Newsletter #4: Concealed Carry Options 3

Issue #4, February 6, 2010

The Tactical Toolbox Newsletter provides product reviews, training thoughts, political thoughts and anecdotal tidbits about shooting, self-defense and current Toolbox community events.

In this issue:

***Concealed Carry Options: Part 3

Evaluating Concealed Carry Options: Part 3

In the first part, we covered the topic of evaluating concealed carry options, first discussing the threshold issues of: handgun size, climate, concessions in clothing/style, comfort vs. effective concealment, and issues related to carry methods.  In the second part, we discussed the different on-body carry options and how they bear on the five threshold issues.  In part three, we cover off body and special issues.

There are two general styles of carry with many options within each general category.  The two general categories are on-body and off-body.  On-body is where the handgun is more directly attached to the person, while off body means the handgun is concealed in a purse, fanny pack, backpack, box, etc.  In this final part of the series, we are going to discuss the different off-body carry options and their pros and cons.

Off-Body Carry:

Off-body carry’s purpose is to insert a gun into what should be a normal everyday item and not have it look like there is a gun inside.  There are two elements to this trick.  The first element is to choose an item that does not look out of place when carrying it.  Years ago, this author was taught how to spot suspicious people.  One of the general admonitions was to look for things that were out of place.  This included the carriage of large or medium sized duffels in the wrong context.  In other words, it looks fine to be carrying a duffel when one is obviously headed to the gym.  Conversely a set of golf clubs being dragged through a mall or through an office parking lot will appear odd if done regularly.  So, in choosing an off-body style of carry, consider what the carriage of that object appears like to the discerning observer.  A laptop bag is fine in a lot of contexts while a diaper bag can only be used by people with young children.  Backpacks may be fine under most circumstances, but subject to search by some stores or even prohibited due to shoplifting.  A violin or guitar case is probably most suspect due to movies and past criminal episodes in our nation’s history.  But, under the right circumstances, they can also work.

The second element of off-body carry is to not have the item you are carrying look like there is a gun inside.  The number one concern is, is the gun too heavy for the item?  Most non-purpose built fanny packs are not large enough for most medium sized handguns and will bulge and come apart at the seams under constant use.  Purses that are too small will look suspiciously heavy and overstuffed with a handgun and all the other items normally carried.  Conversely with a laptop case, because the computer normally carried in it is already heavy, a handgun carried in addition to the computer will not seem so much out of place or suspicious in the weight department.

At this point we will discuss the different methods of off-body carry and their individual pros and cons:

1.  Fanny Pack:

A fanny pack is a belt like pack popularized in the 80’s as an clothing accessory and utilitarian pouch for carrying all the necessities of the user.  What soon followed was a trend of holster manufacturers to adapt the design to carrying a handgun.  Handy, right?  It was fine for about all of twelve minutes as soon everyone knew that black generic looking fanny packs all contained guns.  And then, to further exacerbate the issue, they went out of style, leaving their use to those kind of fellows doing interior design work.  Now, the use of fanny packs for carrying guns is reserved for the few who can get away with it; that would include women with bad fashion sense and men secure in their manhood.

Even though they are nearly passé in the gun community at the moment, fanny packs are probably one of the best off body methods of carry in a technical sense.  The gun is secured to the person and has the fastest accessibility of any off-body method.  While purses are more often subject to snatching, fanny packs are a lot harder to accomplish due to their attachment directly to the body.  The draw stroke from a fanny pack is slower than most on-body carry methods.  As discussed above, concealability (due to knowledge rather than printing or visibility of part of the gun) is practically nonexistent.  Everyone who knows anything about guns knows there is a gun in it.  So, in this writer’s opinion, a fanny pack can work, but the circumstances are more limited.

2.  Purse:

Every woman has a purse (well, pretty much) and even some men.  But we are not here to discuss the men who use purses.  Some purses are purpose built to carry a handgun in a secret compartment.  Other purses are just fairly well suited to stowing a handgun because of the many compartments.  Because purses are not generally designed to carry a heavy item such as a handgun, they can be subject to wear and tear and other issues related to this dense item rolling around in the purse.  A good choice is to find a company that does make purses for concealed carry.

Cons to purse carry are that the draw stroke is slow compared to on-body carry and the gun is subject to stealing due to the valuables that normally reside in purses and their easy ability to be snatched.  Other cons concern non-purpose built purses not bearing the weight of a gun correctly or not having a special compartment for the handgun.  This raises issues of security to unauthorized persons (such as children) and accidental exposure of the gun to people while rummaging around in the purse.  If the handgun is not secured in a holster device in the purse, this might raise safety issues, depending upon the type of handgun and the method of carry.

Pros to purse carry are convenience and concealability.  First, the purse is something no woman really looks all that suspicious carrying, even if she happens to be at the pool and in a swimming suit.  So, the gun is quite concealed.  The convenience of the purse is that not much of a change in wardrobe or lifestyle is needed in order for the woman to be armed.  This is a major plus.  It is better for her to be armed than not, even though the method of carry is not as “tactical” as on-body carry.  The purpose built purses, it must be noted, are designed to be more snatch resistant as they routinely install hidden steel cables within the purse strap to prevent a mugger’s knife from cutting the strap to facilitate snatching.

3.  Laptop Bag / Messenger Bag / Briefcase:

While the messenger bag is a newer fad/invention and is a little metrosexual, it can be an effective off-body carry method.  The laptop bag, messenger and briefcase are mentioned together mainly because they are similar office related items.  In the appropriate settings, none of these are the least bit suspicious.  They are similar to purses in that there is likely plenty of compartments that would easily stow a handgun and they require about the same amount of time for drawing.

Pros are easy concealability and convenience.  In the right circumstances, except at the pool, one can carry one of these without raising suspicions.  It is convenient because the wearer likely already had a reason for carrying one of these.

Cons are it is snatchable and there are few options for purpose built laptop bags, briefcases and messengers.  Typical things carried in such bags are valuable and are therefore a target of thieves.  The carry is off-body and therefore not as fast as most good on-body styles.  Even if a man is carrying on his person, this method allows him to stow extra ammo, a backup gun and more without raising suspicion levels.

4.  Day planner:

Day planners are another nearly ubiquitous thing that does not raise suspicion in the office environment.  There are purpose built day planners.  The biggest con for this type of carry involves the size of the gun carried.  If it is too large, the day planner can appear unwieldy heavy.  The other cons for this type concern off-body issues.  Overall, this method could get a person a long way for carrying in a non-permissive office environment.

5.  Backpacks, bags, duffels:

Backpacks, bags and duffels are lumped together because they are environment oriented carry methods.  Each has its own environment in which it does not raise suspicions.  A good rule of thumb concerning these methods and most off-body methods is, if you already have a purpose outside of gun carry for the item, then you should be golden using it to pack your gun.  While these methods are more environment/activity oriented, they offer good convenience and good concealability.  The only thing to stay away from is tactical colored/designed items.  This changes the suspicion level.  It should be good old yuppie fashionable and not 5.11 Tactical branded.  One might appear great and fashionable to the gun crowd, but it would raise red flags for the discerning eye.

6.  Diaper bags:

This has been dealt with separately only because there are some special issues.  The first is security.  Because a diaper bag means it is around children all the time, the gun needs to be very secure.  The second issue is, the carrier has to have children of the appropriate age in order for the ruse to work.  As long as the carrier has children of the right age, the method is golden.  No one wants to root through a diaper bag looking for a gun.  Another issue is cleanliness.  Because children are present and the bag might be in contact with dirty diapers and spills, the gun should be secure from the moisture and dirt.  One of the newer designed pistols that are resistant to corrosion is a better choice for the diaper bag than an older gun more subject to corrosion.

7.  Special methods:

Special methods include violin or musical instrument cases, flower boxes, etc.; anything that might hide a gun either temporarily or situationally.  The rule here concerns whether the item hiding the gun is out of place.  First, the user should be prepared to produce an instrument or flower or whatever is expected to be in the case and use it!  Second, the method of carry should be reasonably secure to keep the gun from falling out and skittering across the dance floor, so to speak.  The object of concealed carry is to keep the firearm concealed.  Special methods of carry might include the stowage of a rifle or shotgun (due to the size of the carry method), but state and local laws must be consulted to find out whether the long gun can be legally concealed.  Generally, anything that can secure a gun and doesn’t look out of place for the setting, can be used to carry a gun concealed.  Bear in mind that these special methods are generally employed because of circumstances that might not allow other more secure forms of carry.


In the distant past in our country and the home country of our progenitors, the carrying of arms was an open thing to do.  While there were some issues in their past with the prohibition of arms, it was widely known the reason for such things.  It was because the tyrant prohibiting arms did not want resistance to his reign of tyranny.  Nowadays, we are told it is a safety issue.  The carrying of arms is now something only the “authorized” persons do.  So, no one bats an eye as a police officer walks by with an unconcealed pistol on his belt but if a regular citizen does, there is somehow danger in this.  But really, the issues have not changed from 400 years (and more) ago.  It is indeed a safety issue.  However, it is not a safety issue for the citizens at all.  It is a safety issue for the ones doing the prohibiting—as it always has been.

Schedule Your Training Now!

Check out the training schedule for the classes you want to take this year and get into contact to reserve your spot today.  These things can fill up fast and likely rain is going to bunch some classes up.  Check it out now!

Next issue: CZ75D P01 pistol review!


One Response

  1. On the subject of purses suitable for carrying a handgun, Fossil makes some very sturdy purses. They aren’t specifically for concealed carry, but they handle the extra weight without falling apart like some cheaper purses. They’re still between 50 and 200 a pop, but I have a canvas Fossil purse that I bought at a thrift shop which I’ve used for months with no signs of wear at all.

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