An important factor in selecting your carry firearm–or when deciding whether or not to carry at all–is how and where you will secure your firearm to your person. I’m hoping this post will save you the time and hassle many women have gone through in the search for the best carry method for their own personal style.
Following are a few options, and the pros and cons as I see them.
Purse Carry: Purse carry is among the least secure means of carrying your firearm. Unless your purse is specially designed for carry, your gun will be jumbled in with the rest of your urban survival items, and possibly covered in lint and Junior Mint crumbles. (Well, that last part is just me). Second, consider how easy it might be for you to “flash” your firearm when rummaging around looking for change, your library card, or your wallet. Honestly, people freak out when they see guns, and in many places here in the States, you could get into legal trouble for “flashing” a gun even if it’s barely visible from your handbag.
Of course, purses are easily ripped off or left behind. If you do insist on purse carry, look into the type that has a reinforced shoulder strap that can’t be cut by a passing pickpocket, and think carefully about your tendency to leave stuff behind.
Have nosy teens or young kids? If you think for a heartbeat that your purse could be accessed by kids without proper firearms safety training, don’t take this route. You may think your teenager is an angel, but I know of a lot of angelic teenagers (and pre-teens) that have fished a few bucks out of their mom’s coinpurse for one reason or another when Mom wasn’t looking. Just food for thought.
Last, but certainly not least, I have yet to find a concealed carry purse that wasn’t butt-ugly.
The Fanny Pack: There’s a saying among gun nuts. Any guy carrying a fanny pack is either gay or carrying a gun. Nothing wrong with either in my opinion, but it’s not a good idea to wave that flag if it’s the latter. Now, for women, we might be able to get away with a fanny pack, as long as we remember that if we say “fanny pack” among our British friends, we should expect gales of hysterical laughter. I’ll let you figure it out.
Fanny packs are a great option for women while running, hiking or doing that ridiculous speed-walking thing. (Wogging?). There are great packs out there that incorporate an interior holster to secure your firearm while leaving room for other essentials, such as a basic survival kit (necessary on any off-road jaunt) or a light jacket. Make sure you get a pack that has smooth, ergonomic access, and practice drawing your firearm. Don’t forget to take your CHL and another photo ID with you on your wogs!
Belt Holsters: Holsters come in all shapes and sizes, in leather, Kydex or nylon, to be worn inside or outside the waistband, with or without a belt, with or without pouches for magazines or moon clips. When I was a noob, my friend told me that it wouldn’t be long before I’d accumulated a huge box of tried-and-discarded holsters, but with a bit of research and trying-on, I found options that worked for me. You’ll have to do the same. But to be quick, I really like the Blade-Tech Ultimate Concealment Holster for my Kahr P9, and I’ll likely get one for my S&W 642 as well. For now, I’m carrying my S&W in a simple, cheap Uncle Mike’s IWB holster, and for this little pistol, it works great for pocket carry as well.
Shoulder Holsters: Ladies, you’re on your own here. I have no experience with shoulder holsters, as they require a jacket to keep concealment. A bit too “Barney Miller” for me. But they might work great for you, so suss it out and please comment on your findings!
Ankle/thigh holsters: Sexy, sure! But come on. No respectable or effective firearm can be worn on the feminine ankle, though it might be considered as a place for your “back up gun” (aka “bug gun”, “mouse gun”). My thinking is that if you’re planning on daily carry of more than one firearm, you need to move, change jobs, stop hooking, or do whatever you need to do to get yourself out of that necessity. Carry one firearm plus additional clips/mags, and learn to shoot well. Ankle/thigh holsters can, however, make good options for accessorizing formal gowns. For example, on your wedding day, you might want to wear a custom garter holster. Track down Lou Alessi and see if he’ll do something up for you in blue!
Belly Bands: I have one of these, and I’ll probably hold onto it. There are a few brands out there, and they have their place, but not for general everyday carry. Why? Well, some are itchy and can make you sweat; the more comfortable belts don’t accomodate larger handguns. You have to pull your shirt up or aside to reach or reholster your gun. Great if you’re good at those Girls Gone Wild moves; bad if you’re wearing lots of layers.
Some of these bands require “cross-draw” action, which–unless practiced diligently–increases your chances of self-injury or snagging of your firearm mid-draw.
None of these reasons should keep you from doing a bit of research. I’ve heard really good things about Smartcarry, and think they’d be a good fit for the compact 9mm or S&W Airweights with which I am most familiar in carry situations. Another one to look at is Thunderware, and you’ll find tons of forum threads comparing the two brands. (Note: Check out the hilarious pics on the Thunderware site. It looks like the wearer is about to whip something out of his pants, and “hard steel” isn’t what comes to mind)
The most important thing is to find something that works with your familiar style, without you having to go out and revamp your wardrobe to accomodate reinforced leather belts, suit jackets, fugly vests and nasty handbags. There is a balance between safety and fashion, and I’m not afraid to admit that if our gun rig makes us look like we’re hiding junk in the trunk, we won’t wear it.