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Women in recent years have bought and begun carrying concealed handguns in unprecedented numbers.
I believe that’s a good thing for personal and public safety. If you look closely at big-city newspaper reports, usually buried far beneath the front page you’ll find stories detailing how a gun in the hands of a good citizen prevented or ended a violent crime. An untold number of other crimes never happen, and are never reported, thanks to the presence of a gun in a would-be victim’s hand.
Unfortunately, not all people, women included, understand what it is to carry in a safe manner that still allows access to the firearm.
The Danger of Purse Carry
Purse carry is the most common method I hear women discuss — even by those who’ve been licensed and packing for years. This is disappointing in a few ways. First, drawing from a purse is slower than drawing from most on-body locations. Five seconds is the average length of a deadly force encounter. Can drawing from a purse happen faster? With the right equipment and practice, yes. But that’s a tall order that most women simply aren’t going to take time for.
Second, most women haven’t practiced drawing from a purse, and may not understand that dropping it to the ground, for a handheld style, or firing one-handed if using a shoulder strap purse, are often necessary for the purse not to interfere, dangerously, with point of impact.
As too many news reports have described, a purse can’t be under the owner’s control 100 percent of the time. Children as young as two have gotten handguns out of purses, with tragic results.
Finally, carrying in a purse requires diligent observance of the safety rule “finger off trigger until the sights are on target.” For many purses, breaking another safety rule, “never allow the muzzle to cover anything you’re not willing to destroy,” is nearly impossible not to break during the draw or while re-holstering.
Nevertheless, purse carry has a couple of advantages. The greatest is the ability to pack a bigger gun that’s easy to shoot and holds more ammunition. Another is the capability to establish a firing grip on the gun while it’s in concealment, which can buy valuable seconds as well as send a strong non-verbal message to the observant thug.
Some instructors tout the fact that a revolver can be fired repeatedly from inside a purse as an advantage. Anyone who’s given it any thought will realize that the likelihood of those shots impacting the intended target is small. As wise instructors say, “there’s a potential lawsuit attached to every bullet.” Except for distances close enough to smell the assailant’s breath, shooting from inside a purse is an irresponsible plan that’s not likely to stop the attack, and could kill or injure bystanders.
A couple incidents have been cited in the news wherein women dropped a loaded gun into a purse along with all the usual stuff—pens, keys, eyebrow pencils, etc. Any one of these items can, and has, caused a negligent discharge while the gun was in the purse and the owner was going about her business. Responsible purse carry means, in part, choosing one of the hundred-plus designs of bags specifically made for concealed carry, which has a dedicated gun section, an inner holster of some kind, and a reinforced bottom.
Consider Purses With Gun Compartments
Safe purse carry means the gun is contained in a compartment that holds it and only it, and perhaps a spare magazine, assuming your purse has:
- An inner sheath or holster of some sort that keeps the firearm anchored in one predictable position inside the dedicated space.
- A closure for the gun’s compartment that is quick and easy to open. You should be able to grasp the opening device (a flap or zipper pull) in your fist and open it without having to use fingertips. This keeps access to your gun in the gross motor action department.
- The ability to cleanly draw without crossing the muzzle over any of your own body parts (most often the support-side hand is at risk here).
- Construction that allows you to carry the purse in exactly the same position every time you use it, one in which your firing hand can easily get to the gun.
If the purse is not a holster-purse or is retrofitted or pinch-hitting as such, the gun compartment must not be penetrable by any object, within or outside of the purse, during normal use. What you must avoid is any object like a pen, keys or a child’s fingers being able to get inside the trigger guard from outside the compartment.
The purse is under your control at all times. That means on your body any time you’re not in the car or at home. There can be no leaving it where it can be stolen or rifled through by a child.
Now does purse carry still sound like the easiest way to carry your gun? It’s not convenient to do well, but it is workable, and is the preferred method of many women. When the guidelines above are followed, purse carry can work, though it is not recommended.
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