On-body concealment is best, but sometimes you just need other options. How do you know what purse to choose when you need to carry your gun off-body?
Satisfy these 14 requirements when choosing a concealed carry purse:
- A compartment dedicated to your gun and only your gun
- A holster in the purse, not just a pocket
- A compartment big enough to carry your gun
- Small enough that you can keep it with you at all times
- Material thick enough to prevent printing (showing the outline of your gun)
- A way to prevent children from getting into it
- A color that works with your wardrobe
- The ability to blend in with the crowd
- Easy access in a stressful situation
- Good quality materials and fasteners that won’t malfunction
- Enough style that you are willing use it consistently
- Right and left-handed options
- Extra pockets for your other items
A Concealed Carry Purse Does Not Have to Be Marketed For Concealed Carry
There are some excellent options out there that are dedicated to concealed carry. A perennial favorite is Gun Tote’n Mamas, which makes very attractive and functional concealed carry purses. See my review on the GTM-22. I encourage you to check out the dedicated options, but you can also look in your own closet or the nearest clothing store to find options that can easily be adapted for concealed carry.
Just follow me through the 14 steps outlined below to make sure you have chosen a purse that will work for you.
Always Carry Your Gun in a Dedicated Pocket or Compartment
The first rule of concealed carry is safety. Whether you carry on-body or off-body, or even if your gun is at home in a drawer, make sure that nothing interferes with its function. When you carry your gun in the same pocket with anything else you incur three major hazards:
- Objects can get into the muzzle or trigger guard and impede its function, rendering it unusable in a crisis
- Objects can press the trigger and cause a negligent discharge (firing a gun accidentally)
- Objects can get in the way when you reach for your gun, taking extra time when you need quick access
You can prevent all these problems by dedicating a pocket specifically to your holster.
You Need An Actual Holster in Your Purse
On a related note, your gun needs to be secure in the compartment you choose. This gives you predictable, quick access because you know without looking that your gun is oriented in the position that allows you to grasp it quickly and safely.
Securing your gun in a fixed position also prevents wear and tear on the lining of the purse as it rubs against the gun and prevents the movement of the purse from cocking the hammer as you walk or catching its material in the slide.
A proper holster keeps your gun from falling out of your purse if you make a sudden movement while unzipping or unsnapping the compartment where you keep it. Remember that you are likely to be stressed and on the move when you need your gun.
You can buy a holster to put in your purse, or you can choose a purse that comes with a holster. The holster can be sewn into the purse, in which case the gun will always be oriented at the angle chosen by the manufacturer. Make sure that angle works with the length of your arm and the way you carry (one sided, cross body, or in the hand).
You can get a friction holster to put in your dedicated purse compartment. It should cover the muzzle and the trigger guard and the gun should slide out easily when you pull on it but stay put otherwise. You want to pull out your gun and leave the holster behind when you need to defend yourself.
I prefer a holster that attaches to the compartment with a hook-and-loop mechanism. A nice big hook-and-loop pad gives you options for the angle at which you situate your gun. If the holster has a hook-and-loop on the right and the left you have the option of reversing the orientation of your gun for a right- or left-handed person. Make sure the hook-and-loop tape is strong and stays lint-free to keep a strong bond.
Size Matters When Carrying A Concealed Weapon in Your Purse
Ideally, you could slip your gun into the compartment of the purse you plan to use to see whether it fits. Unless you live in an open carry state or you are trying the purses you already own, that will not be an option. Measure your gun or look on the manufacturer’s website to find its dimensions. My Ruger LCR is a snub nosed revolver chambered in .38 Special +P and holds 5 rounds.
It weighs 13.5 ounces and is 4.5″ H x 6.5″ L. I need to have that much space plus enough wiggle room to get it in and out. I also have to consider the extra room needed for the holster that I will use, so a purse that suits my gun will have at least 8″ x 5″ with a depth of 2″ due to the thickness of the barrel and the extra magnet on my Mag-Jic holster.
Don’t Get A Purse That Is Too Big For Comfort
When your purse is just a purse, you can indulge a natural tendency to set it down and just keep an eye on it. When you purse contains a deadly weapon, you don’t have that option. Your purse now poses a danger in unauthorized hands, especially if young children find it. Theft and forgetfulness are other factors that come into play when you set down your purse.
I carry my gun in a purse only if I know I can spend all my time with it in my possession or lock it unseen in my car. If I know I have to go into a government building such as a school, I can leave my holstered gun locked in the console of my car while my purse comes in with me. I can also stash the purse unseen in the trunk or under a coat while I run in to take care of business.
I make sure all my pants have a waistband that will support a holster and pockets for everything else I carry, but I do occasionally wear a dress or skirt that does not have pockets or a waistband. Then I carry my gun in my purse.
In South Carolina it is legal to carry a gun into church if you have the permission of your church’s governing body. When I carry in church I make sure the purse goes with me into the choir loft. I don’t leave it behind in the locked compartment of the choir room because other choir members have access and could accidentally reach for the wrong purse.
If I taught children in Sunday school or kept children in the nursery I would choose not to carry in a purse unless I had a secure locking compartment in the room to which no one else had access.
I make sure I know how long I will be out when I carry a gun in my purse. Having a strap over your shoulder all day can be tiring and the temptation to park your purse will be stronger if you are fatigued. Carry on-body if you are facing a lot of walking or an activity that requires both hands.
When you are driving, be sure that you can access your purse quickly in an emergency, and think about the person in your passenger seat who might be able to get to your gun.
Avoid Printing When You Carry In Your Purse
The point of concealed carry is to avoid letting people know you have a weapon. A thin or flimsy bag will not have enough body to keep its own shape in the presence of a gun, and the shape of your side arm will notify everyone around you that you are packing heat. In South Carolina, allowing someone to see the gun you are carrying is considered “brandishment” and could earn you, at minimum, a conversation with a policeman.
Even in an open carry state you want your gun to stay private to avoid alarming the people around you and to preserve the element of surprise if you should happen to run into a self-defense situation.
Thick leather, stiff materials, generous pockets, and interior pockets are all ways to ensure you gun stays under cover. Avoid overfilling the other compartments of the purse so that your gun is not pressed against the sides of its own compartment.
Keep Your Purse Safe From Children
If you have children in the home, you have probably done all sorts of childproofing to avoid exposing them to electrical outlets, poisonous cleaning chemicals, and unsteady shelves. Don’t forget to make sure they can’t get to your gun.
You can get a purse with a locking pocket, and some zipper configurations will allow you to add a small padlock. Be sure to keep track of the key or the combination and be aware that you have added several seconds to the time it takes you to get to the gun when you need it.
Never leave your purse unattended near your child or anyone else’s child. Teach your children that Mommy’s purse is not for playing and don’t make exceptions for a non-carry purse. If you carry your gun in a purse at any point, all your purses need to be off limits for your children.
As your children become older and more mature, you can teach them gun safety, but little ones just need to avoid the purse altogether. If your very young children have any access to your purse, you might be better served to forego purse carry until they are old enough to understand that your purse is off limits.
Even if you have no children, you may encounter children as you go about your day. Be vigilant about keeping your purse to yourself. Any time it contains a gun, your purse should be accessible only to you and to responsible adults in the home who know you are carrying.
My daughter knows how to use a gun and has shot several types, but she also knows not to touch my purse or my gun without my permission. See this article about my views on introducing your children to guns in an age appropriate manner.
Don’t Forget Fashion When Choosing Your Concealed Carry Purse
If you don’t find a purse attractive, or if it clashes with your outfit, you won’t want to keep it with you all the time. Either find a purse that goes with everything you own, or have more than one. I actually have several purses that I use for concealed carry. I rotate them depending on the color and style of my clothing as well as their size and shape and what I need to carry that day other than my gun.
Don’t Inadvertently Attract Attention With Your Concealed Carry Purse
I cherish the Constitution of the United States, and the Second Amendment is crucial to maintaining our Constitutional rights. I believe that so much that I wrote this website to help you assert your right to bear arms.
The bumper stickers on my car proclaim my love of the Constitution. My concealed carry purse does not.
You can decorate your clothing and your purse with a jewel-encrusted skull and two crossed pistols if you want, but doing so announces to anyone paying attention that you are likely to be armed. There is some value in deterring a criminal who was considering mugging you, but you might do just as well with alert and confident posture. See my article on how to avoid looking like a good victim.
Announcing your gun will foster suspicion among the more trepidatious members of the crowd and single you out as a target for elimination if someone with criminal intent appears on the scene. It is better to be incognito until after the threat has been established so that you can keep the element of surprise when you are forced to defend yourself.
Be as blingy and boldly patterned as you wish, but I suggest keeping the edgy mottoes off your purse and clothing. You don’t want a jury of your peers to think you were looking for a fight if you have to explain your actions in court some day.
Make Sure You Can Get To Your Gun Quickly
Make sure that you have easy access to your gun in a hurry. An outside pocket with an all-around zipper is great. You might also like a purse with a single zipper on each side of the gun compartment for right or left access. A purse that requires you to fiddle with a flap or undo several fasteners may impede access. A child-safe lock will also slow your progress when you reach for your gun.
The best way to improve the speed of access with your purse gun is to unload the gun and practice getting it out. You will find the angle and technique that work best, and you will establish muscle memory for the act of drawing the gun from your purse. Remember that you should never point a gun at anything you are not willing to destroy even if it is unloaded.
If you find your access is slow in the purse you have chosen, think about adjusting the length of the strap, carrying it differently (same side versus crossbody), changing the holster, or getting a different purse.
Choose a Good Quality Purse With Dependable Fasteners
If the zipper on your pants sticks you have time to deal with it. If you can’t open the zipper on your concealed carry purse you have an entirely different level of jeopardy. A zipper or snap that won’t close securely poses a risk of the gun being exposed or even falling out. Spend as much money as you need to and get a reliable purse made of good materials. Test the fasteners before you buy to make sure they work smoothly and reliably.
Don’t Buy an Ugly Gun Purse
You may be tempted to buy the purse with the best features even though you don’t like the looks of it. Don’t do that. You won’t be willing to carry it and it will sit in your closet gathering dust. Find a method of concealed carry that blends with your sense of fashion or you will end up leaving your gun at home. The best method of concealed carry is the one you will actually use.
Get a Concealed Carry Purse That Will Adjust to Your Needs
I am short, so I am going to go for a purse with straps that can be shortened. A taller woman may need the extra length to get the right angle. You want to have your elbow at 90 degrees when you have your hand on the gun, so get a purse that puts the gun around waist level. Experiment to see the exact length that works for you.
Consider how bulky the purse feels when it sits at your waist. If the strap allows, try same side versus crossbody. The advantage of having the strap across your body is that the purse is harder to steal. A reinforced strap that is hard to cut will also improve your chances of keeping your purse from an attacker.
A purse that has no handles or only small handles will keep your hand occupied all the time. You want to go for a purse with a strap that you can put over your shoulder to free your hands.
Pay Attention to Right and Left Options
When you are shopping for your concealed carry purse, know which hand you will use to hold the gun and make sure you have access from that side. Some right handed people are left handed shooters. I forgot to check and bought a right-handed concealed carry purse. I have to carry it with the decorative side in so that my gun is in the right position if I should need access to the gun.
Make Sure Your Purse Has Pockets For the Other Things You Carry
You can get a purse that only carries your gun, but there’s a good chance you are going to want to carry your phone, your wallet, spare ammunition, your keys, and assorted odds and ends. Get a purse that allows you to carry all the things you need. Otherwise you will be rummaging through your pockets while carrying a purse.
I must confess that I am more of a pocket person than a purse person. I have several concealed carry purses, but I save them for that rare occasion when on-body carry is not going to work for me. It’s nice to have options.
When you want to know more about carrying concealed or any other gun topic, keep reading my blog and watching the Double Eagle Gunworks YouTube channel. For personal or group instruction, contact us and we will set you up with an appointment to come see my husband Chris. He can also help you with a gun transfer.
Ready to shop for a Concealed Carry Purse? I recommend these retailers: