Review: Mini-Sneaky Bag, US PALM AK30 Magazines, and a weekend of training
Having also recently acquired a mini Sneaky Bag and a handful of US PALM magazines for my AK USA Saiga/104 rebuild, I figured this would be a good opportunity to see how well the bag performed as well as how the US PALM mags would hold up. These are the ones with the metal reinforced locking tabs that (I believe) some are referring to as their "Generation 2" magazines. For the past couple years, I have gone back and forth in my mind as to the place of a battle bag for support, and just when I was ready to sell off my mini Sneaky Bag, I fell in love with it.
I have an SKD Universal chest rig made by Eagle Industries that works wonderfully well, and I have built a fantastic belt rig that is not only comfortable, but accommodates my somewhat unorthodox method of shooting pistol left-handed and longarm as a righty. I have also used a LaRue Hawkepak, which is actually more of a mini-BOB due to the amazing amount of storage space it affords. I say all of that to say this: when you use a chest rig, you use the limited space available. When you build a belt rig, you justify the presence and placement of every pouch, attachment, and piece of equipment. For some reason, when we try to use a bag for support gear, we tend to want to cram it to the corners with every conceivable bit of kit we can jam into or MOLLE Lock onto it.
The mini Sneaky just doesn’t allow for this. While the padding for the sling is beefy enough to accommodate a much heavier load, the beefiest complement you’re going to get into a mini-Sneaky is a few pistol mags, up to 4 (double stacked) 30-rd mags, and maybe a pistol (should you decide to attach a Velcro "Universal Holster" to the inside of the main pocket opposite the rifle mags). A double row of MOLLE on the exterior sides also limits what can be attached to the exterior.
Is this necessarily a bad thing? No, I don’t believe it is. In fact, I’m beginning to like and appreciate the gear-minimalist approach that the mini Sneaky Bag has forced me to take.
In ironing out my gear, I tend to ask a lot of questions of guys who have BTDT before deciding on a course of action & seeing what will work for me. When I asked one of the gentlemen running our training about the place of a designated fighting bag, he gestured towards some of the other guys in the class who were kitted up with everything from chest/belt combos to actual plate carriers. "If TEOTWAWKI comes and I see one of these guys," he said, "I’ll shoot him without a second thought. Not only is that some nice gear, but they look threatening as Hell. If someone comes down the road in normal clothes with a bag like you have and their rifle slung, I’ll still be wary, but I’ll at least give them a chance to explain themselves." Hmmm…
One of the best bits of advice I was given when bemoaning the perceived uselessness of my mini-Sneaky Bag was to think of it replacing the chest rig & some of the belt, and not to expect more out of it than I would a normal chest rig. Again: Hmmm…
The chest rig holds 3-4 rifle mags and a modest Admin pouch. The mini Sneaky Bag is designed to hold anywhere from 2-4 mags in the main storage pocket, and the stuff from my Admin pouch (boresnake, ear pro, lens cloth, & lighter) safely & easily fits in the bottom of that pocket. So far, so good. The Rite In The Rain notebook that stays in the map pocket of my chest rig now goes into the integral Admin pocket on the backside of the mini Sneaky, along with some QuickClot sponges. Even better. My belt rig holds another pair of 20-rd AK mags, a dump pouch, IFAK, a Paraclete triple pistol shingle & a drop-leg panel for my pistol and ESEE 4. With 90-150 rounds already accessible between the mini Sneaky and my rifle, I don’t mind ditching the weight of the extra 40rd that the belt rig offers. The pistol can stay on my pants belt, and instead of the 39 rd in three pistol mags, I put a pair of 22 rd extended mags in the front pocket of the mini Sneaky, which gives me 5 extra rounds of 165 grain jacketed hollowpoint love, and still leaves room for a mini-Mag Light to nestle between them. The mini Sneaky features an integral dump pouch with a clever, elastic cinch and the MOLLE on the sides is exactly enough to attach the knife & IFAK. I took the belt strap off of my mini Sneaky Bag, and when I'm not using the leg strap, I simply loop it through the carry strap above the integral Admin pocket.
The mini Sneaky Bag is about as perfect, simple, and low-profile as one can get while toting a rifle.
Does this mean that I’ll ditch the belt/chest rig setup and forever carry my "tactical man-purse"? Not by a long shot. As always, we must allow the mission to drive the gear and not the other way around. However, the mini Sneaky is a very well made and extremely well thought-out piece of kit which works remarkably well and absolutely has an important role to play as support gear. But it’s no more magical than any other piece of gear.
Everything has its plusses and minuses, and we would all do well to consider them deeply before jumping on any bandwagons. Use of the belt or leg strap will help to keep it in place while running or moving, but even then, proning out or dropping into rice-paddy prone means you’re probably losing an empty magazine from the dump pouch. On the other hand, the Sneaky Bag’s simple design and placement on my body means that mobility is nearly unhindered, and it is quick and easy to access anything in or on it. Both of these factors working together made all movement and transitions easier.
Speaking of going prone, we did a number of repetitions where we would take a body shot standing, run 15yd, take a knee behind a low wall to take another shot, run another 20yd, and then go prone to make a head shot on a steel target attached to a cable. One thing that made this all the more interesting was that the cable was on enough of an angle to allow the steel to jiggle further downhill into the forest every time it was hit by a .308 or one of my AK rounds. This caused us all some consternation as we soon discovered that the spot we previously flopped into would no longer allow us a good line of fire. As a result, we all did quite a bit of scooting and crawling. More than once, I pushed the mini Sneaky through the mud and wet grass with my thigh, and even ended up lying atop it a couple times. Despite the soggy conditions, all the Sneaky Bag had to show for it was a 1x2” smear of mud that flaked off the next day.
Saturday, we worked from 300yd and in; the highlight of which was one of the innumerable variations of the "Running the Rifle 10’s" in the rain with a shifting, intermittent 10-15MPH wind. This is a drill which I always enjoy for the combination of physical and skill challenges. Sunday was primarily 100yd and in, involving quite a few Standing, Kneeling, Prone drills. One of the primary foci of the entire weekend was making first shot hits—quickly. As one of the trainers said, "You can’t miss fast enough to stay alive. Only hits count." As a result of the shorter distances and emphasis on speed, many of our drills involved magazine changes.
If you’ve ever done a speed reload with an AK magazine, you know that they tend to turn a half-circle and hit the ground head-first. When they do this in mud and grass, things tend to get a little messy. Intending to run these US PALM mags as hard as I possibly could, I just picked them up after each drill and stuck them back in the bag. When they ran low, I simply refilled them, allowing the existing mud and grass to be forced deeper inside the body while continuing to add more with each magazine change.
By the end of the class, the round I jacked out of the chamber couldn’t have been dirtier if I had physically rolled it in the mud before chambering it.
When I got home, I unloaded the magazines, rinsed them well with warm water, and placed them upside down on a towel to dry overnight.
Misfeeds: 0 Magazine Issues: 0 Magazine Damage: 0
In fact, I’m hard pressed to even see much in the way of wear on either the concave or the convex sides where I continually hit one magazine against the other to knock it out of the mag well.
In fact, the superficial scratch on each of these three magazines is the only sign (apart from some residual external mud) that they were used at all
Do I still think $30 is pretty salty for a rifle mag? Yep, but so far I’m very impressed with the US PALM magazines, and I’m really looking forward to seeing how they continue to perform over time.