“One size fits all” is commonly seen on gear and clothes with a high degree of adjustability. Things like hats, safety harnesses, vest, etc. market their wares with this boast, making it appealing to the masses. However, anyone who has ever worked retail or bought any of these products knows that it’s not that cut and dry. It’s more like “One size fits most.” In the gun world, holsters fit into this category.
While many holsters are made to fit specific guns, the holster is meant to be worn by anyone carrying said firearm. Those in the gun industry, or who carries daily, know that a holster choice can be as unique as the individual. The shape of your body, where you like to carry, and how you dress goes greatly into holster choice. One of the upsides of holsters is that they are returnable, so you can try it out for a short time before deciding whether it works for you.
Women are a growing segment of the firearms industry, which means carrying options for them is growing. Until recently, many holsters have been “One size fits all,” but that was still geared toward men’s shape and fashion. Men and women are different. Their bodies and sizes differ significantly, which means their needs vary as well. Recently a wife of a close friend suggested this article to me. She and her husband differ greatly in their favorite gun and holster options. Having carried for several years, she understands these issues. While discussing the fact that my classes are becoming primarily filled with women, she suggested some insight might be needed.
Since I’m not a woman myself, this is the insight I can’t personally relate to. Like I said earlier, men and women are different. Being a happily married man for 12 years, I’ve learned better than to presume I understand these issues, so when I decided to write this article, I went to the source for information. I spoke with my friend’s wife, and I sat down with my wife (who has a concealed handgun permit but does not currently carry often) and discussed gun and holster options. What worked for them and what didn’t. More importantly, I asked, “Why?” Some things were as expected, but I must say I was surprised at some others, especially when it came to my own wife’s preference. In this article, I will go through what I’ve learned from both an experienced woman who carries along with a novice. I’m sure this will not cover every person or situation, but hopefully, it will work as a starting point for the ladies that read it.
One of the main issues with men’s holsters for women is the body shape of the person carrying it. Everyone has specific needs and differences, but to start your search as a woman is to consider the female form’s shape. Women have hips; men do not. The traditional hourglass shape is what women struggle with when it comes to fashion. The same goes for a carry option. After all, you do wear them. My wife, Nicole, for example, has what she delicately describes as “childbearing hips.” This is nothing that she is self-conscious of but is very aware of. We went through a “firearms fashion show” of trying on my many handgun/holster options to determine what works for her and what doesn’t. One of the first problems arose when she tried on a gun with an OWB (outside the waistband) holster. They all protruded from her hips, off the body, which constantly got in the way of her arm. This changed her natural gate as she walked and felt very uncomfortable. Everything was bulky and awkward. This is not an issue for me as I am built like most men, broad-shouldered, and narrow hipped. I never thought about the gun getting in the way of my arms, because it never did. However, this was an immediate obstacle for my wife. Her gun of choice is a Charter Arms Mag Pug.
Revolvers are traditionally carried high on the hip; most revolver holsters are made with this in mind. In the case of my wife, this exacerbated the problem.
For OWB carry, the gun and holster combo that she “could deal with” was a Blackhawk Serpa CQB, set up with a slight forward cant, and my Springfield XDM 9. The combo is not ideal for concealed carry, especially with her style, but was functional if she ever decided to open carry. Her second favorite was the Fobus holster with my Sig P365. The lack of cant still put the gun’s grip in the path of her arm but not as bad as others.
My friend’s wife, Michelle, had similar preferences. Her gun of choice is a Sig P238 with a Fobus holster. She carries this setup mostly around the house and farm. She likes the control the holster offers and how easy it is to put on and take off. She is also blessed with the female form, not to my wife’s point, but enough that larger guns and holsters that come more off the body are “… just bulky.” It seemed to be a reoccurring theme.
When I asked Michelle what the biggest challenge for women to conceal carry, this was her answer. “So concealed carry for us is different and harder than for a man. You know you wear your shirt untucked, your gun’s concealed. Your shirt’s just hanging straight down. We do the same thing, and there’s a bulge sticking out to the side. Suddenly waist and hips and everything, you’ve got this deformity.” Nicole second that feeling when I asked why she like the holster that she did. The OWB holster with her choice of gun was too far out off of her hips, plus it put pressure on them. Everything about it seemed awkward and sticking out.
This conversation almost immediately turned to fashion with both women. The next thing, Michelle said, “Everybody wants to look thin.” She went on to say that how she carried the gun depended on “… what she was wearing.” Nicole had on a lady’s polo and jeans when we had our “firearms fashion show” and remarked that everything on her waist made a huge bulge under her shirt. When I asked her about women’s fashion issues, she had this to say. “I think that because women’s clothing is cut more to accentuate in a waist. It makes it difficult to conceal, because everything is going to be tighter for a woman around her waist and her hips, as far as clothing goes.” She mentioned that it might be easier if she had on a baggy shirt, but the clothes she wears tend to be more form-fitting.
Michelle commented that women’s pants have more varieties of styles and how you carry can depend significantly on how the pants were cut. Things like low rise jeans, scrubs, dresses, and the like play a major role in how women carry their guns. Nicole has remarked many times that she wishes women’s pants were sized and made more like men’s pants. You can go by actual waist and length measurements and have pockets that hold more than a tube of Chapstick. This presents a unique challenge for women and is the main factor in their firearm carry choices. Men typically chose inside the waistband, outside the waistband, or their pocket for carrying options. What if the clothes we wore didn’t have pockets or a waistband (like a dress), or pockets so small they were essentially useless and a waistband so low nothing fits (like low rise jeans)? As a man, I can tell you I’d be frustrated, which is what women have to go through to protect themselves.
A quick internet search of women’s holsters followed this line of thought. As far as traditional holsters went, most were very similar to what men use, with possibly some fashionable designs for the customer. There were a few that were marketed to be designed for women’s bodies and worth looking at. A company called “Tactica” (sister company to Alien Gear Holsters) is one example and would be worth looking at. The more prominent options for women were “non-traditional” carry options. These would be things like belly bands, corsets, garter holsters, purses, and selection of concealment clothing (leggings, jackets, vests, etc.). Some are viable options.
Nicole has a concealed carry purse. She just got it and liked it a lot. She said a more causal carrier would prefer the purse to a holster “… because that’s one way she can get around the wardrobe issues and I think in general a more causal carrier would feel less self-conscious about the added bulk of the holster and the gun, by having it in something she’s already used to having bulk and weight to it.” She bought one made by Browning that admittedly is a bit bigger than what she likes but said it is comfortable and got plenty of pockets for everything. She also said the weight of a loaded Mag Pug in the purse wasn’t too noticeable. The biggest negative was the size “bigger than what she prefers” and the fact that holstering her gun was a bit difficult, “something that will get easier with time.” Michelle mentioned that her mom uses a concealed carry purse and loves it. She carries it everywhere. This is a universal option since the way you dress doesn’t matter as long as you have your purse. Nicole’s purse has a built-in zipper lock on the gun pocket and is ambidextrous. I suspect this is an industry-standard. Of course, some activities require the purse to be left behind. This is where other options come along.
Other options like the belly band or corset may be fairly universal for more casual environments, and they are secure for more physical activity. Not something you’d wear with a dress but maybe to take on a hike or run. Personally, I have multiple holster options for a single gun for this reason. The holster I wear for a nice dinner on the town is probably not the same one I wear while in the woods or on the lake. Based on what I’ve seen and heard, the advice I’d give on this is to provide yourself with several options that work for your gun and try things out based on your most common activity and style of dress.
Where and What to Carry
These choices are as unique as the individual. Nicole surprised me with the fact that she preferred appendix carry with just about everything. It didn’t put pressure on her hips, and it was the best at concealment.
Michelle preferred inside the waistband appendix or the outside waistband 4 o’clock position depending on what she was doing.
Neither liked a gun at the 3 o’clock, dead center of the hip’s location. Even more surprising to me was that they both preferred the same type of holster for these spots. Michelle used the “Sticky Holster” brand, and my wife tried my “Blackhawk Tecgrip.” These holsters are made by different manufacturers but are the same style. They are a soft fabric holster with a rubbery, grippy exterior made to be worn inside the waistband or in the pocket. They are comfortable and versatile, something Michelle commented on, and can easily be concealed. I bought one for my Sig as a pocket option but think I may have used it only a couple of times. More than likely, it’ll be in my wife’s possession from now on.
As far as the name brands go, trust the ones with a good reputation. I mentioned Tactica earlier because the parent company has a good reputation, and I have had nothing but good experiences. Companies like Fobus, Blackhawk, Bianchi, and the like have viable options for women as well. Just because it is made for a woman doesn’t mean the quality is different. Don’t shop online and get something “Made for women” by someone you don’t know or trust. With a good reputation, the big companies are competing in this market and will have the quality you are looking for.
Since women’s fashion makes traditional hip carry difficult and awkward, try working with what is comfortable to you. Try different locations around the waist, like appendix or further back on your hips. If you wear looser tops or pants, belly bands and tactical undergarments might work (yes, they do make them). Dresses lend themselves toward purses or garter holsters options. While there aren’t as many options out there for women as men, there are more than there used to be. This is a growing market, which means more are popping up every day. When looking for advice on this topic, do as I did and go to women who have already gone through this. Your husband, boyfriend, brother, or father may know a lot about guns, but the struggles of being a woman carrying a gun will be foreign to them. If you ask men for advice, they will give you what works for them. That may not be the right answer for you. Talk to a woman who has experience with these struggles and see what they have to say first. Then try it out for yourself. When I asked Michelle what advice she could give, she said, “Wear it all the time. Because you’re not going to be comfortable to start with, and you will be very self-conscious. I mean, I’m at the point now I can wear it out, and I forget I even have it. It’s there. It’s part of me.” This advice can be given to anyone new to concealed carry or even just with a new concealed carry gun. Find what you think you’ll like then wear it, wear it often. Soon it will become part of you. Also, practice with it as often as you can. You have to be comfortable carrying it, drawing it, and using it, should the need arise.
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