When you make the choice to carry a concealed firearm, you have many decisions to make. First, you must decide what firearm is best for you (caliber, size, features), and then you must decide how you are going to carry it (holster, method). Carrying off-body in a fannypack, handbag, backpack, briefcase, or saddlebag has always been a common solution for men and women. Off-body carry continues to be a popular option and it’s important to know its unique safety considerations.
Purse carry is often chosen because it is a universal option for different body types and pistol brands. If you live in a colder climate where you wear layers, offbody carry may give you faster access to your firearm. Purse carry is often more comfortable than onbody carry and is a viable option if your wardrobe choices would cause you to print or limit your access.
Carrying off-body requires a heightened awareness to every aspect around you. You are must be keenly aware of the firearm every second between when it is secured in a safe, throughout your outing, until it is returned back to the safe. Your concealed carry bag must be in your direct control at all times.
If a handgun is part of your self-defense plan, safe habits and routines will ensure the 24/7 safety and security of that tool. As a responsible gun owner, you must prevent unauthorized persons, especially children, from being able to access your firearm. When a concealed carry bag holds a firearm it is no longer a handbag; it is a holster. The owner must be mindful of the location and access to her handbag 100% of the time. You must always have control over the handbag from the time the firearm is inserted until the time it is removed and transferred to another secure location.
Once you have decided on the handgun that you are going to use for self-defense, you must find the right bag for offbody carry. Depending on the size of the firearm, you will have to select an appropriately sized bag that fits the gun while it is positioned properly in the holster. Consider where you are going, so that the style of the purse is not out of place.
The handbag itself must have a dedicated compartment for the gun that allows room for a holster or is specifically designed with a sturdy padding in the lining to prevent objects from lodging in the trigger. Additional safety includes making sure your firearm is in a correct holster that completely covers the trigger, and that it is secured in a dedicated pocket that allows quick access to a proper grip.
The bag must have access from the outside with a wide compartment opening that allows your hand and gun to easily enter and exit without getting hung up. As with any holster, the ability to remove the gun safely and get into a strong firing position is critical. Wearing a crossbody handbag allows you to position your holster in a similar place to an onbody draw, so it does not compromise your response/draw time. Crossbody also keeps the gun in your immediate possession and reduces the urge to set it down to free up your hands or slip off your shoulder if it heavy.
Becoming proficient and confident with your concealed carry purse takes training and regular practice — no different than what you would do with an on-body holster. Learning to draw from your concealed carry purse can only be learned through training and practice. There is no avoiding it and if you neglect training and practicing, you are being irresponsible.
It is important that you seek out training and practice regularly with your carry method. When holstering the handgun into a concealed carry bag, be extremely careful to always follow the 4 Rules of Gun Safety and pay particular attention that your trigger finger is indexed along the frame of the handgun and that the muzzle never covers any part of yourself or other people. When removing the firearm from the holster, have a proficient understanding of a proper grip and drawstroke. You will need to know how to orient the holster and set up the bag for success. You will also need to consider any accessories on your firearm and how they affect the placement or draw from the handbag.
Dryfiring for a few minutes every day creates safe habits so that you can systematically use your support hand to stabilize the bag and pull it away while simultaneously drawing your handgun with your strong hand, and then presenting the pistol with a two-handed grip. Proficiency comes from practicing transitioning the gun out on target and carefully back into the handbag.
As with any holster, your ability to draw the gun safely and get into a strong firing position is critical. Without practice, you will be giving up potentially precious time by choosing to carry in your purse — it takes much more time to locate it and draw it if you’re not ready. Make sure that you are situationally aware and able to quickly access and draw the firearm. Spend some time with your UNLOADED GUΝ moving and drawing your gun ensuring that you are ALWAYS following the 4 Rules of Gun Safety.
Carry your concealed carry purse the same way all the time, with the zippers and/or compartment in the same location and practice this way. Train yourself to always pick it up and put it in the same position on your shoulder. You also will want to attach the holster (typically secured with Velcro) in the same position in the compartment all the time. You want it in the right position and angle for you to acquire a proper grip once you open the compartment.
Unzip or open the holster compartment the same way every time. Turn the purse to safely point the gun in the right direction – the muzzle of the gun should never be covering your body. Turn slightly and point the muzzle corner of the purse away from you and in a safe direction. Grasp the grip of the gun with your strong hand, keeping your trigger finger straight along the side of the gun and not in the trigger guard, and pull firmly to remove it from the holster while simultaneously pulling the purse away from the gun with your support hand. This will clear the gun and allow you to get into firing position. The more systematic your motions in training the better your body will be at naturally following the same motions.
There are many training classes to help a woman become confident in offbody carry. A Girl & A Gun offers offbody classes at National Conference and many local chapters have purse carry workshops around the country.