Home » Equipment Reviews » Recent Articles:

Defensive Handgun Selection – Glock, 1911 or H&K, Which One to Buy?

January 23, 2010 Equipment Reviews, Firearm and Caliber Advice Comments Off

Question:  I’m looking to purchase a new semi-automatic pistol.  In your CCW class, you mentioned how happy you were with your H&K.  I would appreciate your thoughts on the .45 USP Compact.  I would be using it primarily as a defensive, home protection weapon, with occasional range practice.  I have extensive experience with the Colt 1911 .45, and have also enjoyed the simplicity of the Glock, but have heard many good things about H&K’s. Thanks in advance for sharing your thoughts.

Answer: I’m a pretty big fan of the H&K.  I carried both the Glock and the 1911 for a long time.  I carried a Glock 23 and Glock 26 for a couple of years.  I continue to be impressed by the Glock’s simplicity of operation, utter reliability and consistency of trigger pull.  The lack of an external safety except on the trigger dramatically simplifies the operation of the pistol and the training curve for the pistol is not steep at all.  On the downside, the grip was a little bit fat for me and I felt the trigger pull was a little heavy, so I decided to give the 1911 a try.

My Kimber TLE-II is very accurate and has been very reliable.  I feel that I was fortunate since many 1911 style pistols can be finicky about the ammo you need to use in them.  Some of the more expensive 1911s seem to have feed issues related to very close tolerances.  I did not experience that with my gun.   I liked the single action trigger of the 1911 but the weight of the gun was too much for daily concealed carry.  In addition, the reduced ammo capacity made carrying an extra magazine mandatory, adding further to the weight/bulk equation.  Finally, the effective operation of the pistol in a combat situation requires significant practice.  You must practice to insure that you get a firm firing grip to disengage the grip safety and you must train your muscle memory to disengage the thumb safety during the draw stroke.  Not a problem if you practice with your pistol, but if you don’t practice, disengaging the safety won’t come naturally and if you forget the safety during the draw, the consequences could be disastrous in a gunfight.

In the H&K I found a nice balance between the things I liked about both the Glock and the 1911.  My H&K fits my hand well, is relatively lightweight due to the polymer frame, had a reasonable ammo capacity, a thumb safety and can be fired in single or double action.  The first shot is double action which is nice due to the added margin of safety if I have to draw and prepare to fire in a violent encounter.  After the first shot, the H&K shoots in single action mode which allows for very fast, accurate follow up shots.  Finally, in nearly 4 years of shooting it, my H&K has probably malfunctioned a handful of times.  Please bear in mind how much shooting I do.  I must also confess that I am a little less than religious about cleaning it.  I would consider the gun “completely reliable”.  After shooting a 1911 for so long, disengaging the thumb safety on the H&K during the draw-stroke was a non-issue for me, but still will require some practice for a person new to the firearm so that they incorporate clicking the safety ‘off’ during the presentation of the pistol, just as it is in the 1911.

For me, for the reasons above, the H&K USP Compact has been and continues to be my choice for a personal firearm.  The only thing I might consider instead is the new H&K P30 that I saw at the Shot Show this week.  It is the ‘new and improved’ version of the USP Compact and has some nice features in terms of relocating the decocker to the back of the slide and adding what I think is an improved thumb safety that is more positive to release and that is ambidextrous.  The P30 also has a standard Picatinny rail vs. the proprietary rail on the USP, making it compatible with more weapon lights.  If I had the extra cash right now, the P30′s siren song might be nearly irresistible…

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 10.0/10 (1 vote cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)

Selecting a second handgun for use by the family…

Question:  I’d like to buy a second handgun and want to make a smart and efficient purchase for multi-use cases.  I am looking for something small enough for my two kids (ages 9 and 11) and wife to get familiar with.  I would also like a backup pistol for personal defense or something my wife would feel comfortable using if she needed if for protection.  I’m leaning towards a high quality .22LR semi-auto Sig, S&W or Ruger.  I’m I off base thinking this will serve all the functions I want?  I was hoping quality JHP in a .22 would be OK for personal protection in a pinch.  Or is a .22LR just a ‘plinking’ gun?

Answer: The .22 sounds like a good call if you are thinking of something for your wife and kids to use for practice and familiarization.  All of the brand you mention are good quality.  The Ruger and S&W are more suited to target shooting.  A SIG Mosquito could be used for either target or carry, however it would probably not be a good choice for a backup gun.  The .22 caliber round just doesn’t have the ballistic characteristics to do much good in a real gunfight.  Don’t get me wrong, it is definitely better than no gun at all, but I’d probably look for a pistol in .32 caliber or .380 at a minimum for a secondary pistol.  Kel-Tec makes a pretty nice semi-auto for a backup.  I have gotten good results with the Kel-Tec P-3AT in .380 ACP.  It is very concealable and the .380 caliber has reasonable ballistic characteristics.   You could also get a snub nosed revolver for a backup.  My personal preference in a revolver is the S&W Model 649 Undercover in .38 special.  Overall, it is really more about the right tool for the job.  For target shooting and getting your kids and wife familiar with shooting, the .22 is a great choice.  For a secondary pistol, you really need something more than a .22 caliber in my opinion.

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 9.0/10 (2 votes cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)

What should I look for in a holster for CCW?

December 29, 2009 AZ CCW Laws, Equipment Reviews Comments Off

Question:  What are some things to look for in a holster for carrying concealed in Arizona?  Any preferences or advice you might have?

Answer: There are many factors to consider when making a holster selection for concealed carry.  Let’s talk about the general issues and then we can deal with a few issues that might be specific to Arizona.

There are several characteristics you should look for in a holster for concealed carry.

First, the holster should do a good job of retaining the gun.  One of the last issues you want to have is having your gun fall out of the holster if you run or should happen to fall down.  This is best accomplished by having a holster designed specifically for the gun you carry.  The holster retains the gun by a custom fit instead of some type of strap or retention device.  Better holsters usually have some sort of tension adjustment that allows you to vary the level of retention based on your individual preference.

I don’t recommend straps or retention devices for CCW type holsters as they can make it more difficult for you to get your gun out of the holster quickly.  In our more advanced courses, we see people having a lot of problems drawing under stress when they have retention devices on their holster.  While this can be remedied by lots of practice, most people aren’t prepared to make the time commitment.

Second, any decent holster should cover the trigger area of the gun.  A holstered pistol is a safe pistol as long as the trigger is completely covered and no part of the holster attaches to the trigger guard or trigger.

The type of holster is also an important consideration.  There are ‘outside the waistband’, ‘inside the waistband’, shoulder holsters, ankle holsters, small of the back holsters, belly bands, etc.   It is a pretty long list.  Overall, I’d probably avoid the specialty holsters like shoulder holsters, ankle holsters, belly bands and others that are very deep concealment holsters.  The biggest reason is getting access to your gun.  When you need it, you will need it in a BIG hurry and if it is not easily accessed, I could be a problem.  I prefer to keep my primary firearm located on my waist as it is most accessible there.

When looking at the choice between an ‘inside the waistband’ or ‘outside the waistband’ holster, there are several issues to consider.  An ‘inside the waistband’ holster is more easily concealed since the bulk of the holster body is inside your pants.  This requires that you wear your pants in a larger size to accommodate the holster.  It is also not as comfortable to carry using this type of holster.  An ‘outside the waistband’ holster is more comfortable and does not require adjustment of your clothing size, but it is more difficult to conceal since the holster is more likely to be seen if the covering garment is blown open or is tight around the waist.

Another factor to consider is the material of the holster.  In my view, a quality holster should be constructed of either Kydex or leather.  Plastic and nylon holsters, while inexpensive, typically are not durable and don’t offer proper retention characteristics.  Plastic holsters tend to have too much retention and usually not adjustable.  Nylon holsters have virtually no retention outside of a strap and should be avoided for concealed carry.  Both Kydex and leather holsters are typically molded to fit a specific gun and have good retention.  Kydex is virtually indestructible.  It can be cleaned easily and will not stain or be damaged if it comes in contact with water, sweat, blood or any other type of fluid.  Leather is more esthetically pleasing to many people can be more comfortable to wear depending on the type of holster.  Leather holsters tend to be thicker than Kydex due to the nature of the material and the stiffness that a good holster requires.

Another factor that is almost as important as the holster is the gun belt.  A quality gun belt is part of the support system for the gun.  The belt must be study enough to support the weight of the gun and holster.  It must also provide a stable platform for the drawstroke.  I have seen people come to class with lightweight dress type belts that don’t allow them to draw effectively as the belt flexes and does not keep the holster in place making it difficult to extract the gun.  If you don’t usually wear belts or don’t wish to hang your holster on a belt, there are paddle style holsters that fit inside the waistband of pants and use a retaining hook to keep the holster in place during the drawstroke.  Paddle style holsters are also somewhat easier to remove since they can be taken off without removing the belt in most cases.

If you are planning on purchasing a quality holster, you need to probably plan on spending between $50 and $75 depending on the type of holster.  Leather holsters tend to be a bit more expensive than Kydex.  I have honestly not seen a $20 holster that meets the requirements for CCW type carry.  If you just need something for the range, then maybe the $20 version will do the job, but a quality CCW holster will cost you more.  Trust me when I say that the extra money is worth it.  I can’t tell you how many people show up for advanced pistol training with a cheap holster and have a miserable training experience while learning the severe limitations of their holster/belt system.

The best suggestion that I can offer is to keep the system simple.  Choose quality and simplicity over gimmicks.  A good quality leather or Kydex holster carried on the waist with a sturdy belt is really hard to beat.  If you look at people that carry a gun for a living, most of them are using that type of setup.  That should tell you something…

One of the first questions is what material should my holster be made of?  Holsters are generally constructed of leather, Kydex, plastic or ballistic nylon.  In general, I would avoid plastic or nylon holsters.  While they are generally inexpensive, they have some problems

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0.0/10 (0 votes cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)

Leaving Your Gun in the Car…

Question: I have an AZ CCW.  When I go to the post office with my daughter what do I need to do?  I can’t hide the gun in the car if she does not have a CCW.  What would you suggest I do?  The same thing goes any time I am with family and need to leave the car to enter an airport or federal building.  Thanks!

Answer: I am assuming that your daughter does not have an AZ CCW permit since she is not old enough to get one.  In a situation like this, you need to have some sort of locking enclosure for your firearm in your vehicle.  There are any number of devices from a variety of manufacturers that can be used to secure your firearm while you are out of the vehicle.  My favorite is a product called a “Gunvault”.  It is a steel box that is opened by using a user defined combination.  When you put in the correct combination, an access door opens allowing you to remove the firearm.  They are relatively inexpensive (less than $100 in most places) and very secure, especially if bolted to the floorboard of your car or in your trunk.  Using a locking enclosure or placing the firearm in the trunk of the car will make it ‘inaccessible’ to your daughter or other family members that don’t have a CCW and will keep it secure from children that should not have access to a firearm while you are out of the vehicle.

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 5.3/10 (4 votes cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: +2 (from 2 votes)

Question about the reliability of Hi-Point Pistols

May 4, 2009 Equipment Reviews, Firearm and Caliber Advice Comments Off

Question:   I have a Hi-Point .45acp and the Hi-Point 9mm. When I initially purchased them I knew nothing of them, save for the fact that I couldn’t beat the price. I was looking for a car gun as well as a home defense gun as I already had a Bersa as my main carry gun. When I mention the Hi-Point everyone slams them saying they are junk and worthless. The .45acp has NEVER jammed and I’ve put close to 1000 rounds through it. The 9mm jammed in its first few magazines and has not since. Yes they are heavy/bulky. This actually aids me in controlling the recoil. So what is the real verdict on the Hi-Point firearms?

Answer: Unfortunately, some people do not believe there is such a thing as a ‘reliable and inexpensive’ handgun.  When they see a price tag that is pretty low they automatically think ‘junk’.  Fortunately this is not the case with Hi-Point.  This gun was designed specifically as a low cost, reliable handgun for people on a budget.

Now I will be the first to say that these guns are not pretty.  They are bulky, basic and lack some features that more expensive guns might have.  But, having said that, in my experience which is supported by others I know, these guns are very reliable.  They are also as accurate as other handguns in the $500-$600 price range.  The felt recoil is generally less because of the weight of the gun which makes accurate shooting a little easier, particularly in a .45 caliber.

In short, the Hi Point is a great gun at a great price.  It will not win any beauty contests and it is heavy, but I would give it high marks for accuracy and reliability, particularly for a gun of this price.

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 8.0/10 (1 vote cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: +1 (from 1 vote)

Legal Implications of Handgun Modifications

Question:  My question is the legal implication if any to have work done on your trigger to make it easier to squeeze or to “lighten” it up. I have heard on many “legal” discussions that in the event of a shooting, the prosecutor not only is trying to prove you acted irrationally but may use the “dirty harry” tactic in that you modified the handgun in a way that made it easier to fire. I have been told and read on several occasions to modify handguns that would be used for sport (IPSC, target etc) and don’t modify handguns that you may use for personal defense. The same for reloads.. always use factory loads….

Answer: Unfortunately, the answer here is yes, there are legal implications to using modified triggers on guns used for personal protection.  Stock triggers on handguns can vary based on the type of gun, but generally speaking a semi-automatic pistol will have a trigger pull weight in the 5-7 lb. range, while double action revolvers would have a trigger pull weight in the 8-12 lb. range.  Even a 1911 style single action pistol will have a trigger pull of around 4-4.5 lbs.

Weight of pull is a factor considered by firearms examiners when evaluating the relative safety of a firearm.  A firearm that has been modified to have a very ‘light’ trigger pull weight could be considered by some to be ‘less safe’ than those with a heavier pull.  There is the additional factor that most people do not know how to properly use triggers with a very light pull.  There is a significant amount of ‘finesse’ involved in shooting a light trigger, and even those who are skilled competitors in USPCA, IDPA or IPSC will generally shy away from a trigger with less than 3.5 lbs.

You need to remember that when under extreme stress in a self defense situation, your ability to control fine motor movement  will go out the window.  Gross motor skills will be the order of the day and there will be no ‘finesse’ involved.  In short, a light trigger could result in a firearm being discharged when you really didn’t want it to.  I can imagine any number of scenarios where a light trigger would get a shooter into trouble.  Think in terms of ‘premature discharge’ as you draw under stress or ‘unintentional discharge’ as the firearm is being brought to bear on a target in a stressful situation.  There are literally dozens more situations I could think of.  The heavier trigger weights give you the additional margin of safety that you will absolutely need under the stress of combat.

The legal implication is this.  By modifying the gun to have a very light trigger, you create a greater possibility for accidental or unintentional discharge of the firearm under stress.  Should someone be injured or killed as a result, a good lawyer would probably argue that you were negligent and carrying a firearm that would place yourself and others at risk due to the ‘modification’.  Remember that you must be ‘justified’ in order to use any type of lethal force and if you unintentionally shot someone under stress because of your light trigger you could be criminally charged.  This type of situation would also almost certainly result in civil litigation.  While your constitutional guarantees might make it difficult to prove the criminal charges, the lower standard of proof required and the different rules of evidence on the civil side could leave you extremely vulnerable to a ‘wrongful death’ or other personal injury claim.

There is nothing at all wrong with having a modified trigger if you intend to use your firearm strictly for competitions.  It is when you use the modified gun for personal defense that the criminal and civil liability issue can rear its head.

As far as ammo is concerned, I recommend that people carry a factory loaded defensive round.  My personal preference is to find out what the local police department uses and carry that as my personal defense ammo.  From a legal perspective it eliminates any kind of argument that you were carrying a ‘special hand-loaded cartridge designed solely to kill and mutilate’.  In my mind, I can actually hear a lawyer saying it that way in front of a jury…can’t you?  By carrying a standard defensive round, you eliminate the issue completely.

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0.0/10 (0 votes cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)

Safety Ammo for Apartments or Multi-Family Dwellings

A questioner writes:  “I recently purchased a 9mm Kahr PM9 for concealed carry and home defense. I live in an apartment and would like to get ammunition that will not put others in the complex in danger. I am looking at Mag-Safe but have read mixed reviews about the functioning in autos. Thank you for your time.”

This was a great question.  It is an excellent issue to consider if you live in a multi-family dwelling or apartment complex.  The questioner was being a very responsible person to be making sure that they minimized the opportunity for ‘collateral damage’ should they have to use a handgun for personal defense at home.

Mag-Safe and other frangible rounds will essentially break up on contact with any hard surface.  The Mag-Safe rounds in particular have a pellet core in the 9mm configuration and will not penetrate sheet-rock.  Most other frangible rounds have an epoxy core and again will not penetrate any hard surface that you might fire at.

Glaser Safety Slugs are another variety of ammo that is designed to avoid over penetration.  Glaser uses a jacketed round that contains a tightly packed lead shot projectile.  Again, the issue here is that in many cases the projectile does not achieve enough penetration to do significant damage to your intended target.  Thus, the lack of stopping power tends to defeat the purpose of using a gun against your bad guy.

There are a couple of versions of Glaser rounds that supposedly have different penetration characteristics.  The ‘blue’ version is supposed to penetrate a soft target 5-7 inches where the ‘silver’ version is supposedly good for between 8-10 inches of penetration.  These tests are done using ‘ballistic gelatin’.  Last time I checked, ballistic gelatin does not wear heavy clothing or hide behind walls, doors, furniture or other objects, so I would take these penetration numbers with a grain of salt.

There is a potential for reliability issues with this type of ammo when used in a semi-automatic pistol.  It is generally not a ‘feed’ issue but a ‘cycle’ issue.  Many of these rounds are not powerful enough to reliably cycle a semi-automatic pistol.   I have used frangible ammo extensively during training exercises in shoot houses and in my personal experience, this has been an issue for certain weapons and calibers.

I would suggest a couple of things right off the bat.  First, if you do use something like Mag-Safe or any other ‘frangible’ ammo, I’d strongly suggest that you do not use it for concealed carry when you are ‘out in the world’.

Using frangible or pre-fragmented ammo is great if you are concerned about penetration in your home, but lousy if you need to shoot through a hollow core door, heavy concealment, a car door or something else that your bad guy is hiding behind.

The Federal Air Marshals did some testing with frangible ammo a few years back.  It is instructive that they now all carry standard hollow point defensive ammo and do not carry frangible ammunition.

If you are really concerned about over-penetration at home, I’d probably suggest having two different magazines.  Load one with a frangible round and put that one in the gun when at home.  Load the other one with a high quality defensive round and use that one when ‘out in the world’.

One last thing to consider…if you are shooting a high quality defensive round and hit your intended target, you should not have to worry about over-penetration putting your neighbors at risk.  It is only an issue if you ‘miss’.  With good marksmanship and situational awareness, you may not really need the frangible ammo at all…

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 10.0/10 (1 vote cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)

Should I use +P ammunition in my Springfield XD .45 caliber handgun?

July 15, 2008 Equipment Reviews Comments Off

Question: I am wondering if I should use +P ammo in my Springfield XD 45.

Your Springfield can handle the +P ammo just fine. The question is whether to use it or not.

Essentially what +P ammo does is give your .45 caliber bullet a slightly higher velocity. Normal .45 ACP caliber velocities are around 850 feet per second with energy delivered being about 375 foot pounds.

The +P loads will go with a velocity of 950-975 feet per second with the energy delivered being more in the range of 450 foot pounds. Both of these are with the normal 230 grain bullet.

A +P load is a faster, more penetrating, more hard hitting round. It will generally do greater damage to any human target you shoot and get better penetration for wounding in the deep organs of the body.

This increased power comes with the trade off of increased recoil and higher cost for the ammo. Remember that you must be able to accurately deliver rounds on target for them to have any effect. If you can shoot the +P loads accurately, certainly you should feel free to use them for defensive ammo.

My H&K USP Compact .45, is always loaded with Hornady TAP, 230 gr. +P ammo. In my personal experience, it performs exceptionally.

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0.0/10 (0 votes cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)

What is the best home defense shotgun for women?


Hi, I will be purchasing a shotgun soon for home defense and would like to ask a few questions as to what is best for me. I am female and am looking for a lightweight shotgun since having tried a Remington 870 in the range, I was tired after just a few rounds. I have come up with 3 models after some research:

Mossberg 505 Youth #57110 20ga. 4+1 capacity, 5 1/4 lbs.

Mossberg 500 Super Bantam #54210 20ga, 5+1 cap, 5 1/4 lbs.

Remington 1100 20 gauge youth stock (Remington LT-20)

I was wondering if you’re familiar w/ these youth shotguns and if so, which one would you get? There also is a Mossberg shotgun weighing 6 1/2 lbs. I’ve heard that lighter ones have more recoil, is this true with shotguns? If so, should I go with the 6 1/2 lbs.? Again, I want a lightweight shotgun with light recoil, if such a thing exists. Thanks.


Thanks for your question. In my experience in teaching shotgun classes, many women have trouble with the considerable recoil of a 12 gauge shotgun. Sounds like your experience was consistent with this. I routinely recommend a 20 gauge shotgun for women or young teens as the recoil is considerably less.

As far as the weight is concerned, I don’t think a little over a pound difference in weight is going to be a big deal one way or the other. Some may say differently, but in my experience there is not a major difference.

The big difference in the youth model vs. the standard Mossberg 500 in 20 gauge is going to be the length of the stock, the reach to the trigger and the reach to the pump action. The youth models are engineered with a shorter reach to accommodate smaller bodies with shorter arms and fingers. If you are a person with a small build, then that might be just the ticket for you. If you have a more normal build, with a height of 5′ 7″ or taller, you might want to go with the standard model.

Here’s what you can do to determine if it fits you or not. Place the butt of the stock firmly in your shoulder, with your shooting hand holding the gun around the pistol grip area of the stock. You should be able to reach the trigger comfortably without stretching. With your non-shooting hand on the fore-end pump, your elbow should be bent at about 90 degrees. Again, you should not feel like you are reaching or stretching to hold the fore-end.

If you are using it strictly for personal defense, a 20″ or 22″ in barrel is what you should look for. If you are going to use it for defense and sporting purposes (hunting or clay target shooting) you should go with a 24″ barrel.

As far as ammo is concerned, look for reduced recoil ammunition. It is available in most gun stores or sporting outlets that cater to hunters. It will reduce the amount of felt recoil considerably. You should look for .00 buckshot (double ought buckshot). Bear in mind that if you shoot that load inside your house, it will penetrate drywall and hollow core doors easily. It will not penetrate cinder block or brick.

As far as the brand of shotgun is concerned, either the Remington or Mossberg would be a good choice. They are both high quality firearms. My personal preference is for the Mossberg as I have owned one for years and have had zero problems with it. It is also very easy to find parts and accessories for the Mossberg.

Once you purchase your gun, you should take it out and test what the pattern of the shot looks like at several distances. I would recommend that you test it a 5 yds, 10 yds, and 20 yds. Use a fresh target or piece of cardboard each time. You will need a target or a piece of cardboard at least 24″ x 36′. The purpose of patterning your shotgun is to see how much the buckshot spreads out as the distance increases. This will make it more apparent to you how critical the aiming process needs to be with your particular gun. Each shotgun is different, so that is why I recommend that you do it for your particular gun.



VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 8.0/10 (1 vote cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: +1 (from 1 vote)

Concealed Carry Methods for Women

June 1, 2008 AZ CCW Laws, Equipment Reviews Comments Off

Question: As a new CCW permit holder, and a woman of, shall we say, ample curves, I’m finding it difficult to manage concealed carry.  Arizona temperatures don’t lend themselves to covering garments, and my curves make IWB carry difficult and conspicuous (unless I opt for very baggy clothing, not appropriate in my professional and social circles).

While I recognize that some amount of wardrobe adjustment is necessary for concealed carry, I’m not willing to completely change my style in order to accommodate a firearm. What are some of the best options for concealed carry, when the wearer is neither straight up and down, nor super slim and wears “office casual” most of the time? Breasts and hips do get in the way sometimes. I’m afraid most of the options I’ve found thus far tend to ignore the feminine factor, making women look somewhat on the “butch” side. Not a look I aspire to. Help?

Answer: Concealed carry for women does tend to be quite a bit more complicated than it is for most men. This is due to several factors. 

Women’s fashions tend to be more ‘form fitting’ and in some cases garments are made of less ‘structured’ materials than men’s clothing.

They do not generally include a ‘platform’ to support the weight of a gun and holster (like a sturdy belt).  

Then there are the body shape issue that our questioner addresses.  This tends to cause traditional strong-side holsters to ride too high or stick out at angles that make concealment awkward.  

Let’s deal with each of these in turn.

Strong side carry is possible, but women need to find a holster built for their shape.  Blade-Tech, Kramer and Del Fatti make some good holsters designed specifically for women’s bodies.  Understand that this will require a sturdy belt, which will not always work with women’s fashions.

Strong-side inside the waistband holsters can work for some, but dues to the ‘form fitting’ issues, will probably not work for most.

In the absence of a belt, paddle holsters provide a reasonable alternative for strong side carry.  Small of the back carry may also be a possibility for some.  I know a female CCW instructor in the Yuma area who effectively conceals a full-sized 1911 using a “small of the back” holster.  She is 5 feet tall and weighs around 100 lbs.  Her usual attire is jeans and she generally wears a casual cover garment over a camisole top. 

In general women need to think ‘outside the box’ a bit.  One possibility is the choice to carry a smaller firearm.  During the summer months in Arizona, sometimes I will forego my usual USP Compact .40 S&W for a smaller more concealable pistol in the form of a Kel-Tec P-3AT.  This small pocket pistol weighs 11 ounces fully loaded and a capacity of 7 rounds.  It is small enough to put in a pocket, or with an optional clip, you can slip it into a waistband.  

It is so light that I have carried it inside the waistband of a pair of gym shorts with no issue.  While I would much rather have a .40 caliber handgun, .380 Auto is not bad under the circumstances.  

A pistol of this type would easily conceal in a variety of women’s fashions.  It is light enough and small enough to conceal virtually anywhere.  The street price for these guns is around $250, so the price is right as well.  

Other methods include ‘off body’ carry. This means that you will have your firearm in a purse, briefcase or ‘daytimer’ style carry device. Coronado Leathers and Galco make some very high quality, fashionable purses and totes designed for concealed carry by women.  Many are designed to look like much more expensive “Coach” style purses.

If you intend to carry off-body, there are some additional factors to consider.  First is the obvious issue of control.  You cannot leave your purse, backpack or day-timer lying around.  You must bear in mind that it can be a little suspicious if you are ‘attached’ to your carry platform constantly.  The draw from any of these methods of carry is slow and awkward at best.  In my classes I ask how many have forgotten and left a purse

or day-timer or backpack somewhere.  The number that answer in the affirmative is ample reason to consider another course of action.

If you are going to carry in a purse, the handgun should be isolated in its own pocket or compartment to avoid getting anything stuck in the trigger guard. There are lots of things in a purse that could easily get stuck in a trigger guard (lipstick, mascara, keys, pens, etc.).  I am reminded of an occasion when a female acquaintance of mine discharged her pistol by pulling her car keys out of her purse.  Thinking they were ‘stuck’ she gave them a yank and was rewarded with a loud ‘BANG’.  Fortunately, no one was hurt.

Another thing to consider about concealed carry in a purse or backpack is that things like this tend to be the targets of a ‘grab and snatch’ by muggers and thieves.  You don’t want to reward their efforts with your firearm.

Many have also mentioned fanny packs as a possibility for women’s concealed carry, particularly when dressed in casual attire.  Simply understand that for many people, especially law enforcement, criminals and concealed weapons permit holders, “fanny pack=gun”.  

Another option is the Defender Gun Belt which is made of a sturdy elastic band that wraps around your waist and closes securely with discrete velcro tabs. The gun is held in place by a second section of elastic banding that is double stitched at all stress points, and there’s even space for a spare magazine.  

The Defender is worn inside the pants so that you don’t have to wear a jacket or a concealment shirt. Depending upon the shirt and slacks chosen, it will probably take a few seconds to get a gun out of the Defender.  Also, a person’s weight doesn’t seem to play as much of a role in the ability to wear the Defender.  The Defender comes in two sizes: Model 1 with a 3″ wide belt for small handguns such as the AMT Back-up (.380 and .45), Colt. 380 Government and Mustang, Para-Ordnance P-10, Taurus PT-22, PT-25, etc.; and Model 2 with a 4″ wide belt for medium to large guns such as the Para-Ordnance P-12 & 13, Taurus semi-auto PT-58, PT-908 and Taurus revolvers Model 65,66 and 85CH. 

A third concealment system to consider is the Conceal-It Secret Gunbelt, which is made of medical-grade elastic for durability and comfort and can be worn around the waist like Defender, or by adding on the included attachments, can be worn underneath a semi-loose shirt.  

The Conceal-It holds semi-automatic firearms up to a 9 mm Glock 19 and most revolvers. It’s easier to access a firearm when the Conceal-It is used as an around the waist concealment system, but in those cases where it’s worn under a shirt the seconds it takes to reach underneath it are more than made up for by the fact that you have a gun with you at all. 

The Confidant is ideal for women who live in warm climates or who are required to wear dresses in the workplace. A slightly loose style of clothing completely conceals the gun without requiring a jacket. This system could even be worn with elastic shorts and a loose T-shirt.

The Confidant is sized extra small through extra large, and makes a very small package that won’t take up a lot of room on your shelves. When selling the Confidant, advise your customers that a tighter fit is preferable to a loose one. If the Confidant is too loose, the butt of the gun tends to flop around. Of course, this can always be remedied by adding darts.

Kramer Handgun Leather also offers a holster designed for women called the Women’s Belt Scabbard. Addressing the complaint that regular holsters ride too high and place the butt of the gun in a woman’s armpit, the Women’s Belt Scabbard drops the gun slightly, placing it in a lower, more accessible position for women.

The belt slot is lined with molded plastic formed at an angle that tilts the gun butt out slightly, preventing the gun from hitting a woman’s rib cage. The gun is carried strong side in the “FBI tilt.” Kramer claims that the holster was designed exclusively for women, so much so that it does not conceal properly when worn by a man.

The Women’s Belt Scabbard comes in a variety of attractive leathers and must be worn with a stiff belt that can support the weight of a gun. There is no retention strap on this holster, as it is molded to fit a specific gun model.

Mitch Rosen of Mitch Rosen Gunleather, in Dunbarton, N.H., also offers a holster specially designed for women called the Nancy Special. Rosen’s holster was designed for his wife, Nancy, and works on the theory that a woman’s hips push the muzzle away from the body. To solve this problem, the Nancy Special rides slightly higher than regular holsters and has a slight muzzle-forward rake. This prevents the muzzle from being pushed out and helps keep the butt of the gun away from the rib cage.

style="font-size: 14px" class="Apple-style-span">This is not an exhaustive list, but should give women a few ideas to work with.  The key is to think creatively, but also stay focused on safe concealed carry.

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0.0/10 (0 votes cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: +1 (from 1 vote)

Featured Content:

We are back after quite a long break…

May 16, 2013

Hello to all of our readers! After a long hiatus, we will be updating the site again.  Look for lots of new content to be added over the coming weeks.  We will also be updating older posts to reflect the current Arizona CCW laws. Thanks for your patience. Doug Little, Owner and Director of Training [...]

What did the “Campus Concealed Carry” bill really say and why did the Governor veto it?

May 5, 2011

Senate Bill 1467 was a very simply bill.  It would have simply amended the existing ARS statute 13-2911 with a single substantive paragraph.  The paragraph would have preserved the rights of the governing board of an educational institution to adopt rules to preserve public order on that institutions property which would govern the conduct of [...]

Governor Brewer Signs Multiple New Firearms Laws in Arizona.

May 5, 2011

Governor Jan Brewer signed a total of six new firearms related laws in the days following the end of the current session of the Arizona Legislature.  While some of the most controversial laws, specifically the Firearms Omnibus Bill and Campus Concealed Carry bills were vetoed by Governor Brewer, below you can find a synopsis of [...]

U.S. House of Representatives Considering National Right to Carry Reciprocity Bill…

May 4, 2011

Urge Your Representative To Cosponsor H.R. 822, The National Right to Carry Reciprocity Act Of 2011 Friday, April 08, 2011 Congressmen Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) and Heath Shuler (D-N.C.) have introduced vital legislation that will enable millions of permit holders to exercise their right to self-defense while traveling outside their home states. There are now only [...]

Problems with Interstate Firearms Transfers

July 20, 2010

Question:  I have bought a gun from an individual through Gunsamerica.( Gunsamerica is the broker).  I, the buyer live in Tennessee. The seller lives in Ohio.  I sent him a copy of the a local dealer’s FLL and a check for the gun. The local dealer requested a copy of the seller’s drivers license.   The [...]

Best Caliber Handgun for Self-Defense

July 20, 2010

Question:  I am wondering what would be the most effective handgun to carry in an apocalyptic, doomsday type scenario. I’ve read the .45 has the best knockdown power, the .357 has the best metal penetrating ability, and the 9mm would be the most common ammunition around.  I’m fairly sure that each of the above calibers [...]

Felony Conviction and Federal Home Protection Act

July 20, 2010

Question:  I am a felon and had to do a prison sentence.  My house was broke into twice while I was in bed asleep and both times I fled the home for my safety.  The police are telling me there is no true way to protect myself inside my home and that felons cannot possess [...]

Arizona Constitutional Carry About to Become Law…

April 15, 2010

A bill that would eliminate the requirement for Arizona residents to have a permit in order to carry a concealed weapon in Arizona has passed both houses of the Arizona Legislature and is awaiting Governor Jan Brewer’s signature before it becomes law.  If signed by the governor, the new law would take effect 90 days [...]

Open Carry in a Vehicle in Arizona

March 25, 2010

Question:  I am coming from out of state and was wondering if it was legal for me to open carry in the state even though I don’t have an Arizona CCW permit.  My other question is can I open carry in a car or does the handgun have to be cased and loaded? Answer:  You [...]

Felony Conviction and Firearms Possession…

March 8, 2010

Question:  I was convicted of a felony in 1998.  Can I legally possess a firearm? Answer: Since you didn’t tell me where you lived, I will have to assume that you are in Arizona.  Unless you have had your felony conviction set aside, you cannot legally possess a firearm.  Since it has been a very [...]