As the editor in chief of NRA Family and an executive editor for NRA Women, it’s my duty to relay the best information and advice about gun safety that 150 years of NRA expertise can offer. That advice is to carry your defensive gun concealed (CCW) on your body instead of off-body in a purse, planner or daypack. You should follow this advice. But as for me? I routinely ignore it.
I’m far from alone in this. According to this survey from The Well Armed Woman, about one-third of the women surveyed carry their defensive firearm off-body in a purse. It is, in fact, the second-most-popular carry method. But if you ask 10 experts in armed self-defense whether or not women should carry concealed in a purse, and you will receive 10 responses that range from “no” to “Hell, no.”
If you’re a regular NRA Women reader, then you already know why that is. If you aren’t, here’s a short summary of why you shouldn’t purse carry (even though I do): It’s more difficult to keep the firearm under your immediate personal control at all times, which is a problem because purses are already a very attractive item for smash n’ grab-type theft. Furthermore, the draw is more complex and slow, which is a problem when fractions of a second count. All of these things are true, and yet I carry my defensive gun in a holster purse anyway a lot of the time.
I have a number of justifications for doing this, all of which I repeat to myself every time I read excellent advice about why I shouldn’t be doing this. First, women’s clothing in general (and women’s businesswear in particular) tends to be cut close to the body. That automatically makes concealing a handgun—even a tiny one—tougher than it is for men. Men generally have V-shaped torsos that allow a cover garment to swing over their hips with plenty of room to spare. This doesn’t tend to be the case with the most common female body shapes.
Pocket carry is also tough for most of us, because the pockets on most women’s clothing are “for display purposes only.” Even if there’s an actual, viable pocket, putting any object larger than a single car key into it will cause the rest of the garment to sag oddly. Don’t get me started on trying to dress on-trend while carrying on-body: High-waisted jeans have rendered inside-the-waistband carry somewhat akin to being eaten alive by a python that got bored at about rib level.
Have you made note of the fact that the “reasons” I listed above are all solvable problems? They are, of course. There is certainly nothing stopping me from planning my wardrobe around my gun, instead of the other way around. Ideally, that’s what I should be doing. My safety is certainly more important than rocking the latest hemlines … but here’s the rub: Dressing in a way that is out of step with the circumstances makes a woman stand out, especially to other women. It attracts the kind of attention I don’t want. (And as clueless as men can be about women’s fashion, they do indeed pick up on it when we’re overdressed or underdressed for the situation.) Could I figure out a way to make it work for me? Yes, but here’s where I go to my main justification for purse carrying:
The first rule of winning a gun fight is to have a gun.
My outfits change from day to day, and the small-of-back carry that was fine yesterday with jeans won’t work at all with the skirt I plan to wear today. It’s yet another thing I have to worry about when I’m getting dressed, and if I’m running behind? Well, the gun might stay behind, too. Conversely, I always carry my purse with me everywhere I go. I never forget it. It’s almost like a part of my body at this point—I have an actual divot at the top of my strong-side shoulder from the straps.
It is possible to safely CCW using a purse, and if that’s what works best for you, please come sit here next to me and dish about where you got that gorgeous purse.