Concealed Carry For Women: Off-body Carry or On-body Carry?

No matter how you look at it, because of a) their body type and b) the clothing they wear, women have more issues to contend with when it comes to concealed carry than guys. Perhaps a woman CCW holder could speak more personally on this subject, but in the extent of what I’ve seen, on-body carrying for women can be like trying to get your sleeping bag back in its case: yeah, you can get it in there, but does it ever fit just right?

And just how is a modern girl supposed to stay protected and still dress like a lady?

The only slight advantage the lassies may have over the lads is that society accepts that women carry purses and therefore off-body carry can, in theory, be done “more discretely” (though whether this is really the case anymore is open to debate).

We look at the advantages of off-body and on-body carry, as it pertains to women, when considering feminine concealed carry options.

Off-body Carry

woman removing gun from purse

Off-body carry means exactly what it sounds like: carrying your gun off of your body, perhaps in a concealed carry purse, fanny pack or some form of briefcase.   It is without a doubt more comfortable than carrying on one’s person and also does a far better job at concealing the weapon from prying eyes.  It also allows the concealed carrier a wider range of more powerful carry options when it comes down to both bang and firepower; you want to caliber or capacity up, all you have to do is get a bigger carry bag.

There are a lot of pretty good handbags made for concealed carry on the market today assembled by folks both in and out of the gun industry.  Galco concealed carry purses are popular as are the host of offerings from Coronado Leather, but (and often more alluring for the ladies) there are a number of designer concealed carry handbags hitting the interweb, most notably from Woolstenhulme.

While the concealed carry purse market is healthy, you still have to ask yourself, just how practical is off the body carry when it comes to real life scenarios, both the mundane and the dangerous kinds?  There is always the question of how fast you can draw your weapon in an emergency situation, and digging for it in your purse is most likely not gong to be the best option. Having that weapon easily accessible and actually on your body seems infinitely smarter.

What if you set it down someplace and forget it?  What if somebody snatches your purse, taking your gun with it?  Explaining to Officer Friendly that you let a concealed carry weapon likely slip into the hands of criminals (we’ve got another story on that here) is a little more sensitive than getting out of a speeding ticket.

On-body Carry

woman hiding gun in bra

On-body carry for women is infinitely more complex than it is for men. Whereas many men can just slip their heater under a T-shirt, in a hip-hugging concealed holster, shoulder holster or even a pocket holster and hardly give it a second thought, women really have to think about where they can comfortably and successfully hide a handgun.

All those curves and contours men like (and like to see accentuated by dress choices) have traditionally been seen as working against effectively carrying guns for concealment.  Thankfully today this is changing and, seeing as the fastest growing demographic of new shooters is women, the market has done an adequate job of accommodating this growing niche.

On-body carry options for females usually take the form of ankle holster, some form of belly-band either inside or outside of the belt, a bra holster or on the thigh, Madam style. While all the aforementioned systems are solid concealed carry options, they definitely have their drawbacks, namely some are just not all that comfortable to wear, especially for extended periods of time.

The key here is to choose a holster that is tailored to your specific figure.  If you have a thin waist you may be able to get a inside the belt holster.  If you have an hourglass figure, perhaps your ankles are the best place or maybe you should consider a bra holster.  If you have a smaller bust, then a bra holster may not conceal your weapon enough.

I want to pause for a second and look at the bra holster, namely because it is a holster that is truly unique to women and a growing number of women seem to be gravitating to them.  Where bra holsters really shine is in their ease of access.  While some women are more comfortable raising their blouses just far enough to reach the grips of their weapons, others have found it’s faster to go right through the open top.   Check out this demonstration:

But like all concealed carry holsters, there are drawbacks. caught several complaints from readers about the comfort of such rigs when we first ran stories on them.  We also heard the draw on bra holsters can take some getting used to because it is sort of at a weird angle.  The advice here is if you do chose to go with a bra holster (or any holster for that matter) practice with an unloaded firearm (and for finger off the trigger) until it becomes second nature.

Pockets can also be used for on-body carry (always with pocket holsters of course).  Gals can carry in a pair of trousers, blue jeans, as well as in jackets and vests.  Pocket carry however is often not that appealing to the ladies: baggy jeans just aren’t en vogue right now and it’s unlikely ladies want to go out seven days a week in a jacket that makes them look like an L.L. Bean model or a SWAT team operator.

So what are your thoughts – on the body or off the body?

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