Carrying Concealed As A Woman
More and more women are getting their permits to carry, and women face some unique challenges to carrying a pistol concealed. The two main challenges that women face in carrying concealed are:
1. How to Carry
In general, women have wider hips than waists and this makes carrying concealed uncomfortable at best. When considering how to carry, there are two main categories of carry: “On Body” and “Off Body.” On body carry usually refers to carry using a belt holster, ankle holster, or some specialized holster attached to the body. Off body carry usually refers to carrying in a purse, bag or fanny pack.
Carrying On Body:
When carrying on body the two main types of holsters are Outside the Waist Band (OWB) and Inside the Waistband (IWB). OWB is usually the most comfortable way to carry on body, however it is the hardest to conceal. IWB is much easier to conceal, however, especially for women, this method is the most uncomfortable.
Here are a few pictures of both types of On Body Carry
Within the realm of concealed carry instructors, the most derided way for women to carry is off body. There are two reasons for this...one, they are not women and do not understand how hard it is for women to “dress around a gun.” Two, they have never had to live with a woman who has to carry a gun on a daily basis. Don’t get me wrong, off body carry is much less desirable than on body carry...however we need to accept the reality that a 5’2” tall woman who weighs 120lbs can not conceal a defensive firearm that is not sub-caliber (below 9mm) on her body without serious compromises in clothing choices. In short, we need to be open to off body carry as opposed to not carrying at all.
Precautions for off body carry (in a purse):
2. What to carry
Women have many choices when it comes to a firearm for self defense. As a general rule I recommend that no one carry a pistol/ammo combo that does not meet the FBI standard of 12" of penetration in ballistic gel. For more info on this keep an eye on the blog.
With rare exception, to meet this standard the minimum caliber needed is 9mm/.38 special.
The trade off in pistols for concealed carry is that the smaller and more powerful the weapon, the higher the recoil. That means that you need to find a comfortable medium of size and power.
What pistol is right for you?
Semi-Auto or Revolver
When a woman walks into almost any gun store, the man behind the counter will recommend her a 5 shot revolver. Why? Because of the myth that most women can't effectively rack the slide on a semi-auto and that revolvers are inherently more reliable.
Revolvers are fine weapons for self defense and anyone who is comfortable with them should have no qualms about using one. You just need to know the benefits and drawbacks of both revolvers and semi-autos.
As you can see, they both have distinct advantages and disadvantages. The most common "knock" against semi-autos is that the slide can be difficult to rack. I contend that if you can pull 12lbs with one finger, you can rack a slide with one hand. The choice needs to be based on what you shoot better and what you are more likely to carry at all times.
Look for upcoming posts that cover each topic more in depth.
Here are some resources for women who carry:
A woman who reviews holsters, firearms and gear for ladies
Coronado Leather, the best concealed carry purses I have seen
More Great Purses