“Shots fired at the high school. We’re getting reports of multiple shooters.”

No cop ever wants that call to go out, but when it does, you want to be ready. Whether it is a spree killer, a terrorist attack or a bank robbery gone wrong, there are calls that require more gear than you carry on your belt. For these incidents, consider having a “go bag.”

A go bag is a small pack or sling bag that you carry in your patrol car. It is loaded with a few tools and other bits of gear that can help you resolve a high-risk call. Also known as “bail-out bags,” they can be grabbed quickly and might be the only additional supplies you will get until the call is handled.

What Makes A Good Go Bag?

A go bag must be durable, lightweight and designed so its contents are easy to access. I’ve seen three different kinds of bags employed to good effect: a sling or shoulder bag, a backpack and a plate carrier.

A sling bag slips over the shoulder and can be swept behind the officer while moving or engaging a suspect. These kinds of bags are generally easy to grab gear out of, though they are more prone to get in the way than the other options available.

In this category, the 5.11 Bail Out Bag is worth consideration. The bag has quick-access pouches for AR magazines, a large center pocket, plus side utility pouches. The sling has a quick release and padding. The MSRP is $65.

Backpacks offer the ability to carry more gear and do not interfere with accessing your standard gear. However, retrieving equipment out of them is generally slower than other methods.

Maxpedition builds extremely rugged packs, and the Condor II is no exception. This lightweight backpack has two external pouches, a large main compartment plus room for a hydration rig. Webbing on the exterior allows you to add magazine pouches. The MSRP is $158.

Plate carriers are typically outfitted with PALS webbing to allow for the attachment of pouches. In many cases, a plate carrier will have the smallest amount of storage. However, it offers the benefits of affixing gear to specific points for ease of access, plus the increased protection that hard armor offers.

AR500 Armor offers a plate carrier package that is an outstanding value. The Urban Go Plate Carrier includes a carrier covered with PALS webbing and comes with two 10-by-12-inch NIJ Level III rifle plates for $175. A pouch set that includes rifle and pistol magazine pouches is an additional $35, or you can add your own.

What Should You Carry?

Generally speaking, a go bag should give you the additional equipment you need to address extraordinary circumstances without needlessly weighing you down. Your patrol area and the potential problems you might reasonably encounter will influence
the exact gear you carry. For example, officers in urban Florida might carry very different equipment from those in rural Montana. Here are a few things to consider adding to the bag:

Extra magazines and ammo: This is likely the most common thing carried in a go bag. If you respond to a spree killer or terrorist attack, you might need a lot more ammo than what’s on your belt. Invest in additional duty pistol and rifle magazines and load them up with department-issued ammo. Carry extra shotgun rounds if you have a 12 gauge instead of a rifle.

Basic medical gear: Even if you already carry basic trauma gear on your person, having more will allow you to treat fellow officers or citizens who have been wounded. Consider carrying a tourniquet, an Israeli bandage and a clotting agent.

Entry gear: When responding to a school or other facility, you may encounter locked doors and doors that have been chained shut. The BlackHawk Dynamic Entry Mini Tool Kit has reduced-size bolt cutters and other breaching tools. Having the tools spread across multiple officers on the shift would reduce the weight any one officer carried while increasing the odds of being able to get into a secured building. The MSRP is $500 for the kit.

Large marker: A large marker will allow an officer to mark areas searched or even leave messages for others.

Paracord: A small length of paracord can help in a variety of ways, such as allowing you to pull open a door without exposing yourself.

Door stop/wedge: In a commercial facility with automatically closing doors, being able to prop open an entry door can make it much easier for backup officers to get to you.

Maps of important places: The layouts of local schools and government buildings can be kept in the bag for reference in case you need to respond.

Comfort gear: Not every unusual call requires you to run and gun. Many will require you to hold a perimeter position for several long hours. A granola bar, a bottle of water, ChapStick, sunblock, insect repellant and a bottle of Tylenol can make the experience much more bearable.

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