The constant debate over women carrying a handgun in their purses never seems to end. With just a little online forum research (which I usually avoid—except when working on an article), I found the following quotes:
- “The first thing a thief is going to grab is a woman’s purse.”
- “Drawing from a purse takes longer than drawing from a holster on your belt.”
- “If she shoots through her purse, she will only get one shot off before her gun jams.”
Often during a training class, a man will ask me how he can get his significant other to carry concealed on her body instead of in her purse. The woman then comes to me, frustrated, almost asking permission to purse-carry, because so many people tell her it’s not safe. Honestly, I don’t see the big deal. If it means she will carry a gun,
let her carry it in her purse. Before you read further, let me fully disclose that I carry … off-body, in a purse.
ISSUE 1: THE FIRST THING A THIEF IS GOING TO GRAB IS A WOMAN’S PURSE.
Sure, in a given situation, if there is a purse thief, he is going to grab your purse. So, let him, and report it stolen, along with your handgun. Let’s think about the big picture: Are you carrying a gun to defend yourself from a thief? Probably not. It’s important to differentiate between a common thief who’s going to snatch a purse and run
and someone who is a true danger. I carry a concealed handgun to defend myself, my family and others against a person who intends to do them or me harm.
ISSUE 2: DRAWING FROM A PURSE TAKES LONGER THAN DRAWING FROM A HOLSTER ON YOUR BELT.
I haven’t timed it yet, but common sense tells me drawing from a purse and coming to a full presentation takes longer than drawing from a holster. How much longer depends on several factors: the location of the gun compartment and types of closure; the size of the compartment; and if the gun is in a holster within the compartment. Now, let’s compare drawing from a purse to drawing from under a full-length coat during the winter. Which one do you think will take more time? If my long coat is buttoned all the way, I now have to get under that, as well as my shirt layers, to get to my handgun. Carrying in my purse now becomes a faster option.
However, just because your gun is in your purse doesn’t mean you have to draw to a full presentation before firing. Yes, you can shoot from within your purse. This might become necessary when your target is in close proximity and you have no time for sighted fire. You know—when you have a strange feeling that something
just isn’t “right.” You reach into your purse to orient the gun in your hand in preparation. Firing through the purse might now be necessary if the suspect is close and time is of the essence. In certain situations, off-body carry in a purse can be better and faster than on-body carry. If you’re ever in a situation and you get an uncomfortable feeling that something could be about to go down, you can reach into your purse, put your hand on your gun, and keep it there. It’s ready to use in a second’s notice, and no one is the wiser that you have a gun in your hand. With on-body carry, you can’t do this, because bystanders will know you have a gun and might even think you’re an attacker. Plus, if the gun is exposed, this is considered “brandishing a firearm,” which is illegal in most jurisdictions.
ISSUE 3: IF SHE SHOOTS THROUGH HER PURSE, SHE WILL ONLY GET ONE SHOT OFF BEFORE HER GUN JAMS.
If you decide to attempt this tactic, the type of gun you carry is very important. Yes, a semiautomatic gun has a very good chance of jamming. A lack of space and a variety of hang-ups will keep the slide from operating properly. Most likely, you will fire your first shot and then find yourself with a malfunction.
Unfortunately, your best choice requires giving up capacity by choosing a lightweight, hammerless revolver. The Smith & Wesson Model 442, Bodyguard 38 or Ruger LCR are options if you want to be able to fire from within your purse. Unlike semiautomatic handguns, these hammerless, snub-nosed revolvers will cycle reliably from a purse or even your pocket.
So, you have to decide if having five or six rounds ready at hand is better than having a high-capacity magazine that might not meet your needs. Remember, you can always carry extra rounds for your revolver in a Bianchi Speed Strip or HKS Speed Loader.
The body won’t go where the mind hasn’t been. If you think you will improvise a new tactic when your life depends on it, you are probably wrong. You have to open your mind and train. I had the opportunity to learn how to shoot through a purse while participating in the online series, First Person Defender, by Gun Talk Media.
You should always practice new techniques on a range so you know what to expect should you need to use it in a real-life situation. Buy a couple of inexpensive purses from a garage sale or Good Will, grab your revolver, and head out to the range. On the range, place a threat target close to you, simulating a threat moving toward you. Grab the purse’s shoulder strap with your weak hand, making it taut. This helps you get a good shooting grip on your gun with your strong hand. Punch out into the purse toward the threat. Once you pull the trigger, the
first round will create a big hole in the purse. On consecutive shots, the muzzle pokes through. Your whole hand could eventually come through the purse. If you decide to carry in a purse, never allow your gun to mix with the items inside. Keys, pens and other small objects can get into your trigger guard and cause an unintentional
discharge or render the gun inoperable. It’s best to use a purse specifically created for concealed carry.
This keeps the gun in a separate compartment and sometimes even offers multiple access points to retrieve your gun. Shooting through your purse works extremely well. Nevertheless, sighted, aimed fire from full presentation is always your best and safest choice. If carrying in a purse means you will carry your gun, I highly recommend it. Make sure you have the proper gun to meet your needs, and then become comfortable with it. And remember: Practice is essential!
Kate Woolstenhulme, owner of Designer Concealed Carry, spent many years designing her handbags to be functional and safe for those who carry. Sure, you want an elegant purse that carefully hides the firearm. But there are other factors to consider that make a purse usable as a tool for concealed carry. The following are features of Kate’s Designer Concealed Carry purses:
- The lockable zippers on an exterior pocket are carefully hidden within the design and are equally accessible for both right- and left-handed wearers;
- A fully-adjustable holster to secure various-sized handguns;
- Adjustable straps to assure proper fit and access to the holster pocket;
An inside key clasp, slots for hotel key or cards, three open pockets and a slim one for pens, as well as a long,
When it comes to finding a purse for concealed carry, make sure you do your homework. Find something that
is functional and doesn’t scream, “There’s a gun inside!” And, of course, be sure to practice your draw with an
DESIGNER CONCEALED CARRY
Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the July 2017 print version of Gun World Magazine.