Recently my amigo Josh wrote an article titled “Why I Hate Off Body Carry“. This is in part my response to those in our industry who label off-body carry as totally unacceptable. Of course, I also wanted to address, those who find nothing wrong with throwing their gun in a bag or purse without any consideration for safety and best practices.
As usual, the best answer is somewhere in the middle between those two extremes.
My Mindset About Off Body Carry
Personally, I never carry off body. My lifestyle allows me to carry a gun on my body in a practical way.
I do NOT think Off Body Carry is the ideal way to carry a gun. Stick around and I will explain my reasoning. However, to support gun owners and help them in their personal journey I think we need to take a deeper look into the topic.
Each of us needs to consider the following:
First, do any of us really carry a gun in the “IDEAL” way?
Take a look at an on-duty officer sometime, and compare what they carry to your everyday carry (EDC) loadout. The officer probably has a handgun with a larger capacity along with spare magazines. It's also likely that they have a durable, outside the waistband (OWB) holster. Is that comparable to your personal loadout? I suspect for most of us it isn't, meaning we compromise to some degree.
What I mean is that concealed carry is inherently not ideal. Some positions and styles of holsters are objectively closer to “ideal” than others. But can we agree that assuming you check the required safety boxes, you are likely better off carrying in a less than ideal position than not carrying at all?
Second, not everyone has a lifestyle like mine.
Not everyone wears the same type of clothing every day. Neither is everyone able to accommodate a mid to full-size gun on their waistband. There are many people, and frankly, many of them are women; whose clothing style changes so significantly from day to day. The different types of clothing have an impact on accommodating or concealing a handgun. If you are one of those people, and that leads you to feel that off-body carry is the best choice for you today I'm ok with that.
We should however always be seeking the better method, rather than settling for what is acceptable. So don't choose a specific method of carrying, just because you don't think something else will work for you, without serious experimentation. Trial and error and dedication will ultimately lead you to reach the best method for your situation.
If I meet someone who carries in an ankle holster I'll acknowledge that my experience tells me that ankle carry is not as good as carrying on the waistline. I will still accept that it might be the position they are currently most comfortable with. If ankle carry allows them to move forward in their journey as a concealed carrier I consider it a win.
There Are 3 Important Considerations For All Choosing to Off Body Carry
If you have tried different methods and decided to carry a gun in a purse or bag of any kind, okay. Here are 3 very critical things you need to consider and work through.
The Gun Should Be In A Dedicated Pocket That Meets the Requirements of A Holster
It is unsafe for your gun to be in the same pocket as other items such as keys, chapstick, pens, USB drives, cables, etc. Your gun should be in a pocket of the bag dedicated to the gun. Furthermore, just like any other holster in any other carry position, that pocket or combination of holster and pocket should meet the 4 core requirements of a holster:
- The holster must fully cover the trigger so that trigger can't be depressed by any object or force while in the holster.
- The gun should be retained in the holster. It shouldn't come out of the holster unless the user removes it.
- The holster should be retained to the body or bag. It shouldn't stay with the gun when it is drawn.
- The gun should be positioned in the holster in such a way that with practice the user can immediately achieve a full, shooter's grip on the gun.
Consider this option
Many respected professionals endorse is the Packin' Neat bag and purse organizer. The product allows you to convert an existing bag into a concealed carry bag while helping you meet all the above criteria.
Live a Lifestyle that Guarantees You Have The Gun In Reach When You Need It
When the gun is carried in an on-body holster I always know it is within reach and accessible. If the gun is in a bag there is a tendency to set the bag down in a place where I can't easily access the gun. Quick examples that come to mind:
- On the passenger seat, the floor of the passenger seat, or the back seat of a car when I'm driving
- In the shopping cart while I'm shopping at the store
- Under the chair or hanging on the back of the chair while at a restaurant
- On a counter or next to the back door of my home as soon as I get home
- Sitting in the car when I'm going into a business/store where I don't think I need that bag with me
Keeping the Gun Accessible:
If carrying off-body is part of your plan then you absolutely need to consider how you are going to prevent these situations. This is likely to include lifestyle changes. Remember you should always have immediate access to your firearm.
You also should consistently carry the bag in the way you have trained to deploy the gun. That means carrying the bag the same way all the time. If you change which shoulder the bag is on, you will struggle to build a consistent and efficient draw stroke.
Carry The Bag In a Way that Will Minimize Unauthorized Access to The Gun
When the gun is carried in an on-body holster I have significantly more control over it. I am more readily able to retain it from another person. However, when the firearm is in a bag the odds of an unauthorized person gaining access are increased.
This could be something self-induced where you forget your firearm is in the bag. Consider asking a child or friend to grab your cell phone from your bag. A criminal may gain access or hinder you from accessing your gun during an assault or a fight over the bag itself.
In many ways, the same changes you may make to your lifestyle to guarantee access to the gun (as referenced above) should also help you minimize the risk of unauthorized access.
Some Practical But Realistic Considerations
It isn't practical to think that anyone reading this is going to walk around the house all day or night with their bag/purse slung about the shoulder. When we get home we are likely to immediately put the bag down. This may be especially true when we get home and have a car full of groceries to carry in. We may say, I'll put the bag down just for a second to do this one thing, and forget to come back and secure the gun.
If there is a gun in that bag you should do one of three things.
- transition the gun from the bag to some sort of on-body holster
- lock up the bag
- transition the gun from the bag into a secure safe
If you lock the bag and gun in a safe consider how this affects your plan for responding to a violent emergency. Using a quick-access safe and having a gun(s) staged in various places etc. is one such strategy. Our Complete Home Defense DVD Course is an invaluable resource when establishing your home defense plan.
The third option is for obvious reasons not as ideal as having your firearm on your person but better than leaving it in the bag and throwing it all in a safe. The core principle is that leaving the gun unsecured in the bag at best could delay your armed response to a threat. At worst, it could be irresponsible behavior that allows a child to access the gun and ends in tragedy.
Of course, it requires work
Lastly, just like anyone who carries a gun on the body, carrying off the body requires training and practice to get the gun into the fight quickly. Off-body carry may actually require more training because of the randomness of how the bag may be situated on your body when you go to access the gun. Practice, Practice, Practice!
Finally, lest you think I am just picking on the off body carry folks. I also have addressed the topic of Carrying Backwards In Your Small of Back.
Don't Just Take My Word For It
Now, I'm not the end-all on this topic. As I've admitted I don't even carry off-body. So I'm embedding an interview that I conducted with Beth Alcazar where we discussed this very topic. She is the author of “Women's Handgun and Self-Defense Fundamentals.” I encourage you to give it a listen!