Women’s shapes and fashions do not lend themselves well to the practical demands of ladies’ concealed carry – but a good holster is, in my opinion, the best thing a gal can do to make effective concealed carry easier. After much shopping around, and even more trial and error, I’ve developed a couple of preferred methods for carrying my pistol without having to radically alter my fashion choices. Here’s a brief overview of some of the holster styles I’ve found work well for ladies’ concealed carry.
IWB Leather/Kydex Hybrid Holsters
My go-to holster with 90% of what I wear is a hybrid IWB holster. For ladies’ concealed carry, the biggest perk of a holster such as this is the flexible backing. Just like your favorite “night on the town” heels, it needs a “breaking in” period. I wear mine around the house for a couple of weeks so that the leather starts to conform to my individual body shape. This customization ensures that the holster fits the body, even with the wearer’s curves. And, although I love the retention I get from kydex holsters, I have always struggled to make them conceal well. Their rigidity doesn’t allow for minute adjustments I need to make sure my gun’s grip “tucks in” to the curve of my hip.
However, leather, or leather-backed holsters are a bit of a double-edged sword. The feature that makes them more comfortable and custom fitting – the ability for leather to “wear” – is also a potential downside. Eventually, as the leather flexes, it can become “too” worn. Excessive wear can reduce the holster’s retention. Kydex essentially doesn’t wear. This is why I have a preference for hybrid holsters – the kydex shell’s wear resistance contributes to the overall holster’s resistance, making the holster last longer. But, even leather-backed holsters are subject to the problems of too much flexibility. Once the leather loses too much rigidity, it doesn’t hold the firearm in place as well. An unsecured pistol is dangerous for a number of reasons (can you imagine reaching to draw for your gun, only to realize it fell out of your holster – and then picked up by your assailant? Yikes.). The thicker the leather components of your holster, the longer it’ll last, but eventually, you may have to give up the ghost and replace it.
Although I’m not overly fond of belly bands, I do appreciate how they offer carry options when I cannot wear an IWB holster. For example, when I work out, the little string on my exercise shorts is enough to keep them around my waist, but it’s definitely not enough to support the weight of a firearm (not even my little sub compacts stay in place once I start jogging). When I go to hit the treadmill, I strap on a Pistol Wear PT-2 holster and slip a mouse gun into it. It’s a little tougher to conceal (let’s just say, I don’t have ample… um… “chest coverage” to obscure most firearms), but I throw a baggy tee shirt on over everything and only carry sub compact pistols, and that’s usually enough.
One of the downsides for using this type of holster for exercise is that it gets kind of warm; the large band has a way of keeping heat next to your skin. And, after a lengthy workout (~4 hours, for me) the tension needed to keep the holster in place can get uncomfortable. However, when I’m wearing a skirt, that discomfort isn’t as much of an issue. After a while though (8+ hours, generally), even the most comfortable belly band starts to feel like a massive rubber band cinched around my guts. Not to mention, even the top I have on is loose/flowing, it’s tricky (and sometimes impossible) to conceal without noticeable printing. That may not be an issue for those more amply “blessed” in the bosom region, but I can only speak from my experience.
As a girl, I love the idea of thigh holsters. I mean, Hollywood makes them look awesome. That means if I wear them, I’ll look awesome, right? Easier said than done. I think most ladies who have actually tried to conceal carry in a thigh holster can tell you it is much more challenging than it looks on the silver screen – not to mention, quite a bit more akward. Many thigh holsters on the concealed carry market are basically a huge elastic (often adjustable) strap with a “pocket” that holds the pistol (some variants also feature a thumb strap to make sure the gun doesn’t pop out).
The thing about that elastic is that, in order to keep the gun situated on the right spot on one’s thigh, it has to be pretty tight. After all, it has to fight the natural anatomical shape of the leg that makes a holster liable to slide down. It’s difficult achieving that balance between keeping the holster affixed tightly enough to secure the firearm, without feeling like you’re cutting off circulation to the rest of your leg. Garter-style thigh holsters (that affix to a garter belt with straps) accomplish this a bit easier, but that necessitates wearing a garter belt to help keep your CCW gear in place (not necessarily a bad thing, but they are a little harder to find).
These are only a few options for ladies’ concealed carry that can help women concealed carriers wear the guns they want, but also wear the fashions they want. IWB is the most versatile of these holster styles and allows for a greater range of pistol types and sizes to be effectively concealed. However, when IWB holsters don’t fit the bill, such as, when wearing exercise clothes or a dress/skirt, belly bands and thigh holsters help pick up the slack. Angelina Jolie may make ladies’ concealed carry deceptively easy, but that doesn’t mean she’s the only gal who can look great while concealed carrying. Find yourself a great holster (or three), and rock that CCW, woman!