In a growing world of takedown rifles and SBRs (short barrel rifle,) there is an increasing need for a circumspect way to carry these tools. Recently, Elite Survival Systems (ESS) introduced the Stealth SBR Backpack which can provide you with a discreet way of carrying a rifle.
If you’ve ever wondered how to carry a rifle with a backpack, this might be the pack for you. I cover what will – and will not – fit without disassembly as well as talk about how the ESS design compares to other SBR rifle backpacks.
If you want just the high points, click “TL; DR” in the navigation menu. Consider this the modern era’s Cliffs Notes of the Stealth SBR Backpack review.
What Is the ESS SBR Backpack?
The Stealth SBR Backpack is both the name and an accurate description of this gear’s use: a man-portable pack that can discreetly carry an SBR or another large firearm.
While the term “stealth” has been abused by marketers and gun writers alike, I feel the name is apt in this case. The bag looks like a high-quality backpack but gives no outward impression of being anything tactical. It lacks any PALS or MOLLE webbing on the exterior. The gray and black color scheme blends into the urban environment as being just another piece of luggage or sports pack.
Yet, appearances can be deceiving. This Elite Survival Systems pack is anything but “just another piece of luggage.”
The main compartment of this SBR carry bag is accessed via a double YKK zipper system. It folds flat when completely unzipped. This is an advantageous feature when first setting up the pack.
On the back of the compartment is a single, edge-to-edge piece of loop backing. This allows you to position the included tie down straps to precisely fit your firearm. Additionally, you can add extra straps if needed.
If you look at my photos, you can see a zipper toward the top of the loop panel. ESS sells Level III-A armor panels that can be slipped into this area to give the pack enough bullet resistance to stop most handgun rounds.
Opposite of the loop panel is a garden of PALS/MOLLE webbing. Adding several pouches here augments the storage capabilities of the Stealth SBR. I imagine that many people will attach AR magazine pouches here.
Loop material is sewn to the outside of the PALS/MOLLE webbing. So, you can add a tear-away pouch here.
On the front of the bad are three compartments. The lower compartment has a polymer, almost like a rugged rubber, coating on the outside to protect against wear and provide a degree of water resistance.
Inside the lower compartment, there are several pouches that can hold notepads, pens or other administrative gear. During my testing, I stored first aid gear in this area: a SOF-T tourniquet, an Israeli compression bandage, QuikClot Combat Gauze and additional supplies.
Also inside the lower compartment is a zippered compartment. This compartment is not waterproof, but it does have a reinforced, clear polymer panel. That zippered section also has the polymer-coated exterior, so I would expect the two to work together to offer reasonable water resistance.
The upper zippered compartment is relatively small: sized about right for a cell phone and wallet. It uses a weather-resistant zipper.
Above the upper zippered compartment is a third compartment that might escape your notice on first glance. It is an ample storage area with a mouth that rolls up and is help closed by side-release buckles. The compartment is lined with a polyester-type product. This compartment works much like some of the dry bags I’ve used in the past.
Top and Waist Compartments
Along each of the waist straps is a small zippered compartment. You could store a variety of small items in these. For example, you could store a folding knife, tinder bag, fire starting kit and similarly sized items.
Between the shoulder straps and the top carry handle is another small compartment. This zipper is weather-sealed, which is good since it faces up and would be directly exposed to snow and rain.
Just because this is a backpack doesn’t mean you will only carry it when properly mounted on your shoulders and hips. There will be plenty of time you will find it easier to carry by one of the two handles.
On the top of the discreet SBR backpack is a thick handle attached to the pack with a pair of X-box stitches. The handle feels as if it is filled with a gel as it is soft but very firm. Carrying a rifle and assorted gear can be heavy, and this handle will offer ample cushioning.
Along one side is a second handle. This handle allows you to carry the bag 90˚ from the normal up-down position. It is not as thick as the top handle, but it does appear to also have a gel cushion on the inside.
Straps and Parts
All of the buckles, D-rings and tri slides are made of polymer. They seem to be of good quality, though I am admittedly not an expert on buckles and such.
Both the shoulder straps and the waist straps are thickly padded – nearly an inch thick on the shoulders. The straps have a mesh on the exterior, presumably to assist with airflow. A similar amount of padding with mesh exterior is on the rear of the pack that rests against your back.
The ESS SBR backpack has the following specifications:
- YKK zippers
- 500 Denier nylon
- heavy duty rubberized bottom and front for water and wear resistance
- luggage-style carry handle on side of pack
- height: 20″
- width: 12″
- depth: 7.5″
- weight: 2.9 lbs
- MSRP: $199.95 (much cheaper at Amazon – click here)
- MSRP of soft armor (NIJ III-A) panel: $140
I do not own an SBR, but I do own a number of AR rifles and pistols. However, I don’t think most AR pistols or SBRs will fit without separating the upper and lower. I base this on my inability to properly stow a 9.5″ barrel AR pistol fitted with an SB Tactical arm brace.
I suspect that a true SBR fitted with a folding stock will fit without any disassembly. For example, the Kalashnikov USA KR-9 SBR should stow without problems.
To transport any 16″ rifle or AR pistol, I had to disassemble them first. This doesn’t make the ESS backpack any worse than its competition. I’ve tried a number of takedown rifle backpacks and all of them require disassembly prior to being stowed.
So, I consider the Stealth SBR Rifle backpack to be directly comparable to other packs like the ones made by Copper Basin and Kalashnikov USA. However, that doesn’t mean all bags are created – or function – equally.
With an AR rifle divided into the upper and lower assemblies, I loaded the ESS backpack and tossed in a few loaded magazines. Additionally, I added my standard first aid gear in the lower front pocket. In the top front pocket, I tossed in a cell phone charger and other bits of gear I might use during the day.
Then, I headed out.
I had a number of local errands to run in public areas where CCW is acceptable. I took care of all my business and no one appeared to bat an eye at the bag. It just blended in like any number of other bags I saw.
The carry handle on the side of the bag was actually nice. When I was in my insurance agent’s office, we were moving around a conference table dealing with a speakerphone and paperwork. Both the top and side handles made it easy to grab and move about.
I didn’t do a lot of walking with the bag in this context. So, the next day I took off on a 2-mile hike around my neighborhood. No, that’s not a long-distance hike, but I felt like that would give me a good feel for how the pack wears in the common urban and suburban situations for which it was most likely designed.
It took only a minute or so to adjust the straps for proper fitment and then I headed out. The bag wasn’t terribly heavy, and the straps did a good job at anchoring the pack so it didn’t bounce around.
The padding in the shoulder straps proved ample and never became uncomfortable on the shoulders. Likewise, the padding on the back was fine. Actually, I’m understating things – this was the most comfortable backpack I’ve used in a while. I like my Maxpedition packs, but this one was very well balanced and comfortable across the shoulders and back.
Airflow to my back was fairly good, though hiking in a Florida August isn’t the most pleasant experience you will encounter. The heat and humidity – even at 9 am – can be brutal without a breeze. I had a light one coming in off the water, and the ESS rifle backpack let enough of that through to allow for better cooling than I expected.
Right now, the only other takedown rifle backpack I have on hand right now is the one made by Kalashnokov USA. While the KUSA pack is good, it pales in comparison to the Elite Survival Systems pack in terms of manufacturing quality, comfort and versatility. Also, the KUSA pack looks tactical with PALS webbing and a bright red company logo on the olive drabish material. Of course, the MSRP of the ESS pack is roughly three times that of the KUSA, so it better be the best rifle backpack of the two.
The Elite Survival Systems Stealth SBR Backpack is an excellent pack for carrying a takedown or short barrel rifle in a discreet and comfortable manner. The pouches are configured in a logical way while the main compartment is uncluttered for the storage of your SBR rifle.
ESS used quality materials that are both rugged and match the low profile styling of the rifle bag. The backpack blends into most any environment and doesn’t stand out with PALS/MOLLE webbing, Spartan logos or military coloring.
While the suggested retail price is higher than some people will want to pay, the manufacturing on my sample backpack was top notch. Of course, suggested retail is just a suggestion. Fortunately, you can get it for a lot less. (Click here if interested.)
The backpack used in this test was provided to me by ESS through a media representative. It was provided as a loaner with the request it was returned after the testing. As I finish this article, the test pack is already boxed up with a shipping label to go out in the morning.
I do not have any financial interest in ESS or any company that manufactures backpacks, backpack gun case or other outdoor gear. This article is not a “sponsored article” which is just a fancy term for paid advertisement. Sponsored articles are advertisements that are typically written in the form of a review but are paid for by the company that manufactures the product. Guess how many sponsored articles I trust? Probably as many as you do.
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If you are looking for a discreet rifle backpack, the Elite Survival Systems Stealth SBR Rifle Backpack is a solid choice. It is made of good quality components and has well thought out features. If you are wondering what backpack will an SBR fit into, this bag has ample storage for either an SBR with a folding stock or a disassembled 16″ AR rifle.
I tested the bag in public as a low-profile CCW bag and on a hike. The SB backpack performed admirably. I recommend the ESS Stealth SBR backpack. While the MSRP is nearly $200, it can be had for much less by clicking here.