Home - Volume 3 (2008) - Issue 4 (Fall '08) - Bag Review: Shooters' Connection vs Midway USA

Range Bag Shoot-Out:
Shooters' Connection Tournament Series
MidwayUSA Competition Range Bag

Reviewed by Harwood Loomis (Hawkmoon, )

Not long ago a controversy arose on the discussion forum area of the M1911 Pistols Organization web site over something as seemingly pedestrian as range bags. If something as utilitarian as a range bag becoming a topic of argument and dissent surprises you ... I agree. I was, as the Brits might say, "gobsmacked" to see people arguing over which range bag was a rip-ff of what other range bag, and whether this one was a bargain or that one was an over-priced rip-off. There were lots of comments from people who had seen or held or owned one bag or the other, but nothing definitive from anyone who had actually compared two identical-appearing bags at opposite ends of the price spectrum to see how they compared.

The M1911 Pistols Organization set out to rectify that. To get things started, Chuck Bradley of Shooters' Connection quickly volunteered to supply one of his premium Tournament Series bags for evaluation. That took care of the upper tier in the price range. The lower end seems to be represented by the MidwayUSA Competition Range Bag, which Chuck Bradley points out appears to be a blatant copy of his Tournament Series bag. We were unable to make contact with anyone at MidwayUSA to send us a bag for evaluation, so we resorted to an old trick ... we went on the MidwayUSA web site, found the bag on sale, and bought it.

The Shooters' Connection bag arrived first, and we set it aside pending the arrival of the MidwayUSA competitor. When the challenger arrived, we had our first surprise: Out of the box, the Shooters' Connection bag weighed in at 6-3/4 pounds, and the MidwayUSA bag weighed in at 7-1/4 pounds. As it turned out, there is a reason for this, and it's not that Midway's bag was made using heavier materials.

Outwardly, other than the color the two bags appear to be identical. The MidwayUSA bag came in basic black, and the Shooters' Connection bag we received was a moderately bright red. Both offer the same fundamental amenities:

  • Overall dimensions are identical
  • (2) front pockets, each covering half the length of the bag, with zippered closures
  • (1) pocket on the left end for a water bottle (Shooters' Connection includes a bottle, MidwayUSA does not)
  • (1) zippered pocket on the left end
  • (1) zippered pocket on the right end with a slip case for an ID card
  • (1) zippered compartment running the full length of the back of the bag, with internal pockets for magazines
  • Double-zipper top flap, with Velcro closure on the left end and opening to the right

Inside, we found that each contained a smaller bag with (2) Velcro-adjustable dividers and a zippered top, and a drawstring stuff sack with a mesh bottom for picking up fired brass. The inner bags and the brass sacks were also essentially identical in size, appearance and layout for both brands.

However, inside the MidwayUSA bag we also found (2) flat, padded, zippered cases. Although they are rectangular rather than lozenge shaped, it appears that these are pistol cases. The Shooter's Connection bag did not include these two flat cases, and that accounted for the difference in weight when we first unpacked and weighed the contenders. Curiously, these pistol cases are not listed as part of the package on the MidwayUSA web site; we do not know if they are standard equipment, or if there was a packaging error with the bag we received.

The MidwayUSA Pistol Rug pouches

The MidawayUSA Competition Range Bag

The Shooter's Connection Tournament Series Range Bag

Superficially, the match was looking like a dead heat. Then we started to look closer. I am not a textiles expert, and I have neither the knowledge nor the equipment to look at a piece of fabric and determine what type and weight and denier (thread density) it is. My intention was to at least use a digital micrometer to measure the thickness of the cloth in both bags, in the hope I would find some difference. Ultimately, though, I was not able to pursue that. Both bags are constructed with double, padded walls on every exposed surface. I could not find a single place in either bag where I could measure the thickness of a single layer of fabric.

I could, however, measure the thickness of the nylon shoulder straps. Right off the mark the straps (all of them) on the MidwayUSA bag felt lighter, thinner, and softer than those on the Shooters' Connection bag. The removable shoulder strap (not the padded portion, the flat strap itself) on the MidwayUSA bag miked .045" thick. By contrast, the Shooters' Connection shoulder strap miked .077" thick, and felt noticeably more "substantial." The sewn-on carry handle straps on the smaller, inner bags measured .051" for the MidwayUSA bag and .063" for the Shooters' Connection bag.

Delving deeper, we looked inside the main compartment, at the seam where the front wall of the bag meets the flap to which the longitudinal zipper is attached. Both bags had the seam wrapped with a sewn-on covering (is this what professional seamstresses call "welting"?), but the width of this was wider in the Shooters' Connection bag, the finished seam was sewn more neatly, and the overall seam in the Shooters' Connection bag was stiffer and (subjectively) felt more substantial.

Measuring something with sewn seams, external pockets tacked onto every available surface, and soft-wall construction is difficult, at best. Rather than try to measure, we will simply give you the dimensions as specified on each company's web site:

Shooters' Connection: 22" x 16" x 11" high
MidwayUSA: 22" x 15" x 10" high

The two inner bags, showing the adjustable dividers

The two brass sacks, with the mesh bottoms

The interiors of the two bags (MidwayUSA on left, Shooters' Connection on right)

Where does that leave us? In this reviewers opinion, the Shooters' Connection bag is obviously made with at least some heavier materials and the sewing appears to be tighter and more uniform. However, that's not to say that the materials and workmanship in the MidwayUSA bag are obviously inferior. If I had not had both bags side-by-side, looking them over closely for differences, I have to admit that I probably would not have noticed any difference whatsoever between the two bags.

Unfortunately, the one thing we have not had time to do is conduct a long-term, hard use evaluation of both bags. And that's the key. The MidwayUSA bag has a list price of $59.99 but seems to always be on sale for $39.99. The Shooters' Connection Tournament Series bag has a list price of $139.00. Is it worth $100 more than the MidwayUSA bag?

The truth is, we don't know. In this writer's opinion, for occasional to moderate use, mostly locally and toting perhaps less than the entire arsenal in the bag, I think the MidwayUSA bag would probably be adequate and, at $39.99, seems to represent a bargain. However, for the serious shooter or competitor, the person who carries a LOT of guns and gear, travels far and often, and simply cannot afford to have the range bag start to unravel at a match a thousand miles from home ... I would not be comfortable with the MidwayUSA bag now that I have seen first-hand how more substantial the Shooters' Connection bag is. The difference isn't in the design; the two bags are essentially identical. The difference is in the materials and the workmanship.

Curiously, that's exactly what Chuck Bradley wrote back in September.

Another factor is that Shooters' Connection covers their bag with a 5-year, pro-rated warranty. We were unable to find any mention of "guarantee" or "warranty" anywhere on the MidwayUSA web site.

The Shooters' Connection bag is offered in five colors as well as black; the MidwayUSA bag appears to be available only in black.

The M1911 Pistols Organization wishes to thank Chuck Bradley for providing one of his Pro Tournament Series range bags for our evaluation. It is worth noting that Chuck sent the bag along with no conditions or caveats of any kind, for us to test however we decided was appropriate. That speaks volumes for his confidence in his product.

You may discuss about these product, ask questions or in general discuss about this review, in this thread in our Forums Site.



Shooters' Connection
804 South Broadway Unit 9
Georgetown, KY 40324

Phone: 800-387-4045 (orders)
Phone: 502-570-4112 (other)
Web Site: http://www.shootersconnection.com/

Home - Volume 3 (2008) - Issue 4 (Fall '08) - Bag Review: Shooters' Connection vs Midway USA