Without a doubt, the worst part of a 3-gun competition is hauling all of your crap around the range. Not only do you have to move all three guns around, but you also need to carry enough food to keep them running, all of your spare gear, a set of tools, maybe a spare sweatshirt… the weight adds up fast. And keeping all of that stuff organized is an even bigger issue. Sure there are plenty of 3-gun bags out there from Safariland and Uncle Mike’s and even Voodoo Tactical, but they’re uncomfortable and prioritize room for the guns over room for the gear. And what if you wanted to take that same bag hunting, using it to carry your stuff while hiking into the wilderness? The existing options aren’t very good. What if there was a bag that offered you more room for your gear, and that you could use not only on the range or in the hunt, but could also double as a gear bag that you could check on airplane rides? The Eberlestock Gunslinger II is just such a bag.
Quick full disclosure notice here. For the last year I’ve been shooting with Team FNH USA, and Eberlestock is one of their sponsors. As such, the bag was part of the deal. However, now that the year is over and I’m no longer sponsored by FNH USA or Eberlestock, I can give a relatively impartial review to something I’ve used and abused over the last year. However, since that relationship did exist at some point in the recent past, I wanted to include this short disclaimer so you can keep that in mind as we venture into the review.
Eberlestock designed this bag specifically for military / law enforcement use, so 3-gun competitions are at best a tertiary use case for the bag. I could make fun of it for being “operationally operational for the operational operator,” but that kind of ridicule should be reserved for packs that are only styled to look like the “big boys” use them and marketed to mall ninjas. These bags, on the other hand, are actually used by the military (NSN 8465-01-548-9564) and law enforcement. And it shows.
Inside the bag is a vast chasm of space. The well constructed fabric shell is supplemented with a water resistant inner layer to keep your gear dry even when you’re not. The opening is ringed on three sides by MOLLE webbing for various and sundry attachments, and the internal pockets are just the right size to hold some AR-15 standard capacity magazines. I’ve found that the bag will fit three 25-round shotgun boxes across the bottom just about perfectly, with room to spare for a 9mm box or two.
The bag can be loaded from the front (as shown) thanks to some heavy duty zippers that do a great job of keeping rain and water out when closed, or from the top if you’re packing compressible items like clothing. That feature lets you use it as both a range pack and a travel pack, with more than enough room for a 3-day supply of ammo and gear plus clothing. Well, during the warmer months at least.
The top rain cover has some internal storage space as well, featuring a pretty well laid out admin section. It has space for all kinds of notebooks and pens, and even two slots for a standard AR-15 magazine. It’s great if you need to carry some stuff for record keeping or just keeping organized, and I used it as a place to keep my wallet and cell phone while on the range. The pocket is more or less rainproof, meaning that I didn’t have to scramble for cover if the skies decided to open up between stages.
The bag also comes with a lumbar strap for carrying heavy loads across long distances, but I never used it and so I appreciated the fact that it’s removable. If you’re going to be carrying your gear for long distances, though, it might be a good idea to keep it on and use it. The bag also has some compression straps that fit around the bag, so if you’re carrying clothes you can keep the cross section of the bag as small as possible. The last nifty feature I want to touch on before the main event are the handles — they’re everywhere. No matter where you need to grab the bag, there’s a handle right there for you to pull and grab onto. So if you need to get your bag out of somewhere in a hurry (like a burning humvee) it’s easy to do no matter how the bag is oriented.
Now, for the feature presentation.
The bag has an external compartment that is the exactly perfect size to slide a SCAR 16S in there. Or a Remington 700 with an enormous scope. Or a Tavor SAR if you’re wanting to be extra stealthy. Or whatever gun you want to pack. There’s an opening in the top of the pack and the gun slides down behind the rest of your hear, but with some nice padding between the gun and your back. There are two buckles to keep the gun in place or put a rain hood over the gun should you want to. It gives you the ability to carry a gun in a manner that distributes the weight on your body as if it were a normal internal frame backpack, but still gives you near instant access to your firearm should you need it. There’s a pocket on the bottom that folds up into the bag when not in use that extends the compartment to a length where the stock isn’t sticking very far out of the bag, and the center of gravity is just about on the center of your back.
If you’re going to be backpacking far distances for your hunting trip, the ease and comfort with which you can carry a gun is something to consider. If I was going to go hiking through the woods to try and kill something I don’t think there’s any other way I’d want to carry my gun.
If one gun isn’t enough, Eberlestock offers a scabbard for this bag that latches on to the side MOLLE webbing and lets you carry your shotgun as well. For me, a 3-gun shooter, it’s perfect since I can just throw my handgun in the internal compartment and chuck the whole shebang into a truck to get to and from the range in comfort and style.
Needless to say I really like the pack. So much so that I didn’t even offer to send it back when the season was over, I just asked them how big the check needed to be to keep it. For a 3-gun competition or a short hunt through the woods, it’s just about perfect. But there are some drawbacks.
First is the price. Eberlestock wants $299 for the bag, which is about twice the price of a similar internal frame bag from REI or some other outdoors equipment manufacturer. However, given the firearms related details (like the MOLLE webbing and the specially designed firearms pouch) I think it’s worth the premium. Then again I’m more of a “buy once cry once” kind of guy when it comes to gear that I need to rely on to get a job done. Which is why my very first AR-15 as a starving college student used a Noveske barrel, receiver and rail.
Second is the internal capacity. Eberlestock lists it at 2,700 cubic inches and that’s almost exactly how much space my gear takes up for a weekend of shooting, sans guns. Throw some gats in there and it gets real cramped real quick. It’s good enough for a weekend trip, but anything more and I run out of space. That’s the reason why I’ve ordered the much larger Operator bag (yes, I can hear the snickering over the name from here) for my upcoming jaunts to Europe. It gives me the same features I love about the Gunslinger II, but with twice the internal capacity. And 50% higher price tag.
At the end of the day, whether this bag fits your personal shooting or hunting style will determine if it’s the right pack for you. But for me, I love it. And I’m not paid to say that. Anymore, at least.
Eberlestock Gunslinger II Bag
Weight: 8.2 lbs.
Capacity 2,700 Cubic Inches
Colors: UNICAM II (In Stock), Dry Earth, Military Green, Black, Crye Multicam, various Mossy Oak patterns
Overall Rating: * * * * 1/2
Give me either a hair more space or a hair lower price and you’d have yourself a five star review. As-is, it’s close.