Betty Shonts

She believes that carrying gun is not a permit to be a tough guy, and it’s not a magical amulet; always pick your fights carefully and be the better person.

A Winchester Model 1897 12 gauge and Winchester 1895 in 7.62 x 54R are some of Shonts’ favorite things.

I’m sporting an ever-growing belly, but the expanding waistline doesn’t stop me from carrying a handgun.


In fact, it just reinforces my desire to keep carrying. I’m starting to waddle, and it takes me longer to sit and stand. Breathing can get laborious, because my lungs are fighting for room. I look like an easy target. All you have to do is tip the pregnant lady over and watch her flail around like a turtle on its back. How’s she going to fight back, right?


“When you have a baby, you’re the civilian equivalent of a Secret Service agent.”


Besides worrying about taking care of myself and the mysterious moving lump that kicks me awake at 3am, I’ll have an actual, squirming baby boy in my hands by the end of May. And that’s when our entire world will change.

There’s nothing like turning into a first-time momma bear to make me realize that there’s an enormous responsibility in taking care of a tiny, vulnerable person well beyond diaper changing, feeding, and starting a college fund. It’s easy when it’s just me and my husband. But when you have a baby, you realize you’re the civilian equivalent of a Secret Service agent. That baby relies on you 100 percent to protect him.

CCW Info: Betty Shonts runs through a simple one-handed drill with a Smith & Wesson Model 66.

Betty Shonts runs through a simple one-handed drill with a Smith & Wesson Model 66.

When I was waddle-walking across the parking lot to the doctor’s office for my monthly checkup, I saw a man with his back turned to me, standing at the trunk of his minivan, diligently changing his baby’s diaper. I thought about how easy it would be for me to sneak up behind him, clock him on the head, mug him and take his baby and his van. I then thought about how I would change my son’s diaper while out in public. Momma Bear Secret Service Agent.

I was born and raised in New Jersey, a state known for being unfriendly to gun owners. We moved out of that tax-hole to the Tennessee countryside when I was still in middle school, and I was fascinated when I overheard teachers and students planning deer hunting trips together. It was an entirely different world.

CCW Info: Finding Native American petroglyphs while hiking in Nevada.

Finding Native American petroglyphs while hiking in Nevada.

So I was in Tennessee when I first started shooting. My brother brought out a lever action .22 carbine and he ran me through the firearm safety rules. We shot at an empty can we found. I was hooked. I think I went straight to a 12 gauge shotgun after that, and shotguns have been my favorite firearm ever since. I wonder how differently things would have turned out for me had our family stayed in New Jersey.

I bought my first handgun on my 21st birthday and applied for my permit shortly after. My mother said that was good, because there’s “all kinds of people you don’t know who will rob you, rape you or kill you.” I told her that’s true, but they don’t know the first thing about me, either. I might rob them, rape them or kill them. I’m happy to be a non-stereotypical gun owner. If a 100-pound woman is armed, it keeps the predators guessing. And that can protect the next person who isn’t armed and aware.

I have old to new guns from a Winchester 1897 to a Luger P-08 to the modern “evil black rifles.” Some men find it intimidating that I’m into guns and own more than one. I would lose dates because of it. Even when we first started dating, my husband didn’t understand. I told him I don’t understand why he likes to golf. He’s long since realized that I’m not the Unabomber, and he picked out a Sig 556 for his birthday.

But I can be very girly, too. I wear makeup, like to crochet, and I have a fashion magazine as my toilet book. But as soon as I tell people I have three tarantulas, I’m back to being the Unabomber. Oh well. I paint my nails purple. How’s that!


Was there a specific incident that caused you to carry a gun?

Luckily, no. I grew up around firearms and used them for recreation and varminting, so carrying one for self-defense just became a natural extension of what I was already doing.

You watch the news and read the paper, and you learn that bad things happen to undeserving good people all the time. Common sense says trouble just might find me, so I need to be prepared.


Have you ever had to use your firearm in a defensive situation?

I’ve been “sized up” a few times, and at one place I worked, there was a fired employee who stalked my boss from the parking lot and threatened to come in and kill him. That was a scary time, but I’ve never had to draw.

Having the ability, means, and will to defend myself have translated into how I carry myself in public and behave in general. I don’t do things like load my hands down with shopping bags and yap obliviously away on a cellphone in a parking lot. If you don’t look like food to a predator, you’ll less likely be food.

We ladies especially have to come across as cool and assertive to keep from being victims, because we’re assumed to be “weaker” and “submissive.” Unfortunately, even a confident attitude may cause thugs to end up reacting to you to some degree. I’ve been called foul words because I don’t respond to their liking, and I’ve even been spat on before. Don’t show fear. Be prepared for hollow intimidation to turn into true aggression.

Carrying a gun is not your permit to be a tough guy, and it’s not a magical amulet; always pick your fights carefully and be the better person. Avoid. De-escalate.


What gun do you carry?

Right now I carry a Smith & Wesson model 442 because it’s small-framed and lightweight. It’s also a very deliberate choice, because I consider a J-frame to be a very up close and personal weapon. I have to think about me and my unborn baby first, so risking direct involvement in third party scenarios where I might need a handgun with better range and ammunition capacity, is just going to have to take a back seat.

When I wasn’t pregnant, I would carry a S&W 640, a HK USP Compact in .45 auto or a 9mm CZ 75 Compact, depending on what I could conceal with the weather. They all get loaded up with Speer Gold Dots. They have the ability to mushroom well, and have been proven reliable in all my handguns so far.


What concealment holsters do you use?

I don’t have a lot of meat on my bones, so I had the problem of finding a holster that didn’t make me look like I was sporting a big tumor. I found the Ace Case brand belly band holster, and I’ve used that ever since. It’s elastic so it conforms to the shape of my body.

I can fit a small J-frame all the way up to my USP Compact in it, it fits extra magazines, and I can raise or lower the positioning depending on what I’m wearing. I usually wear the band lower around my hips with the gun in the 4-5 o’clock position, tucked under my jeans. It works quite well and gives me a fast, “peeling” draw. Downside is you can’t reholster with one hand, which I don’t consider a priority. Reholstering means the threat is over. I use talcum powder in the summer so it doesn’t get sweaty.

My belly is really showing now, so I’m using an extra large size band so I’m not compressing the baby. It still works, which is great; maternity pants tend to not have belt loops or the ability to support a large clip-on holster.

And with the belly band, I don’t have to fumble for a holster and gun that’s dropped to the floor with my pants in the bathroom. It’s hard enough to bend over right now!

When I have to visit the doctor, I resort to purse carry. But I don’t prefer or recommend off-body carry.


What do you do for a living?

I’m a graphic designer, and the Art Director for both Concealed Carry Magazine and SWAT Magazine. I love it. I work from home doing something I love – designing gun magazines!


Do you have any advice for our readers?

Yes. A lot of us have more than one gun, and that means securing the ones we’re not carrying. I hear this all the time: “As much as a gun safe costs, I’d rather spend the money on another gun.”

CCW Info: Burglars pounded and pried on Shonts’ safe (made by the Cannon safe company) but couldn’t get in.

Burglars pounded and pried on Shonts’ safe (made by the Cannon safe company) but couldn’t get in.

I was burglarized a few years ago when I rented a townhouse. We had designated parking spots, so it was easy to tell I wasn’t at home. I did not have an alarm, something I’ve learned from since. That weekend while I was away, the burglars struck around 3 townhouses in my neighborhood, including mine. We were chosen because we were located in wooded back corners that gave them privacy. They kicked in my front door and ransacked everything, even tipping my loveseat into my coffee table.

They found my gun safe and pounded away on it with my set of dumbbells, a butter knife and a bayonet. They managed to knock the knobs off and pound a crater in the top, but they couldn’t break in. Considering the amount of firearms, jewelry, and important documents I had in there, I’m really glad I had the safe. Cannon sent out a locksmith and had me fixed up in no time, all covered by warranty.

And that’s what I want the readers to know – if you have guns that aren’t carried on you, keep them secure. I’ll also mention my SWAT editor’s home burned down a few years ago, and the locker-style safes he had couldn’t protect his guns from the flames. He lost a lot of firearms, including heirloom pieces.

Whether it’s to keep your guns out of small children’s hands, a burglar’s hands, or kept safe from a fire, knowing your guns are protected is well worth the investment of buying a good, solid, fire-resistant safe.

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