Lucy Tote (courtesy 511tactical.com)

5.11 now makes concealed carry bags for women. I’m sure the $110 Lucy Tote [above] is a thoughtfully-designed, well-executed product. It’s certainly better for a woman to off-body carry in a bag designed for the job, rather than shoving her gat into any old bag in the hopes she can fish it out in time should an attacker pose the threat of death or grievous bodily harm. But regular readers will not be surprised to learn . . .

that I wouldn’t recommend this product – or 5.11’s Sarah Satchel. On-body carry for women involves a lot of expense and dedication and trial and error, requiring multiple set-ups for various clothing options. But off-body carry involves a tremendous amount of risk – of theft, inadvertent discovery by a child and too-slow presentation (leading to injury or death). It’s a free country, but don’t do it.

Am I wrong, again, still?

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33 Responses to Question of the Day: Off-Body Carry for Women?

  1. I have to agree with you completely, Robert – and I’ve been telling students this for ten years. Each person has to make up their own mind, evaluate their own risks and the extent to which they will alter their personal lifestyle and dress to minimize that risk. One size does not fit all.

    And so, the bottom line is that – especially for women – the risk of carrying in a less than optimal way is still far less than the risk of not carrying at all.

    I don’t carry a purse of any kind… have not for nearly 30 years. I carry my gun, keys, spare mag. openly, on my belt most of the time, and settle for a far from optimal fanny pack holster rig when CC is necessary. But I have options many women do not have, and I don’t worry about being “fashionable” or fancy dress. Works for me, but I’m not going to criticize any other woman who chooses differently.

    • I think that’s why it’s called a “tote” and not a “purse”. Not that I’m any kind of fashion person.

  2. Purse carry is not limited to women. I have seen several young men purse carry, but only for short distances at high speed, encouraged along by bystanders yelling “stop, thief!”

  3. I don’t see it necessarily as an either/or proposition. You should carry a backup gun, anyway, so why not one on and one off body?

    Off body does give you some greater flexibility, in that you can carry a larger firearm, with greater capacity, or larger calibet with similar capacity, as your concealed piece.

    As for presentation speediness, that all depends. Walking through a parking lot with one hand on the firearm in the purse is quicker to present than a firearm in an IWB holster. You could even shoot through the bag, if needed.

    On/off carry debates are getting as pointless as caliber wars. There is no absolute. Knowing the advantages and limitations of each approach is important, but to declare one the winner in all cases is just silly.

    • I agree that it’s not an argument that could possibly be resolved by concluding that off-body carry is “absolutely” bad practice.

      I think we ought to make a PR argument that women have “special needs” for carry. Prescinding from any consideration of “fashion” there is really no good practical substitute for OC for a woman. She should carry in a consistent manner so that a modest level of practice will yield adequate presentation time. To expect a woman to achieve a modest level of practice for MULTIPLE CC rigs adapted to multiple outfits is unrealistic. For many women, the best she can make of carry is to carry in her purse; which has public safety disadvantages. Therefore, the legislatures and the public in general should tolerate OC – for the WOMEN!

      OK, so, some women are going to purse-carry. It is not optimal; but neither is CC-on-body nor OC for legal and public-acceptance reasons. So, let’s deal with the reality as it confronts women.

      What are best-practices? I’m imagining an over-the-holder strap that is steel-reinforced. Adopting different habits of maintaining immediate custody and control over one’s purse. Purse design features. Children’s access to purse in the home/car/shopping-basket. Shouldn’t we be concentrating on these issues?

  4. Engineered to provide female operators</I?

    Engineered?? It's purse/"fashion" not actual equipment.

    "female operator"? Of what? A Visa card at Nordstroms? "operator" har/snort/laugh, Have a donut.

  5. If I were a female, I think the only way I would carry a gun in a purse would be that there was a compartment in the side of the purse (of which there a few on the market), and you kept your hand in there all the time, and if you had to shoot, you would just shoot right through the end of the purse.
    With women’s styles going all over the place, would it not be an easy matter to just wear some kind of scarf, or maybe a sash to conceal a handgun?
    If none of that works, how about a mouse gun (22 mag) You can almost conceal one of the little NAA revolvers in your armpits, if you haven’t shaved there for a while.
    Yeah, I know I’m gonna get mail on that one!

    • There are probably thousands of different handbags specifically designed to safely carry a gun. That’s not the problem. Nobody should carry any sort of gun without a holster that protects the trigger. There are a surprising number of options besides purses, believe me.

      Shooting through the purse, or a pocket, might be necessary, but it’s going to be a single shot unless the slide can cycle or the cylinder can turn – and that’s not likely happening in a properly fitting holster… I’d say it would be best to avoid that if at all possible.

  6. Jonathan makes valid points and every situation is different. But for me, “off-body” generally is at the bottom of the list as a method for toting a weapon. Even though it still qualifies as “concealed” carry, the purse (or man bag) is in a zone just outside of an individual’s maximum control of the weapon. And for women, that purse could just as well have a target painted on it with the words, “SNATCH ME.” Admittedly, the weapon IS hidden but I believe the added degree of situational awareness necessary for this method is more than the average citizen can handle (Just my view … hope it helps someone along the way).

    Stay safe — and remember: “The Only Thing That Stops a Bad Guy With a Gun Is a Good Guy With a Gun.”

  7. I’m not afraid to say I firmly believe this is a bad idea. The bag can be taken, forgotten, pilfered, children playing in, and far to slow to obtain your firearm in the ambush. If you are knocked down, where is your bag? These are a marketing idea to make money but a bad idea for self-protection and can lead to other bad outcomes.

      • Is it any more nuts than paying $175 for a good shoulder holster? Or $70 for a holster with a $60 gun belt?

        • Yes it is… since the nylon “holster” that comes with the purse looks like an ND waiting for a place to happen. And the holsters you mention are built a whole lot better than that.

          But whatever. I sure won’t be buying one. 🙂 I hate purses.

    • The ONLY purse carry option any woman should consider is one with a sturdy cross body strap. Most purse snatchers attack from behind and the purse is gone before the victim is able to react, leaving no opportunity for accessing a concealed weapon. A cross body strap with the purse tucked under the elbow is a much more formidable obstacle, and gives time to reach inside a quick access pocket for the pistol.

  8. Until someone effectively markets “The Tactical Mumu”, off body carry isn’t going away.

    It’s a free country, but don’t do it.

    Spoken like a proggy/yankee.

    Am I wrong, again, still?

    Yes, you are.

    Y

  9. “The Tactical Mu Mu”
    That reminds me of an old question they were asking in the late 50’s

    Where’s the darkest parts of Africa?

    Under a Mau Mau’s Mu Mu!

  10. Off-body can be done effectively.

    Your off-body carry solution should, just as any on-body carry solution, include:

    1.) A retention device of some kind, so your gat is not haphazardly floating around in the first place – and so that the muzzle is pointed in a safe direction.

    2.) Said retention device should fully cover the trigger guard so that nothing gets caught in it and you end up having a negligent discharge. (Remember: there are no accidents, only ignorance and stupidity.)

    PLUS:

    3.) For off-body carry, this retention device and ultimately your carry piece, should be in a compartment that is wholly separate from everything else. (Remember the story of the woman whose toddler shot her in Wal-Mart? That’s why.)

  11. Agree, off body carry is a bad idea. All it takes is a moment’s mind lapse (like Sara Tipton’s example the other day of leaving her firearm in a cabinet by her computer when she left the house) to leave the gun in the purse on the table for a child to find. Body carry only. Most women’s blouses are fairly baggy in the waist or contain textures or prints nowadays anyway, so it shouldn’t be that difficult for women to conceal. Gun on body or in the safe.

    Not to mention, who has time to open a zippered compartment?

  12. In Illinois, if a woman does off body carry, the moment she lets go of the bag she is in violation of the concealed carry statute. Concealed carriers are required to retain physical possession of the firearm at all times.

    • OTOH, in Mississippi, off-body carry is not considered “concealed carry” and may be done without a permit.

    • Really? Restrictive gun laws in Illinois that punish concealed carriers for the most minor of infractions? I don’t believe it!

  13. The flashbang holster is the best.

    Immobilize an attacker with the quick promise of visible hooters, then shoot him while he gapes.

  14. Is this on-body/off-body thing the new “9mm vs. .45ACP” or “concealed vs. open carry” click-bait?

    You don’t like purses. We get it. The horse is dead, Robert. Stop beating it.

    • Exactly! “A way” to carry has become “the way” to carry. Oh and by the way, you better be carrying “the right caliber” which is .45/ 9mm ONLY. And forget those revolvers, because nobody uses them anymore. And the most effective pistol HAS to be Glokfield xr99, because why would you choose anything else. And forget open carry because someone can sneak up behind you and disarm you before raping you. So, let’s face it – open carry should never be done by women because their weapon will only be used against them and… and… uhhh wait a sec, have to consult with the MDA “Why guns are eeeeeeevil” handbook.
      I’m a guy. I carry off body. I always carry. Whatever happened to “better the gun you have than the gun you don’t have” line?

    • Welp, according to multiple “experts”, it’s better for a woman not to carry at all because she’s too irresponsible to watch over her purse. In fact, she will likely loose control of her gun (because she’s a scatterbrained ditz) if she purse carries. Better just keep that rape whistle in her pocket.

  15. True story: I’ve told it in more detail before so I’ll avoid that now. I mention it because it a relevant example. In a particularly threatening situation my former boss, all 110 lbs of her, surprised the hell out of me by facing down a crazy homeless guy in the middle of a parking lot. Turned out she had a Glock 19 in a false bottom of her purse. I know her well enough to know she was ready to shoot that guy. Fortunately he wasn’t crazy enough to not turn around and leave. For many women, clothing styles and small size dictate off body carry. In that case situational awareness is what counts. I’ll admit that her’s was a dam sight better than mine.

  16. There are times when off body carry is the only option.My carry purse has its’ own compartment, with a lock. So unless a toddler is also equipped with a sharp knife, that doesn’t apply, most of the time.My carry purse allows me to hold onto my gun while going to my car in a parking lot, should I feel the need. Aim might be off, but I’d have no qualms about putting a big hole in my purse, if necessary. Just depends how close my attacker is.

    Never had a purse stolen, and I’ve traveled quite a bit to places where the risk is higher, than home. My carry purse, with it’s lock, is a good place to store necessary papers and meds. But, since I’ve never had a purse snatched, it could be that time is running out.

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