Women are different. I noticed that some years ago. And they dress differently too.
That’s not a sexist statement. Women are very capable of anything to which they direct their efforts. But when it comes to concealed carry, what they carry and how they carry can vary, depending on several factors: body type, clothing choices and what they are willing to do.
So, if you have a wife, girlfriend, sister or daughter who is interested in carrying a concealed weapon, before you offer to help, you have to keep a few things in mind.
Not Everyone Is A “Gun Guy”
I don’t know many women who want to depend on some guy coming to their rescue. At the same time, not everyone wants to enter shooting competitions, spend a week in deer camp without showering, start a gun collection or spend hours reading every gun magazine on the newsstand. Not everyone gets giddy at the mention of the upcoming gun show. So, don’t force that. Some women simply want to be able to defend themselves. They don’t want to be easy victims.
When I was a firearms instructor, I found that in many cases, women responded more easily to instruction. Maybe it was because there was no male ego involved on their part. They had none of the “I’m a guy, so I should know how to do this already” type of anxiety.
Just make sure there’s no male ego involved on your side. You shouldn’t throw any new shooters—man, woman or child—a curve by giving them more gun than they can handle. Start with a .22 pistol.
Paper targets placed against a large piece of cardboard are great to start. You can diagnose problems with the fundamentals much easier if you don’t have to guess at where her bullets are hitting.
Once she’s got the hang of it, switch to fun reactive targets— steel that clangs, spins or topples when hit; soup cans; plastic jugs of colored liquid; bowling pins—anything that instantly rewards a hit. Keep sessions short, distances close and recoil low.
Sometimes, the most difficult part is convincing a woman that she should carry. I’ve talked to women who will throw 20 pounds of stuff into their handbags and won’t leave home without them but view carrying a 20-ounce gun as too inconvenient.
Part of that equation is that strong, independent women take on the world without fear. They don’t like to feel they’re vulnerable in any way. My grown daughter, for instance, becomes angry when I scold her about hiking alone.
Emphasize that bad things can happen to good people anywhere at any time. You don’t get to choose those parameters. Carrying a gun is a “just in case” measure that doesn’t indicate weakness or helplessness.
“… strong, independent women take on the world without fear. They don’t like to feel that they’re vulnerable in any way.”
What to Carry
Get her to try a variety of guns, but ultimately, let her choose her own gun. Yes, it has to be an educated choice, because not every gun is the best choice for concealed carry.
When it comes to semiautos, a woman should be able to manipulate the slide without tilting the muzzle in an unsafe direction to get better leverage on the gun. If hand strength is an issue, she might be better off with a revolver.
Many women naturally gravitate toward the smallest, mostlightweight guns, considering concealment first. But some small .380 pistols can be harder to control and shoot well than slightly
larger guns in more-powerful chamberings. A subcompact 9mm pistol or .38 Special snubnose revolver are usually good compromises, but I’d avoid the ultra-lightweights because of their greater recoil.
How To Carry
Ideally, your clothing should conform to your concealed-carry needs. But that’s not always the reality.
Many women seem to resist carrying a gun on the belt—either inside or outside the waistband. Those who do carry around the waistline often find carrying in the small of the back or appendix positions provide the best concealment.
Pocket carry offers good concealment, but in many cases, women’s clothing doesn’t provide sufficiently deep pockets. Belly bands are good choices. They provide good concealment, and the handgun can be positioned anywhere around the midsection that’s most comfortable. There are ankle holsters, thigh holsters and even holsters that attach to a bra, but quick access can be difficult.
Off-body carry has one major drawback, and it is something to bear in mind: The gun is carried in some sort of bag, which
means it can be set down or even taken. The first thing a mugger reaches for is a woman’s purse. If he grabs that, a woman loses her purse—and her gun (if that’s where she keeps it). Set a purse down on a chair or in a shopping cart, and you’ve lost control of it if you step away for even an instant.
If a woman insists on carrying a gun in a handbag, it should be carried with a shoulder strap over the shoulder of the weakside arm. It should have a secure, but easy-to-access pocket dedicated to the gun. Some shoulder bags feature steel cord in the straps to make a slash-and-grab more difficult.
Retention And Mindset
An attacker is apt to view a woman as someone who’s more easily overpowered. That’s why it’s especially important for a woman to receive some training in weapons retention in case there is a struggle for her gun.
You have to embrace the idea that self-defense is likely to involve a physical struggle. Perhaps the most important factor for anyone—man or woman—is that you be armed with the mindset to fight back. Without it, the bad guy is apt to take your gun and use it against you.
Steven Paul Barlow is a retired sergeant/station commander and former firearms instructor with the New York State Police. He has been writing on outdoor topics for more than 30 years and has served as the editor for a number of Engaged Media special publications, including Gunslingers.
Editor’s Note: A version of this article first appeared in the June 2018 print issue of Gun World Magazine.