If you are a woman and you’d like to know how to conceal carry the biggest size handgun possible — while still being able to dress like a woman — then this article is for you!
The truth is that MOST conceal carry info out there is made for men, not women.
That means that you may find a lot of it completely useless for you, your lifestyle and the way you dress (the words “fashion” aren’t really high on the list of words I, or any guy, use every day).
But it’s completely possible and you’re about to see how.
The Point Of Concealed Carry Is To Have a Handgun (And Whatever Else You Need) When You Need It
Bureau of Justice Statistics says that 1 in every 4 Americans will be the victim of a violent crime at some point in their lifetime.
For women, the situation is worse, with an estimated 1 out of every 3 women the victim of some type of sexual assault during their life.
FBI statistics for 2012 show more than 73,000 forcible rapes in the U.S.
And that’s just rape.
That doesn’t include assault, strong-arm or armed robbery or home invasions.
The point of having a concealed carry handgun is to have a handgun READY when it is needed to defend your life or the life of someone else.
That means you need a way to carry it reliably, securely, and that “works” with your daily lifestyle … so that you will ACTUALLY carry it as often as possible!
You Want The Biggest, Easiest-To-Shoot, Gun Possible With You Whenever You Step Out Of The House
Here’s the deal …
Handguns are relatively hard to shoot fast and accurately (as compared to something like a rifle for example).
And the smaller the handgun, generally, the harder it is to shoot.
So the bigger the gun you can carry, the easier it is to shoot and manipulate (manipulation is all the other stuff you do besides shooting, rack the slide, reload, fix malfunctions, aiming, etc).
The “gold standard” for a concealable size, yet usable “fighting size” handgun is the Glock 19. So that will be used as an example here.
The Challenges For Women With Conceal Carry
For women, there are a few different challenges to conceal carry every day that most men simply don’t deal with.
1. Body Types
First off, women are built differently than men.
I know, shocking.
They often have hips!
Just the general curves of a woman make the options for conceal carry different. As you’ll see though, this can also be a benefit!
But beyond that women come in ALL shapes and sizes. From petite, super tiny waist and hips. To curvalicious … err … I mean curvy women with hips (my obvious bias has just revealed itself), to larger women.
Heck, women even get pregnant and change their body shape completely for 9 months!
That’s why most advice for men to conceal carry won’t work for women.
Women also, typically, wear different clothes than men.
A lot of conceal carry advice is to “dress around the gun”, which basically means buying bigger, baggier, or otherwise more apt to conceal the gun clothing.
Most women are not going to do that.
Because they like fashion and looking good.
And I — my personal bias showing again — like women that like looking good … so there’s nothing wrong with that!
You may still have to dress around the gun, but you won’t have to start wearing an IDPA-style conceal carry vest like this …
3. No Belt!
Related to the issue of clothing is that a LOT of female clothing choices do NOT include a belt as part of the attire.
For men, it’s kind of a traditional thing to have a belt (sort of like a pocket knife …) but for a lot of feminine clothing, it’s just not a thing.
Everything from yoga pants, to skirts, form-fitting clothing, etc does NOT come with a belt.
Much less a “proper” gun belt!
That means that a lot of “normal” conceal carry choices — including the gold standard of an Inside-The-Waistband (IWB) kydex holster — are not readily applicable to the female conceal carrier.
4. A Lot of “Stupid” Options
Then there is the gun industry and the “made for women” products.
Some of these are actually awesome (as we’re about to discuss) and some are down-right stupid ideas that are aimed at the woman buyer but are really lacking because they help you to violate fundamental firearm safety rules and/or make it almost useless to have a gun because they’re so hard to actually USE the gun when you need it.
In short, it may seem like the deck is stacked against you as a female conceal carrier, but it’s not!
The “Gold Standard” For Conceal Carry Is a Sturdy Gun Belt With An Inside-The-Waistband (IWB) Kydex Holster
The ideal situation for women, like men, is an inside-the-waistband kydex holster carried either strong side or appendix on a sturdy gun belt.
This is basically the best setup possible and affords you many options. It’s, generally, how I carry a Glock 19 + 33 rounds of ammo even in something like shorts and a t-shirt. If you buy a quality holster and a quality gun belt, it’s a great setup that’s easy to conceal.
In the video below, Melody Lauer (a highly respected female gun trainer and writer) goes through first — on a table top — a LARGE collection of guns and knives and other Every Day Carry (EDC) items and then shows you how she carries that stuff in a typical jeans, t-shirt and sometimes over-shirt attire.
Notice how petite Melody is, I don’t know how much she weighs but she says she only has a 24″ waist in this video! My thigh is almost that big, so she is tiny and she can still conceal carry a decent size handgun. Good stuff here:
But, as we said, many female clothing options don’t include a gun belt.
That’s why the “belly band” or other “elastic-style” holster options are a great choice.
Why One of The Best Options For Women Is The “Belly Band” Style Holster
In the video below, “The Patriot Nurse” shows you how she carries in a belly band style holster, the benefits, and how she also carries not just a reload but also a backup gun!
She also demonstrates how to draw from the holster and how to re-holster as safely as possible with this collapsable style holster setup:
Why are these belly band style holsters such a great choice?
To answer, I will defer to the one-and-only Tiffany Johnson (another highly respected female gun trainer and writer) who has enumerated the benefits of the lowly belly band for women by writing:
– On-body carry. No worries about leaving/dropping/losing purses or fanny packs (or having them snatched off your body).
– Inexpensive. Even after the alterations, you’re spending way less than you would for an average or high-end belt holster.
– Bathroom breaks. Sounds silly but this is a huge convenience. Belly bands allow women to use the bathroom without messing with their gear at all.
– Lightweight. Gun belts are clunky and relatively heavy. Belly bands are light as air by comparison.
– Highly effective concealment. Elastic hugs the gear against the body. Reduces printing, creates cleaner lines, no tenting, no gaps.
– Quiet. Belly bands make no noise whatsoever. No clicking or snapping or clacking like you get with kydex; no “squeaking” like you get with leather.
– Can be worn high or low, front or back. Depending on what I’m wearing, I can situate the belly band low on my hips or higher above the waistline or anywhere in between. I can also spin the band around so that my gun is back behind me at 5’oclock or closer in front more like appendix carry, as necessary (personally appendix isn’t my thing, but some people like it). And of course even though mine has two holsters, I can still wear only one gun if that’s all my clothing will conceal.
– Easily removed. When I do have to run into a courthouse or a post office or a school, I don’t have to spend 20 minutes un-threading a bunch of belt loops and gear loops. I just pull the velcro apart and take off the band – gear and all. Three seconds. Done. Less fiddling, less chance of NDs.
– Other uses. Some of my bands have additional pockets too. Perfect for a cell phone or pen or flashlight or whatever.
– Comfort. I have literally fallen asleep in my belly band and gear (yep, two full-sized handguns and mags). Once you get the right fit, it’s like wearing contact lenses.
– Washable. All gear gets funky eventually. 🙂 Unlike leather or kydex, you can toss a belly band in the washing machine.
And just WHAT does Ms. Johnson carry this way?
It’s actually pretty awesome!
She writes …
“I carry in a belly band about 95% of the time. I carry two Glock 17s, one or two spare mags, and usually two knives (or at least that’s what’s in the belly band). The trick to making a belly band work is not being satisfied with whatever you get off the shelf. That’s one of the cool things about a belly band: because they’re cloth, they can be customized pretty easily and cheaply. I bought two belly bands, chopped them in half, and sewed the two holster halves together so that I would have a holster on each side. They do sell belly bands with double holsters, but they’re almost never in the “right place” (which of course is different for every woman). I took my belly band back and forth to a seamstress until I got it exactly the way I wanted it.”
Did you catch that?
Tiffany carries not just one, but TWO Glock 17’s which are the full-size Glock 9mm handguns!
So if you think you “can’t conceal” a handgun bigger than a pocket pistol, then you’re probably wrong. It’s all about finding a “setup” that works for you and modifying it to fit your needs (like Tiffany did).
In one of her short, but excellent posts on her blog called “So you think you can’t conceal?”, she shows a ton of different outfits that she’s wearing this setup (or something similar) with. Check it out:
So the truth is that a belly band style holster can be a great setup.
The Potential Problems With The Belly Band
Now, there are some problems with the belly band style holster for women.
As Tiffany Johnson writes again:
“- Probably won’t withstand a day-long or multi-day training course with lots of presentation reps. You could (and should) practice presenting from the belly band at the range on your own (obviously being extra careful to observe trigger finger discipline and muzzle discipline, as always). But a few reps is probably all you can do without the band starting to move around a lot and the elastic getting yanked and stretched and worn out.
– Not as durable as kydex or leather. Whereas I’ve used the same leather for about 15 years, I replace my belly bands about every three years or so. But since it’s relatively inexpensive, that’s not a problem.
– Slower presentation. If you’re counting milliseconds, my draw from the belly band is slower than my draw from leather.
– Flexibility is a blessing and a curse. I love that the belly band gives me so many options, but of course ideally you’d want your gun to be in the exact same place every time, all the time. I would hate to reach for my gun where I wore it yesterday instead of where I’m wearing it now. However, with a little dry work every morning before you go out, you can reorient the brain to know where your gear is, even if its location changes slightly. It’s a trade off. It sounds great to say “keep your gear in the same spot all the time,” but that’s just not realistic, unless of course you work at a gun range and wear the same uniform every day.”
The biggest potential drawback to me that I see with this style holster setup is the trigger guard area and re-holstering.
You do NOT want a holster where you can engage the trigger through the fabric of the belly band because the main purpose of a good concealment holster is to keep the trigger covered so you don’t shoot yourself while carrying.
You Can Modify The Belly Band Style Holsters
As Tiffany points out, you can easily modify the belly band style holsters to fit your own body and needs because they’re made of mostly fabrics, etc.
As I said, I don’t like the fact that with some of the thinner belly bands out there, you have to worry about the trigger guard. Tiffany also writes of the main issue with these:
” … But perhaps the biggest single disadvantage to the belly band is holster collapse. Folks who wear a belly band have to use their non-gun hand to open it, which precludes one-handed holster work and greatly heightens the risk of self-muzzling. Therefore, even though I wore one every day, it was practically impossible for me to train with my belly band. That was unacceptable.”
And she found a solution too. You can read her article here on how she got a custom Kydex maker (Spencer Keepers from Keepers Concealment) to custom-make some kydex inserts for the belly band.
With this setup, she is getting the best of both worlds with the versatility of the belly band for fitting her body … and … eliminating the issues of holster collapse and trigger protection that come from an all fabric holster!
How To Make The Belly Band Holster Fit Your Body (Curves or No Curves?)
In this video below, we go back to Melody Lauer who will discuss that HOW you wear the belly band holster will affect how well it conceals.
As you can see, you have to find the right setup for your body!
Also note: Melody’s body is almost the exact opposite of Tiffany’s body … and … BOTH their bodies are different than The Patriot Nurse.
But they all worked with their own bodies and the available equipment to get it to work.
That’s why it’s so important to try different ways of conceal carry and find a way that works for YOUR body … as long as you follow the “best practice” methods of carry and the fundamental firearm safety rules that these women are showing you. But the point is you’ll need to experiment.
Where Can You Buy Belly Band Holsters And What Are The Best Types?
The particular brand of belly band holster that Tiffany was using (and actually bought two of and modified extensively) is the “Gould & Goodrich 4-Inch Belly Band“.
You can click here get it on Amazon.
In Melody’s and The Patriot Nurses’s videos they were talking about the Can Can Holster.
The Patriot Nurse recommended “The Big SheBang“:
Which you can find on Amazon by clicking here. I didn’t catch which model Melody is using but it is the same brand, the CanCan brand.
If you go look at those on Amazon, you’ll most likely see a ton of other different styles of belly band holsters … but since I’ve never used them … and Tiffany, Melody, or The Patriot Nurse did not recommend them neither can I.
In Conclusion, Women You CAN Conceal Carry!
The point of this article was to help all the women out there who want to conceal carry to do so!
I hope that this gave you some good perspective on the challenges of conceal carrying for women (which you are probably already aware of) … but more importantly … I hope it helps you to actually get a gun and carry it!
If you have any feedback, I would love to hear it!
And please, please, PLEASE share this with the women in your life or anyone you care about!