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In his article Carry On-Body or Not At All, Johannes Paulsen makes some arguments against carrying a weapon anyplace but affixed to your body. And he has a point, but with a little imagination we can see that there is more to the issue. So let me now argue with Johannes and hope that he is of good humor. It’s amusing to consider that a gun carried anywhere but right against you reduces the thing to a talisman, a meaningless trinket that we hope will ward off evil. Wrong answer. Unlike a talisman I can aim and fire my gun, which is considerably more effective than pelting you with my rabbit’s foot . . .

It’s an interesting point, though. This sort of thinking is not unique to off-body carriers (sounds like a disease state, no?). As  Clint Smith said, “If you carry a gun, people will call you paranoid. That’s ridiculous. If I have a gun, what in the hell do I have to be paranoid for?” You’re not going to prevent people from doing wrong, you’re going to try to manage the outcome.

That’s really what weapons are all about when it comes to self defense. A weapon of any sort is a management option. And here, off-body carry is nearly never as good as on-body carry. Nearly never. If you’re crawling around under a truck working, you might have more, not less access to your weapon if it isn’t in your holster. With a little imagination you can quickly dream up other situations in which your body position and immediate environment might dictate that on-body carry is not ideal.

Now let’s really let our imaginations run wild. Imagine you work in an environment where it’s both illegal and unwise to carry concealed. If your transit to and from such a vile place is a walk of some distance, it may be convenient to carry your hardware in your briefcase and stow it somewhere safe and either legal, or less likely to be detected when you arrive. It happens.

Imagine you have disabilities. Your need for protection has risen, and your ability to draw diminished. Drawing takes certain movements and capabilities that we don’t all have any more. Maybe off-body, but on-board your wheelchair makes sense.

Imagine that you have to don protective gear for a while and carry a toolbox with you. The gear makes any sort of a draw impossible. Are you better off with your weapon in the tool box, or totally inaccessible?

Are you driving? That might make accessing your weapon more difficult from certain carry locations. Sure, an on-body solution can be found for that, but an on-body solution that’s good for drawing while seated in a car and going into meetings in hoplophobic environs while wearing specialized clothing may not be possible. Briefcase carry might be better than nothing.

So Johannes, when you find the perfect spot where all the stars align and conditions are always ideal, let me know and I’ll move there with you. I’ll always carry on-body and be ready for anything. Well, anything bullets can solve. Well, little bullets flying relatively slowly. I’ve got bigger, better, faster bullets at home, it’s just that I can’t carry the long gun that shoots them conveniently. I had to compromise.

Carrying any weapon for defense is a compromise, an attempt to pick a solution when you don’t know exactly what, when or if the problem will be. When I carry a pistol I compromise effectiveness for convenience and concealability. Rifles are better. So should we only carry a rifle or not at all, right? Or do you balance needs and options and compromise? So it is with your concealed carrying method. It’s a compromise that must be made wisely depending on the existing realities.

Are there risks to off-body carry? Sure. Off-body increases the potential for access by others to your weapon. But that isn’t absolute. The gun on your hip is more secure, but there are people who can take it away from you, trust me. No toddler has every shot anyone with a gun that’s not accessible to her. True enough, but I suspect that guns carried in purses have saved many more lives than they have cost.

The on-body-or-not-at-all diktat is logically identical to essentially all of the arguments against the right to keep and bear arms. If people never handled guns, there would be no negligent or accidental or intentional discharges. If no one carried concealed weapons, no one would ever draw a gun and use it to hurt other people (whether they needed it or not). Gun violence would go down, never mind anything else. No guns, no gun violence. I was hoping for more from the People of the Gun. We usually pride ourselves at being able to get past step one, unlike our political opponents.

Of course there are risks with off-body carry. Just as there are risks to on-body carry. Plenty of people have unintentionally shot themselves or others while “presenting”, dropping, fumbling or otherwise mishandling their gun from their on-body “carry solution.”

The response here is that none of that would have happened if so-and-so was done correctly. Which is true, of course. Heck, that’s pretty much true of all problems. Nothing would go wrong if everything would be done right. Which makes it virtually meaningless due to its overwhelming obviousness.

Off-body carry? Yes, there are problems with it that must be recognized and managed. Presumably we can trust people who are competent to own and carry a weapon to figure it out.

In the end, on-body carry is always better than off-body if everything is ideal. It’s just that things are never always ideal. So it’s like this: IF you can wear the clothing of your choice, and IF you can carry legally anywhere you deem it appropriate, and IF no one is ever meaningfully offended if you happen to briefly reveal your secret in sensitive environs, and IF you are never in a position where access to your on-body weapon is impossible, and IF you are physically capable, THEN always carry on body. If all of those things are not true, though, you do the best you can, like you do with all other aspects of life on earth.

That’s my advice. Consider your individual circumstances and carry accordingly. You’re going to have to act like a grown-up here. Realize that you’re going to have to compromise something. Balance effectiveness, safety, access and social realities. Then make the right compromises. You won’t achieve perfection in any area. Then go forth and live your life in peace and be careful out there.


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  1. Maintain positive control of all your firearms. Situations differ, but leaving a handgun in a purse withing potential reach of a small child is a no-no. A retention holster may help, but nothings truly childproof. If I had to choose between a toolbox or getting a concealed holster/pouch for the toolbelt, I know which I’d choose.

  2. I have to plead ignorance. I do not carry at all times. I do not carry open. Will I run or will I fight regardless? As a former paratrooper and jungle warfare vet, I would like to think I would fight, firearm or not. I do carry a substantial folding blade at all times. Legally, of course.

    • I actually decided to carry AFTER deciding that I would fight. Years ago, I decided that I would not just stand by and watch evil happen. I would stand against it, even if that meant losing my life.

      It wasn’t till later that I chose to tool up.

      I still live on the edge as far as most of the commenters around here are concerned. 99% of the time I walk around with a pocket pistol and no spare mag. 7 rounds of .380?!? That’s like walking around naked!!! I might as well not carry at all!!!!! (Sarcasm).

      • I don’t claim to be a martial arts guru, or even competitive in general, but I’m pretty sure that after I put 2 holes in each of 3 guys, and one hole in a fourth, with my .380, I will then be able to kick their asses all by myself. If six arrive, I guess it’s one hole each and do my best, the last BB for the face of the first guy to reach me. The idea of needing to take on the world all by yourself is silly. Might happen! Still silly.

  3. +1
    I used to carry in a corporate environment where concealed carry was pretty difficult (about the best solution I could come up with was a Glock 26 in an ankle holster, but even that didn’t cut it day after day after day). So, I opted for carry in a concealed compartment in my laptop bag; and those were ubiquitous at the large software company in Redmond, Washington where I worked.

    Even now, I sometimes stuff my handgun in my computer bag, although my current employer is more likely to upbraid me on my choice of caliber than the fact that I carry. Or, to double down, I’ll carry my XDs on-body, and back that up with a bigger XD in the bag, for those moments when you absolutely, positively need to sling lots of lead downrange.

    Unless you’re accosted on the street or standing in line at a retail checkout, chances are fairly good that you’d be able to access a weapon from an off-body carry location. Say the thugs charge into the cafe where you’re sipping coffee – if you’re in anything other than Condition White, you should have ample time to draw into Covert Ready position to see what develops.

    Which leads to the real issue – when you confront a situation with a weapon, the pistol needs to be IN YOUR HANDS. Merely having it tucked away on your person isn’t enough; it’s unlikely you’re going to Johnny Ringo your way to victory in a gunfight. When trouble starts brewing and it looks like a ballistic solution may be the answer, whether the gun is on your ankle, strapped to your appendix, or in your purse, the first thing that should happen is the gat needs to find its way into your hand. Unlike a Samurai’s Katana, it will hopefully just slide back into concealment without needing to be fired, but whether under your three layers of jackets and vests, or hidden in a rip-open fanny pack, it’s not going to do you any good unless it’s ready for instant presentation.

    • Amen. I was in nearly the same situation in nearby Bellevue at a contractor for said large software company. No one cared that I carried (not that anyone knew, excluding one very trustworthy friend), but they had the policy on the books for whatever legal and insurance reasons, and I had to keep up appearances.

      To your point about having the gun in hand, I’m in complete agreement. I can’t emphasize enough how helpful it is to practice, in a variety of positions. My bag has a dedicated pocket, but even then, I like knowing I can find the zipper pull and extract the gun quickly and without accident, by habit.

      Funny that we even carry similar pieces. In my bag, I use an old-skool XD40 sub. My buddy uses the same bag with a Glock 19, but that seemed a little tight for getting in and out quickly.

      The most important thing for me, as with anything, is that I always know where the gun is, I’m comfortable with the rig, and I stay practiced so access is a habit.

  4. Good points here. I had already read the other article and had noticed some good points there as well. My main issue with _my_ off-body carry is ADD. As my father would say: you’d lose your head if it weren’t attached. And so, after some “oops-es” with non-firearms (e.g., cell phone back when they were bigger), I opted for on-body (e.g., Uncle Mike’s belt pouch, then a pocket holster).

    Like Don mentioned, some of us are in sensitive environments (e.g., a hospital operating room) where an belt, shoulder, or T-shirt carry ain’t gonna make it. There’s no way that a person could manage to discretely change into scrubs in the locker room without the risk of being seen.

    So, for me, I’m OK with my LC9 in a pocket holster, but I would prefer my Sig on my belt.

    Life is what you make of it, friend. If it doesn’t fit, make alterations.

    • Silverado! I love that movie. Watch it every 6 months or so. Bonus points for quoting one of the funnest westerns ever filmed.

  5. Look, one’s personal situation cannot be blanketed by “thou shalt carry on person” diktat. Where I work, I cannot carry on person, I crawl, squat, bend, and wire up and repair yachts. For me, it makes no sense, would be dangerous, and downright uncomfortable.
    However, I have an old milsurp gas mask USGI Olive Drab “man purse” for lack of a better description, that is man enough, and small enough to not cause attention when I hit the store after work. I also have no small kids around me. On weekends, I lawfully carry concealed on person. But not every persons lifestyle or situation is going to cover blanket opinions. With kids around, that changes the whole
    dynamic and yes more direct control of a weapon is mandated. Just don’t dive down the rabbit hole we all criticize on other topics by stating it must be done this way or your totally wrong. Or in laymans terms different strokes for different folks.

  6. This is the logic that says there are cases where not wearing a seat belt will save your life and wearing it will leave you dead so it’s ok to not wear it all the time.

    It isn’t the threats you see coming from a distance that will kill you, it is the ones you don’t see until it is on top of you that will do you in.

    • True, but direct and indirect threats, imminent vs. not immenent threats still core down to that ol phrase: situational awareness. You either have it at all times, or not. Having it can be the difference whether or not one on or off body carries. Your mileage may vary, but I think we’re on the same page.

      • “You either have it at all times, or not.”

        No human being has 100% situational awareness “at all times.”

      • And that is the conundrum. It is impossible for a single person to maintain SA 100% of the time if for no other reason you have to sleep.

  7. IMHO the real problem is people (primarily women) who default to off body carry simply because it’s convenient for them, not because it’s the best mode of carry for their situation. And especially with women I get it, when you already carry a purse with all your junk in it, it’s pretty easy to toss your carry gun in there too right? But then it’s also pretty easy to leave that purse where a small child can get to it isn’t it? Or maybe a bad guy stealing it cause he wants your cell phone and credit cards?

    There may be a time and place for off body carry, but you can’t let your guard down and let whatever you’ve got your gun in out of your possession! Positive control at all times!

    • I just had this discussion with my son. His wife feels it more important “to look hot” than to conceal on-body and is unwilling to modify her wardrobe. I suggested that she had not yet given enough thought to what it means to carry.

    • Yeah, I think this is the point a lot of people miss. You have to be close to paranoid with the bag, to the point where you wear it to the salad bar (for one weird example). If you could boil it down to one phrase, it might be “if you carry off-body, act like it’s on-body.” If you’re a lady, keep the purse on your person as much as possible. At work, lock it in a drawer if you have to leave it for some reason. That sort of idea.

    • Why do people automatically revert to the “for the children” mode, particularly toddlers, etc? My wife carries her gun in her purse. Any “children” fooling with her purse are probably trying to steal it, and will be dealt with on that basis. Our children are grown to the point we are not concerned about our grandchildren, and it should be years before we worry about Great grandchildren. Anybody who IS in that situation, with toddlers, will be out of it in a few years, still with many decades of carry remaining in front of them, yet we keep hearing about 2-year-olds as if they will remain 2 for the rest of your life. Remove the infants and there is zero reason to condemn off-body carry.

      Of course, for many, there is still the “You MUST do exactly as *I* say, or you are WRONG and to be shunned and shamed!” group, seems to be a lot of that going on here.

  8. Great article.

    My favorite off-body carry is my Kel-Tec SUB-2000 folding carbine in .40 S&W caliber. It fits nicely in a notebook computer case which means I can carry it anywhere without anyone giving it any thought or concern whatsoever. If a sudden attack occurs at contact distance, I draw my on-body concealed or openly carried handgun for immediate engagement. If an attack occurs such that I have four to five seconds to unzip the notebook computer case, lock the carbine open, and charge the bolt, then I will go that route with a superior self-defense firearm (versus a pistol)**.

    In other words I hedge my bets and take advantage of the best of both worlds.

    ** The 16 inch barrel greatly improves sight radius and hence accuracy (versus a pistol) and replicates the velocities of a .357 Magnum revolver with a four inch barrel shooting maximum-power (e.g. DoubleTap or Buffalo Bore brand) loads. Furthermore, the carbine weighs more than a handgun and you hold it with both hands against your shoulder — that means follow-up shots are much faster and more accurate than a semi-auto pistol or revolver.

  9. My wife has a CC purse. I would rather she didn’t carry in it, but when she does she’s very aware of her surroundings.

    I often transport my cc gun from my house to my car and then into my office (and then the reverse) in my laptop case’s open front pocket. I very seldom carry anywhere else in it. I personally don’t feel comfortable not having my gun on my person. A spare mag or speed loader or two, OK. My gun not so much.

  10. Well yeah …nothing is perfect. Speedo at the beach? In the middle of the police station? Federal court? Of course you have to adapt.

  11. “I suspect that guns carried in purses have saved many more lives than they have cost.”
    ^ This.

    “The on-body-or-not-at-all diktat is logically identical to essentially all of the arguments against the right to keep and bear arms.”
    ^ And this. We don’t like people telling us what kind of gun we can own, where we can carry it, or how big the magazine can be. I’m sure as hell not going to tolerate someone telling me how to carry it. I’m responsible for it.

    Two well-publicized incidents in the last two months, one of them tragic, are a grim reminder of how quickly toddlers can get into purses and pull triggers. I have a 3-yr-old grandson who is lighting-fast at getting into stuff he shouldn’t. When he is present, my wife’s tactics change.

    • Easy enough! Off body, empty pipe. Best argument for a semi instead of a revolver for the purse. Unless, of course, your bride can’t reliably work the slide.

  12. One scenario that I think off body might be superior to on body is that a woman walking through a dark parking lot can have her hand in her purse grasping her firearm while walking to her car and no one would think anything of it. If she is attacked she can simply shoot through her purse without ever having to draw the weapon (revolvers would be advantageous for such a maneuver). She also may carry a less concealable, more powerful weapon.

  13. My one rule for everything firearms related is whatever I am comfortable with. Everything else is irrelevant particularly opinions coming from self anointed “experts “who know nothing of my circumstances.

    • Sounds like you carry the same weapon in the same way that I do. What I choose, how I want. And MYOB.

  14. OFWG, maybe I could pimp my scooter chair out with an M-60 on a swivel mount…or better yet a mini gun!

  15. People are treating these kid-got-in-a-purse incidents the same way the grabbers treat school shootings: common occurrences and perfectly valid reasons to cease a legitimate activity.

    • The dangers of off body carry go beyond these two incidents. Bags are a lost or stolen and then you have potentially put the gun in the hands of criminal and If you don’t see the threat coming in time the gun is useless. Off body carry only works when you can see the threat in which case you probably don’t need the gun because you get out of dodge. When seconds count you want to buy more seconds not sell them.

      • Again, how often do purses with guns get stolen?

        As for your third sentence, I don’t see how that doesn’t apply to on-body carry as well.

        Again, we’re treating off-body purse carry with doom and gloom despite because of a few recent events. How many off-body carry on a daily basis with no issue? How many guns are stolen due to off-body carry? Is this really as big an issue as it’s being presented here? So far, no data has been presented and instead those arguing against off-body carry rely on a laundry list of hypotheticals AKA the anti-gun playbook.

        It’d be more comical if it wasn’t just sad.

        • My wife has been carrying in her purse constantly for 15 years, every day, including 7 years of working inside a GFZ. She is on her 3rd gun, because she found one she liked better, not because she lost one, and she has never had a problem. She began purse carrying a gun in 1965, when she was 18 and there were no licenses, especially for 18-year-olds. I know, I bought her the gun. Magical one-size-fits-all solutions to be inflicted on all others illustrate ignorance or arrogance, take your pick.

      • On body carry only works if you see the threat too, though. If you get ambushed by some punk playing the Knock Out game, your gun can be as easily stolen as if it were carried in a picnic basket. Although we try to stay in Condition Yellow, we can only scan part of our environment at any one time. It’s unrealistic to say that carrying on-body will always prevent a gun theft or always enable a person to avoid a situation – a concealed or open-carried handgun is no more of a talisman than one carried in your wife’s purse.

        • I congratulate you two on a fine strawman argument.

          The general principle is to minimize risk. You will not leave your gun somewhere or have a purse thief unknowingly snatch your gun if it is on body. They have to mug you to get it. And where do you get the idea that because I am against off body carry that I think you can’t lose to a mugger because you carry on body or off? I already said the threats you don’t see are the ones that kill you. In the past I pointed out that the most dangerous threat you will face is the pop up threat where many of the things you learn in your average training class do not apply when you first identify the threat 10′ in front of you.

        • So your response is to call our posts “strawman arguments” and respond with your own strawman? You’ve answered no questions and only proceeded to post unsupported claims and generalizations.
          To sum up my point: you’re full of crap.

        • I guess you don’t know what a strawman argument is.

          A strawman argument is when you set up case that doesn’t exist.

          It’s not stating the obvious that when you carry off body that you can lose your container or have it stolen. Those events happen every day.

          Is it not stating the obvious fact that if you have enough to time pull your gun out of your backpack or purse that the threat presents itself a distance greater than 10′?

          So let me state the obvious, since you cannot refute the argument you engage in Ad Hominem.

          So i guess you are the one who needs a quick trip to the head.

  16. As we all know, there have been two toddler-sourced firearm tragedies in the last two months. Both concerned “off-body” weapon carry. But I have a question….when the hell has it become routine/acceptable/normal for toddlers to dig into the purse of the mother, for any reason. Yes, I am from long ago, but if I had ever put my hand in my mother’s purse without permission, I would not be here today. This idea that children should have not limits, no restrictions is but a demonstration that we are living in the era of the third generation of children raising children to remain children.

    Yes, the toddlers will “be scarred for life” over their misadventures, and many would say that is burden enough for them to carry. I disagree….parents who let children freely rummage in their purses/pockets are creating a threat to me. Instead of the parents receiving the bullets, it could have been anyone within 360 degrees of the child. It is hard enough to monitor surroundings for teen/adult threats. Now I gotta worry about babies?

    • Sam,

      A toddler is usually defined as 3 years old or under. Trust me, they do stuff. Even the best behaved ones.

      • Of all the things I got into as a toddler (including pushing a flathead screwdriver into a wall socket), my parents and grand parents NEVER mentioned one instance where I just reached into my mother’s purse, for any reason (and I would have emptied the whole thing).

    • Even well-raised toddlers do stuff they aren’t supposed to do. They do stuff without thinking and without considering the consequences. If the consequences are getting their hand slapped or some other immediate, negative feedback, they will eventually learn to behave. But making mistakes and suffering the consequences is all part of growing up.

  17. When I’m out doing conservation work, all too often on-body carry carries a high risk of getting grit — specifically, beach sand — in places where it is, shall I say, less than helpful.

    I tried carrying in my backpack, but it’s not uncommon for me to have to ditch the pack and be more than one step away from it. I tried carrying in the tool pack around a 3.5-gallon bucket I haul supplies in, but the same problem occurs as with the backpack, plus keeping sand out of the works is again an issue. Another option was dedicating one side of my service dog’s backpack, but the weight imbalance was ridiculous, besides the way it crowded the regular supplies he carries.

    So for those who are imaginative and willing to think about off-body carry, any suggestions for someone who spends a fair amount of time crawling around in the sand?

    • Pocket carry. A small gun on you is better than a bigger gun you can’t get to, and much better than one that’s in the purse/satchel/etc. that’s just been stolen.

  18. Get in the gym. Get off sodaa a.small try To get fitter, okay? Strong lifts three days a week will not kill you.

    Use a belly band.

    Try a slim, sine stack sub compact.

    Deep cover carry. It works.

  19. I have few opinions about off-body carry other than safety. I took an instructor course where we had to teach students how to draw from a purse. It was a real challenge to draw from a purse safely. I learned a valuable lesson in the class: Whatever carry method you use, practice, practice, and practice. If you have time after practicing the safe draw, practice some more.

  20. I think having a gun near you is not as good as having one on you, but it’s a whole lot better than not having one at all. You just have to take extra precautions. I think there are dumber ways to carry, such as ankle holsters (especially in shorts!) small of the back holsters (because you are just trying to look tacticool, you may start the fight laying on your back and it makes you really easy to disarm) and belly band holsters (because you have to practically undress to get to your gun)

    I do off-body when I take martial arts classes and yoga classes. For martial arts, the gun is in a briefcase. I lock the compartment with the gun before I set it down. I put it in the front of the studio, where I can see it the whole class. Before I leave the studio, I unlock the compartment. For yoga, I have a hollow, wooden yoga block with a sliding door. The gun is inside. You have to adapt.

  21. Good write up highlighting some of the very legitimate reason to off body carry and not leaving it to others imaginations.

    I make use of off body carry every work day. I am not restricted from having a firearm in my place of employment but I sure as hell don’t want to accidentally expose a concealed firearm to another employee. Even though it is not restricted, I would likely loose my job and still have a nasty talk with the police. So I choose the best compromise, firearm in my backpack and then locked in the desk if it must be left unattended for more than a few minutes time.

    • I’m missing this. If you are not restricted from carrying at work, why would you lose your job and face arrest?

      • I live in anti gun CT. It is not in the employee handbook that I am restricted from carry or possession of a firearm at work, in fact it says nothing about weapons. The law also does not say I have to ask if it is allowed and I do not work in a place where it is restricted by law to carry or possess a firearm. I can also be ‘let go’ at any point for any reason.

        While I am not breaking the law carrying at work and not asking if it is OK, I am regardless put into a precarious place where I basically have to divine my employers (aka the executives) feelings about guns, and thus if I would be fired for carrying or having a gun at work.

        As of now, I have some doubt because I know of many very pro gun people at work and that might save me, but I think I’d get canned if ever found out. I don’t think I’d be arrested, and if I was I don’t see how I could be charged; nothing I am doing is against the law. However, that does not preclude my employer from thinking otherwise and calling the police because of that or calling the police as a security/safety measure. At the very least, in this scenario, it is extremely probable I’d have to do some explaining to help the police figure that much out.

        Hopefully that clarifies my position.

  22. In CA, at least when I was reading up on laws in 2006, it was lawful to conceal a firearm at your place of work, unless your company had specific policies against it. This went for anybody, CCW or not. So if you lived in a county with bogus CCW policies, you could potentially still be packing off body at your place of work, without any red tape headaches. I did read over this law on the CA DOJ site 9 years ago and could have easily been changed by now.

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