“Carrying a gun isn’t supposed to be comfortable, it is supposed to be a comfort”
Clint’s quote above is very revealing and it is important to understand that concealed carry for a women comes with some changes and some concessions. There may be times that it is an inconvenience or a little uncomfortable but this just comes with the territory. With time, you will feel naked without your gun on you and if you are ever required to use it to save your life, believe me it will all be worth it. So lets discuss some issues with concealed carry holsters for women.
There are some key things that are necessary for optimal comfort and safety. First, is the selection of your gun. It should be the right size for you, your body and your hand. Your gun selection is the most important decision, for it is around your gun, that all things depend on. Here is an article that can help: What Kind of Gun?
A good holster is one that is designed for your gun (either specific model or type and size) and holds the gun securely and one that attached to your body or clothing correctly and comfortably. This is where it get’s challenging as so many holsters are designed for a man’s body. I discuss these challenges in more depth here. The holsters I carry or have designed WORK on a woman’s body and offer the versatility we need to match our varied wardrobe.
Finally, the clothing you wear to cover your gun must be considered. How it will fit around your gun and how it covers the handgun or the possible bulge it creates. All of these things are necessary and of equal importance as they work together to make a safe and complete concealed and carry system.
You will likely need a variety of different concealed carry holster styles that work with different clothing choices and your activities. Carrying your gun in a specially designed concealed carry purse or briefcase is an option that is very appealing to many women. This poses a set of problems that are not ideal for ultimate personal defense or general firearm safety which we will discuss below. We will tackle On The Body concealed carry holsters for women first as this is the preferred method. We suggest you find the one(s) that work for you and use this as your primary method of conceal and carry. Note: I have done a series of videos on many of the holsters to show you what they are like and how they are worn. You may find them helpful. You can view them all here. Watch Holster Talk Videos
Here are the current options for effective conceal and carry ordered by location on the body:
Belt or On The Waist Carry
Belt carry or on the waist carry, is the preferred and most common form of concealed carry for women because the gun is close and the grip is in a great position to grasp and draw quickly, for these reasons, It is the first and best choice. Although alternatives are offered here, it is important to know and remember that alternative methods of carry are just that: alternatives to the preferred method. The challenges are having the proper clothing to cover the gun on your waist and keep it adequately concealed. In some stated, it is legal to “open carry”, and have the gun entirely exposed. You must check your local laws to see if it is legal in your area.
The larger and wider your gun is, the harder it is to keep concealed. The heavier it is, the less comfortable it is to carry so these are some very important things to consider when selecting your self defense gun. Not all of these on the waist holster options shown below require a belt. Some have clips that clip on the waistband without a belt and one even has a magnet.
Belt carry or on the waist carry is the most comfortable on the body form of concealed carry of a gun for most women. With a properly designed holster, it also offers a high level of security and easy access to your gun, should you need it. Belt carry also works with much of women’s clothing styles such as ants of all kinds, skirts and shorts. As mentioned above, most traditional belt holsters are designed for men and one size does not fit all, especially when curves and wider hips are involved.
The belt is key to comfortable and effective on the belt carry. I recommend you purchase a good sturdy leather belt, preferably one designed for holstering a gun as they have inserts to provide a solid and steady “platform” or bas for the holster to be secured. The belt must be wide enough to fully support and distribute the weight of the firearm.
There are many variations of on the waist holsters and your gun can be belt carried on the outside of the belt or inside. Let’s look at outside the waist first.
The TWAW OTB/Concertible Holster The two toned and curved Well Armed Woman OWB convertible holster solves the problems women typically have with on-the-waist carry! Wear it Outside the Waist or Inside the Waist. Comes with all the convertible hardware you need for either location, carry with a belt or without!
The Magnetic on the waist holster requires no belt and is a great option for slacks and thinner waisted pants and shorts
The Build Your Own on the waist holster is one that is made specifically for your firearm and you can choose the leather and thread color to your own taste.
You must wear a jacket, long sweater or vest that you will have on the entire time you are out to carry outside the belt
Belt & Clip Holster Shown. (Available in multiple patterns/colors)
Carrying outside the waistband is naturally more comfortable and easier to draw from than inside the waistband. It also will be cooler in warmer climates and the gun does not touch your skin. Concealment outside the waistband requires larger, longer shirts or garments to effectively hide the gun. In some states it is legal to open carry, in which you can wear your gun without cover. The concern here is that with the firearm exposed someone could grab your firearm out of its holster. A locking holster with a Thumb Break (a strap or mechanism that must be opened or released to withdraw the firearm) would be necessary to keep this from happening. Outside the waistband holsters come with clips to clip onto the belt or waistband, with slots for your belt to secure the holster or with a paddle that lays flat on the inside of the pants.
Carrying the firearm with the bulk of the firearm inside the waistband is a very popular form of concealed carry with women as only the grip or butt needs to be covered and the firearm is very accessible and easy to draw. Most regular women’s shirts will cover sufficiently and most pants can “stretch” to make the adjustment necessary to fit the firearm.
The In The Waistband by The Well Armed Woman solves the problems women typically have with in-the-pants carry. It is ambidextrous and has a recessed clip to minimize the bulge. It has a deep tuck-able and adjustable clip so you can adjust how high or low it sits on your waistline. You can also adjust the cant to your desired angle.
The Build Your Own in the pants holster is made specifically for your firearm and you can choose the leather and thread color to your own taste.
The Mini-Tuck hybrid holster is made to be worn inside the waistband featuring two clips for a broader platform. Typically worn in the small of the back.
The Sticky Holster is made of a revolutionary material that “sticks” to you and your clothing using the tension created in your waistband.
The location of where you carry is a personal one. What is comfortable and easy for you to draw from are the keys. Most common are on the strong side (the same side as your shooting hand) in the front or towards the back just off the hip with the handle angled properly for easy drawing. Appendix carry is with the gun placed in front, between your belly button and your hip. Many holsters are what is called “Tuck-able” which means it has a “slot” to tuck your shirt into in-between the clip and the firearm itself.
This is practical for women when wearing pants, slacks, or a skirt with strong waistband or shorts. There are options made in leather, plastic and nylons.
Other waist area methods are:
Women’s Compression Concealment shorts are a way for women to carry and conceal a handgun when they’re wearing a skirt, slacks, gym shorts, sweat pants, jeans, or dress pants without a belt. The concealed holster is made from surgical grade elastic and sewn into a pair of authentic compression shorts and holds your firearm securely. They feature two holsters offering ambidextrous concealment and you can also carry spare magazines, or other important items on the other side. Because they are “compression” you get a little extra shaping too!!!
The sling style Pistol Pouch is extremely comfortable as it is made from cotton and is worn under your garments but over your underwear. The low below the belly position makes for very good conceal-ability. This is great for when you are wearing scrubs or sweat pants.
Belly Bands and underwraps are versatile and very comfortable method of concealment that many women use effectively. You can wear these in many situations, whether dressed for work or go to the gym. They can be worn high or low on the body and offer incredible versatility. They are made of heavy duty elastic with a velcro closure. Most have two firearm slots: one for an automatic pistol and one for a revolver. It can have a pocket which conceals important papers, cash, credit cards, as well as a slot for a spare magazine. It works great with medium and small frame revolvers and semi-automatic pistols. They can be worn “high” under the breasts or low on the hips for added versatility.
The Pistol Wear Sport is designed for an active and athletic lifestyle.
These work very well when wearing skirts or dress slacks without belt loops. The belly band allows you to position the firearm high or low, toward the front or toward either side.
Another option is the compression tank top. These “undershirts” have holster pockets on both sides and holds the firearm just under the armpit. These are not considered fast draw holsters as depending on the clothing you are wearing – you will have to get to the firearm to draw it, this can slow up your draw time considerably.
The Pistol Wear Underarm holster is another under the arm option with removable/adjustable straps for a lot of versatility.
When wearing pants, the ankle holster can be a good option and can be worn quite comfortably all day long. These wrap around the ankle with a holster on the side. Many come with an optional calf support and some padding for added comfort. Because of the loose nature of the hem of the pant leg, this keeps your firearm very well concealed without bumps and lumps in your clothing.
There are some challenges with ankle carry. One is that it is impossible to draw your gun while you are moving or running away from danger. It is; however, good in a situation in which you are sitting such most of the time, as at the office. The draw from standing can be awkward and practice is necessary. Thrusting your leg out to the side or front as in a lunge can make drawing faster.
The thigh holster is a great option when wearing dresses or skirts. The waistband with garter keeps it from sliding down. You can adjust the height to accommodate your skirt and surprisingly, when worn correctly are unseen, even when sitting.
These holsters are designed to attach to your bra in the center between the two cups. They offer easy access when wearing a blouse, shirt or sweater. There are two forms of bra carry. One clasps the holster to the center of your bra, the barrel and handle tuck slightly under the bra underwire. The second clips on the outside of the cup and the smoothest draw is through the top of the shirt.
To be blunt – the more you’ve got- the larger the firearm you can conceal and the better you can conceal it. So for those of you who are well endowed this can be a very comfortable and effective form of concealed carry.
One concern is that the firearm can cover the non-shooting arm as the firearm is pulled from the holster and raised to shoot. Practice and awareness are necessary with this form of holster.
The Flashbang is worn in the center of the bra.
Carrying your firearm in your pants or jacket pocket is an option, but jacket or vest carry makes it easy to become separated from the firearm, which of course makes for a serious safety issue. Pocket carry is only practical with very small firearms or very large pockets. There are many pocket holster styles and materials. The most important thing is that it covers the trigger guard area completely to protect and prevent accidental discharges. The pants you wear must also have enough room in the pockets to comfortably pocket the firearm. If you wear looser pant styles, or cargo pants with multiple pockets this may be a comfortable option for you.
A pocket holster is also necessary when carrying your firearm in your purse or any other bag. It must cover the trigger guard to prevent you from accidentally pulling the trigger while reaching in your bag or getting small objects in your purse in the trigger guard area. They are available in nylons in fun prints.
A Fanny pack holster has the look of an ordinary fanny pack but carries a concealed handgun in a hidden compartment in the back of the pack. This fanny pack style concealment holster allows you to carry a pistol or other protection device like pepper spray. These can be helpful when warm weather dictates dressing in light clothes. A handgun can be drawn from the concealed carry position very quickly. You pull the front of the bag with one hand to open the firearm compartment and draw with the other hand.
Fanny pack carry is very comfortable and the look is quite common when walking outdoors, at events or large spectator events. Unlike purse carry, a properly designed fanny pack provides the quickest access to the firearm if you need it in a hurry, and as it is secured to your body – you are less likely lose it or have another snatch it off of you.
A very good option for women and preferred over purse carry as it is on your body. These can be worn with any clothing style. The key factor is are you able to keep it on your body at all times?
This off body method of concealed and carry is most appealing to women as most of us carry a purse, so there is no added equipment to attach to our bodies. As stated earlier, on the body carry is superior in all aspects, and the recommended form of concealed and carry. Thieves will target your purse for your money and credit cards, which lands them with your firearm too. A firearm that is carried in a purse is also at great risk of a child or other innocent accidentally getting ahold of your firearm and of course the results could be tragic. A great responsibility that comes with firearm ownership and carrying a weapon is its security and inaccessibility to others, especially children. Carrying a firearm in a purse requires the firearm be holstered in an appropriate holster in a separate compartment of the purse, preferably lockable. The trigger guard must be covered completely to prevent anything in your purse from accidentally levering the trigger either on its own, or when you reach in to grasp the firearm. The purchase of a concealed carry purse which is designed for this purpose is highly recommended. They have separate, lockable compartments with a holster built in to hold the firearm safely and in the correct position. Most have side compartments so you can discreetly have your hand on the holstered firearm when in dangerous, dark situations, such as dark parking lots.
Another challenge has been design. Naturally there is not the selection as with traditional purses. So some sacrifices in “style” may be necessary. Finding a well made purse with a simple design that will work with multiple clothing choices is possible.
These options are the least recommended options as they are very likely to be set down and left unattended. As with the purse, these must have separate compartments with attached holsters. In the planners these offer discreetness when opening the unit to use as a planner. Currently there is a very limited selection of stylish briefcases and planners.
As you can see, choosing the right holster(s) takes some thoughtful consideration of a number of things. We delve into this topic in Episode 12 of The Women’s Gun ShowPodcast – How to Choose the Right Holster – you can listen in here: The Women’s Guns Show – Episode 12
Here are some links for further study when considering concealed carry as a woman.
For information on statistics related to women and safety please visit the following websites:
Crime Characteristics / Statistics – Bureau of Justice
Criminal Offender / Statistics – Bureau of Justice
Drugs and Crime / Statistics – Bureau of Justice
Sexual Victimization of College Women -National Institutes of Justice
Stalking in College