Primer Series: Near Onbody Concealed Carry Holsters for Women
A few months ago, I wrote an article in this series entitled Concealed Carry 101. In that post, I mentioned different types of concealed carry holster options for various purposes (if you’re new to the topic of concealed carry, I recommend you read that article first before reading this one). This post is dedicated to onbody concealed carry holsters for women -- although men are certainly welcome to read keep reading.
No one has really ever made the distinction of a “for-men-only” concealed carry holster because there was really nothing in the intent of a holster’s design specifically geared for a man’s body only. In fact, until relatively recently, the term “women’s holster” would have been a confusing term to just about anyone; however, there are now many options available for women and their feminine body form.
Regardless of type, holsters need to consider two primary functions before all others: 1) securely house and protect the frame it will carry while on a moving body and 2) safe and practical application or draw. These are not the only two things that are important, but I would argue that these are the biggest factors to consider before designing for other functions or features; after all, if these two functions of a holster fail, you have either caused serious accidental harm, or worse.
There has been extraordinary interest in concealed carry options for women lately – the past year has shown a significant increase in enrollments in concealed carry classes and purchases of ultra-compact handguns for concealed carry, especially among women.
As an aside, the first time I regularly carried a weapon on a daily basis was during a year-long deployment to Afghanistan in 2006. My primary issued weapon was an M16A2 and I was fortunate to also carry a Glock 19. I distinctly remember that there was a little bit of an adjustment period to figure out the best position to carry, even without the additional consideration of having to conceal my weapon with my attire.
Holster options became far more challenging once I started my professional civilian career. This is when I came across some holsters claiming to be designed for a woman’s form and decided to judge for myself.
One particular company, called Femme Fatale Holsters, impressed me the most with their product line and I found its owner, Donna, to be a very warm, practical, and down-to-earth woman. The rest of this post speaks to my first experience with this type of product.
Sizing: I was concerned about sizing issues in general for a product meant to fit snugly against the body. I was certain that I’d have to try several times to get to the right size. This was not the case. I was able to measure myself to the correct size the first time for each product. The instructions directed that I measure around my torso directly beneath the bust and expel all air from my lungs to get my measurement. The corsets are sized in even numbers so if you are between sizes, round down to the nearest whole number, unless you are within ¼” of the next higher number, then you would round up for your size). For the corset holster, I measured myself at just under 29” so I ordered the 28” corset.
First Wear/Fit: If you’ve never worn any sort of lingerie corset before, you might find this uncomfortable, depending upon your comfort standards. If you are familiar with a corset (such as a corset from Victoria’s Secret), this corset fits and feels very much like that but with more support in the front and sturdier construction overall. The corset is secured by a selection of three vertical columns of lingerie hook-and-eye closures (the kind of closure you would see on a bra). If you’re looking for a corset holster, this is a feature you should absolutely have. For one, it keeps your profile minimal and slim (versus Velcro which adds more awkward bulk than you’d think), and the benefit of 3 columns of closures is the same reason bras are designed this way. Your size should fit to the outer-most closure and as it stretches over washes and wears, you work your way inwards on the snaps, always ensuring the perfect fit.
Experience: I actually had the most reservation about this holster before I tried it, thinking that perhaps these products were really just a marketing ploy and wouldn’t be practical or comfortable; however, this was by far my favorite product out of all of the holsters I tried. I holstered my weapon (a Sig Sauer P238 model) and put on a normal/slim shirt. It was impossible to tell I was carrying concealed, no matter how I twisted or turned or moved. The other thing I noticed was the great stability of this position. Because this holster keeps the firearm centered in front of you along your core, this is the most stable part of your body when you move. This causes less movement with the firearm and holster which translates to comfort and supreme concealment. Your other body parts move dynamically and chafe and/or jostle firearms carried along the hip or leg area. Areas of dynamic movement also cause clothing to shift and frequently snag on your firearm. Furthermore, even though a handgun is not really that heavy, the weight of the gun is always noticeable because of the slightly shifting weight of the gun when you move. On the other hand, the front-centered position of the corset holster also makes the weight of the firearm almost imperceptible. It was the most comfortable and natural holster I had ever worn and it didn’t inhibit any of my apparel choices. There are some cons to consider as well. Like with anything, more flexibility always exacts a cost on functionality, and vice versa. Getting to your firearm is a bigger challenge than most other holster options because you either have to reach into your shirt from above to draw, lift your shirt from below, or through your shirt (e.g. buttoned shirt). However, this should not be a factor for most people. If you are in a situation where the speed of your draw to engage a threat is the biggest problem, then you are either in combat, an on-duty cop, or completely unaware of your surroundings. Awareness alone will avoid just about any situation you would ever need to use your firearm, or at least give you time to keep your firearm in a ready position. The comfort and versatility of this holster option make it far easier to carry which translates to consistent carry. That is a far more important factor than a fast-draw holster that is only worn a fraction of the time.
Sizing: The measurement for this is taken 6” below the very top of your thigh and go for the smaller measurement if you’re in between sizes. This sizing needs to be snug because of the taper of your leg. I measured a size Small.
First Wear/Fit: This holster stays in place if you measure for snug fit and if you allow the elastic on the inside to stick to your skin. The elastic is slightly tacky/sticky and just like a thigh-high stocking, is designed to lightly adhere with a tiny bit of moisture from your skin.
Experience: This was not a very versatile option for me, but it does have its use cases. This is an option for you if you frequently wear knee-length A-line skirts/dresses. Pencil skirts are not completely out of the question, but will prove to be uncomfortable and impractical for the most part. The placement of the holster should be on the opposite leg of your draw hand and the firearm is meant to be positioned on the inner part of the thigh. This is quite an awkward feeling to get used to as you move in it but what is good about this position is that it provides easier access than some of the other options.
Sizing: To determine your size, use a measuring tape to measure directly above your ankle bone. With this holster, you want to round your measurement UP to the nearest half inch to determine your correct size.
First Wear/Fit: This option will not feel comfortable for most people on first wear because your ankle bones tend to be very sensitive (think about when you get new cowboy boots or shoes that hit your ankle area). This will take time to break in. To wear it, hook the second or third eye hook first, then slip on like a sock before fasting the rest – this was the easiest way to get this holster on quickly.
Experience: Ankle holsters in general take a lot of time and adjustment for both your ankle and finding the right gun that fits to accommodate your boot and your gun (or pant leg and gun). This takes a lot of time for most people to get used to because most people never placed a gun on/near their ankle area. Depending on how you are wearing this, it can be cumbersome to get to your gun with this type of holster as well. The positive, however, is that it is versatile for people who frequently wear cowboy boots or slacks, leaving versatility for apparel otherwise.
Finally, remember that a holster is more than just a pouch or a pocket – it is housing your firearm, and if poorly designed, can do dangerous things like manipulate the safety on your gun. Outside of that, no matter what you choose, your personal comfort and situation or use case are the most important factors to weigh in determining what is right for you.
I hope this has been a helpful place to start if you’re relatively new about learning about concealed carry options for women. I will also be holding a live online forum in the near future for those interested in asking more questions about this topic (sign up here). Also, feel free to leave questions or comments below.
-Susan C. Gonzales
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