I know that carrying a firearm in a bag or a purse is a big “NO!” for some. But for others, it can be a great option, especially if those people make a commitment to be safe and responsible with off-body carry. But since there are still so many concerns regarding how, when and where someone can safely carry a self-defense firearm in a bag, I’ve tackled some of the most-asked questions here!

1. What Are the Pros and Cons of Using a CCW Handbag?

Beyond the debate over the accessibility of a firearm in a handbag, many people claim that the two big downsides of using a CCW purse include a child or an unauthorized user getting access to the gun or a criminal stealing the bag. But, honestly, those could be potential risks no matter how you carry.

A woman who chooses a purse definitely needs to take those risks into consideration, and she needs to be mentally and physically prepared to mitigate those risks. But there is no doubt that many gun owners use a bag for concealed carry because it is very convenient. You can just grab it and go! And since a large majority of ladies I know carry some sort of purse every day anyway, using a CCW bag makes a lot of sense for them. This is especially if they have a larger gun — or a smaller physical frame — that could make concealed carry an even greater challenge. A handbag can also be a more comfortable option when the user has specific considerations (such as pregnancy, a recent surgery or a special medical apparatus) or just prefers the ease and comfort of an item that isn’t digging into ribs, thighs or otherwise.

2. Why Is It Important to Get the Proper Self-Defense Training? 

Training and practice are imperative for any type of gun use and any kind of holster! Guns can be dangerous if used maliciously or negligently. Those who choose to carry a gun for self-defense need to seek out proper training so they can be mentally and physically prepared. It’s much more than just how to properly aim the gun and pull the trigger. You should find reputable instructors and take classes that help you move and shoot and that give you practice with a safe draw. And if you have a handbag, you will need training on how to safely access that gun and get it up on target quickly and efficiently.

Undoubtedly, using a purse has a few extra steps. So it’s important that the user know how to do this safely in any circumstance. As well, gun owners need to take into account the emotional, mental, legal and financial aspects of having firearms for personal protection. It’s so important that we all know the laws (both local and federal) and understand the situations in which a firearm can be used for self-defense.

3. What Features Should Someone Look for in a Good Concealed Carry Handbag? 

The No. 1 thing to look for in a CCW handbag is the separate pocket or dedicated compartment (or a holster insert like a Packin’ Neat) designed specifically for a firearm. You do not want other items (such as pens, makeup, keys, etc.) to be near the firearm or its trigger. I also recommend looking at the durability of the bag itself. Check out the overall sturdiness, but also pay close attention to where the gun will be. Is there a built-in holster? How does it attach? Will the trigger and trigger guard be sufficiently covered and protected? Look at how you will need to access that compartment. Is it ambidextrous? Is it easy to get to? Check the zippers or the magnetic closures. Be sure you can get to your firearm easily and safely and that the bag will hold up to the test of time.

4. Should the CCW Bag Be Made of a Certain Material?

I think durability is the overall key. As long as the material, the stitching and all the different types of closures are sturdy and well-made, you can choose what works for you or what you like the best. Keep in mind that some bags also offer RFID protection and may come with reinforced cable straps. Those are great options, but they are personal preferences. (I happen to like the quality collections offered by GTM.)

5. What Are Some Tips for the Best Way to Wear a CCW Purse?

I, personally, prefer a purse that I can “wear,” like a cross-body or something that attaches around my waist and thigh (like the UKoala bag from Urban Utility Bags). I like to be as hands-free as possible in case I need to grab a flashlight or get my keys … or hold a child. If you have to dangle your CCW handbag on your arm or hand or it just slings over your shoulder, you may have a more difficult time getting to your gun in a dynamic critical incident. It can certainly be done, but it will take practice, and there will be many more variables to consider. Of course, no matter what style of bag you select, never let that bag out of your sight! Don’t leave it on a chair or in a shopping cart. Keep it with you no matter where you go or what you do so you can be in control of your gun at all times.

For further reading on concealed carry for women, check out, “Coulda, Shoulda, Woulda: Getting Women Involved in Firearms