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Anybody paying attention understands is that our country is changing and that some of the changes are dangerously contradictory. We recognize that it’s becoming a dangerous place with mass shootings, bombings and terrorist attacks. The government can’t, or won’t, protect us, so the responsibility falls on our shoulders to make sure we and our families remain safe. But our country is also becoming a country filled with scared and foolish people. Nobody seems to embrace the concepts of self-reliance or minding your own business anymore. A large number of people have lost perspective on reality, and they see everything they don’t understand as a threat. They have also been indoctrinated to turn to the government to solve every single problem, even the imagined problems.

When a guy shows up at a tourist site during turkey hunting season dressed in camo, it used to be that we understood he was taking a break from hunting and was checking out the local sites. Now they call a SWAT team, send everything into lockdown and arrest the guy at gunpoint for the crime of mottled clothing. (It happened in Pennsylvania in 2013.) Recently, a Texas man out for a 10-mile hike to help his son get a merit badge for his Eagle Scout program was worried about cougars, wild boars and other predators, so he brought his rifle. In the past we considered that smart thinking. This guy got arrested. He was perfectly legal, but the cops arrested him anyway and took his gun. The reason? He made somebody uncomfortable.

Yes, it’s a dangerous world out there, but the nanny state is making it harder to protect yourself and your family. People freak out and call the cops over things that never would have even raised an eyebrow a generation ago. If they call because you have a firearm in public, even if it’s perfectly legal, you may be in big trouble. Death by cop, even with innocent victims, is on the rise. It’s easy to conceal a handgun, but a rifle is much more difficult. Yet, where legal, it’s a very good idea to keep a rifle handy in a lot of situations. The trouble is that even a cased rifle looks like a cased rifle, unless you choose a diversion bag. These bags are specifically designed to not look like rifle cases. You can carry them out of your apartment without someone freaking out and calling 9-1-1.

If you choose to keep a rifle in your vehicle, as many people do, it can become an issue. Some busybody looking in the windows will ensure that a cop is waiting when you finish your shopping. Diversion bags make a lot of sense for today’s gun owners. Here are a few I have used and can comment about.

Renegade Ridge’s Liberator
If you are a hunter, you already know these guys. Renegade Ridge’s parent company, Crooked Horn Outfitters, are the folks who invented the Bino Buddy binoculars harness, which is the best way I know to carry binoculars in the field. The Liberator Discreet is perhaps the most “tactical” of the bags tested, for several reasons. It can house an M4-style AR-15 with an adjustable stock, ready to go mounted optic and a 20-round magazine (assuming carrying loaded rifles is legal where you live). The main case is made from Cordura nylon and has a 28-inch, breakaway zipper that can be opened quickly by pulling on the hand strap and the handle, allowing access to the rifle in about two seconds. The case can be hung in a closet by its strap, or you can slip the strap over your vehicle’s headrest and hang the case behind the seat.

There is a carrying handle on the top, and a strap can be added to the D-rings for shoulder carry. The bag is 37 inches long and looks like an elongated tennis-racket case or perhaps a violin case. It’s available in tan, gray, ATAC, black, or a pink and black, and less tactical colors like red or blue may be on the horizon.

The small accessory bag on the side holds two more 30-round magazines in elastic bands. Or it can hold a handgun. It can also be worn on your belt with a handgun, where it looks like a camera or PDA case. It also has a breakaway zipper for fast access. The owner of the company tells me that they are working on a version that has Kevlar for ballistic protection. The operator will be able to kneel behind the bag and use it as a shield. I keep this bag hanging on the back of my truck seat and tell anybody nosy enough to ask that I am an avid tennis player. I hope the questions stop there because if anybody wanted to talk about tennis I’d be lost. I have never played the game and do not want to. Suggested retail is $199.99. (crookedhorn.com; 877-722-5872)

Hazard 4 Battle Axe
This is basically a padded, nylon double gun case that is shaped like a guitar case. The Battle Axe has two compartments separated by a center divider. One side has straps to hold the gun in place; the other side does not. The bag can hold two long guns, or one guitar, or a guitar and a gun. At 45.5 inches, the case is long enough to hold a full-size hunting-style AR-15 rifle with a 22-inch barrel and a full-length stock. There are three pockets on the front, with the top being about 6 inches square, the middle being 6 inches wide and 12 inches long with a Velcro backing, and the bottom being 12 by 16 inches with several internal pockets, including one zipper pocket and a D-ring.

The outside has a carry handle and multiple D-rings. It also has several MOLLE strap attachment locations. The Battle Axe comes in coyote tan and black, and while to the trained eye it does look a little too tactical in those colors, for most people the shape just says guitar. This bag can easily hold two rifles with all the magazines and accessories you need to go with them. It is extremely rugged and well made to handle the weight as well as the expected field use. For a true diversion, you can put a guitar on top and hide an AR-15 rifle underneath in the other compartment. That way, if you are asked to prove what’s in the case, you can show it’s just a guitar. Tell them you are a Nickelback fan and they will not bother you further. Suggested retail is $199.99. (hazard4.com; 626-344-1454)

BlackHawk Diversion Carry
Nothing about this bag looks tactical. In fact, it looks like something my social worker neighbor might take to her tennis lessons. But then, that’s the point isn’t it? BlackHawk says the Diversion Racquet Bag is made with 420-denier Velocity nylon, and the term “velocity” is as close to anything related to guns as this bag comes. A BlackHawk spokesman said the case was designed small to ensure that it will never be mistaken for a rifle case. The 29-inch case has padded walls with an internal divider for carrying up to two firearms or an AR-15 with separated upper and lower receivers (up to 29 inches long). The case comes with a carrying strap.

It will also handle some assembled SBRs or a short carbine with a folding stock. I tried an AK-47 with an aftermarket folding stock, and it didn’t fit. But it’s a large rifle, and I am sure other models would fit fine. My pistol-grip Mossberg 500 tactical shotgun just fits. Of course, handguns can easily fit in the case. I can slip the shotgun in one side and a handgun in the other with the padded divider separating them. Or I can break down an M4 Carbine and slip the upper in one side and the lower in the other. Reassembly only takes a few seconds. It comes in non-tactical colors like red/white or blue/gray for when you absolutely, positively have to convince them that you don’t have a gun. Finish out your ensemble with capri pants, Birkenstock sandals and a Che T-shirt, and you won’t be bothered. Suggested retail is $64.99. (blackhawk.com; 800-694-5263)

ThugCase Model M4
Inspired by Al Capone and the Prohibition-era thugs who favored violin cases for their tommy guns, the ThugCase is a modern-day incarnation of the concept. The hard, outer shell is made from heavy thermoplastic with protective molded lining inside. Velcro straps are installed to secure contents. Each case includes a lockable latch. The Model M4 case I have has three latches, the center one having a lock that comes with two keys. The case is designed to take a 16-inch-barreled, M4-style carbine that is broken down. The ThugCase will fit the upper and lower receivers with an area to stash a couple of 30-round magazines. This case will accept upper assemblies up to 25.5 inches long (from the tip of the flash suppressor to the back of the upper receiver) and handle most tactical-style optics installed on the upper. The lower must have a collapsible stock to fit.

The ThugCase Model M4 is so small that most people would never believe there is a rifle inside, which is a very good thing when you are trying to keep a low profile. But it’s also a very snug fit. My lower has an aftermarket grip that is slightly longer than the standard A2 grip. As a result, I had to crush some of the protective lining and wedge it in the case to make the lower fit. I tried an upper with an aftermarket muzzle brake, and it would not fit, but one with a birdcage flash suppressor fit well. For a standard M4-style gun with a 16-inch barrel fitted with a flash suppressor and a collapsible stock, this is the best option. But if you deviate much from that, you may need a larger case.

The M16 size will take uppers that are 29 inches long. It can handle larger optics and will take a full-size fixed stock. If I had to do it over, I would order this model as it offers more options for my multiple AR rifles. There are several other models for pistol-grip shotguns, AK-47 rifles, M14 rifles and many more. Of course, there is one for a Thompson SMG. Plus there are some generic foam-lined cases to fit most guns not specifically listed. Or you can simply custom order a case to fit your needs. The ThugCase is designed and produced in the United States by veterans. A percentage of each sale is donated to the Wounded Warrior Project. This hard-shell case provides a high level of protection and diversion. The ThugCase Model M4 looks like it is designed for a mandolin. When asked, I just tell them I am Vince Gill’s long lost brother. Suggested retail is $149. (thugcase.com; 559-269-5150)

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