When you have to carry your firearm in a handbag, briefcase or backpack, there are many things to consider. Beyond all of the issues of safety in an off-body carry situation, one also needs to consider the practicality of the method. It is astonishing to me how many people I know carry using one of these methods, yet have never practiced drawing and firing from a bag. They would likely be surprised by how difficult it is to do so, and by how long it takes them.
When You Need it, You Need it Fast
I have seen many statistics on defensive shootings, but it seems generally agreed that most happen very quickly. Many experts, people who have worked in law enforcement and whose opinions I tend to trust, have given me a “rule of three”; on average an attack with a gun lasts about three seconds, happens within three yards of the intended victim, and three shots are fired. By the time you realize you are under attack, it might be almost over. How quickly can you get to that gun? If it’s in your backpack, you need to sling it off your back, open the pocket it is in, get hold of it and bring it into alignment to fire it. A briefcase might need unlocking. A purse has zippers or velcro to undo. An incident might unfold slowly enough to allow for such slow access to your gun, but more commonly it will be a high-pressured and rapid event.
Let’s See How Long This Really Takes
If you purse carry, put a toy gun in where you store your defensive firearm. Put the purse on yourself. May people recommend cross-body positioning of the straps to prevent purse-snatching, so put it on that way. Now start walking with it, and have a friend simulate an attack. See how long it takes you to get your gun out and get into a firing position. Chances are your friend’s simulated attack resulted in your simulated death even before you had your hand on your gun. And let’s be honest, you were anticipating that attack. When you are in a store, distracted by your daily activities, you will be even slower to realize that there is trouble. A gun at your side, or in a corset, or in an ankle holster, would be far easier to get to. Now, I believe it’s better to have the gun in a hard-to-access spot than to not have it at all, but you need to be realistic about how hard it would be to get your defensive weapon out of any sort of bag. Practice with it so you can speed up the process. In fact, whatever method you use to carry your gun, I feel it’s important to run through drawing it from concealment before you leave the house for the day. While hip holsters are convenient, the access and draw of the gun can be different because of the particular shirt you have chosen, or the coat you have on. A few dry runs will help you know how all the clothing and accessories will behave, and if you need to adjust anything.
Off-body carry, while practiced extensively, is a risky method of carry and should only be used when there is no other option. If you must carry in a bag of some sort, please be aware of the problems inherent in doing so, and if you find yourself resorting to off-body carry frequently, it might be time to think harder about how to get the gun on your person. It’s nearly always possible to conceal on-body, although slight changes in clothing or in the gun you carry might be necessary. Those changes are, in my opinion, worth the extra safety and security they provide.