Off Body Concealed: Why I Choose to Purse Carry

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Tactical concealed carry purse off body
Courtesy Tactica

By Kippi Leatham

To quote Robert Heinlein: “An armed society is a polite society. Manners are good when one may have to back up his acts with his life”. In my lifetime, I have always tried to carry myself well and when CCW permits became available in my state of residence, I also began carrying myself well-armed. I firmly believe that a community where citizens are armed and legally able to carry a firearm is a safer place to live.

I feel fortunate to live in Arizona, a state that allows open carry and in more recent history, concealed carry; even though my family and I weren’t firearm owners for the first two decades of our life here. Although I didn’t grow up around guns, I did not have a fear or dislike of them. I respected the Second Amendment and those who legally owned guns; law enforcement agents, hunters, everyday citizens, sporting men and women.

Once finally introduced to firearms, though, I was immediately hooked – grip, sights & trigger. I began competing in the action shooting sports in 1986, and had guns for home protection soon after.

I’ve had my CCW permit for many years now and with few legal exceptions, always exercise my right to carry concealed.

Courtesy Elegant & Armed

Choosing to carry for self protection is a very personal decision and one which certainly should not to be taken lightly. There are many factors to consider and scenarios to contemplate. As women, we have other constraints to work within as well.

It’s difficult to always carry on body. Small frames, narrow waistlines and snug-fitting clothing aren’t conducive to the concealment of even the most compact of pistols.

For these reasons, many women opt to purse carry, even though it’s not the optimal solution.

Purse Carry Means Additional Responsibilities

When out and about, my purse never leaves my body, never leaves my grasp.

I always try to buy purses that have a strap long enough to carry across my body. When sitting at a restaurant or other location, my purse is in my lap, wrapped at my feet or strapped across a chair in a secure manner. I cannot ever let my guard down regarding the location of my purse, ever.

Galco Metropolitan Holser Bag purse carry off body
Courtesy Galco

The pistol I carry in my purse is not the same pistol as I carry on body (when I can) and is definitely not the same as the firearms that we have in our home for self protection. Nor is it the same gun I take hiking, and not at all similar to the guns that I compete with.

Different guns for different purposes

With that said and without going into another blog topic, for my purse gun, I have chosen the Springfield Armory XD-M 3.8 in .45 caliber. It’s the best concealed carry gun for me in my purse.


Why I choose the XD-M 3.8″ for purse carry:

  • The grip and trigger safeties on the XD-M pistols are a must-have for me. I am confident if I use a purse without a built-in holster or separate compartment, the XD-M 3.8 can be securely and safely carried.
  • The compact frame and overall length of the 3.8 fits easily in all of my day to day purses even when carried in a holster.
  • The combination of the largest of the 3 interchangeable backstraps and the 13 round magazine fits my large, un-ladylike hands perfectly. If your hands are more petite than mine, the small or medium back strap and standard magazine will most likely fit your grip to the Goldilocks’ standard; just right.
  • .45 ACP is my top pick caliber for protection.

I shoot my carry XD-M 3.8 on a regular basis and love the feel of the .45 since I usually compete with 9mm. When I’m done practicing, I stow my 3.8 back in my purse, hoping that I don’t have to grab it again until my next scheduled session at the range.

Springfield discontinued most of their XD-M line earlier this year, but there are a lot of other very good choices out there for the way you like to shoot and carry. Get out there and find the handgun that’s right for you. Better to have and not need than to need and not have.

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    • RE: “Choosing to carry for self protection is a very personal decision and one which certainly should not to be taken lightly.”

      Very personal decision? When you have to ask and pay big brother for a special permission slip to wear a coat over a firearm or have a firearm in your purse makes it everything but a, “Very personal decision.”

      • Not sure what I said to merit that comment. I never off-body carry; I just need a smaller pistol now (or OC a larger one, where appropriate) than in my trimmer days. I just found that sentence in the article counterintuitive.

      • I have a multitude of physical issues that makes it hard to body carry. I have my pistol in my ruck at all times since pain prevents me from body carry. It is the best compromise for me, not for everyone. Body carry has its detractors too.

    • Umm… yeah, ☹️, I often murse carry due to the fashionably snug 3xl harley n carhardt shirts I have in my ensemble…

        • Umm… except I very much doubt others are looking at me squeezed into aforementioned garments and thinking “how fashionable” to themselves. As jwm just pointed out…

  1. Interesting article even though it read like an ad for Springfield at the end. Related to Rob Leatham of Springfield???

  2. A guy I worked with carried a shoulder bag which he called a “European Organizer”.

    That was two strikes:
    1. It was a purse.
    2. Calling it European did not make it something other than a purse.

    We were good friends, despite the purse. He was a fundamentalist Christian, so I pointed out that none of the prophets and none of the 12 Deciples is described in the Bible as carrying a purse. He argued that they all had money bags (early purses). I argued that the money bags were un-attached pockets, the precursors to actual pockets.

    History proved I was correct. Pockets were invented and money bags faded from common use.

    Bottom line: It was a purse.

  3. I think the basic concept is correct. The person must carry, have a weapon they can handle, a caliber that is best suited for their ability to handle the recoil, and be comfortable with all of their choices which are in fact personal. However, the most important thing for anyone who carries or who has a firearm for protection is to come to grips with whether or not they can shoot another human being in a potential serious injury or life threat situation. No one will know for sure until it happens or has happened. If you have any serious doubts about your ability to use a firearm in self-defense, you might be better off not carrying one or even owning one.

  4. On body v off body, open v concealed, big v micro, 9 mm v .45 (or .32 acp, .380, .40, .357 Sig, .32 Long, .38 Spl, .357 Mag, ad infinitum), semi v revolver…all of these choices are personal choices. Choose a firearm that fits you, one that you can handle, one that you can learn to shoot carefully and accurately….choose to maintain your proficiency.

    Above all…

    When you make that decision…

    Choose to carry consistently and responsibly!

    (Shoulda, coulda and woulda are great literary devices…they suck in real life)

  5. I agree to an extent – that said, however, I finally chose to carry an HK Mark 23 .45ACP pistol in a “fanny pack” holster. Small karabiners attached to the zippers for quick access. Nice, leather pack from Amazon – plenty of room to carry wallet, keys, etc., in addition to a large handgun equipped with a Surefire X-400U (B) weapon light and green laser, plus using an extended, 17-round magazine (in .45ACP), and with a spare 17-rounder, as well. The nice thing about the fanny pack is that unlike a shoulder holster, I can wear a nice cotton T-shirt on hot or muggy days without having to wear a sleeveless vest, etc., to conceal the holster and harness. Call it a “man-purse” or whatever you want, it works fine for me!

  6. She doesn’t give any reason for purse carry except that women wear more formfitting clothes.
    She does say she guards her purse carefully at all times.
    OFf body carry is significantly slower to get into action than any other method.
    Go to the You Tube channel “she equips herself”.
    Stav Avramidis is a pretty and stylish woman who demonstrates many ways women can carry concealed, on body and still wear feminine clothes.
    She carries a Shield and demonstrates the draw from iwb, owb, garter holsters (for skirts) bra holsters and hip hugger corset holster.
    She has a smooth draw between 2 and 3 seconds from concealed to first shot.
    She wears nice clothes and her Shield is not visible at all.

    • Apparently she carries it with her hand ON the gun so that if someone snatches her purse, she’s in a “ready position” to shoot to get her purse back….

  7. Limitations do occur, like carrying in certain work environments mainly, but your attire should never be one of them. That is what this article made it sound like. I think that’s a terrible excuse. That said, always carry. In a purse or a backpack is still better than not at all.

    • True, but the idea of carrying in a purse makes me cringe. Purse snatchers will often carry a razor-sharp knife like a box-cutter, etc, and grab the purse from behind & try to cut the strap at the same time. While there are purses out there that are especially made for use against that sort of thing (braided steel cables sewn within the strap, etc), the point being herein is that purse snatchers might still attempt to target someone like that. If someone tells me that that’s what they’re considering, I highly recommend that they consider the carrying of a S&W revolver in .38 special or .357 magnum caliber that has been fitted with a “magna-trigger” device. It is 100% foolproof and should the gun ever be snatched away from the owner, it becomes totally useless and cannot be fired under ANY circumstances, by anybody..!

  8. I would say give the lady a break, guys. Sure, on-body is better than off-body, in almost all cases. And, she seems to agree with that – she carries on-body when possible.

    If she has a weapon at hand, on- or off-body, she is more prepared than a lot of people. The only question is, is she prepared enough?

  9. I have been carrying off-body for 30 years.

    It’s what I prefer, it’s what I train for, it has NEVER made me feel at a “disadvantage”, and it has allowed me to carry whatever size weapon I choose… with LOTS of spare ammo.

    I would never deign to assume for someone ELSE what is an “acceptable’ or a “terrible” way for THEM to carry their OWN weapon.

    But I am happy to recommend that they practice, practice, and practice some more… REGARDLESS of whatever mode of carry they decide is best for THEM.

    Be proficient, and ALWAYS CARRY.

    • I agree. I “sort of” carry “off body” – I carry an HK Mark 23 .45 with a 17-round mag & another 17-rounder as a spare. I carry it in a fanny pack holster. I also carry a S&W M49 Bodyguard revolver with 110gr,.38spcl +P+ ammunition in a jacket pocket holster. I’ve never felt “under-gunned”. Why the Mk23..? I believe that often, the sight of a big, intimidating-looking firearm can stop a threat – most of the time. I’ve got a pic rail with a Surefire X-400U/B weapon light and a green laser unit mounted on it – it’s quite an intimidating firearm when pointed at you. At night, with a 1,000-lumen white light, it can temporarily blind the shit out of an attacker. Great system, I think..!

  10. I would be willing to bet if you said “you shoot like a girl” this young lady would say thanks for the complement! I’m impressed she’s packin a boomer. I wouldn’t mess with her.

  11. I am in a wheelchair and still struggling to find a decent way to carry. Since I am basically “sitting down” all the time, most IWB type setups are very uncomfortable/impractical for me. I have resorted to using a fanny pack when in my power chair, if I am in my other, standard chair, I have a lot of bags/storage in the chair itself that is accessible to me, but not so easily to others.

      • Prndll – I’m “sort of” answering for “J”, here – a shoulder holster might work for “J”, but then he would also have to wear an outer garment such as a jacket, oversized shirt, or perhaps a sleeveless vest in order to conceal the holster & harness. That might not be practical for him, especially in hot or humid weather. That’s the one thing that keeps me from considering the same thing. Leather harness straps curl up like crazy if they get soaked with sweat on a hot day, and within the design type of harness that I much prefer, nobody makes that type in ballistic nylon, or in any type of “non-moisture-absorbing” material, so shoulder holsters were “out” for me.

      • I live in Arkansas, and don’t care to announce I’m carrying. When I was more mobile, I loved a chest or shoulder rig in the woods etc, but it’s just too warm to try and wear a shoulder rig while concealing, short of the cold winters we get here… (40 degrees).

        • I have found a fanny pack holster works great for me. Made from thin leather, big enough to carry a large semi-auto with a Surefire X-400 weapon light attached, and small sized “karabiners” attached to the zipper “handles” make the gun quite fast to draw. Everything else requires a jacket or at the least, a sleeveless vest. Too hot in July, August, & Sept. to wear that. A 2″ square, white cloth patch with a red cross on it makes for a different type of “camouflage” – it changes people’s thinking as to what I might be carrying. With my white hair, it works wonders..!!

    • Prndll’s suggestion is a good one, and I like your idea about chair bags as well. It’s not like your chair could be dropped, forgotten, or snatched like a purse.

      • Umm… I disagree. All those could easily happen (thinking Shotgun Joe for the forgotten part) but at least you’d be along for the ride. With luck.

        • Exactly – if you’re along for the ride, your “off-body carry” is still for all practical purposes attached to your body. My point was that in the highly unlikely event that it isn’t (which I guess could happen, just like I as a mobile IWB carrier could lose my pants) you’re screwed anyway.

        • I would have had no clue before, but found out after being lucky enough to get put in one- my power wheelchair weighs 300+ pounds (without me in it).

          Another interesting fact… other than having the touchscreen controller turned on, having selected a drive mode from the menu, and having the joystick held in the forward position- my wheelchair CAN NOT roll. In fact- the only way to manually roll my 500+ pound wheelchair (with me in it) is to manually flip a lever on each of the two motors (one on each side of the wheelchair) that unlocks the motors from the drive wheels.

          In short- it’d be much easier to remove me from my chair than it would be to move me AND my chair (plus I’m always wearing a seatbelt when in my chair). Who knew, right?

    • Nothing wrong with a Fanny pack. Other options might be:
      Belly band
      Hill people gear kit bag
      Defense planner
      Chair mounted holster

    • My spinal cord injury was four and half years ago, so I too spend a majority of my time in a power wheelchair. It actually presents a lot of carry choices- waist pack, crossbody bag, bags secured to the chair, the space between the seatback and the seat cushion, and there’s also quite a lot of usable space on the underside of the chair seat in the area above the motor/battery.

      A crossbody or waist pack allows the quickest access (especially if it’s already been unzipped due to active situational awareness practices). I have a small bag ziptied to a knee support pad. I have two zippered, multi pocket armrest bags ziptied to the armrests. I have successfully mounted a quick access handgun safe to the backside of the leg/calf support on the footrest using gun mount magnets (which both hides and secures a handgun- but it does NOT allow for quick or discreet access).

      I also have a plan to mount my Vaultek Essential Slider Series Safe directly to my chair, which will give me concealment, security, and quick access. Right now, my bags offer concealment- but not significant security (I actually keep a locking bank bag inside one of my armrest bags that I can discreetly put my handgun into during one of the few occasions when my chair and I are separated in public places (physical therapy, doctors offices, etc.).

      Quite honestly- being in a power wheelchair allows one to carry and conceal something as large as an SBR-sized weapon without much difficulty if one so chooses. My wife uses me as a mobile bag-carrying device whenever we go shopping- so that’ll give you an idea of just how much space there is to hang things from/on power wheelchairs…

      • Honestly, I hadn’t seen those options on my radar, TON of stuff to look into, which I very much appreciate. On a jokier note, with my standard chair, I have in the past carried my 7.5 inch Super Blackhawk 44mag just to make a point to friends 🙂 The bags available for standard chairs let you really pack in gear if you have a mind to. I’ll have to look into those other items you mentioned, sounds like I had just given up in annoyance rather than do solid research. Thanks again. Edit. On the carrying for the wife thing, yeah, I always kid that I am a mobile shopping cart/purse holder, but it really makes sense for me to do that, it’s not like I am physically carrying a burden.

  12. IMMEDIATELY ‘Hooked’. Just like bloody heroin I personally can put up wioith a few bad manners and NOT get elfin shot and the implication the a carrying a bloody handgun forces good manners is quite frankly ridiculous because the IMPLICATION is that BAD MANNERS equals the risk of being bloody well shot.

    I tell you to ‘EFF OFF’ and you shoot me?

    I push to the head of the queue and you shoot me?

    Diss me in any way and I shoot you?

    I knock you drink over and you shoot me?

    Them’s good ideas. OH I forget it’s ALREADY all to often an occurence in the USA I much prefer it her inn the BAD MANNERED UK wher the most I’d expect to give or receive is a slap in the gob. Enforced GOOD MANNERS at the point of an elfin gun IS NOT the way to go for a civilised society

    Once again never heard so ,much bollocks in my life

      • Yeah. Remember poor ol’ Leon Klinghoffer – in his wheelchair & tossed over the side of his cruise ship.

        “You have subscriptions…” – I gotta remember that one…!! LMAO….!!

        • The problem with Klinghoffer was he was on a cruise ship.
          Just like on an airplane.
          No weapons allowed at all.
          Enforced with metal detectors.

        • Docduracoat – true, but the point I was illustrating was simply that in a wheelchair you’re still limited to certain things – like, for example, should someone approach you from behind, and you realize too late that they’re behind you, you may be limited in reaction time, etc. Klinghoffer didn’t have a gun, true, but there are things he could’ve had which might’ve stopped or delayed the attempt at tossing him overboard. The problem with people like that, is that on a cruise ship, most act like sheep and do what they’re told. The ones that survive are gonna be the ones that say “Oh hell no – that ain’t for me…!!” If I’m on a cruise ship and in a wheelchair, I’m gonna have a floatcoat – a survival jacket that keeps you afloat in water and keeps your body “core” warm. I’ll remove it in my stateroom.

    • If you were actually British and not just some online troll, I’d point out that Hitler gave your boy Chamberlain a ” slap in the gob” in Munich in 38…and we know how that turned out. Appeasement must run in the DNA.

  13. Purse carry is not something I would recommend.

    Purses designed for this usually have a vertical zipper rarely if ever seen on other types. It becomes a dead give away and paints a target. That’s not even mentioning that ‘purse snatchers’ are all too common a thing.

    • As a “suggestion” for anyone considering carrying in a fanny pack holster: sew (or, find someone like a shoe repair store) on a 2-inch, white square cloth patch with a red cross on it (available on eBay for just a few bucks) on the front of your fanny pack holster. Most people that see that will think you’re carrying a first-aid kit (bee sting kit, diabetes insulin kit, heart problem medicine, etc, etc.) instead of the possibility of a gun. Food for thought..! 🙂

      • Also, as a further “suggestion” for fanny pack holster carriers, install miniature “karabiners” (again, available very inexpensively from either eBay or Amazon) on the zipper “handles”. They make the zippers much easier to access and much faster to open in an emergency..!!

  14. We have a word for people who carry off body – dead.

    LOL at this article; not only is OP carrying off body, OP carries a Springfield.

      • Peter Gunn: True enough, but try to remember: MOST of society, as we know it, do not “carry” at all – and they’re “still alive”, ok..? No offense or disrespect, I’m sure you understand, but the fact that you carry “off body” and that you’re still alive, in and of itself, doesn’t mean squat, really. It simply means you’ve (“probably”) never been through an assault situation wherein your gun was needed. Like most gun “carriers”, all you’re really saying is, thus far, you’ve been lucky that you’ve (I “assume”) never been placed in a scenario like that. The fellow who is talking about “off-body” carry is merely referring to the greater “odds” of not being able to access one’s concealed firearm in a suddenly developing attack situation “AS WELL AS” someone whose firearm IS carried “on-body”. Especially someone who is relatively new to the practice. That’s my personal “read” on this conversation. My opinion, that’s all.

        • Sure, I’ll try to remember…

          that making any kind of broad-based assumptions about what will, or will not get other people killed (based on one’s own personal preferences) is just an egotistical flight of fantasy.

          Many a folk have been shot down effortlessly, even with their hand on their gun ready to draw, by adversaries in “suddenly developing attack situations”. The disservice is placing all of the emphasis on being “Quick Draw McGraw”, and failing to emphasize things of equal importance… such as situational awareness, having a plan for when you cannot draw your weapon (regardless of your carry mode), and the fundamental indispensability of PROFICIENCY.

          There are no doubt those who can draw faster from “off-body” than others can draw from “open-carry”. The point is… what works for you is what works- everything else is just conjecture.

          Carry on.

  15. Jesus, all the pearl clutching! Kippi Leatham is Rob Leatham’s wife and a top women’s champion in her own right. She just might know something about shooting handguns, and if she has an off body carry that she is comfortable with, why shouldn’t she share it with other women?

    Sure, there are downsides, but there are downsides to every mode of carry.

    • Retro, Of COURSE “MS KIPPI” is. Have you ever known any “champion gun shooter” who was married, to be married to a butt-ugly troll woman similar to Archie Bunker’s wife Edith…??
      Look at Clint Smith – the gun “expert” who married “Heidi” – some 25 or 30 years his junior. Wasn’t too long after that, that suddenly, in one of the more popular gun rags, “wife Heidi” had her own column in which she would “extoll” the virtues of various handguns – never once – ever – saying bad things about them, and if there really was something wrong with a gun that she encountered, she would “sweetly” say something like “Well, the issue(s) I had will no doubt be corrected by the time you read this – the mfgr has indicated to me that this (or these) item(s) are being looked into immediately”..! I think it’s damn funny how all of the wives of gun writers and competition “experts” suddenly either are, or have become, “experts” of their own. I take what they say not so much as B/S, but rather with a large “grain of salt” – especially when “she” is hawking guns & equipment made by, or affiliated with, her “better half”….!

  16. “When out and about, my purse never leaves my body, never leaves my grasp.

    I always try to buy purses that have a strap long enough to carry across my body. When sitting at a restaurant or other location, my purse is in my lap, wrapped at my feet or strapped across a chair in a secure manner.”

    Not knowing the lady, I cannot dispute that statement. However, I can say that in the last 60 years, I have NEVER seen anyone who carries a purse, briefcase, or similar bag other than a strapped-on fanny pack type, who in actual practice always keeps the bag in-hand or otherwise secure. Period.


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