Carrying a concealed handgun doesn’t always mean carrying on your person. Sometimes conditions call for carrying in a bag or briefcase of some kind. Unfortunately, many bags and briefcases these days fall into one of two categories: too tactical or too practical. The “too tactical” bags look like they’re right off the SWAT truck—the design just screams that the bag is meant to carry weaponry and ammo. The “too practical” briefcases excel at carrying everything but a weapon and are difficult to access quickly. Somewhere in the middle of this spectrum, and maybe leaning just a bit toward “tactical” is the 5.11 Tactical Side Trip Briefcase, a unique combination of tactical and practical that effectively allows a user to carry not just a concealed weapon but a lot of other useful gear, including pens, papers, and a notebook computer.
Loaded with compartments and pockets and made of 1000-denier textured nylon, the Side Trip Briefcase proved to be a versatile companion, carrying a variety of gear – office stuff, range stuff, whatever – with ease. Moreover, after carrying this particular briefcase for over a year, I am familiar with its strengths and weaknesses related to the concealed carry of a handgun, other gear, and its “look” (how others perceived it).
Concealing a Handgun
The Side Trip Briefcase’s best feature, in my opinion, is the large hidden pocket between the two front pockets and the main compartment. This is where a user would carry a concealed handgun, obviously, as the compartment is hardly noticeable to an untrained eye. Access to the compartment comes via holding one of two small tabs and the handle and pulling apart the hook-and-loop closure. It’s a two-handed operation, yes, but with practice you can learn how to “knife” one hand into the compartment to access whatever weapon you keep inside.
While the interior of the hidden compartment is lined with a special fabric meant to hold other 5.11 accessories such as a holster or ammo pouch, I used it without these, preferring to have the handgun I was carrying just float within. Note, however, that any gun carried in the compartment didn’t really float at all but stayed in whatever place I put it, held in place by the friction of the compartment sides. A reload rode in the compartment, ahead of or behind the handgun.
With a well-made and discreet closure and compartments on each side, the hidden pocket was exactly that: hidden.
Carrying Other Stuff
The practical side of the Side Trip Briefcase afforded numerous compartments of varying sizes. Two large zippered compartments opened up to reveal thoughtful storage for keys, pens, cords, business cards, and a myriad of other items. Or, these pockets could hold ID, tactical lights, spare magazines, and handcuffs. The large main compartment easily accommodated notebooks, papers, file folders, and a few books and offered a MOLLE/ALICE equipped interior panel. Alternatively, it could have been used to store extra clothes. The large side compartment offered a well padded area for a notebook computer, including a movable divider to ensure a secure fit. Each end of the Side Trip Briefcase provided storage for water bottles. In other words, in addition to carrying a concealed handgun, I could store in this bag whatever else I wanted.
The only drawback to being able to carry all that extra stuff is the added weight. Thankfully, the Side Trip’s molded handle and large padded shoulder strap helped distribute the weight and made carrying easier.
Constructed of black nylon, the Side Trip Briefcase does have a tactical look to it, but not unduly so. In fact, it looks like many other shoulder or messenger bags available today. When carrying it, some friends would comment favorably on its look but more so on its apparent functionality. Still, they never suspected that a concealed gun was inside.
While the Side Trip excelled at carrying a concealed handgun while I toted it to and from the office, I also discovered that it provides a good means of carrying while in a vehicle. When driving, keeping it on the passenger seat next to me or behind the passenger seat afforded fairly easy access to hidden compartment. To anyone who would happen to look inside my vehicle, all they saw was a black briefcase.
5.11’s Side Trip Briefcase retails for $109.99 and provides a good balance between tactical and practical, allowing you to carry a concealed weapon and other stuff and look normal doing so.