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I’m not sure why it was that — when I moved back to Nashville after my two-year sojourn in New York — I suddenly became interested in guns. I grew-up knowing they were in the house, but it wasn’t until my mid-20s that I decided I needed to learn to protect myself. My dad had always offered to teach me how to shoot, and I finally took him up on it. When I went to the range for the first time, I was simultaneously intimidated and thrilled. And after that first real squeeze of the trigger… I was hooked!
I got my first gun — a Ruger LC9 — for Christmas that year and soon started the process of getting my concealed carry license. That was the easy part; figuring out how to actually carry concealed was the hard part. At the time, I didn’t know another woman who carried concealed, so I had to figure out on my own what worked and what didn’t, since the guys that worked at the gun store were about as helpful as titties on a boar hog. So, to save the other ladies of Ricochet some of the trouble I had to go through, here are the things that I’ve learned as a woman carrying concealed:
- The best gun to buy is the gun that you’ll actually carry everyday. I get a lot of flack from my bros at the gun store for carrying a Smith & Wesson Bodyguard .380 because “It’s too small,” “You need something with more stopping power,” “You’re going to hate shooting it,” and “That’s not a real gun.” All of these things may be true. I do hate shooting it, and I wish I could carry a larger caliber, but facts are facts: As a woman, I’m not built to accommodate a .45 caliber handgun. Women’s bodies are curvy (something you gents are thankful for), but this means that a gun sits differently against our waist and hip. But the biggest obstacle women face in on-body carry is our clothes. Oy! Women’s clothes are not meant to conceal a gun, so it’s for this reason that I carry different caliber pistols at different times of the year. When it’s sweater and coat weather, I’m all about carrying one of my 9mm guns; but, as soon as it turns to t-shirt and tank top weather, the .380 is coming out.
- Clothes are a woman’s best friend … and our worst enemy. Women’s clothes really aren’t meant to carry concealed: Our jeans have stretch in them that doesn’t support a heavy pistol, the pockets on our pants are virtually nonexistent, and our clothes are tighter and often made of thinner fabrics. However, because we have so much variety and possibilities in our wardrobes, carrying concealed is easier than many women think… just not as convenient. I’m a big believer in dressing like a normal person. You don’t have to wear cargo pants and baggy shirts in order to on-body carry. I dress what I call “pseudo hipster:” skinny jeans, ankle pants, and maxi dresses. I wear all these things, but I do have to make modifications to carry. As a result, cardigans are my best friend. Light little cardigans in summer, and drapey sweaters in winter. With some wardrobe modification I can carry almost every day.
- A low-profile holster is essential. Every guy I know raves and raves about the Cross Breed holsters. I have one like it, but it really doesn’t work for me. Because women’s clothing has more stretch and is generally lighter, bulky holsters “print” really easily. I discovered the (don’t laugh) Pin-Up Collection from Looper Law Enforcement. It’s an entire line of holsters designed especially for women. I have a couple different holster styles from them — including their equivalent of the Cross Breed — but the ultra low-profile kydex Betty style is my favorite. It has a heavy metal clip that doesn’t require a big belt, which makes it easy for me to adjust the kant. I can wear it with yoga pants, bike shorts under a sundress, maxi dress, or skirt. And it allows me to reposition the holster easily. There are other products out there targeted towards women’s concealed carry, and the Internet has a wealth of resources on the matter.
- Don’t let the guys at the gun store bully or intimidate you. The only time I’ve ever experienced blatant sexism was at the gun shop. I can’t tell you how many times when I asked to see a particular model of gun, the guy behind the counter would hand me the pink or Tiffany Blue one. I even had one guy say, with a knowing twinkle in his eye, “I’ll bet you like that pink handle, don’t you?” to which I replied, “No, not really. I don’t feel the need for my gun to demonstrate to the world that I have a vagina.” Many times, the guy were genuinely clueless as to why they were steering me in the wrong direction. “You could put this holster in your jeans pocket,” they’d say. “Um, no, I can’t,” I’d say back. Eventually, the guys saw that I was a good shot — and could take their teasing in stride — and even came to see how, as a woman, I carry differently than a man. You just have to suck it up, and show them you’re made of stronger stuff.
- Carry the same way everyday. There are lots of ways you can on-body carry: ankle, back, hip, appendix, bra, belly, thigh. Just pick one, and carry the same way everyday. Much of the purpose of training and practice are to create muscle memory, so that we can react without having to think in a stressful situation. Carrying in a different manner everyday will obliterate that muscle memory.
- Purse carry sounds great, but… no. I can remember maybe five times in the past two years that I’ve carried my gun in my purse. I’m pretty vehemently against purse carry, because the last thing you want to do when confronted with an attacker is have to dig through your Mary Poppins purse to find your gun. And when was the last time you cleaned out your purse? It’s filthy in there! You don’t want that junking up your gun. Yes, I realize there are concealed carry purses with special pockets reserved for your gun, but — come on! — they’re hideous! But my biggest reason for not liking purse carry is how distant we are from our purses and how easily they can be snatched. We set our purses down on counters, on the floor, in the back seat, and the grocery cart. Purses are easy to misplace and easy to get stolen.
- Learning to protect yourself is the best thing you can do for yourself. Feminists are missing the boat when it comes to real female empowerment. You cannot rely on others to protect you at all times and — if you want something done — you have to do it yourself. The other day, I saw the story of a very pretty nurse and single mom in Seattle that had gone on a date with a guy from Match.com (we’re pretty sure Whiskey Sam’s alibi is tight), and he murdered her on their date. Carrying a gun can’t ensure that nothing bad will ever happen, but it gives you a fighting chance if it does.
For some illustration of how this works, I’ve posted some photographs and videos on the Members Feed.