As the number of women who choose to carry has increased, they have increasingly demanded holsters that fit them. Finding carry options that “work” for women is something of a challenge, but manufacturers are becoming more tuned in to what women want, and are coming up with solutions to women’s carry needs.
Because women have a completely different body shape from men, holsters that fit men well often don’t fit women at all. For example, if a woman wears a gun on her hip, the gun’s butt may dig into her short ribs when she tries to draw, unless she wears it lower down in a sort of ‘gunslinger’ position. But if she does that, she can’t get away with wearing the gun under a short jacket.
When we start discussing leather that’s practical for women, one thing we need to do is separate leather into two categories: training and law enforcement carry, and every day, casual carry. The two situations are entirely different, as are the needs of women in those situations.
The leather that we think of as more traditional holsters—such as shoulder holsters and belt holsters—are much more useful to women in a training environment than they are in ‘real life.’ It’s one thing to wear tactical leather when you’re training, but when women get out into the real world, they usually dress in beltless pants. As a result, they often can’t wear the types of holsters that a man would wear. That leads to women choosing to carry off their bodies but still keeping their carry weapons close.
The products that many women gravitate toward for off-body carry are holster handbags, such as those made by Galco (www.galcogunleather.com), the Feminine Protection line from The Concealment Shop (www.theconcealmentshop.com), and bags from Designer Concealed Carry (www.designerconcealedcarry.com) and Everyday Tactical Gear (www.everydaytacticalgear.com). In addition, Galco offers items such as The Hidden Agenda day planner that holds a pistol.
Both Designer Concealed Carry and Everyday Tactical Gear are relatively new entries into the female concealed carry market. When shooting instructor Kim Klein couldn’t find concealed carry handbags that she liked, she designed her own under the brand name Everyday Tactical Gear. Since women do so many things in their busy lives, she said, they need handbags for concealed carry that go lots of places with them.
“I personally go to a lot of fundraisers, so I made a cocktail purse,” she said. “And I don’t like to carry big purses, so I made a wrist purse.”
Both purses have slim lines that conceal even a full sized semi-auto without tell-tale bulges.
“The original wrist purse came with just a wrist strap, but customers asked for a shoulder strap so I added one that you can take off,” Klein said.
Women want to carry in a purse that isn’t bulky or manly, and they want to carry something larger than a .380 in a way that it doesn’t show, Klein said. The cocktail purse allows a woman to carry something as large as a .45 in style, without it showing…..which is the point of concealed carry in the first place.
Designer Concealed Carry is offering high end handbags and shoulder bags with hidden holster pockets that will hold up to a .45 semi-auto. One unique feature of Designer Concealed Carry purses is the dual locking zippers on the holster pockets. Holster pockets are accessible from both directions so they’re usable by both left handed and right handed shooters. The interiors of the bags have zippered and open pockets as well as a key hook, and elastic loops for flashlights, pepper spray and spare magazines. Bags are made of find grained leather as well as leather embossed to look like lizard, alligator and iguana, and come in a wide variety of colors.
A final elegant touch is the logo, which consists of a small inverted C over a large C that’s lying on its back. The logo resembles a woman’s handbag, stands for “concealed carry,” and looks like the business end of a handgun.
What’s Right For You?
With all of that said, whether you’re choosing a holster for training or law enforcement use or a purse for on the street, shop around before you make a decision about what to purchase. These aren’t handbags you’ll find on the shelf at Wal-Mart; they’re pricey, and rightfully so.
Go online, surf the web, and go to gun stores and gun shows.
The criteria you should have in mind include light weight and a good fit. The holster should be molded so it has a good, tight fit to the gun you’re carrying. Stay away from anything that adds unnecessary weight to the holster, and from nylon. A simple leather scabbard is all you need, as long as it’s pressure molded to the particular firearm that you’re going to use. If you’re going to get a good holster, you’ll have to spend $60 to $70 or more for it. And as we’ve already said, expect to spend quite a bit more than that if you’re buying a concealed carry handbag.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Just finding the right holster or holster purse isn’t enough; just as you practice shooting on the range, you also need to practice drawing your weapon smoothly and quickly. If you don’t practice, you’re more dangerous to yourself than you are to anyone else. And do lots of what-ifs. What would you do if this happened, or that went down?
In other words, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer here. Cross draw may work for a thin woman, but not for one who’s on the heavy side. Shoulder holsters don’t work for women with larger breasts. Ankle holsters are impossible for heavy women, or older women who aren’t as limber as they were in their youth.
The bottom line is to buy what’s comfortable and functional for you and you alone. If it’s comfortable, you’ll use it. If it isn’t, you won’t.
By Carolee Anita Boyles