The month of December normally causes most folks to be focused on the predominant holidays at hand: Chanukah and Christmas. And while Christmas is extremely important to me and my family with all the traditions we are building, I found myself thinking more about the snow and cold weather we have heading our way in Ohio.

Our annual change in weather does cause or should cause folks who live inside our snowbelt to consider something that folks who live outside our snowbelt don’t have to consider: a change in carry gun due to the change of seasons.

For those of you unfamiliar with the concept, when it gets cold around here, the residents begin to layer up with additional heavy clothing, including thick winter coats. All that additional clothing provides insulation from the cold but also from the lower-powered projectiles launched by smaller, “warm-weather” handguns. This means that .22, .32 and maybe even .380-caliber handguns that citizens and cops carry for protection from warm-weather miscreants may be less than effective against cold-weather miscreants. This means that it might be wise to carry larger, heavier, longer-barreled handguns during the winter, especially in locales where there is frequent sub-zero weather.

I was looking to upgrade my 20-something-year-old DeSantis Gun Runner II carry pack. While still functional, my Gun Runner II was starting to look pretty sad. I use my Gun Runner II all year ‘round, especially when heading to the gym while wearing sweat clothes. I always had the Gun Runner II on under my winter coat when I used to run outside in remote areas, where it carried my handgun, ID and a can of pepper spray, just as it did in warm weather months.

For those of you who are newer to concealed carry, this type of holster is often called a “fanny pack.” True fanny packs appeared in the 1980s as a way to carry personal items when riding a bicycle. They were not designed to carry firearms, and actually rode over your “fanny” in the rear so as not to interfere with pedaling your bike. I purchased one initially to carry my wallet and keys, but found right away that the bicycle fanny pack I purchased would also hold a small off-duty handgun and some spare ammo. It was nice to have while out on the bike trail.

Companies such as DeSantis realized the same thing: that here was a viable new concealed firearm carry method that needed to be developed into a dedicated holster system — one designed to be worn in the front for easy access.

DeSantis first introduced the Gunny Sack, a concealment waistpack that uses Velcro to hold the holster compartment closed until the wearer needs his or her handgun. Accessing the handgun requires tugging on the front of the pack to pull the Velcro apart. It was, and still is, a good system, and I used one for a number of years until the Gunny Sack II was introduced.

The current version of the Gunny Sack II is only available in black these days, while my older model was blue in color, and blended in well with blue jeans. Speaking of blending in, waistpacks began to fall out of favor in the later 1990s as being a “too obvious” way of carrying a handgun. The conventional wisdom was that wearing one “screamed cop,” as, back then, most states did not yet have “shall-issue” concealed carry permitting as we do today. As someone who has been using waistpacks — and the Gunny Sack II in particular — for 30 plus years in and outside of Ohio, I am here to tell you it doesn’t scream anything, even on vacation in touristy areas. No police officer ever stopped me to make sure I was a cop, and no civilian ever raised so much as an eyebrow when I was wearing it. Fears of giving oneself away as a lawful concealed handgun carrier really should not be a concern these days due to the abundance of “hide in plain sight” handgun holster systems. The “issue” of screaming cop or civilian never really existed and doesn’t now.

Today’s Gunny Sack II is constructed of heavy-duty ballistic-type nylon rather than the smoother nylon used in earlier models, which makes it more durable — even though the nylon in my old one has never worn out after years of heavy use. The Gunny Sack II uses zippers, which I prefer, rather than the Velcro closures of the original Gunny Sack. It contains three extra pockets for carrying various additional items—a large center pocket with separate zipper, which holds my wallet and badge/ID holder together. It can also hold a smartphone, and, as previously mentioned, a can of pepper spray. Even with those items in place, there is still room in the main compartment for a spare magazine or a speedloader or two, depending on the handgun you’re carrying. On either side of the main compartment are two additional smaller triangle-shaped compartments. They are large enough to also carry speedloaders (but not full-sized pistol magazines), credit cards, keys, ID or anything else that may be needed.

The holster compartment is also zippered across the sides, top and part of the bottom, which makes this an ambidextrous rig. At the top of the front flap are nylon cord pull rings that protrude above the corner of the pack on either side. Pulling the cords down and diagonally across pulls the front flap down and away, clearing the handgun inside for the draw. The handgun is held in place by a reversible ambidextrous holster retained by Velcro. There is also a Velcro weapons-retention strap that serves nicely as an additional safety device between the hammer and frame of single-action pistols carried “cocked and locked.” The holster can be adjusted and moved as needed within the pack. Pulling the handgun against the strap will clear it from the pistol. It is shaped to handle a wide variety of medium- to full-sized pistols and revolvers. It also holds some smaller pistols as well. I have carried guns as small as five-shot snub-nosed revolvers, a SCCY 9mm semi-automatic pistol and a Walther PPK in my first Gunny Sack II, as well as full-sized handguns like my Beretta 92 and Iver Johnson .38 Super 1911A1.

If you haven’t yet added a Gunny Sack II to your holster collection, I highly recommend that you do. You can’t imagine how much use you will get out of it, and you’ll wonder why you waited so long to get one. Current MSRP is $78.99. Amortized across 20 years of use means it will cost you about $3.95 per year. Hard to pass up a bargain like that.

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