Holsters are always a hot topic, especially when it comes to off-body carry. And I’ll admit that when I have the choice between off-body and on-body, I tend to choose both. That’s right: both. I have my favorite on-body holsters — a variety of go-to selections that work very well for different guns, different clothing options or even different weather conditions. But I also have a few concealed-carry bags that I absolutely love (and that I keep with me at all times for safety and control). So I was curious about a few other handgun carrying options, such as Galco’s clever Hidden Agenda, a fully functional, leather day planner with a separate compartment for your gun, and the iDefense, which is similar but designed to carry a tablet.

These holster options intrigued me in some ways because I am an organization nut. I love calendars, labels, planners, folders, notebooks and storage compartments. (“A place for everything, and everything in its place!”) But I also tend to be a bit “old school” in that I like to write things down and see the big picture (tangibly) right in front of me. So I decided to try both styles.

First, I easily attached my iPad to the velcro holders in the iDefense, and then I placed my loaded XD-S snugly inside the dedicated compartment with an extra (extended) magazine. When everything was in there, the case weighed about 5 pounds. I guess if you were accustomed to carrying around a tablet or an e-reader, this would be no big deal. I certainly would not want to use the wrist lanyard at this point. (It’s removable, so you can just get that out of the way.) But I do really like that the gun is in a separate, lockable zipped compartment. I could keep the iDefense around the house where it’s easily accessible for me but not where it enables my kiddos to get to the firearm. (They each tried to pull open the zipper when it was locked. No luck. Snug and secure.)

Then I tried out the Hidden Agenda. And, as I suspected, this one was more my style, more my preference and definitely more my comfort level. It was lighter and a bit smaller, and I could easily adapt to this carrier without making many changes to how I already go about doing things. The Hidden Agenda (with my M&P Shield in the elasticized nylon holster) could very easily go with me to meetings and conferences and just sit on the desk or table in front of me, out in the open, with no one questioning it or wondering why it’s there. It’s perfectly compact, discreet, and easy to carry alone or to put in a bag. Like the iDefense, it also has a locking compartment, and both styles are padded to prevent “printing.”

No doubt, Galco’s iDefense and Hidden Agenda are clever, well-made, functional holsters that are great for your BUG or as an option when you may not have many others. I don’t think anyone would argue that this set-up is the most ideal. You likely can’t access the gun much quicker than you could get a firearm from, say, a paddle holster. But if you felt threatened, you might have the element of surprise. No one is going to look at your leather planner and say: “A loaded firearm and extra magazine is in there.” And if you had those extra moments from using good situational awareness, you could carefully slide open the nickel zipper and even get your hand on the grip of your gun before anyone knew what was happening.

I could honestly see someone like my mother (a grandmother without the practiced, quick draw or the regular firearms training) using the iDefense or the Hidden Agenda very successfully. She uses her kindle and her calendar all the time, so she would be able to have a firearm with her at all times, as well. Or what about my realtor friends who might need their calendar or their iPad while showing a home? Or perhaps the lawyer, professor, or businessperson who wants a holster option that’s easier to get to when wearing a business suit.

For all the skeptics or the die-hard “on-body-carry-only” folks out there, just consider the people who have fewer options. These planner styles may not be the perfect holsters, but they are effective handgun carrying cases. And as with ANY holster choice, it would require safe practice and training. I just know that as a responsibly armed gun owner, I don’t go anywhere (unless it’s illegal) without my firearm. And as a writer, I don’t go anywhere without a pad of paper. So with Galco’s Hidden Agenda, my paper is now conveniently located … right next to my backup gun!