In the mid 80’s Glen Eberle redesigned the stock of the traditional Olympic Biathlon rifle and thus reduced the weight by several pounds while making it much stronger. A big plus for a race of endurance and accuracy. It gained acceptance and became the standard for Olympic-class biathlon rifles. Eberlestock was born, although not adopted as the company name until years later. Since then the company has branched out from rifle stocks into other related areas with Eberlestock backpacks being one of those markets.
The Origins of The Gunslinger
In 2004 the Eberlestock Gunslinger was introduced as a hunting backpack. As the name suggests, it was outfitted with a scabbard in the back of the pack to accommodate a hunting rifle. However, in 2005 it was upgraded to fit a military grade weapon such as an M16 and the pack was designated the GS05. The main features of the GS05 or Gunslinger are:
- Scabbard for rifle
- Top load pack with convenient full side access
- Top cover compartment – holds ammo or small electronics
- Adjustable or removable waist belt
- Fully adjustable shoulder harness
- MOLLE webbing
- Hydration sleeve
The capacity of the pack is equivalent to about a 3 day pack or about 50 – 60 litre (3000 – 3600 cu in). The rifle scabbard folds into the bottom of the pack so a shorter weapon can be carried easily or unfolded for longer rifles. The top cover has a sleeve that unfolds and therefore can be used to cover the exposed portion of the rifle thus allowing you to fully enclose a rifle up to 60″ long.
Interestingly, the GS05 is sized to meet carry-on dimensions so it can be used as a travel backpack. With the scabbard folded into the bottom it is wide enough to hold a laptop. But keep in mind that there is a difference between simply holding a laptop and being designed to safely protect a laptop while being carried. The GS05 is not a laptop backpack.
An Unexpected Need
The Gunslinger was originally designed by Eberle to be a hunting backpack and met with high approval from hunters. But early on troops in the Gulf used it in special operations because it was sturdy and durable plus comfortably handles the M16 or a sniper rifle. So it is common to find it being used by US troops. Thus the connection was made between a rifle backpack designed to improve the hunters experience and the military application by special forces that found the same pack to be highly useful for combat operations.
The New Version
Recently the Gunslinger/GS05 has been upgraded with a new version, the Gunslinger II or sometimes referred to as the Gunslinger 2. It has three primary upgrades.
- The main compartment has been changed to feature both top load and front load capability.
- The gun scabbard has been enlarged to better accommodate weapons with large optics or larger body.
- The bottom of the scabbard has been widened to allow for rifles to be loaded either butt down or butt up.
The Gunslinger 2 comes in two styles, the G2H for hunters and the G2M for military. Both have Padlock (PALS) interior webbing and MOLLE exterior webbing. But the G2H comes with a familiar hunting camo patterns while the G2M has more military coloring like Dry Earth (brown); black or green.
So, is the Gunslinger II a tactical backpack or a hunting backpack? The answer is that it is whatever you need it to be. Originally it was designed as a hunters pack but practical application has made it at home in the backcountry or on the battle front.