Sometimes I am not the first guy on the block to find something new, however I usually take a different spin on articles than most other writers in the industry. What makes my job easier is when a product is so unique that articles almost seem to write themselves. This was the case with the Blackhawk Diversion line of Packs and Bags.
I spent a considerable amount of time at Blackhawk's 2015 SHOT show booth ogling over this stunning new line of Martexin waxed canvas bags which represented quality, fit, and finish usually only found on premium designer bags. My wife, who can usually be found carrying a Coach or Dooney & Bourke bag, was absolutely nuts over the style, design and look of the bags. This is saying something considering she pretty much hated every other CCW bag she saw at the show.
There was obviously more to the story and I warned the chief designer, Christopher Laack that I would follow up with an interview to better understand exactly what he had accomplished. The sample bags arrived and I started using and testing them during my 120 days of travel per year. Suspiciously my wife kept commandeering the Satchel noting that she just needed something to carry her Glock 19 in that day. She now has the bag in strong rotation for daily CCW carry. After I had a grasp on what the bags delivered, I followed up with Christopher for the interview. Though he admitted he was not the interview type I assured him that I would make every attempt to convey his brilliance.
Christopher explained that the concept of the Blackhawk Diversion line is not a particularly new product line however the line has drastically expanded. Blackhawk had received a lot of request for a less conspicuous looking set of bags to carry all manner of firearms and tactical gear "without looking like a tactical bag". The requests were coming from LEO, Military, security, and even civilians who wanted all the features the tactical bag offered, but without the look which would not scream "over here I have guns" or give them away during clandestine, undercover, or concealed carry situations... they wanted to just blend in and disappear.
Christopher and his design team went to work toning down several bags and packs. The first product of the line was the Racket Bag, however it was far harder than they originally thought. What they found was that a standard racket case was not big enough to contain typical SBR (Short Barreled Rifles) or submachine guns so they had to start scaling it up both wider and longer. He noted that "we had to do a lot of focus group testing and public street testing to get the proportions and look right. It became obvious to people when the bag was proportionally too big or moved on the body wrong and would get a second look." In some cases a design was big enough to accommodate a firearm, but the decorative look was still not correct or the weapon would print through the bag. "It's not often a design goal is to make something less cool looking. We had to use a certain type of closed cell foam and fabric, a more standard looking YKK zipper, and materials which were durable, but had the look of a typical racket case... we had to create the design which the eye would pass right by it." Christopher explained that it was a pretty tough design to get right, however after we did, the bag was a sales hit with our customers and the entire Diversion Line became a focus for us at Blackhawk and now Vista Outdoors.
Where the Racket Bag toned down the cool factor, the waxed canvas Diversion line allowed his team to deliver very cool timeless designs which were designed to get a second look. "Through our research, we noted that covert carry of firearms was also possible in plain and obvious line of sight. We could also deliver bags which would turn heads not because they looked tactical or odd but because they looked so cool. After all, who would suspect a beautiful waxed canvas Messenger bag would be housing a submachine gun." noted Laack.
He went on to note that, “The waxed canvas line moved Blackhawk’s bag line beyond black, coyote brown, flat dark earth, foliage green and multicam into something totally unique for a tactical company.” Christopher started by evaluating a lot of fabric options in the US and international marketplace, however after a lot of testing they made a decision that this line would feature all top tier components which included Martexin fabric, considered to be the highest tier of oiled waxed canvas. "Nothing performed, looked, or felt like the original US Made Martexin canvas plus is has a great storied history which dates back to its first production in the 1930s." The waterproof Martexin fabric was the original waxed canvas used on military packs in WWI and WWII. The fabric notably takes no more care than an occasional hosing off and delivers an incredible look and feel in the process.
Blackhawk did not stop with just a high end fabric. They used very high end magnetic slide lock buckles for the clasps on the flaps from Fit Lock and the messenger bag uses a top tier AustriAlpin shoulder buckle used on safety equipment. Some of the other closures are magnetic closures for speed of access. On the Blackhawk Diversion Satchel, they have a unique integrated magnet closure which keeps the flap closed, but allows for overstuffing of the bag without adjustable straps. The quick access zipper pockets are waterproof zipper seals and all the CCW pockets have double zippers and are lockable to comply with some school and business requirements.
The Messenger Bag is completely ambidextrous and includes both a standard briefcase strap and traditional close body style padded strap. If you look closely on the strapping and webbing on the bags, it appears and feels like a soft cotton, however it is actually a buffed heavy duty nylon - strength with the correct appearance of cotton. Strategic webbing is also placed which is MOLLE compatible for extra configuration flexibility, however without really looking at it you would never know it was there. Internally a field of hook-loop is integrated into all the CCW compartments of the bags as is padding for laptops and other personal electronics. The bags are exceptionally well thought out for everything from business use, travel, to CCW use. While traveling I carry some type of Glock or my Ruger LCR and the CCW pockets deliver very quick access should I need it.
Christopher noted that “Although we wanted to assure the bag was affordable, we realized that we could not be half committed to quality when the design and look mandated all top grade components. The results were a premium tier of bags unlike anything we thought Blackhawk would produce.” That goal drove the design team a bit harder to look beyond just materials to test and re-test the design. “The designs are no more complex than they need to be - there are no senseless features on these bags. Every detail has a purpose.” These bags exhibit a level of refinement and detail that I would typically see in third or fourth generation bags. Some of that detail you notice immediately, other you discover as you start using the bag. Blackhawk even created a new logo which would not give away the tactical nature of the bag.
One of the things I particularly love about these bags is that they are not black which would typically mean finding anything inside of the bag requires a tactical light. The Earth and Slate still fall within an urban camo color range if you needed said capability, however the light colored interior makes finding things inside the bag easy, fast and simple.
Many companies are struggling to deliver a CCW bag, purse, or backpack which the non-tactical “Joe/Joleen CCW owner” types actually want to buy. As a retailer this puts something unique on the shelf that no other company is offering. Style paired with useable performance.
There are very few things that the tactical industry produces which could be called stylist, handsome, or current from a fashion perspective, however Blackhawk did it with this line. They delivered an excellent looking and performing solution which only gains admiration in the boardroom or coffee bar all without the suspicion of what lies within.