Holsters for women: the angle problem
Holsters are a less straightforward issue for women than for most men. This is because women's bodies have, if you will, slightly different infrastructure. Ths is due primarily to the evolutionary imperatives of survivable gestation and childbirth. Large or small, women's bodies curve in a bit at the waist and out again at the hips. This puts any gun worn in a hip holster at just the correct angle for digging into the lower ribs. (Try smiling through THAT all day.)
A hip holster is required for the Holstering II class, yes, but think about it before committing to wear one on a daily basis.
Fair disclosure here: the writer, a woman, has never used a shoulder or ankle holster. Both are said to be comfortable when well-fitted but, like carry purses, can result in a slower draw. When using a shoulder holster, ankle holster, or carry purse you may need to up-tick your normal level of peaceable awareness in order to keep surprises to a minimum.
Holsters and belts
Do you need a belt, or not? It depends on the holster you've selected.
A paddle holster requires a constructed, reinforced pants waistline and possibly (depending on your choice of firearm) a sturdy belt as well: not everyone's go-to fashion choice. Belt holsters require only that sturdy belt, but its sturdiness and width are key. A fashion belt won't work here.
Want some alternative ideas? Try some of these sources; not endorsing, necessarily, just bringing a few different items to your attention:
- The Well Armed Woman is great and I've bought and used several items here.
- For their own alternative take on things there's Lethal Lace.
- ... likewise Femme Fatale.
Don't overlook, too, that if you're handy with a sewing machine a belly band holster is not all that hard to DIY. (Contact me if you want more info on this: our contact info is below.)
NOTE: If you decide to take our Holstering II class you must bring and use a strong-side, outside the waistband holster, regardless of how it would feel if worn all day. This type of holster increases the instructor's ability to visualize how well you're implementing verbal instructions, enhancing everyone's safety at this early stage. Yes, it may slow you down. That's actually a good thing at this point in your practice.
Holsters versus carry purses
About those carry purses (which might equally well be deemed carry "male bags"): think of them as another type of holster, one that additionally carries items you otherwise would place in a purse. That "pack it" aspect can make them quite heavy. They're also somewhat less secure because purses can be targets for theft, regardless of what's concealed in any central pocket. Some have been known to modify their shoulder-bag carry purses in order to forestall attempts to cut through the strap. (For example, you might ask a shoe-repair shop to replace a simple shoulder strap with one made of denser materials. My current fave brand of pickpocket-discouraging purses has a length of lightweight aircraft cable running through the shoulder padded strap.)
More about carry purses
On the other hand, carry purses are convenient and permit greater wardrobe flexibility, thereby contributing to your ability to be discreet about having a gun.
If you decide to use a carry purse, keep in mind that a gun compartment with a zipper closure opens more quietly than than one with a Velcro(c) closure. (Try it yourself with any Velcro-type closure you have around the house that's broad enough to truly secure a gun pocket. Is that a sound you want to make when you're trying to maintain concealment?) Velcro-type closures also generally takes both hands to open. Keep in mind, too, that different purses are better suited to different sizes and lengths of firearms.
Any body-centric holster option requires that you wear a concealment garment over all, regardless of gender. A concealment garment must conceal your firearm. This means that it has to be sufficiently long and opaque enough to cover, and sufficiently heavy that it won't move much (thereby disclosing your firearm). It also has to be sufficiently stiff that your firearm won't "print" (be evident by contour) through the fabric. A concealment garment, therefore, cannot a) be translucent, b) drape too softly, or c) waft too lightly on the air. Those attributes can make for some lovely, feminine outfits but are not practical during concealed carry with a body-based holster.
You can find plenty of merchandisers of concealment garments for both men and women online. Don't stop with a search merely for "concealment" items, though; many sources wouldn't include that term in the description because this use wouldn't cross their minds. Search for jackets and other tops by length ("extra long" is good), by heavier and more opaque fabric types (e.g., wool, ripstop, ultrasuede), and less drapy or revealing construction (a windbreaker, say, rather than a shawl).
Drill, drill, and then drill some more
The choice is entirely yours, but whatever your preferred carry method and the clothing you wear with it, remember that you should practice your smooth, unimpeded draw deliberately and often -- and with an UNLOADED firearm -- to develop good habits. Remember: slow is smooth, smooth becomes fast.
We do offer a two-class Holstering course in which your training concentrates on your preferred holster and your own, typical, concealment garment (or two, if you bring an extra for testing). If your choice is a carry purse, we'll teach you how to draw safely and without "covering" (allowing your loaded gun to point at) everyone in an arc around you before finally getting lined up on the problem at hand. Either way, though: practice is key.
Range work: specific issues for women
Here are a few tips for women doing range work in general:
No low-cut necklines. The brass cartridge forcefully ejected and arcing off to the right side of that gun being shot on your left is literally "flying brass," and is dadgummed hot. You'd be surprised how often it can strike you in the head/face/neck (one reason vision protection is required, and a brimmed or billed hat highly recommended). From there it has a weird propensity to roll down into your shirt. Black Oak instructors will demonstrate how to safely deal with a burning-hot brass cartridge that has gotten between your shirt and skin while you still have a loaded gun in hand. Meanwhile, give yourself every opportunity to avoid those small, rectangular burns by wearing a high collar and hat.
Avoid lipstick or gloss until you've washed up. Gunshot residue (GSR) is a hot, somewhat gritty powder of inorganic and organic compounds released with every shot. The primary component of GSR is lead; sometimes there's barium, antimony, and/or copper. None of these support great health when ingested. When shooting, put off applying anything sticky to your lips. You could absent-mindedly lick your lips and thereby move captured GSR into your digestive tract. Save the 'stick for after you clean up.
Pregnancy. Speaking of GSR: stay away from the range if you're pregnant, period. Most ranges have specific rules about this.
Kids, elders, and pets. Something rarely mentioned, but real, is that bringing GSR "home, home from the range" on skin and clothing can expose other household members to it as well. This includes the most vulnerable: the elderly, the very young, and even our non-human family members. For the sake of hygiene, therefore, consider wearing clothes that you can change before leaving the range without needing privacy to do so. For example, you might wear a big shirt over your regular clothes. Doing so both provides the high collar mentioned earlier and lets you shed the GSR-saturated outerwear without a lot of trouble. Consider wearing a pair of baggy, oversized pants over your own pants. (By the way, permit me to correct any Hollywood-inspired misperceptions on this point: a working gun range is not a fashion show.) Many people also make use of "range shoes," which are nothing more specialized than an old pair of sneakers that you wear only at the range and don't then bring into your living space. Consider wearing a washable hat or large bandana over your hair, too.
A serious kind of clean. When you're done shooting, put dirtied range clothes into something you can close (even if it's a lawn/leaf bag with a tie wrap), and do close it to avoid contaminating the inside of your vehicle. For hands, use water and a heavy-duty hand soap, or wipes specifically designed to remove GSR from skin. At minimum, use water or GSR wipes for your face. Then follow immediately with moisturizer where needed.
Once home, clean everything in the bag as soon as possible. A shower with shampoo would be a nifty idea, too. (In fact those apres-shooting afternoons turn out to be great times for a good home-spa treatment.)
A short list of information resources on the topics about which you should become informed when you undertake to become a shooter (and consider getting a CCW). We cannot exhaustively list or deeply explore them all; for example, the social, psychological, and emotional factors alone fill volumes. That said, however, here are some further links that you may find useful in the sense of getting adequately outfitted and prepared. Each one offers a wealth of additional information through further links (many of which touch expertly on the three factors just mentioned).
- AWARE (Arming Women Against Rape Endangerment): AWARE's mission is to educate the public, organizations, and individuals about issues related to personal safety. AWARE is a source of training, information, and support for people, primarily women, learning how to cope with violence. AWARE training is focused on self-protection and self-defense skills that can enable women to avoid, resist, and survive situations ranging from low levels of aggression to extremely violent assault.
- AWSDA (American Women's Self Defense Association): AWSDA is an international, non-profit, educational organization, dedicate to ending violence against woman by providing training programs for instructors and services for women, designed to increase their education of self defense and rape prevention.
- NRA Women is an invaluable source of information and connection. I find the articles in their NRA Women newsletter to be consistently well-written -- and, as a retired technical writer, I'm a tad picky about that. Too, almost every edition of their newsletter brings me something "bang on point" with topics that have been on my mind that week. For example, this is how I learned about the NRA School Shield program.
- Ammo.com offers A Woman's Self-Defense Guide to Concealed Carry. This covers everything from firearm purchase considerations, how to shop for gun classes, and options for women's concealed carry and self defense tips. (Consider them for ammo, too.)
- Last and by NO means least, The Well-Armed Woman is a true treasure of resources and information for women shooters.
Wrapping it up
We schedule our classes often and flexibly and can work around your work, school, childcare, and eldercare needs. Check out our calendar for currently planned classes; if something says OPEN then it's, y'know, open, meaning that in most cases we can refit it to your needs. Contact us with questions and requests.
Contact us when ready!
Black Oak Training is in upper Magalia, California
530-624-1562, text OK
Contact us to arrange for a video chat
P.O. Box 1731, Magalia CA 95954