being all the way to the rear of the pack, which meant the gun was against the wearer’s body.  The reason for that was that the gun wouldn’t pull away from the wearer.  Not pulling away prevented muscle strain as well as the gun showing an imprint against the compartment, maybe giving the wearer away. The Bianchi pack also had a zippered pocket on each side of the holster which might hold some keys, or other small items. Bianchi’s pack also had an opening in the same area of the gun for an additional magazine.

I believe I first noticed fanny packs as holsters around 1989.  I was then working as a detective, but could only wear this type of holster off duty.  Arlington Detectives were still in the necktie and jacket mode at that time.  I researched all the police holster companies for fanny packs at that time.  Only Uncle Mike’s and Desantis had any available for sale.  I liked the idea of the Desantis fanny pack better than Uncle Mike’s as it seemed easier to get to the gun with the whole front of the pack exposing the gun.

From the beginning of my interest in fanny pack, gun carrying, I believed the Desantis GunnySack to be the best of the bunch.  It sure isn’t the cheapest of the bunch, costing upwards of $70 over the years!  But by the time Desantis came out with the GunnySack I was well into my police career and could afford what I believed was a better holster.

I have owned all three of the previously mentioned fanny packs.  In fact, the department I was with, Arlington Police in Virginia, issued Bianchi’s fanny pack as I described before.   I looked at Bianchi’s website while writing this article and I no longer see that they make any fanny packs.  It appears, however, that Galco holsters makes a fanny pack that looks just like the Bianchi one.  I emailed Bianchi and asked them if they still made one.  I also emailed Safariland, who owns Bianchi, to see if they made a fanny pack as none was on their website either.

I bought the Desantis Gunny Sack.  If you don’t know, when any Desantis holster is purchased, Desantis sends detailed instructions on use of the holster, and drawing the gun from the holster.  Every Desantis holster also has a warning not to wear the holster without practicing the draw several times.  I took them at their word.  I set the holster up the way I wanted it and proceeded to practice drawing for about an hour.  I practiced every day for about an hour that first week until I believed I had mastered the draw.  The holster was very fast.  I carried extra ammo in a speed loader in the front zippered compartment.

A problem I’ve always had with the Desantis GunnySack is that after awhile the Velcro simply gets loose from the hook & loop fasteners simply wearing out.  This takes 1 – 3 years depending on the amount of drawing that is done with the holster to get used to it, and continue to develop speed with it. When this holster wears out, it is immediately noticeable as the Velcro no longer holds the holster together.  The problem with the GunnySack is all that practice tends to wear it out. There is no repairing velcro so another fanny pack is needed.

With all holsters, the user should practice daily. Especially with a fanny pack. Drawing from a fanny pack is always a two handed exercise. One hand opens the holster, the other draws the gun. Even though I no longer practice fast draw an hour or more a day, I still practice at least 20 minutes when putting on a holster before taking that gun to the street.  If the gun is needed, it will be needed now, not after fumbling around for it. 

I decided to try an Uncle Mike’s Gunrunner fanny pack. Uncle Mike’s was, I thought, very close to Desantis’ GunnySack in operation.  The Gunrunner had a rear panel that seemed to be opened by Velcro, so I didn’t think it could be much different.   I was a bit down on the GunnySack because there were no color choices. Black is the only color.  I researched fanny packs again and found that Uncle Mike’s could be purchased in medium blue.  I bought the Uncle Mike’s.  Uncle Mike’s was considerably less expensive than Desantis as well.  It was also considerably lighter in weight. Another plus, I thought.

Upon arrival of the Gunrunner, I set out to practice with it the same as I had with the GunnySack.  I immediately realized a great difference between the Desantis and Uncle Mike’s.  Speed.  The Gunrunner actually inhibited speed.   The front of the Gunrunner would not open all the way like the GunnySack.  The Gunrunner had Velcro along the top of the gun compartment.  On each side was a metal pull snap.  This allowed the compartment to open more than just the unfastening of the Velcro.  I thought that the 4 – 6 inch opening would be enough.  It wasn’t.  Other problems were that the gun had to be searched for as it was simply loose in the gun compartment and not in a holster holding it in one place.  Now, the gun compartment wasn’t huge and the gun couldn’t move around yoo much, but it may be leaning toward the front of the holster, or standing straight up.  Either way the gun was not held in a stationary place so it was more difficult to remove.  Last thing, the gun butt was down, so the drawing hand had to be shoved down into the compartment, and the fit was a bit tight.  After using the Gunrunner for about a month, I sold it.

I once again researched fanny packs.  By now, there were lots more of them.  I decided to get away from the Velcro fastener and try zippers.  I bought a Bianchi fanny pack.  I had purchased many holsters from Bianchi in the past so I knew I was buying a quality product.  A change in guns had occurred in my police department.  We now carried Glock 19’s for on and off duty.  Later, we went to Glock 23’s.  Both were ever so much lighter than the 357 magnum that was previously carried.  Off course they had more ammunition in the magazine as well.  From research, I thought the Bianchi would be better at carrying the Glock which was very flat.  I figured the neoprene holding this flat gun would never be seen.

Upon arrival, I tried the holster out practicing drawing the gun for long times for several days.  There were several advantages to the Bianchi over either the Desantis or the Uncle Mike’s packs.  The Bianchi was bigger in the center than either of the other two packs.  It seemed to distribute the weight of the holster and gun better.  Plus, those pockets on each side of the holster were very handy for keys and small change.  Last, a major factor I thought, was the ability to carry an extra magazine in the same flat panel as the gun was carried in, and just as secure and out of sight.

I carried my Glock in the Bianchi for nearly a year.  The Bianchi, though, had a problem that neither of the other two packs had: it didn’t have the ability for the wearer to draw using large muscle mass.  The Bianchi had a zipper pull at the top right, (for right handed shooters).  The pull was small, though it certainly stuck out of the holster far enough to grab.  The problem was, under high stress, the wearer may have to hunt for this little pull.  After finding it, the wearer than could only grasp it with a couple fingers to pull the tab.  Compared to the other two Velcro type packs where both were grasped with the entire hand and pulled.  The Velcro type were definitely faster, either one, than the Bianchi.  Never mind that neither of them had a place for an extra magazine.  Fact is, if the shooter hits the target in the first place, an extra magazine is unnecessary.  So I put the Bianchi away and bought another Desantis Gunny Sack. 

I am now on perhaps my fifth Desantis GunnySack.  About a year ago, I contacted Desantis by email, wondering about colors, and magazine holders located somewhere inside the pack.  I received a note directly from Gene Desantis.  We cooresponded through several emails.  Mr. Desantis advised that a magazine holder has never been incorporated into the GunnySack as the company couldn’t figure out how to make an extra ammo holder for speed loaders and magazines that was essentially the same type of holder to save money in production.  I advised Mr. Desantis that I would put a magazine holder in the pack and let him know how it worked.  Next, the color.  The color is black because it is.  Desantis makes other fanny packs that come in different colors, but not the GunnySack.

In one of my email correspondences, I asked Mr. Desantis why no one else makes a fanny pack like the Gunny Sack as it was clearly the best.  His answer was that his opener is patented.  Once he sued a manfacturer than copied the Gunny Sack.  The trial took less than an hour and Desantis came out the winner.  No one will ever make another fanny pack close to the GunnySack in the opening method.

I purchased my last GunnySack about 2 years ago.  An unusual problem occurred that never occurred before.  The velcro was so tight that the holster could not be pulled open!  I purchased more velcro strips and attached the new pieces in the corners and across some of the top of the pack.  What this did was to put velcro strips in place of the actual holster velcro. So the holster velcro wasn’t holding the pack together completely. Just enough was used to hold the pack to together and nothing more.This helped immensely.

I decided to have an elastic piece installed inside the front panel of the pack to put an extra magazine in.  My local cleaners did the job.  Upon its return, I immediately put my extra magazine into it and re-closed the front.  My first thought was UGH!!!  The extra weight of that magazine was doing a lot to pull the front of the holster apart.  Next, the magazine had been strategically placed so as not to interfere with the gun, or holster and it didn’t, sort of.  But in closing the front, the magazine was in such close contact with the gun that it was very difficult to close.  After a few days, I removed my extra magazine from its new holder and never used the holder again.  Since it didn’t work at all, I saw no sense in informing Mr. Desantis of what I considered to be a disaster!

In conclusion, it is my opinion that the Desantis GunnySack is the best of all fanny packs.  With practice one can draw and fire one round, at close range, with either revolver or pistol in around 1-1/2 seconds. This includes a hit on a man-sized target.  The point of a draw from a fanny pack is the action vs. reaction time.  The action of 1-1/2 seconds can beat the reaction of someone threatening you with a gun.  Start with your hands in a natural position, close to your holster.  Grab the front of the holster and wrench it forward.  Pull the gun out of the holster and fire. Nothing else to it.

In researching for this article, I noted that a good many writers talked about how much a fanny pack, carried in the front, looked like a person was carrying a gun.  I disagree with this line of thinking.  Probably 95% of the public never considers whether anyone is carrying a gun or not.  Of the other 5% the majority of them are police officers as there are more cops than violent criminals on the street on any given day.  No worries about the police either, unless the wearer is stopped by the police for some reason.  If the wearer has a pistol permit to carry a concealed gun, there will be no further problem.  That leaves perhaps 1 – 2% of the population that one has to consider if they are thinking whether a gun is in that fanny pack or not.  If the wearer has practiced fast draw with that fanny pack, then there’s nothing to worry about.  If not, then start doing so!  Practicing fast draw makes any worries about this issue a non-existent issue.

Recently, I changed from carrying my retirement police ID in my fanny pack to one of my other pockets.  This was due to an incident in which I was stopped by police.  The officer stopped me after I made an illegal turn.  It was a standard traffic stop, and the officer requested my ID, and vehicle registration.  I started to remove my police ID wallet with my license inside when the officer asked if I was carrying a firearm in my pouch (fanny pack) which I had on at the time.  I replied that I was and he asked if I had a permit for the gun.  I completed getting my police ID out of the zippered compartment in front of the gun and showed it to him.  It was a bit later that I realized that I had both hands right next to the gun, and got my  ID wallet out of the compartment adjacent to the gun as well.  It gave me a litte chill to know that the officer would’ve been perfectly justified in drawing down on me for having my hands delving around my fanny pack at the same time the officer was worried about a firearm being in the pack.  I decided to put my wallet in a hip pocket since then so I wouldn’t have to reach close to that fanny pack while a police officer was looking at me.

There is one safety issue when drawing from a fanny pack: the draw is a cross draw, so the gun muzzle is lasered across the non-shooting arm during the draw.  That is, the muzzle of the gun crosses over the arm of the hand the pulled the front of the pack open.  Most of the fanny packs I’ve seen have a holster inside the pack that has a covered trigger so in those cases, the trigger would probably not be touched before the gun muzzle passed by the other arm.  Still, this is something to consider when practicing the draw.

Desantis fanny packs can be found at the Desantis website as follows:

As previously stated, I could not located the Bianchi fanny pack by name, but Galco makes a fanny pack that looks exactly like the Bianchi pack I described earlier.  Both the Galco Escort fanny pack, as well as the Uncle Mike Gunrunner fanny pack can be located on the website of:  Once there, click on holsters.

I considered placing photos of these three fanny packs in this article.  On reviewing the photos, however, I did not think the photos would be large enough in this format for a viewer to see any kind of noticeable detail of the holster, so I will leave it to the reader to look online at the websites I obtained for this article.

One piece of advice which is the same as Desantis Holsters advises – When new holsters are purchased, don’t take the holster out on the street before practicing a great deal.  Know where that holster is, and where the gun is inside the holster.  Let there be no doubt of how to open that holster and then how to remove the gun.  Practice until the holster can be maneuvered open and the gun can be quickly drawn and lined up with a target quickly.  Once you’re familiar with drawing and practicing dry firing, then practice with live ammunition.  After shooting several times with live rounds, only then should you consider taking that holster to hold it in close proximity to you in case of extreme duress.  Practice, practice, practice so when it isn’t practice, that gun will still come out smooth, easy, and FAST!!

About Detective Estes

Detective EstesMr. Estes has lived in the DC Metropolitan area for most of his life. His father’s influence and expertise in firearms resulted in Mr. Estes beginning to rifle shoot at a young age and eventually shooting on the Washington-Lee High School rifle team in Arlington, VA.

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