Off-body carry is a lot like treating a gun like a talisman. If just having a gun somewhere nearby would ward off criminals, then it’s great. But if you actually need to use your firearm, well…not so much. Actually drawing and presenting a firearm from an off-body carry solution is generally more difficult than most people appreciate. Give it a try sometime. Stick an (unloaded or training) gun in a briefcase, purse or backpack, close it as you would if you were walking down the street, then try to draw and present under time pressure. Then try to picture how long it would take you to do that under real stress . . .
That was enough to convince me that off-body carry wasn’t worth it. Then, when you add in the necessity of keeping your briefcase, purse, day planner, or fake iPad case with you at all times, well, that’s enough for me. The firearm stays on the hip, in a pocket, over the shoulder, or even a compression T-shirt holster, as the situation warrants. If the gun comes off the body, it’s secured.
I remember the anxieties I had when I first joined the ranks of the armed citizenry, and briefly entertained the idea of going down the off-body carry road. That was back when when the idea of carrying my (in retrospect, hilariously tiny) Kahr MK9 in a OWB holster underneath my leather jacket seemed like an edgy move. I do, however, understand why people new to the whole concealed-carry lifestyle might be attracted to off-body carry.
It is to them in particular that I say: it’s not a good idea. In time, you will figure out a workable on-body carry solution. There are a lot of options out there. There are quality holster makers who offer money-back satisfaction guarantees. You will find something that works for you, what you carry and how you dress.
Why do I bring this up?
Well, this happened.
A 3-year-old boy shot his father and pregnant mother over the weekend inside a hotel room in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Police say the boy removed a handgun from his mother’s purse Saturday and fired one shot, striking his father in the lower backside.
When heading out beyond the wire carrying a firearm of some kind, maintaining control of it is one of the day’s most important objectives. With off-body carry, you are risking both loss of control as well as sacrificing ease of access — generally for the sake of fashion and convenience. If fashion and convenience are your highest objectives for the day, then either reevaluate your priorities or leave the shootin’ iron at home. Your mind isn’t in the right place for carrying a firearm today. Know thyself.
If plan “A” involves a method of carry that the only alternative is a situation where you might end up leaving a firearm in a place where it can be accessed by someone else or stolen, well, it’s time to opt for plan “B”. Never forget: the best of intentions do not count for anything in the world of firearms — not in firearms law, not in trajectories, not in penetration, not in financial consequences, and certainly not in moral obligations.
Social norms and fashion in 21st century America being what they are, this issue is salient among women who choose to carry a firearm. Since women are increasingly purchasing firearms for their own use, this is something that our community should address.
I have, in my time, also heard more than one well-intentioned (there’s that phrase again) significant other from the male of the species who is so tickled pink that his wife/girlfriend is thinking about carrying a pistol that he’ll suggest that she “just throw it in her purse” without thinking through the risks that it entails.
Kathy Jackson, a firearms instructor from the Pacific Northwest, who has spent a bit of time thinking and writing about issues related to women who carry firearms agrees that off-body carry isn’t always the best policy.
I’m not a fan of carrying a handgun off-body. While I understand that some women literally have no other viable choices, my suspicion is that most women who carry in a purse do so as their default option, or because they have never given on-body carry the serious consideration it deserves….
Ms. Jackson hits it out of the park here:
One of my biggest concerns with purse carry is that it is very socially awkward to treat the gun purse with the respect it must be treated. Because it is socially awkward to give the firearm-containing purse the respect it must be given, the human tendency is to disregard the safety rules “just this once” and leave the purse and its gun in an unsecure location. One problem with this is that “just this once” is literally all the time it takes for an unexpected tragedy to strike. And the larger problem is that “just this once” has a nasty tendency of turning into an ongoing bad habit.
For instance, few women keep their purses literally on their laps the entire time they are visiting friends, even friends with children. Most women toss their purses casually over the back of their chairs in a restaurant (with the attendant risk of walking away without it). We shove our purses underneath our desks when we get to work, and don’t think about them again all day. We plunk our purses into the shopping cart in the grocery store, then turn away to pick out tomatoes. But it literally only takes a split second for a purse-snatcher to do his thing — and even less than that for a child or grandchild to get into your purse when mommy’s not watching as carefully as she ought. There is literally no safe place to set a gun purse down if it is not locked up. But physically holding onto your purse all the time will definitely earn you some odd looks from your friends. You must be prepared for this fact, and consider ways to cope with it.
While it is easy to think, “Oh, that won’t happen to me,” there are enough horror stories out there about this that it really gives one pause to think.
Ms. Jackson has published a lot on the ways a woman can dress around a gun at her site, corneredcat.com (which is a good site for firearm novices, regardless of gender.) She also spends some time talking about how to safely carry a firearm in a dedicated holster purse, for those who are determined to take that path anyway.
Though I can’t think of one at the moment, there may be a rare confluence of circumstances in which off-body carry is the best option. For all I know, there may be thousands of people who do it in a safe, secure way every day. But I know that it wouldn’t work for me. I’ve walked away from briefcases, left electronic equipment on the roof of my car before driving away, and know that, at some point, the odds would catch up with me. I suspect the same is true of others, too, which is why I say, carry on-body, or not at all.
(NOTE: It should go without saying – but I’ll say it anyway – that nothing in the above endorses a legislative solution to issues centered on individual responsibility.)