A concealed firearm is an effective form of personal protection, providing a sense of security for those who carry and know how to use one. But while experts agree that the best method of carry is on-body, a woman’s wardrobe doesn’t always make wearing the firearm feasible or reasonable.
That’s where concealed carry purses come in. A well-designed purse offers quick access to your concealed weapon when you need it most while hiding your handgun effectively from view. That said, it’s not enough to just throw a sub-compact into your handbag and head out the door (especially if you’ve never taken it to the range for practice). The kind of purse you use is critical, as is plenty of practice drawing and firing the weapon.
Confidence is a matter of preparation. Use this guide to help you prepare so you can feel confident with your concealed carry purse or handbag.
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Concealed Carry Laws
Concealed carry laws can be complicated, and they vary by state, by county, and sometimes by city. The first thing you need to know is that when referring to a concealed weapon, firearms aren’t the only option. Depending on the statutes that apply to that state/county/city, a “weapon” can refer to pocket knives, brass knuckles, bottles of pepper spray above a certain volume, and much more. So, keep this in mind the next time you decide to carry your pocket knife on you.
When it comes to concealed carry (vs. open carry, which will have its own varying laws), most jurisdictions require that you obtain a permit in order to carry a concealed weapon. Each state will have one of four levels of permit restriction:
This Map will show you if your state allows concealed carry, as well as which states allow concealed carry permits from other states (reciprocity).
An unrestricted state does not require a permit for an individual to conceal a weapon. They may do so without the permit, provided the weapon is legally obtained. If they wish to obtain a permit, they may, and this is typically done so that the individual can continue to carry even if they travel across state lines. We will discuss this more in the reciprocity section.
“Shall issue” states are states that require permits to carry concealed weapons, but will issue those permits to anyone who applies and meets the requirements. There are a few exceptions, where the law says “shall issue,” but in practice, the issuing of permits is more strict—for the most part, these states will issue permits to anyone that applies.
“May issue” states reserve the right to deny permits if they feel the individual is in some way unqualified, or if they feel there is an insufficient need. In many of these states, “self-defense purposes” is not sufficient reason for a permit to be issued, and applicants often need to prove that their lives are in real, present danger in order to be considered. Again, there are some exceptions where states with laws that say “may issue” are more “shall issue” in practice.
A “no issue” law indicates that, as the name implies, no permit will be issued to carry a concealed weapon. Some “may issue” states function as “no issue” in practice, due to the strictness of the issuance policy. New York City, for example, is notorious for near-unilateral denial of all concealed weapon permit applications.
The rules get even more complicated when those carrying concealed weapons try to cross state lines. Each state has different statutes on which other state permits it will honor. When a state honors a permit obtained in another state, it’s called “reciprocity,” and many states have agreements with other states regarding the honoring of these permits. Some states honor all permits, some don’t honor any out-of-state permits, and most fall somewhere in between. Keep this in mind, and check state laws if you intend to travel with your weapon.
One final note on the rules of concealed carrying. While it may vary by state or municipality, there are some places where you are generally not allowed to carry. These include:
For most of these locations, carrying a firearm on the premises is a felony, so double-check before you visit the kids at school.
On-body carry may be the preferred method as it’s the most difficult to separate you from your weapon, but it still comes with some drawbacks. First of all, it’s not exactly comfortable. Stuffing a revolver in a belt holster, or a Browning 1911-380 in a shoulder holster, isn’t exactly like putting on a comfy pair of Browning socks. It presses against you uncomfortably, and can frequently shift position, requiring readjusting.
There’s a tendency to fidget with it, which draws attention to the weapon you're trying to conceal. Then there’s the matter of style. A concealed weapon on your waist is going to make an imprint on the clothing covering it. Men may be able to get away with wearing a pair of jeans and a loose T-shirt to cover up the shape of the firearm, but women’s fashion isn’t so forgiving, especially if you’re headed for a night on the town. Comfort aside, concealing the firearm effectively in a way that’s still easily accessible is a problem.
That’s why concealed carry purses are such an attractive option. You’re not wearing it, so it’s not uncomfortable. It’s kept inside the purse, so imprinting is unlikely. And, well-designed concealed carry purses make the firearm easily accessible in a moment of need.
Now, there is a serious drawback to using a concealed carry purse that every woman should be aware of: you can be separated from it. Unlike on-body carry, if you don’t have your purse with you, you don’t have your firearm. So if you leave it in the car to run a quick errand, or walk away from it while it’s in the shopping cart and someone snags it, then you don’t have your protection when you need it.
When you use a concealed carry purse, be sure you always have a hand on it.
If you’re going to carry a firearm in a purse, you’re going to want one that’s designed to carry a firearm. Throwing your pistol in a normal handbag is going to cause a number of problems, the least of which is damaging your bag, and the worst of which is making the weapon difficult to access when you need it. So start with a concealed carry purse.
Choosing a concealed carry purse is a lot like choosing a normal purse. You’re primarily considering two things: form, and function. First, you need a purse that fits your firearm. Well-designed purses will have a separate compartment for the firearm, with a holster and adjustable straps to keep it in place, yet easy to remove. This is important if you ever plan on being able to actually use the firearm in an emergency.
You should also consider purses that come with an optional locking mechanism, so that you can deny access to curious children. Just be sure that the pocket is unlocked when you’re out and about so that you’re not fumbling with a key when you should be putting a finger on the trigger.
Beyond those considerations, what you’re looking for is something that fits your style. Minimalist and utilitarian is one way to go, but few would expect a bag bedazzled with sequins and rhinestones to be packing heat. There are a lot of options on the market, so find something that fits your tastes and don’t be afraid to splurge for something of quality. Your gun was an investment. What you carry it in should be, too.
In an emergency, you won’t know how to act unless you’ve practiced the motions beforehand. It is absolutely vital that you know how to use your concealed carry purse for your own safety and the safety of those around you. Here are some general guidelines:
As mentioned above, the purse is only useful for carrying your gun if you can reach the gun when you need it. Always keep a hand on your purse, so it’s not forgotten or snatched, leaving you defenseless.
If you get a purse with a lock, keep it locked when you’re at home (or otherwise out of potentially dangerous situations). Just as you would keep the gun safe locked, you should always keep your purse locked when it's not in use.
Like any holster (and like any gun), you need to be familiar enough to be able to use it in a crisis. In a safe place, practice retrieving the gun and putting it away. Do it frequently, so that you build the muscle memory. And don’t just do it for show; take it out to the gun range and practice pulling your gun out and firing it. You don’t just need to be able to get the weapon out of the bag—you need to be able to fire it accurately at a target. The more you practice with the purse and the firearm, the more confident you will be in a moment of crisis.
Also, try to carry your purse in a position that makes accessing the firearm easy. Remember, you’re likely to be shooting with your dominant hand, so leave that hand free to access the weapon. Carry your purse in your off hand, with the opening of the gun pocket facing your dominant side.
And don’t be afraid to hold it close, or put your hand in your bag, if you sense a dangerous situation. It’s not an uncommon sight to see a woman digging through her purse (unlike fidgeting with the gun in your waistband), so “rummage” through your bag as the situation requires.
Don’t expect that you can fire through the bag and hit what you’re aiming for. Even if the bullet misses the lipstick and loose change, you can’t accurately gauge your aim if you can’t see the gun (plus, you'll ruin your purse).
We’ll end here with some words of wisdom about things to avoid when carrying a concealed weapon. These tips don’t just apply to those of us carrying our gun in a purse, so feel free to share these rules with the gun-toting men in your life as a refresher for them, as well.
Some of the most common mistakes concealed carriers make are:
In Case of the Unthinkable
Should worst-case scenario become reality, and you find yourself in a position where your safety is threatened (as in a mugging), remember that your firearm is your last line of defense. Do everything you can to de-escalate the conflict without using your firearm. You should only draw your weapon if there is a clear and present danger, and you should only fire it if the sight of a weapon does not deter the conflict.
If someone is intent on harming you, and you must use your handgun to defend your life, you want to make sure your shots stop the perpetrator, do so quickly, and without harming anyone else. Here are some crucial tips to help make that happen:
Hopefully, you’ll never be forced to choose between your life and the life of another, but if you’re properly prepared, you’ll be ready to protect yourself should the need arise.
Ready to purchase your Browning concealed carry purse? Check out our selection of concealed carry handbags and purses today.
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