The Bag Trick…How to easily conceal a weapon in public

Written by Greg Ellifritz

Topics: Articles, News and Tactical Advice

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 Written by: Greg Ellifritz

 

Students who have taken my knife fighting class will likely remember “The Bag Trick”.  I demonstrate  it in every 2-day class I teach.  My students all give me the same feedback after seeing it “That’s so simple, but it’s genius!  Learning  that one technique was worth the price of the whole class!”

 

 

People are used to seeing someone walk around with plastic grocery bags in their hands.  The same ubiquitous bag can be found in every corner of the world.  Carrying it draws no attention because it’s a common part of the scenery.  No one looks twice.

Would you pay any attention to a man walking down the street with a plastic bag in his hand?

 

Now, place a gun or knife into the bag.  Grip the weapon from the outside of the bag and go for a walk, letting the covered gun hang loosely at your side as if you were carrying some groceries home from your trip to the convenience store.  You have an instantly available weapon in your hands that will go undetected by almost everyone who sees it.  You have improved your odds of winning a violent confrontation immensely because you no longer have to worry about drawing (or in the case of a knife, opening) your weapon.  It is already in your hand and ready for action.

 

That bag in his hand might contain more than just groceries

 

I’ve used the technique dozens of times in dodgy third world countries.  If I get caught in a dangerous part of town, I’ll just stop into the corner store and buy a couple bottles of water.  They’ll put them in a plastic sack and I take it into a restroom.  I remove the water, place my knife (opened and ready for action) in the bag and walk out.  No one notices and I feel a whole lot better prepared to handle a violent attacker.

 

 

Here are some additional tips…

 

 

1) It works best if you have a darker colored opaque bag.  Clear or grey colored bags often don’t conceal the weapon enough

 

 

2) If you are using a gun, you can shoot right through the bag, but you won’t be able to see your sights.  Practice point shooting and shooting from a retention position BEFORE you carry a gun this way “for real”.

 

 

3) If you are using a gun with this method, a revolver is a better choice.  A semi-automatic pistol will often malfunction when the slide gets tangled up in the bag.

 

 

Revolvers work better than autopistols for this trick. Stainless steel revolvers are less visible than blued steel.

 

4) If you are using a knife, just stab right through the bag.  It is faster than removing the knife.  After the initial stab, you will be able to use the edge of the knife to slash or pressure cut, as most of the blade will be sticking through the bag

 

 

Don’t remove the knife, it takes too long. Just stab through the bag.

 

5) Reserve this technique for only the most dangerous of situations where you need a weapon in your hand.  In less-dangerous spots, it may limit your options as it is difficult to respond physically (to an attack that doesn’t require lethal force) if one of your hands is tied up holding a weapon.  It will also certainly cause a prompt reaction from the local police if one of them takes notice.  It’s better to err on the side of caution and save this one for when you really need it.

 

 

6) Be careful of thieves and purse snatchers.  Sometimes criminals will target the bag in your hand, thinking it contains something valuable.  I once had this happen to me in Egypt.  I was walking through a “souk” (outdoor market) in Luxor very late at night.  I probably shouldn’t have been there as it was a “local” place far off the tourist routes.  I had a knife in a bag and was quickly walking through the crowd trying to leave the area when I was accosted by a teenage boy.  He grabbed toward my bag and screamed “GIVE IT TO ME NOW!” in perfect English.  He thought I was carrying something expensive I had purchased in the market and decided to rob the “clueless” tourist.

 

 

Fortunately, his robbery attempt was unsuccessful and I got out of the situation unscathed.  It helped that I outweighed the boy by 150 pounds!  Sometimes I wish I hadn’t been so quick to pull the bag out of his reach.  He would have received quite a shock if he was able to forcibly grab my knife blade!

 

 

I first learned of this concealment technique from a conversation with a criminal.  You can bet that if you know about it, the bad guys do too.  When people are carrying a single bag with no grocery store in sight, keep your guard up.  Here’s how to tell if that bag in a person’s hand contains a weapon or something more innocuous…

 

1) Look at how he is carrying the bag.  Most people carry  bags by the handles, not in the middle.  If the person isn’t using the handles, be cautious.

 

 

2) Beware of an overly tight grip.  Most people carry bags loosely.  The death grip should be a warning sign.

 

 

3) Look at where the bag is in relation to their body.  People let shopping bags hang down by their sides.  If a person is cradling a bag near his midsection and is shielding it from passersby, it may contain a weapon

 

 

4) Look for bags that only contain one item.  Most people will carry a bag only when they have several items.  If the content of the bag appears to be light weight or a single item, be alert.  Most people would just carry a single item in their hand without using a bag.

 

 

5) Look for the trigger finger.  If a person is carrying a gun in the bag, their trigger finger will be separated from the rest of their hand.  When people carry bags normally, all the fingers are together.

 

An opaque bag with a pattern works best for concealment. Note trigger finger on the frame of the gun and separate from the rest of the hand.

 

Be careful with this technique.  Carrying a weapon in your hand while walking through a crowd isn’t the safest option, but there may be times in your life when this little trick is necessary.  Be alert to this technique being used against you by a criminal as well.

 

 

You may never look at a plastic bag in the same way again!

 

 

 

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36 Comments For This Post I'd Love to Hear Yours!

  1. Sutemi says:

    I need to find a big enough bag to hide a wakizashi!

  2. Kathy Sato says:

    Another terrific article Greg – Thank you! “Would you pay any attention to a man walking down the street with a plastic bag in his hand?” Well, if I recognized you, I’d not only feel more comfortable, but I’d come up to introduce myself (showing both of my hands naturally)! Re: Revolvers in bags. Same for pockets and sleeping bags. I had a friend who was a victim during to Isla Vista murders because he was too tired from a long drive at night and stopped to sleep on the beach there. That is what made me swear not to ever be helpless in that situation and made me think really hard about what would work.

  3. ke4sky says:

    In the days before plastic bags were in common use, typical ways to carry a snubby on stake outs were tucked in a box of movie popcorn, bag of potato chips, wrapped in butcher paper along with a sandwich, or tucked in a folded newspaper or magazine. In cities such as New York, Baltimore or Washington, DC which have bulky daily newspapers, a cop practiced in good fieldcraft can hide a full-sized M1911.

  4. 7th Son says:

    Very interesting, both as a tactic and for awareness. And I found it amusing that your last illustration was a bag from Target, covered (of course) with targets!

  5. callum says:

    IMO this seems like a stupid idea. In all the pictures it looks like you are holding something in a non standard/slightly suspicious manner. This seems more easy to spot than a weapon printing on a shirt.

  6. Ryan says:

    Greg, this is satire, right? I honestly can’t tell

  7. Greg Ellifritz says:

    Folks, please read the entire article before commenting. No, carrying a weapon like this is not as good in general as carrying in an appropriate holster, but it does make the weapon far quicker to use. That’s the whole point. It is to be used in situations when you need to appear casual yet have a weapon IMMEDIATELY available. I don’t advocate it for general concealed carry purposes.

  8. Ron says:

    I came across the “bag trick” roughly two years ago,,, not sure where/who had posted it somewhere. I was a bit skeptical at first too. My curiosity got the best of me and one day I stuck a few bags in my range bag before leaving home. Working with the bag trick alone for a bit I began to see potential.

    Many folks have job or work in environments that prohibit carry. I have learned that many of these same folks tend to carry a gun and leave the gun in the consul or glove box of their vehicle,,, they can depend on having a handgun available only during the ride to & from work. Hey, something is better than nothing I guess.

    One of my regular students is just such a person,,, and he broke down one morning at 5 AM in the BAD part of town. Lacking a cover garment to conceal carry he was forced to walk without his revolver, face it a typical J frame doesn’t fit in the pocket of men’s dress pants to well.

    The first time I taught the bag trick to a group of serious conceal carry folks I took a blue trainer (J frame) stuck it in the bag a walked around with it far too long before a curious one in the bunch inquired as to what I was doing with the bag. I whipped out that blue trainer and everyone’s jaw dropped.

    I submit that having knowledge of the bag trick should make us all a bit more aware of WHAT is in people’s hands. While a felon may have a hard time getting a handgun, he can get a knife and a few bags real easy.

    As you stated this technique is NOT for daily carry,,, but that one in a million times you need such a technique it may b e damn handy to have.

    I am teaching the bag trick two Saturdays from now to yet another small group of folks. That speaks of the value I see behind this technique. I typically see to it that everybody gets 4 or 5 bags so they can practice point shooting right through the bag as well.

    I now carry a few bags in all of my vehicles. I recommend that others who are serious about the defensive lifestyle do just the same.

    Great post as always.

  9. Mark says:

    Couple of points to this article for those that are having trouble wrapping their heads around it. The first point is that this is for extreme situations not an everyday carry trick, so stop trying to think of it like it is for daily carry.
    Secondly, it works because of how our brains work. The human brain tries to process all the worlds stimuli as we pass through it, but to do this it takes shortcuts to handle the load. Since visual input takes up so much of our brains workload it edits this information the most. This causes our brain to make the quick judgement of “oh, I guy/girl carrying a bag nothing of importance here” and then moves on to process more input.
    Nice concept Greg and thanks for sharing.

  10. Ryan says:

    Please tell me one legitimate situation where you would need to carry like this instead of normal concealment?

    I see several problems with this. First, the effort and time it would take to be able to pull the trigger from outside of the bag is prohibitive. Second, whether you use a revolver or a semi auto, you still risk the bag jamming it up after the first shot. Third, you are in poor control of your weapon. I can see several scenarios (think large crowds or mobs) where you put yourself at risk of dropping the gun.

    Doing this with a knife seems like an even worse idea given the potential of accidental injury to you or a passerby from something as innocent as them bumping into you.

    • Ron says:

      If you read my response above you would have seen one legitimate situation where bag carry is applicable. You don’t have a cover garment to actually conceal a gun, and your car breaks down.You are forced to walk,,,how to carry your gun??

      Using my imagination I can think of others. Personally I would employ this technique any time I feel a real sense or urgency to be able to respond with deadly force in lightning fast fashion.

      I personally have shot at lest 150 rounds through bags, and NEVER had a bag jam a revolver. I have detected no more risk to jamming a revolver with a bag than any other defensive application,,, with clothing, etc.

      Unless you have actually learned the “bag trick” you will never know how EASY it is to place finger to trigger and shoot right through the bag.Or, the gun can be INSTANTLY removed from the bag (if there is time). Time,,, we never have enough of in a fight.Our initial response must place us in control of the fight,,, if possible. The “bag trick” is a time saver. Trust me when I tell you I have taught this technique to others and it really isn’t that hard to master. Hell, I have women that do it just fine.

      I can’t see where I am at any greater risk of dropping my gun in a bag than I am in any other defensive circumstance.The bags are micro thin, and easy to point shoot through. Having done sufficient reps of the “bag trick” I can’t see any increased level of vulnerability to dropping a gun.

      As for your comments with the knife, it appears obvious you really don’t want this technique to work. Maybe it’s not for you.

    • John says:

      Ryan – no one is forcing you to use this technique or advocating that we all replace our custom Kydex IWB holsters with Walmart bags. Greg mentions several times that this is not a replacement for normal concealed carry. It is a trick to have up your sleeve if needed. If you don’t like it or don’t feel comfortable executing it, chalk this up as one of thousands of other things you read on the internet that you thought were a waste of your time to read.

      • Ryan says:

        Obviously, if someone is willing to publish this method with their reputation behind it, there must be some merit to it. I’m interested in learning more about it. Namely, I’m curious in what circumstances it would be a viable option. Unfortunately, no one seems to be able to tell me legitimate circumstance.

  11. Ryan says:

    Hi Ron, so 150 rounds is now considered sufficient training? OK. And I’m going to need more examples of scenarios where this might be necessary other than your car breaking down while driving without a shirt on. If you can remember to keep a suitable plastic bag handy, can’t you just as easily remember to keep an extra, dark t-shirt handy instead? I’m not allowed to carry at work, so I too keep my gun in the glove compartment. Except I keep it there in the holster in case I stop somewhere on my way home so I can carry properly.

    Can you post video of the bag training, perhaps with a timer showing the side by side comparisons of speed and accuracy?

    • John says:

      So Greg should have carried an extra shirt around with him all day on his trip to Egypt, on the off chance that he would find himself in need of it? I’m asking for real.

      I would bet it’s easier to stab/slice through a plastic shopping bag than through the fabric of a shirt. (Though I’ve never conducted a double-blind study.)

      I personally have no problems with you questioning techniques here or anywhere else, but your tone is coming across as though you have a chip on your shoulder and need to prove that this technique is invalid everywhere, every time.

      • Ryan says:

        I didn’t realize Greg was exploring Egypt without a shirt on.

        I have no tone. All I’ve done is ask legitimate questions. The article indicates that Greg teaches this in a class. I might be interested in taking that class if I were to determine there were situations where this would be useful for me.

        • thebronze says:

          Pretty sure Greg wouldn’t want a shit-bag like you in his class, but maybe he would. He’s more of a gentleman than I am.

        • John says:

          I don’t know what Greg was or wasn’t wearing, and frankly, I don’t care. Shirt or no, he felt that simply having a concealed weapon on his body was not sufficient for the risk level he assessed. I wasn’t there and won’t second-guess assessment. I could second-guess his being in that place at that time, but he acknowledged that it probably wasn’t the best judgment he’s ever exercised.

          Bottom line is, he wanted a blade **in his hand**, and carrying an open blade in plain sight is going to attract unwanted attention. Thus, the bag trick.

        • Greg Ellifritz says:

          I teach this technique in my knife classes as part of a block on “stealthy pre-deployment” techniques. The hardest part about defending yourself with a folding knife is getting it out and open. If you have any type of forewarning that an attack is immanent or if you are in an extremely violent area that can’t be avoided, it’s much better to have the weapon out and in the hand rather than fumbling with it while in the middle of a fight for your life. This technique (and the others I teach) allows you to have the weapon in hand without scaring the rest of the public or letting the bad guy know you are armed.

          In the case of the firearm, I have only done the bag trick a couple times. Both were when I was responding as a plain clothed police officer to robbery in progress calls. I went into the store casually to check things out posing as a customer, but had my gun in hand ready to go if I ended up walking into a shootout.

  12. Henry says:

    If you’ve never been in a situation or can not envision yourself in one where you wished you had your weapon in hand, but could not. Then you will not see the benefit in this technique.

    I found this technique useful while leaving a convenience store where I could not otherwise avoid a group of drunken locals who had decided to hangout near my vehicle in the parking lot. They were not there when I arrived, but after paying for my water they wandered up together. The first two came into the store to get more beer while another four or five waited outside. I could see that the store clerk became nervous. I then choose to use the restroom rather than to walk out into the parking lot at that time and to get out of the center of what seemed like a scenario I’d been involved in twice before. Many years before I had walked up on a robbery soon enough that I saw it all go down. The second time I was in the store repairing some equipment when it happened. Both times there where people outside as lookouts and 2 or three entered the store moving in different directions. Now I know you can not always say that just seeing a particular pattern is going to lead to a robbery, but when you get that gut feeling as well you better not ignore it. I had that feeling.

    While in the restroom I decided that I wanted something more readily available than my holstered gun or a folding knife clipped to my pocket when it was time to leave. I also new that I could not just walk out with my hand on the grip of my holstered gun or on my knife. Instead, when I felt it was a good time to leave I took a wad of paper towels and used it to conceal my open knife.

    Fortunately, nothing went down in the parking lot that night and was able to walk freely to my vehicle. Yet, if things had turned out differently I was ready to address the problems immediately without playing catch up. Violence can unfold quickly, in a blink of the eye it can change to the point you may not have the opportunity to access your weapon.

    If the situation is avoidable then by all means avoid it. If not then I’d like to have the initiative whenever possible. Whether the weapon is concealed by a towel, a bag, a box, etc. I’d rather it be in my hand concealed than in the pocket or holster.

  13. Ron says:

    I suggest that you strongly consider having an anal-optical operation to get that nerve cut that runs between you ***hole & your eyeballs so you quit having such a shitty outlook on life.

    Sorry Greg,,,,,, if you feel my comment too harsh feel free to edit it out.

  14. Ryan says:

    What are you talking about? I’m asking legitimate questions about this method. Instead of answering my questions, you get defensive and attack with a cute, yet out of place, metaphor. You are the one so psychologically dependent in your firearm that you advocated carrying it in a plastic bag, and I am the one with the poor outlook on life?

    I’m trying to have a legitimate discussion about a self defense technique. If you aren’t mature enough to handle this conversation, you should probably go troll another website.

    GREG, would you care to answer my questions?

  15. SnakePlisken says:

    Hello Greg and thanks for such an interesting posting. It’s been very helpful.

    I work 18 miles ( one way ) from my home and if I get stuck in a SHTF situ and have to walk home it could be a problem. I have my route planned but it does take me through a sketchy part of town for a bit before emerging on the other side. Hopefully, I’ll never have to walk the 18 miles but now I can have a better peace of mind by hiding in plain sight.

    Best,

    SnakePlisken

  16. John Fletcher Kilgour says:

    Ryan, don’t worry about the replies you are getting from anyone other than Greg. General George S. Patton, Jr. said, “When everyone’s thinking alike, no one’s thinking.” But I’ve noticed time and time again that when someone posts comments after Greg’s posts that dare to question something he or another commenter said that person gets personal attacks back instead of logic, facts, rational mature adult discussion. Don’t even worry about it. Greg has thousands of readers and yet you only ever see the same few commenters posting, and as a group they tend to be thin skinned enough, and to have drank enough conventional wisdom kool-aid to jump on anyone who DAREs to think for themselves.

  17. Stephen says:

    One in the hand is worth 2 IWB! This is a last resort unnoticiable carry technique that I would not have known about without this article. You do not have to explore this technique, and you certainly can find classes to take without this being taught. However, Greg thank you for taking the time to post this. I would rather be shown every available thing for self protection than just rely on the same ol same ol that is thrust upon us. “Carry a trusty holster and you will he fine” is exactly how a lot of people get hurt. Have you trained under stress? I think having a weapon in my hand and concealed rather than trying to find the right time and place to pull it out is always a better alternative. I’m not saying carry in a bag every time. But having to go through less motions to defend yourself is seconds off the reaction time of the assailant.
    Greg, how many people in your class fumble through trying to pull a weapon out when going through a drill or scenarios? This could be a life saver if done correctly. This is not a substitute to CCW. Its an added bonus. I can think of plenty of times growing up I wish I had this in my aersonal.

  18. Joe says:

    I could see how this may be useful in certain situations. Regarding using a semi-auto pistol, I’d be more worried about a FTE than the bag getting caught in the slide. The slide should tear right through the bag. I could easily see how the bag could stop the casing from ejecting properly though.

    • Marc says:

      So, the last time i used this trick i was going in for a job interview so was all dressed up and tucked in with nowhere to hide a gun other than in my bag. After that I had to be in the city and wasn’t going to be able to change until my destination, so the gun went into a dunkin donuts bag and i carried it through north philly for about a half hour. No one was the wiser.

      It’s a trick for shady motherfuckers, but sometimes you just have to be a shady motherfucker.

  19. Knot Jammin, Jr says:

    Great article. I am a little disappointed in the level of comprehension of a few of the comments I read. Knowledge is a tool and like any tool is only good if you learn how to use it. This form of concealed carry has a place and all of us should spend some time practicing it. Thanks for the info. Well done!!

  20. Juice says:

    Ryan,
    I can think of a few:

    1- Walking (small, non-defense) dog at night. Poo bag in hand is not out of place in said scenario and one must be on foot in public to let the dog do his business.

    2- Walking across college campus and parking lot after PM classes at some institutions.

    3- Walking through a mall parking lot after an expensive purchase as some criminals hang around retail establishments and look for those who buy big ticket items or carry large amounts of cash.

    4- ATM withdraw in urban areas or desolate areas.

    5- Waiting for a cab after a night out down town in an unfamiliar area.

    *** I am sure there are plenty more but these ones came to mind while reading the article. Remember gun fights happen most often within a few feet and someone could be close enough to just stab you while you brush away your concealment and try to present your weapon. Distance from a threat is best but when you have no option for distance immediacy is the best option. Someone at 3 feet away who knows what they are doing WILL hand you your ass if you try to pull out on them.
    Count out 3 seconds. That’s how fast it happens when it does. At 3 feet I will take a knife in a bag over a gun on the hip any day.
    When your level goes from Yellow (or white for some of you) to Orange, that may be the time to consider this technique.

  21. Mark says:

    Good advise and helpful.Thank you!

  22. Brandon says:

    I’m curious about the legality of this method. I want to try it and perhaps practice the next time I hit the range because I too must leave my carry gun locked in my truck during work hours.

    It was my understanding that walking around with your gun unholstered could land you a brandishing or menacing charge if an LEO saw it. Does that change once you put a bag around it?

  23. Mike says:

    A couple decades ago early on a Sunday morning I was in Seattle and I was just picking up a pistol I had waiting for me at a pawn shop. I wrapped the gun in brown paper to walk back to the ferry. Crossing the street, a bumpkin came up demanding what was “in the bag”. I looked at him square in the face and told him, “you don’t want it”. He paused, a bit confused and I walked on. He wasn’t openly armed and, fortunately, I guess, the gun in the bag wasn’t loaded. It’s a good point that the bag itself may become part of a confrontation.

    Mike

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