There are times when the need to be discreet is going to mean carrying your defensive firearm somewhere other than on your waistline. There is also the fact that in our society, it’s quite normal for women to walk around with a purse on their shoulders, and a purse is useful for carrying any number of things such as a self-defense pistol.
Also See: 10 Ways to Carry Your Concealed Gun
At first glance, off-body carry in a purse, day-planner or laptop bag seems to be a good way to solve several problems at once. A gun in a purse or laptop bag can be with you rather than on you, and off-body carry also allows you to carry a larger, more-powerful handgun than in your pocket or some other means of deep concealment.
But all is not as it seems. There are many drawbacks to off-body carry that may have you re-considering it as an option for concealed carry.
First off, a pistol carried off-body is not as secure as a pistol carried on you. Strangers and family members will have easier access to a gun in a purse or a computer bag than they will have to gun carried on your person. This can be very dangerous if you have small children in your house with curious hands. It’s possible to buy purses or other bags specifically designed for concealed carry, but unless you constantly watch over your bag and what’s inside of it, there is still a chance that a child or a loved one will find your pistol, with possibly tragic consequences.
Which brings up another problem with off-body carry: If you’re the type of person that is constantly forgetting their car keys or losing their purse, off-body carry is probably not an option for you. Losing your purse or keys is one thing, losing a purse with a loaded pistol in it is quite another.
There’s also the little matter of purse snatchers. The fact is, your purse or laptop bag is a target for thieves, so maybe it’s not the best location for a defensive pistol. Thieves like to grab purses and laptop bags, so if your gun in the bag that the crook is taking away from you, he’s going to get your valuables and your gun.
All things considered, carrying a gun off your body is like freezing your diet plan inside a tub of vanilla ice cream: You might get into more trouble getting to it than using it.
So when is off-body carry a good choice? Personally, I think is off-body carry is a very viable way to carry a second, more-powerful pistol if you’re carrying a small “pocket” sized pistol on you like the Beretta Nano. Off-body carry may also work for women who just don’t have any other option to carry a defensive firearm on their person (more on that later), or for people who have to frequently leave their guns behind in a vehicle to enter a “weapons free” environment. Many women have to wear a dress for work or other occasions. A one-piece garment like a dress severely limit carry options, and purse carry may be a good solution for that case too.
If concealing your defensive pistol is your primary concern, there are other alternatives to off-body carry. A pocket pistol in a proper pocket holster is my preferred alternative because it’s easy to conceal and yet quicker on the draw than most other deep concealment options. Carrying a compact or full-sized service pistol in a belly band beneath your shirt is an effective way to conceal something with a little more firepower than a pocket gun without showing you have a holster on your waist. Other alternatives like a tuckable inside the waistband holster that hides your gun and holster except for the loops around your belt might be a preferable, based on what you carry and where you carry it.
Once you’ve decided to carry off-body, the bag/purse with the gun has to go with you everywhere, or else remain behind in a safe, secure location. You can’t leave it restrooms unattended, or leave it behind at a restaurant table as you go to meet someone else. If your bag is in your vehicle and you’re not, it needs to stay out of sight, and your vehicle should be locked.
Carrying off-body means changing your defensive tactics to suit your gun’s location. Draw times for off-body carry are significantly slower than concealed carry under a jacket, untucked shirt or in a pocket. Therefore, if you need to draw your pistol, you’ll probably need to access your gun and get it in-play earlier in the encounter than if you were carrying a gun in your waistband.
Carrying off your body also “telegraphs” your draw more than carrying on your waist does, signaling to the bad guy that something bad (for them) is about to happen. Yes, you can conceal the motion of grabbing your bag, reaching into it and drawing your gun, but training time is a limited resource, and on the whole, I’d rather put my time in with fundamentals like trigger and stance.
Which brings up another issue with off-body carry, namely, that it’s difficult to safely practice with a gun in a purse or shoulder bag, as it’s easy to point the muzzle your gun at someone behind you on the draw, breaking one of the fundamental rules of gun safety. This can be avoided by swinging the bag across your body as you draw, but that is adding extra time onto what is already a slow draw stroke.
Off body works well for certain applications, but consider all the options first before making it your primary way to carry a firearm. Having a gun near you is a comfort. Having a gun on you and ready to go is a deterrent.