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Alien Gear Shapeshift Backpack Holster Review

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By Linda M. Gilbertson

When researching around the topic of backpack concealed-carry, I found that most options on the market involve custom-made backpacks with holsters built into the pack. In most cases, you can’t detach either the holster or magazine pouch in order to make the combo ambidextrous. And, of course you must buy backpacks specially designed for the ability to carry your pistol. Well, what if I already own a backpack and don’t want to buy another? Today let’s look at an easier backpack carry option in the Alien Gear Backpack Holster.


I was perusing some firearm magazines and I chanced upon an advertisement for Alien Gear. The ad was for a polymer backpack holster mounted to the front of the shoulder strap of the backpack. I thought -how cool- is this? I contacted Alien Gear to receive info and perhaps a holster and mounting mechanism for Testing and Evaluation. They graciously responded, and after verifying I was right handed and that my pistol of choice is the S&W, full-size M&P 9mm, they sent the Alien Gear ShapeShift 4.0 IWB Holster and the ShapeShift 4.0 IWB Carry Expansion Pack. The ShapeShift 4.0 IWB Carry Expansion Pack also accommodates the .40 caliber S&W, but it will not fit the 2.0 series in either caliber.

Alien Gear provides these items for ambidextrous use and does not require you buy a backpack. Their Backpack Adapter can be attached to any backpack with shoulder straps. Whether it’s a day-trip hiking or multiple days for a hunting expedition, whichever backpack you choose to use, this system “allows you quick and easy access to your holstered firearm when hunting, hiking and more.” It can also be attached to seat belts and duffle bags.


I dismissed the IWB Holster at first, until I realized that the Shift Shell (half of the holster) must be removed from the IWB Holster Base and attached to another Shift Shell (half of the holster) contained within the Expansion Pack. This creates the full holster which is then mounted on the backpack adapter, also included in the Expansion Pack. You’ll need to purchase both items to assemble the ShapeShift Backpack Holster. With these two items, you also receive two distinct methods of concealed carry – IWB and backpack carry. For women, having a variety of methods is very attractive, especially to the outdoor woman who at one time may carry concealed in an IWB and other times open carry with a backpack.



When I received the Alien Gear order, the Shift Shell came already configured for IWB concealed-carry. The instruction manual is easy to follow as it includes photos for those of us that need a visual reference in addition to the written word. I removed the Shift Shell (half of the holster) from the IWB Holster Base in the following manner.


There are three steps to accomplish this with arrows on the photos showing the direction of movement:

  1. On the IWB Shift Shell, untwist the twist locks from the top and bottom.
  2. Slide the connector lock from the Shift Shell, using the interlocking rails.
  3. Slide the trigger guard from the Shift Shell, using the interlocking rails.


Attach the Shift Shell from the IWB Holster Base and the Shift Shell from the Carry Expansion Pack. There are three steps to accomplish this:

  1. Slide the shells together using the interlocking rails.
  2. Secure the shells by adding a twist lock to the top and bottom of the Shift Shell.
  3. Attach the Shift Shell to the backpack adapter.



The backpack adapter has some instructions of its own. I found that it is best to play with the adapter and the placement of it on the backpack strap for a time to determine the proper placement for you. For women, the placement is best either below or above the bust line so that it fits flat onto the upper chest or the stomach area. I found that in these two positions it was much easier to remove my pistol from the holster. The mount button on the backpack adapter does have a rotation of 360 degrees so you can “customize your cant (angle) in one fluid motion.” If women choose to place the adapter at the bust-line, the cant must be adjusted to ease access to the pistol grip. Attach the adapter to the backpack strap following the instructions as provided:

  1. Open up the backpack adapter. Two lock pins have material attached to aid in pulling them outward.
  2. Wrap the entire unit around the strap with the holster mount facing outwards.
  3. Latch it down to the backside of the strap by inserting the lock plate into the grip plate. Ensure the unit gets a firm hold on the strap. This may require strap adjustments.
  4. Insert the lock pins into the backpack adapter to lock it in place.


The Shift Shell from the Carry Expansion Pack I received from Alien Gear had the rotating adapter already pre-installed. Instructions sent with it indicate that if your adapter if not pre-installed, included in the package are two weld nuts and two 3/8” flat head screws to assist you in installation.


Once the backpack adapter is in place, there is a need to depress the mount button as you insert the rotating adapter at your preferred angle. “Press the attachment and Shift Shell together until the button comes out and the two pieces are secure.”

(For the purposes of the photos, I’m demonstrating the depressing of the mount button without the adapter attached to the backpack strap.)



So, now I’m ready to hike. I’ve filled my backpack and I’m ready for a trek into the first snow of December. I’m not sure what I’ll encounter on my trek, but I’m carrying my M&P in the event I need it. I’m wearing the adapter high on the backpack strap so it’s just a single motion of pulling my pistol straight out of the holster. The thumb release is right where I need it, as I grip the pistol to draw. The draw is so easy that even with my gloves I can grip high on the back-strap of my 9mm and remove it from the holster, smoothly and quickly.



GLOCK: 19,22,23,26,27,31,32,17,43, 42, 29, 30 and 30sf.

RUGER: LC9, SR40c, SR9c, LC380, LC9s Pro, LCP11, LCP.

SPRINGFIELD: XDs 3.3, XD Mod.2 Subcompact 9mm/40cal 3 inch, XDM 3.8, XDM 3.8 Compact, XD 4-inch, XD Subcompact 3-inch, XD Mod.2 Subcompact 45ACP 3.3 inch, XD-E, XD-E 45 ACP.

S&W: M&P Shield 9mm, M&P Shield 40 caliber, M&P Shield Performance Center, SD9 VE, SD40 VE, M&P9 4.25-inch, M&P40 4.25-inch, M&P9c Compact 3.5-inch, M&P 40c Compact 3.5-inch, M&P Shield 2.0 9mm, M&P Shield 2.0 40 caliber, M&P Shield 45 Caliber, M&P380 Shield EZ.

TAURUS: PT111 Millennium G2 (fits G2C), PT140 Millennium G2, PT709 Slim, PT740 Slim.

SIG: P938, P238 Compact/Carry 9mm, P320 Compact/Carry 40 Caliber, P229r Railed 9mm.

KIMBER: Micro9, Micro.

1911: 1911 – 5-inch.

H&K: VP9.

WALTHER: PPS, PPS M2, PPQ 4 inch, PPQ M2 4 inch, PPQ M2 4.2 inch.


CZ: PO7.


When you think about it, how does a person who carries their firearm inside a backpack retrieve it when a threat appears? Reference has been made in the past in numerous publications and on the internet of individual(s) who were killed by animals because their firearm was in the backpack and they couldn’t retrieve it in time. Obviously, they didn’t carry the firearm on their person (IWB/OWB) so they chose to put it inside the backpack. Doesn’t it make sense that if you’re carrying a pistol inside of something, you need its access to be expedient? The firearm needs to be accessible with the least amount of inconvenience.

“With an ultra-secure design and heavy-duty construction, the Shapeshift Backpack Holster is prepared for any adventure.” I like it and will include it on my adventures. You can learn more at

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