((This is a post I originally wrote for the womegunowners.org blog. If you haven't already, check out womengunowners.org and for women living in MA, join our Facebook group: MA Women Gun Owners!))
Anyone who carries a gun and has done so for a few years will tell you the same thing: once you start to carry, you’ll quickly discover you’ve created that drawer of holsters. Or, in my case, that decorative wicker basket from Target that matches my bedroom set of holsters. For us women, this may be particularly true. The challenge of carrying a firearm on your person every day becomes a whole different beast when you introduce the female form and the variety of outfits we choose to wear. It may be a dress one day, yoga pants another, jeans with tiny pockets the next. Either way, you may find yourself wondering how you can possibly join your fashion sense together with your desire to exercise your Second Amendment right to self-protection. I’m here to tell you it’s very possible! Here are some of the most popular holsters I’ve come across, many of which I use on a regular basis:
As far as concealment goes, the corset holster is at the top of my list. However, when it comes to holsters, what you gain in concealment sometimes comes at the cost of accessibility. But I have good news! Practice is key when it comes to this type of holster (or any type, for that matter. Practice your draw!!) and if you practice, you can develop a fast, safe draw. This holster does not require a belt, so it works great with a skirt, dress pants, yoga pants, and even jeans if you don’t often wear belts (like me).
Tip: If you opt for the Dene Adams corset holster, buy the trigger guard insert made for your carry gun at time of purchase.
Another holster that doesn’t require a belt! I get asked a lot by both men and women what I’d recommend as a running holster. The belly band is what I’ve found to work best. It keeps your gun from moving around and can be worn with workout pants. It has 4 pockets to hold your firearm (or to hold 4 at a time if you’re that kinda gal…more power to ya!) so you can wear your firearm up front or on your lower back. Unlike the Dene Adams corset holster with the trigger guard, belly bands use the tension of the thick elastic material to guard the trigger. You can always sew in an insert if you’d prefer some more trigger protection. Don’t be afraid to modify your holsters to suit your specific needs.
Inside the Waistband (IWB)
IWB holsters come in many varieties. As the name suggests, this type of holster is designed to be worn inside the waistband, usually with one or two clips attaching it to your pants/skirt. One word of caution here is to avoid holsters that are shaped like your firearm all-around. The first holster I ever purchased was an IWB kydex holster for my Ruger LC9S. While it conceals pretty well, after a while it starts to dig into your skin and becomes uncomfortable. If you carry IWB, you may want to opt for a holster that lies flat against your body, but has a hard shell shaped to your gun. You can buy an IWB holster with two clips, or if you carry appendix, you may want to opt for one with just one clip. They make some clips that are designed to attach to the fabric of your pants, such as the “Fabriclip”, which does not require a belt. Here are a few examples of some IWB holsters:
While OWB can be difficult in terms of concealment, accessibility cannot be beat when it comes to holster options. There are several types of OWB holsters, such as a belt-slide holster that is attached to your belt, or a paddle holster that has a paddle inside your pants and secures to your belt with an internal groove. Depending on your body shape and outfit choice, an OWB holster may be a great option for you. These may work better in the colder months when multiple layers can be worn.
Off-body carry can be a great option for some women. If you find that you just can’t shoot a smaller firearm well and need to carry something larger (because of an injury for example), off-body carry may be a great option for you. You’re able to carry a larger firearm than may be concealed on your body, and you can have your firearm with you regardless of outfit choice. HOWEVER, and this is a BIG however, off-body carry maintains that you constantly have your firearm “under your direct control”. This means that you cannot leave your purse at the table when you go use the ladies’ room at a restaurant. You can’t leave it in the back seat of your car when you’re driving. You need to be the only one able to access that firearm at any given moment. Make sure you purchase a bag that is designed to carry a firearm. It should have an internal holster in a separate compartment to keep anything from coming into contact with your trigger.
Tip: A good purse holster will often have thicker, reinforced straps that make it difficult for someone to cut the strap and run off with your purse. I recommend you carry the purse cross-body if possible to keep it more secure, with the firearm on your dominant side.
My #1 choice for hiking is a fanny pack holster. It may look a bit 80’s, but believe me, they’re fantastic for comfortably trekking up a mountain or even just going for a walk around the neighborhood. Just remember to constantly have it under your direct control!
As more and more women exercise their right to self-protection, the firearms industry is creating more options for women to carry. A deep concealment holster is a holster that is worn in a less traditional area. Deep concealment works great for women and there are many different options depending on your needs. There are thigh holsters, leggings and tank tops with internal holsters, holsters that attach to your bra, and many others to suit your needs. In the summertime, my favorite is a thigh holster for dresses and skirts as it keeps the firearm off my waistline (which is more comfortable in my opinion) but keeps it within reach.
Pictured clockwise from top left: UnderTech Concealment Tank Top, UnderTech Concealment Leggings, Flashbang Bra Holster, CanCan Concealment Garter Holster
A few last tips:
- Always be aware of where your muzzle is pointed and whether the trigger is properly covered in your holster.
- Practice your draw often from the holsters you use (triple check you have an empty firearm and no live ammo in the room!). I spend a few minutes each morning practicing my draw to ensure I can access my firearm in the outfit I wear that day.
- Carry extra rounds on your body (Whether it’s in a speed loader or moon clip for you revolver gals, or extra magazines for my semi-automatic ladies). Have it accessible and ready to go. I have a magnetic “neomag” that looks like a pocket knife clip from the outside. It keeps my magazines facing the same direction in my pocket and holds it in place all day.
- If you are nervous about carrying or are uncertain about a holster, wear your holster empty for a few days before you carry it with your firearm. You can then carry your firearm unloaded, then carry it loaded when you feel confident in your holster of choice.