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Concealed Carry Methods for Women

June 1, 2008 AZ CCW Laws, Equipment Reviews No Comments

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.

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