Every individual must determine for themselves what best suits their concealed carry needs. But, women, in particular, have unique demands on their concealed carry gear that men do not due to the shape of the female figure as well as the impractical trends of ladies’ fashions.
Often, one of the options that comes to mind (and one that I have discussed on The Arms Guide in greater detail here) is the option to concealed carry a firearm in one’s purse. There are some advantages that method allows with providing effective concealment to a large range of firearms size (including full sized pistols). However, this method of carry also presents a unique issue: the potential for theft of one’s concealed carry pistol should a thief target the purse in which the firearm is concealed. An argument can also be made that purse carry, versus an alternative on-the-body carry approach (such as in the waistband, or ankle carry), is less accessible and can cost precious moments to draw in a self defense situation. On the other hand, the option to purse carry is sometimes the only option available to women when their dress prevents them from carrying any other way.
While carrying often necessitates some alteration in style of dress, clothing can be exceptionally limiting for females more so than for males. For example, pocket carry is completely unfeasible for most types of ladies’ pants. From skinny jeans to dress slacks, there generally just isn’t space to fit a pistol without printing (or at all), with or without a holster.
Before I started carrying in public, I carried at home. I did this in part to break in my leather/kydex hybrid holster, and also to help adjust to how a concealed pistol may or may not effect my everyday actions. In this “trial” period, I discovered that some IWB holsters that seemed comfortable and secure while standing or walking almost completely popped out of the top of my pants when I sat down. The low rise of the majority of pants that I wear was not accommodating to concealing the extra mass of pistol and holster, in some situations.
Another issue related to female concealed carry is that most holsters are not designed to conform to women’s figures. Many holsters designed without female’s curves in mind feature a flat or otherwise uncompromising backing. If an inside- or outside-the-waistband holster doesn’t somewhat fit the bends of a female hip and lower back, it often does not stay securely positioned and may “flop” to some degree during regular body motion. That “flop” makes a concealed carry pistol more noticeable (a moving pistol definitely prints more than one that is entirely stable). It also could have an adverse affect to one’s ability to draw quickly and effectively in a self defense situation.
There are a couple of things to keep in mind to make it easier to suit the needs of a female concealed carrier. First, kydex holsters (or other holsters of similarly inflexible construction) are more challenging to carry in one’s waistband. A holster that can form to an individual body, such as fabric (nylon or rubber fabric, for example) or leather is more likely to stay securely. Being mindful of the waistband height and where the pistol sits within the pants can help to prevent it from being forced out of the top of the pants. Also, choosing a concealed carry pistol of smaller overall dimension (and namely barrel and overall lengths) is, understandably, easier to conceal in female fashions without requiring a dramatic change in wardrobe (cover garments, such as sweaters or jackets, also aid in that endeavor), than selecting a larger firearm.
Some of the points discussed in this post may be more obvious considerations than others. Something I have learned from my journey with concealed carry from the female perspective is that I can always benefit from the experience of others. The more I talk with other women concealed carriers, the more solutions I learn to overcome obstacles to concealed carry that females face. Ladies, how do you concealed carry? And men, how do the ladies you know concealed carry?