Military operations in Vietnam introduced a lot of new technology that would continue to be used for decades afterwards. During this conflict, we saw the first applied uses of the M16 rifle, the B-52 Stratofortress (or BUFF), "the Pig" and the one that we will focus on today, the M18A1 Claymore Anti-Personel Mine. Carried by US forces, the Claymore was a new type of mine at the time. It differed from conventional anti-personnel mines in that its payload was applied directionally as opposed to upward. The M18 also introduced remote detonation as opposed to direct pressure on previous mines. Inside the Claymore's plastic casing was a curved brick of C-4 explosive set behind 700 pieces of 1/2" steel shot. Upon detonation, the shot would scatter in about a 60 degree angle, simulating the biggest shotgun blast you could think of, literally shredding whatever was in front of it and beyond. It became iconic and was greatly favored due to it's ability to add human discretion to detonations because of it's remote capabilities. Tripwires and timers were also an option but were normally only used with SOF (special operations forces).
While the claymore was designed to be small enough to be carried in a pocket or pouch, the Army introduced a dedicated bag, the M7 Bandoleer. This bag had two claymore sized vertical pockets along with a sling for cross body carry. This freed up cargo pockets for things such as M16 magazines and medical supplies, items that needed to be easily reached.
Enter Combat Flip Flops. If you aren't familiar with CFF, let me introduce them to you. After several tours to Afghanistan, Army Rangers Griff and Lee took notice of a population that wanted to work towards a better life for themselves and their families after the drug trade and numerous wars ravaged the country. To quote CFF, "Griff and Lee saw a country filled with hard-working, creative people who wanted jobs, not handouts." When the war started dying down in Afghanistan and US operations began to dwindle, there were factories that once supported the war effort that were being shut down. One such factory created combat boots for the Afghan Army. Griff and Lee stumbled on this factory during their time over there, not as Rangers but as businessmen. Determined to help people keep their jobs, they toured the closing factory. It was on this tour that they caught sight of a pair of combat boot soles with flip flop straps attached to it. In that epiphany, Combat Flip Flops was born. Over the next year or two, while sticking to the notion of creating jobs in locations where the population needs them most, production of the flip flops was moved to Bogota, Colombia, who had just established a free-trade agreement with the US to overcome decades of damage caused by drug trade. Dedicated to supporting the Afghanis, Combat Flip Flops introduced shemaghs and sarongs handmade by Afghani women. They also introduced jewelry made from the metals of UXOs (unexploded ordnances) littered across the country of Laos leftover from the Vietnam war. Combat Flip Flops now offers jobs in 3 struggling, but improving, countries and they also support the people and lands. With each flip flop, shemagh or sarong purchase, a donation is sent to a woman owned foundation that provides secondary school for Afghan girls, with each item funding from one day to a month of school for an Afghan girl. Likewise, each jewelry purchase funds the clearing of 3 square meters of bombs and landmines threatening the population of Laos. Combat Flip Flops is now in full stride and only gaining steam as they continue to make cool stuff in dangerous places.
The product of theirs that I am reviewing today is their Claymore Messenger Bag. Much like the M7 Bandoleer it is based off of, the Claymore bag has two vertical pockets and a shoulder strap. However, that is where the similarities end. What makes the CFF Claymore different? Let's get into that below.
The first thing I noticed when I saw it was the gray color. It is very pleasing to the eye and is quite low profile. The bag is also offered in a coyote brown or waxed canvas but I personally preferred the gray. The body is made of a tough ripstop nylon with a couple sections of cordura nylon for durability and stiffness. Speaking of stiffness and support, if you desire a bag that has internal structure, you may be disappointed with the lack of support in this bag. However, it is also not designed for heavy loads where you would need such structure. The bag is on the smaller end of the messenger bag size spectrum, only 13" wide by 9.5" tall. This size is great for when you have to move through crowds of people or want to sit down without the bag getting in your way. I sat down on a crammed bus bench seat with no issue, I simply swung the bag around onto my lap. Don't let the small size scare you away though, I was able to carry an unbelievable amount of goods in this bag during my days out on the town. In my loadout was my 13" MacBook (which I recommend getting a sleeve for shock protection), my GoalZero Nomad 7 solar kit, a CFF shemagh, a Phokus Research LVD 2 IFAK, Smith Optics Boogie Regulator Goggles, headphones, Leatherman MUT, Ontario Knife RAT-3, my point and shoot Sony, Imminent Threat Solutions Mini Survival Kit, ReFactor Tactical RATS Tourniquet, Outdoor Research Backcountry Organizer full of smaller first aid items (boo-boo kit), Patrol Incident Gear Alpha Gloves, Fighter Design SERE Kit and I still had a little room left over. Like I said, this bag can carry much more than it seems.
The strap connects to plastic D-rings on the bag by way of HK style clips. The peculiar thing about this is that the strap is essentially a gun sling and could easily be changed out if a different color or pattern is preferred, something I may do later on just to further customize this bag. The strap I got had a good size padded section but keep in mind that this is no super gel-filled uber comfort strap. It is simple and, as long as you aren't carrying a heavy load, comfortable enough to wear all day. Opening the flap on the bag, you'll notice two types of retention. There's snap buttons which are very heavy duty and have even allowed me to pick up the bag by the flap without them coming undone. There is also Velcro sections for either quick flap closure and/or peace of mind that there will be an audible opening if someone tries to pickpocket. If you do not like the sound of the Velcro, Fighter Design offers a magnetic retrofit kit that sticks to the Velcro and the magnets hold the flap closed. This comes in coyote brown, which would work well with the coyote brown bag and the waxed canvas one, or it comes in foliage, which would go well with the gray. Just another option if customizing this bag is something one would want to do.
With the bag open, you will see 3 pockets. One large 13" long pocket and then two equal sized vertical pockets, following the style of the original M7 Bandoleer. Here's where the CFF Claymore is awesome. Inside the biggest pocket, one of the "walls" is structured and has MOLLE style webbing across the whole surface. This will allow you to attach any MOLLE compatible pouch that would fit, be it 5.56 mag pouches or an IFAK or whatever you could ever want. Pretty neat feature. Moving on to the two identical sized pouches, the ones a claymore would fit in, you will find a field of loop velcro on the inside "wall" of each pocket. This is to attach the included sunglass pouch or cell phone holder, one in each pocket. Here's the cool part, the sunglass holder is capable of also being a pistol mag pouch and the cell phone holder can double as a universal elastic pistol holster with level 2 retention by way of the elastic strap over the rear of the pistol slide. Through this, you could feasibly use this bag for everyday concealed carry, either utilizing the "cell phone holder" or by attaching a MOLLE holster in the main compartment. Looking past the loop Velcro field, along the top of the pockets are elastic pen holders that can fit everything from Sharpies to chapstick to a lighter. Also, one the pockets has a small attached lanyard to hold keys or something small.
The Claymore bag from Combat Flip Flops is small, stylish but, above all, functional and very modular depending on your preferences. The only flaw I would count against it would be the lack of structure in the bag itself aside from the MOLLE wall. This can be easily remedied by putting rigid object in the bag or a sheet of high density polyethylene if you are concerned about the rigidity. Overall, I am very pleased with this bag and after using it for a few weeks in a semi-permissive (not fully safe, not super dangerous) environment where the biggest threat is pickpocketing or mugging, I haven't had anything lifted from it. It's a great bag and a great size to keep you from overpacking and having a crappy day due to carrying a heavy bag around. Oh, and did I mention it's made right here in the USA? If you want to pick one up for yourself, the nylon gray like the one reviewed is on sale for $69.99 while the waxed canvas with improved water resistance is the next step up at $109. Each sale of a Claymore will also put an Afghan Girl in secondary school for a week so this is a purchase you can feel good making.
If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments below or send me an email and I will answer as soon as I can!