The three-day bag, bug-out bag, get-home bag or whatever else you call it is one of the basic necessities of being a survivalist or prepper.
It covers food, water, shelter, first aid and some offensive and defensive capabilities. These offensive and defensive capabilities are often limited to a couple of extra magazines and possibly an extra sidearm.
The battle bag, though, is completely different. The battle bag, also known as the boom bag or the battle box, is something I learned about in Afghanistan. I was in a company level recon squad and we had an extremely battle-hardened staff sergeant who had served multiple tours in Iraq, including the battle for Fallujah. His word might as well have been the gospel. He made each team in our squad carry a boom bag. This boom bag was where we kept extra hand grenades, M203 40mm grenades, magazines, linked ammunition, and the occasional brick of C4. Each boom bag had a LAW rocket launcher strapped to the side of it.
Anything taken from these bags was replaced as soon as we got back to the base. Anytime we weren’t on patrol we were constantly assigned to the quick reaction force, also known as the QRF. We could grab those bags and go to war with enough power to level a small village.
Of course, most of us don’t have a LAW we can strap to our packs, or grenades, or C4, but the boom bag is still a great idea. The boom bag fits right beside the bug-out bag in your closet.
If you haven’t caught on yet, the boom bag is where you store extra ammunition and magazines for those times when things move faster than you can bug out. The boom bag is there for you to get out and be ready to fight your way out if necessary.
In Afghanistan, our boom bags weren’t solely dedicated to ammo, explosives and rockets, just mostly. We kept a three-liter camel back bladder in the front pouch, and a dozen protein bars shoved in every corner we could. Outside the pack we strapped an extra IFAK (individual first aid kit) to the Molle system on our bag.
So when building your boom bag, keep that in mind. Fit some water and some food in there. Strap down or shove in some medical gear as well. The boom bag is basically the inverse of the bug-out bag. Eighty percent boom with 20 percent survival gear.
The primary focus of your boom bag or battle box should be loaded with ammunition. Let me separate the two (“bag” and “box”). First, I use a battle box for my vehicle, and it’s sturdier and fits better in my vehicle than a bag. This box contains ammo for my everyday carry gun and my truck gun. I use a plastic waterproof box, which is sealed against water and stores easily under my truck seat.
The box isn’t much different except it can’t be strapped to your back, but it can be cached. Outside of being stored in my truck, a battle box is perfect to be stored hidden, and outside your home. This is a major advantage as a backup to your boom bag should you fight your way through that ammo or if you get separated from your supplies. No one ever died from having a backup plan, or from having too much gun food.
My cache box and my truck box are identical. I use green plastic ammo boxes with watertight seals. I store three loaded steel magazines for my AK and two for my pistols. I tuck a hundred rounds of loose rifle ammo and 50 rounds of pistol ammo under the curve of the AK mags. These little boxes are cheap and easy to build.
The boom bag is man portable and capable of getting you through more fights, scrapes and bad situations than the ammo you keep in pouches can. When it comes to packing ammo and mags you need to find a delicate balance which can keep up with your trigger finger while giving you enough room to carry an appropriate amount of ammo.
For example, my AK mags with 30 rounds easily take up the space a hundred rounds can fit in. I dedicate about 60 percent to “loose” ammo and about 40 percent to loaded magazines. I also found polymer mags are a lot lighter than steel mags, and drums are too unreliable to waste the time to carry.
I started by using basic ball ammo — the cheaper the better. I wanted to be ready as soon as possible. I then began replacing the cheap ball ammo with more expensive and more potent and powerful defensive ammunition when I could afford it. I started with the handgun ammo I kept in the magazines, and worked my way through that and then began loading Winchester PDX 1 AK 47 ammo, and Hornady Critical Duty. This was a slow and expensive process, but I only replaced the ammo round by round.
I total out at six 30 round magazines for my rifle, all polymer, and two 47 round polymer mags for it just in case. I keep an additional 200 rounds of loose ammo for the rifle. I have five additional pistol magazines for my main sidearm, and a hundred rounds in loose ammo. I keep an additional handgun, a .357 Rossi revolver, with two speed loaders and a hundred rounds of ammo.
I also stored the common medical goods to treat gun wounds including tourniquets, gauze, chest seals, QuikClot combat gauze, and of course some alcohol for sterilization. When it comes to food and water I pack a bit, but not excessively. I pack half a dozen high calorie and high carb energy bars, a liter canteen strapped to the side and plenty of iodine tablets and purification drops.
So weight-wise, this thing isn’t exactly kind to the back. For someone my size and my experience, the weight isn’t that bad. I carried 500 rounds of linked 7.62mm with a M240 machine gun, and of course there was the body armor, water and food, etc. The pack isn’t terrible, but after a few hours you won’t feel like a spring chicken.
The battle bag – or boom box or boom bag or battle box — is incredibly valuable to stash in case your raining day quickly turns into a tornado. Extra ammo is something we all have. It’s not living up to its potential being stored in boxes in your closet or basement. Having it spread around evenly allows you to be able to quickly access it and move when necessary.