A common complaint by most women interested in holsters is that the holsters are built in such a way that they cant the grip too far inwards, making it dig into the ribs and making drawing the gun extremely awkward. This comes about because most holsters are designed for men, whose hips and waist are far straighter. A woman’s waist, however, is usually smaller than her hips by a significant fraction — more so than with men, and this is true even for larger-sized women. Because of this, the grip of the gun will slant inward at the waist.
There are several holsters that attempt to correct this design flaw, but few are adequate for concealed carry except for the shoulder holster. As the author is a resident of southern California, with its excessively restrictive policies on CCW permits, I am inexperienced regarding the suitability of holsters for concealed carry and am likely to remain that way. If you know more than I, and you probably do, please don’t hesitate to let me know via e-mail. I’ve already gotten some great advice from readers!
The most common way to correct this flaw in most holsters is to insert a wedge of plastic that pushes the holster out from the waist. This is usually what’s done, and more information about this will be appearing here soon. Gunsite makes a MARVELOUS holster that is beloved by the W&G; staff that does just this. Check out the Galco address in the holster purse section of this page.
However, Mitch Rosen Extraordinary Gun Leather manufactures a holster called the Ayoob Rear Guard that is beloved by women, and another called the “Nancy Special” (so named for his wife) that many women love. Both take various steps to insure that the bulk of the handgun is carried forward of the hipbone, and that the gun grip doesn’t dig into the ribs.
Another option is a small-of-the-back holster, called an SOB holster, of course. 🙂 These holsters place the gun against the small of the back at the waist, and are reported to be extremely successful for concealed carry, though they would be uncomfortable with a revolver; SOB holsters are best suited for autoloaders. Also, they can be a problem for women in particular since, unlike men, we are often knocked to the ground in an attack. If you should land on your back when you are wearing an SOB, you could be in for a lot of pain — not to mention having a hard time drawing your weapon. However, if you are vigilant while walking, you will be difficult to surprise, and the ergonomic advantages of an SOB holster might outweigh the possible problems.
Most of the SOB holsters angle the grip of the handgun down toward the floor, and many women find this a difficult position from which to draw a gun — though I find it fine. Others that women seem to prefer angle the grip of the gun upward, essentially holding the gun upside down; with an SOB holster, drawing the gun then is similar to scratching your back near your spine. With the addition of a favorite sweatshirt or a roomy blazer with this sort of holster or the inside-the-waistband ones, concealment is simple, even for slim-waisted women who would have a terrible time with a hip or shoulder holster. The waistband of any pair of jeans, as well as most dockers and dress pants, is fine for holding up the holster of most medium sized handguns. If you have a magnum revolver with a 6″ barrel, though, don’t bother. Such a gun doesn’t lend itself well to concealment, and if you desire something that you can carry concealed, you should purchase another handgun.
One thing you will want to watch out for if you are wearing any holster is clothing catching conspicuously on the grip or hammer of the handgun and advertising what you are trying to conceal. Often, this problem crops up when the gun in question has rubber grips, and using wooden ones can alleviate it. The second cause of this problem is often the hammer spur which sticks out and causes clothing to catch on it. Most gunsmiths will remove the spur if you ask, but this is tantamount to ensuring that you can only use your handgun in double-action mode. If you are carrying concealed, this is the best policy since it will cut down the likelihood of your startle-shooting someone, and if you are carrying in public, this is a serious consideration. In fact, it is often standard police procedure for officers who carry revolvers to remove the hammer spur for this reason, since it makes it much harder to put the gun in single-action mode. (If you decide to do this, your best option is to purchase a handgun without the spur from the manufacturer, or to find an EXPERIENCED gunsmith to modify your handgun; don’t go to a hack!) While catching on clothing is a problem for any holster, it is especially acute with SOB holsters since you don’t see or feel that your sweatshirt is caught on your gun when it’s behind you. Just making sure that it’s not caught discreetly when you get up should present no problem, and — like checking to make sure you’re not tucked into your nylons — it will soon turn into habit.
One minor problem that you will want to consider when thinking about holsters is the location of the gun on the body for more pedestrian reasons: guns are heavy, and carrying an asymmetrical weight around for a long time in a bad place can cause back pain. For this reason, I would never use a shoulder holster even if I were legal to carry since I have scoliosis and sciatica. In my case, an SOB or fanny-pack holster — more on these in the holster purse section — would be perfect — carrying the weight close to my body and symmetrically placed. (I should say here, though, that many shoulder holsters include a magazine pouch on the opposite side as the handgun — this improves matters an eensy bit, but carrying that weight in that fashion is just no good for your back.) This is an excellent reason to do away with ankle holsters COMPLETELY! Strapping even an extra pound to BOTH ankles much less doing so asymmetrically is enough to make most orthopedists and chiropractors blanch. As with other things that are personal, your opinions may vary when it comes to holsters, and again I am inexperienced when it comes to concealed carry.
Women’s clothing is not as uniform as men’s, with their standard shirt, blazer, and sturdy trousers, and is often nowhere near as robustly constructed. (Sure doesn’t cost less, though, does it?) As a result, if a woman opts for concealed carry of a handgun on her person, her options for where to carry are often more limited. (And how many of us would truly want to get stuck in the same old boring suit-and-tie combination the men have to endure every day?)
The natural fallback place to carry a handgun is often the purse, but there are drawbacks to this method. Some are alleviated by purchasing a special holster purse, designed to hold a handgun snugly and safely and allow you instant access to it, but some problems remain. I’ll discuss these first before going further into the various types of purses out there.
Most of the problems can be summed up in the following list, and I will treat each separately. These are:
the rapid access and safety concerns of carrying a gun in a handbag,
flashing your gun when you open your purse,
forgetting your purse in places as most of us have done, and
Some of the problems associated with each of these concerns can be solved or alleviated with the choice of a good holster purse; others cannot. There are also other more esoteric considerations when choosing from between several different kinds of holster purses.
Rapid Access And Safety
The first problems with carrying a handgun in an ordinary purse are safety and access. If you simply drop the thing into one large compartment where your checkbook, hairbrush, lipstick, and Danielle Steele paperback are also swimming around, access to the weapon is impaired. You’ll have to dig around quite a bit to get to the thing, and there’s a good chance that that lighter or eyeliner pencil will be stuck through the trigger guard when you’re doing so, increasing the chance of an accidental discharge. Simply put, you don’t ever want to keep a handgun in any compartment that isn’t specially designed for it. Tossing it in the big central pouch with your car keys, mascara, cellular phone, and hand mirror is a huge mistake. It will impair your ability to draw the thing quickly if you need to, and will be unsafe since there is a good chance that something in there will be resting on the trigger when you don’t want it to be. Also, as the gun shifts around, you won’t have a clue as to where it’s pointed.
Eek — A Flasher!
Another problem that often doesn’t occur to someone carrying until it crops up is that you’ll often be forced to open the thing and flash your handgun to anyone who might be standing around you or looking over your shoulder. This is definitely a bad idea — not only will it make those around you uncomfortable to know that you have a handgun in your purse (and it’s pretty natural for most people to get the creeps around firearms), but you will also be letting anyone with pickpocketing or pursesnatching tendencies know exactly who they can hit if they want to get a free gun. If you are carrying in public, you must be ultra discreet. And throwing your handgun in your purse as if it were just a checkbook is not the way to insure discretion. Also, if the purse is made of lightweight, flimsy material and isn’t that full, the weight of the handgun may well pull the fabric taut and silhouette the thing, making it plain to anyone who looks at you from a distance that you are “walking heavy.”
Now Where Did I Leave That Thing Again?
Another problem crops up when each of us who carry a purse recalls the several times we’ve set it down in a restaurant and promptly walked away forgetting it, or set it down where unauthorized (and often very young) hands could get to it. No special purse design will prevent this; the only solution is for you to increase your vigilance. Absentmindedness could result in your handgun being stolen and hence in the hands of a thief.
Still another problem is the ubiquitousness of pursesnatching in most large cities. There are some things you can do to prevent this from happening — increasing your vigilance and carrying the thing close to your body with your hands on it at all times — but having your purse stolen is a more serious consideration if you are using a holster purse.
The first two problems can be alleviated by purchasing a holster purse; the third cannot, and the last can be alleviated a tad bit by purchasing the right kind of holster purse.
Characteristics Of A Holster Purse
A holster purse is a purse that is specially designed to hold a handgun (of a variety of sizes) in a compartment separate from the ones into which your checkbook, car keys, etc. will be tossed. In a good quality holster purse, this compartment will be padded and reinforced to hold the heavy weight of your handgun discreetly and safely — some models even contain a removable internal holster. The handgun is held securely, in the same position every time you insert it into the compartment, and separate from your stuff, so that you can go rooting around for that lighter without the slightest fear that you handgun will be revealed. The best purses seal with velcro or snaps or both along a central seam on the top or side, and when this seam is pressed closed, there is literally NO visible evidence that the purse is any different from any of a dozen other kinds, provided it is not overstuffed.
The concerns of leaving the thing behind when you walk out of a store or restaurant won’t be changed by the type of purse you own, nor will the concerns of having adult or children’s hands around when you take it off your shoulder and set it down. These issues will just take increased vigilance on your part. Absentmindedness is just going to have to become a thing of the past. You can get yourself to the point where you won’t forget the purse; after a while, checking to see if you have it on you will become second nature, like checking to see that you have your car keys on you before you slam your trunk shut.
Pursesnatching is another consideration entirely, and the one over which you have the least control. Most people recommend that you carry your purse over one shoulder only, so that if someone does run up behind you and grab the strap, you will not be thrown to the ground. But (and keep in mind that this is my opinion only), if you have a handgun in there, you have GOT to be ready to take the risk of hitting the ground to keep that purse on your body. Wear it slung diagonally from one shoulder to the opposite hip ALWAYS. And keep your hands on it AT ALL TIMES, holding it close to your body. You don’t need to clutch thing thing fearfully like it’s a life preserver — but just make sure it’s not dangling out there swinging back and forth and bouncing on your hip.
And let’s face it, if a pursesnatcher sees that, he’s probably just going to give you up and go looking for easier prey anyhow. Making it MORE difficult for someone to steal from you is never a bad move. The advice that tells a woman to wear her purse on one shoulder only so that she won’t be tossed to the ground if she is nailed by a thief always struck me funny anyhow — why the hell are we being told how to make THEIR damned job easier? *SOAPBOX ALERT* It reminds me of the crappy old advice that tells you not to resist if you’re raped. With “advice” like that given solemnly to women, it’s no damned wonder many criminals target us specially — we’re told all our lives how to cooperate with them and make their victimization of us easier! While you’re at it, make sure that you don’t lock your front door and that you do leave your keys in your car with the windows down as well. Heaven forbid someone should dent your doorknob while robbing your house or scratch the paint on your car door while stealing it.
So you’ve got to make sure that you are as poor a target for a pursesnatcher as you can be. Wear the thing diagonally.
Another way that some pursesnatchers go for their victims is to cut the strap of the purse when you are standing in a crowd, standing in a train, or in some other big, stationary mass of people. Many holster purses come with braided wire inside the strap that prevents this from happening, and it’s worth the extra cost to get one that does. You’ll want to make sure that you get one that’s made of leather as well; demin won’t cut it since after a lot of use the fabric might wear around the braided wire. Go for the leather or sturdy burlap purses.
So there are your major considerations, and the ways that a holster purse can help alleviate the problems they involve. Now, where the hell do you get one of the things?
Gun shows are sometimes a good place to go, but they are often geared towards the male market (lots of macho shit), and will often have only a few purses for sale. The amount of marketing directed toward women is increasing, but still, you shouldn’t rely on finding even a halfway decent selection of holster purses at a gun show. And if, like me, you are left handed and would need one that opens on the other side, you’re in for a pretty thin selection.
Mail order is a much better way to go, and one issue of Women & Guns will have a plethora of companies and prices listed for a variety of purses, or for catalogues through which you can get one. Their January 95 issue had an article devoted to a variety of brands of holster purses, and is a nice place to start. They sell back issues, so you should be able to get this one without a hassle.
A Holster Fanny Pack
Another excellent possible option is a holster fanny pack — this solves the problem of run-and-grab pursesnatching as well as holding the thing closer to your midsection and hence more comfortably (your chiropractor will appreciate it, as will your spine). They are also more comfortable to leave on, so that also solves the problem of absentmindedly leaving it behind. Since these are purchased by men as well, their availability at gun shows and simple swap meets is greater (they are often sold under the name “law enforcement fanny pack” or “beltbag holster”), as is the availability of lefthanded ones. If I were able to carry concealed, I’d definitely opt for a fanny pack instead of a purse, but then I don’t carry a purse anyhow. The only drawback, and it’s not even a serious one, really, is that you can’t carry larger firearms in them — but if you are carry concealed, you’ll want a .38 snubby or slim autoloader anyhow. Keep the fanny pack option in mind!
One drawback to fanny packs that applies to certain areas is that, depending on where you live, they can be very uncommon. Many readers of rec.guns live in areas where fanny packs scream “concealed carry.” In southern California where I live, everyone wears the things, so a fanny pack would be the most unobtrusive means of carrying you could get.
The following is a list of companies with addresses that make holster purses from W&G;, but I heartily encourage you to grab the nearest issue and dig around in it for yourself. Some also carry fanny packs and are marked. Keep in mind that these things can be pricey sometimes — you aren’t just buying a purse from Sears but a special piece of emergency-oriented equipment:.