Saturday, October 30, 2021

Off-Body Carry, Part 4 - List of Instructors

Vicki Farnam with Drew

Click here for Part I - The Basics

Click here for Part II - Purses

Click here for Part III - Reflection

There aren't a lot of us DTI certified instructors yet, but we're working on it. There may be other off-body carry instructor certifications out there that I don't (yet) know about. Please heed my warning from Part I that this is a completely different skill than typical on-body concealed carry, and make sure your instructor is well trained in it. Not all concealed carry instructors have any experience in this area. If you are a member of TWAW or AGAG, check with your leaders to see if they are a certified instructor, or can point you in the right direction.

Thursday, October 28, 2021

Off-Body Carry, Part 3 - Reflection

Click here for Part I - The Basics.

Click here for Part II - Purses

I realize I sounded a bit like a whiner in Part I when I was talking about how the different closure ripped up my cuticles or knuckles. I know, in the heat of the moment, I'm unlikely to feel any cuts to my hands, and the important thing is to get to my gun and get a good master grip. It might seem like a silly thing to take into consideration when looking at a purse, but it's worth thinking about. Let me explain: in order to draw effectively, you must practice. If practicing causes physical damage/pain, guess what you're not going to do? You got it, practice.

I've been on a weight loss journey for the past year, so I've shrunk out of my Hip Hugger and haven't wanted to spend the money to buy a new one, since it's likely I was going to have to replace it again. Being summer, I lived in workout clothes, which meant I wasn't wearing pants or shorts with belt loops for an IWB or OWB holster. Without a belly band that fit, I'm ashamed to say, my daily carry habit dwindled to zero. It was rare that I had a gun with me.

I've never been one to carry a purse (other than to the movie theater, to carry my 'illegal' candy), so it was a change. It's still a conscious effort for me to remember to grab my purse on the way out the door. However, I love that I not only have my gun, but I have my pepper spray, flashlight, knife, and IFAK. I like having "options between a harsh word and a gun".

Vicki pointed out that in the winter, when we carry on-body, sometimes the gun is harder to access because of all of our layers, but with a purse, we can just slip it on over our coat. Living in Colorado, it's not unusual to wear at least three layers: shirt, vest, coat. I'd always leave my vest unzipped and only snap my coat so I had easy access to my gun if I needed it. When the wind is blowing, that's not very comfortable. It wasn't something that I'd put much thought into, but I'm looking forward to being able to zip up my winter coat this year. 

I intended to carry the Slim purse for a month and then switch to the bigger one (the Tour bag), but I like the Slim so well I haven't made the switch yet. 

I've practiced until I'm comfortable with the Slim, but haven't spent enough time with the Tour to be entirely confident with it. It's big, but the thing that is a bit concerning to me is that the gun pocket is the middle pocket, and I've found that the zipper takes a bit more focus to find and unclasp than the Slim. If I overload the large pocket, which is closest to the body, it tends to lean outward, semi-obscuring the zipper on the gun pocket.

Part of me wants to say that I won't make the change to full-time purse carry, but a big part of me is calling myself a liar. It's just so easy, and I understand why so many women do it. I do feel more comfortable with on-body carry, but find that I am far more consistent in carrying in a purse. I don't have to dress around the gun, or make sure that I am wearing pants with a belt. Not to mention, urban camouflage is kinda awesome. No one looks twice at a woman's purse.

There are drawbacks: 

1) You must keep your purse under your control at all times. This means not leaving it on your chair, or in a shopping cart, or laying about where unauthorized people can access it (not just kids, but anyone who shouldn't have access to a gun).

2) With a lot of practice, a sub-two second draw is possible. I'm not sure, as a middle-aged, unassuming woman that I look like enough of a threat to need a sub-two second draw. Though with a purse being such good urban camouflage, it is easy enough to fake as though you're getting your money/wallet/whatever out of the purse while accessing your gun.

3) Purse snatching is a thing. Carrying cross-body makes it more difficult to snatch a purse, but it also "attaches" you to the purse snatcher if they attempt it anyway. Being willing/able to fight for control of the purse is necessary. It's not just your ID and money in there, but your gun, and you must fight as hard to keep control of your purse as you would if someone were trying to disarm you while carrying on-body.

4) Kathy Jackson of The Cornered Cat had a valid concern about the zipper "lock":

My concern with locking zippers is that they are a safety issue. Not in terms of getting to the gun in a hurry (although there certainly is that) but more in terms of human behavior: people tend to leave their purse places they should not leave the purse, because “it’s locked“.
But it might not be locked.
And there are other dangerous things inside a purse, other than the gun.
It just tends to result in people being less aware of safety than they otherwise would be.

I've been careful to put the work "lock" into quotations to imply that it's not really a lock and does not magically turn your purse into a gun safe, but Kathy's absolutely right about using the term "lock". The two zippers that hook together should probably be called a zipper clasp. (Clasp: (noun) a device with interlocking parts used for fastening things together.)

Despite the drawbacks (there is a give-and-take with any type of carry), I'm two months in to carrying my gun in a purse, and I have to tell you, I love it.

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Off-Body Carry, Part 2 - Purses

Click here for Part I - The Basics

I left the course in the spring intending to find a good purse and give off-body carry a try, but never quite found the right purse. Gun Tote'n Mommas purses are probably the best-known, and are really the standard among concealed carry purses.  Their purses are gorgeous, but they're far more fashionable than I. I had a hard time dropping the money for a GTM if I wasn't 100% sure I was going to use it.

In the most recent class, I had the opportunity to use a few bags I'd missed the first time through. I tore up my hands during the spring class on the zipper access pockets, but didn't have the chance to try a magnet-closed pocket, so I jumped at the first chance I had. Turns out, I hated it. While it was easy to access, reholstering was a problem. I managed, but didn't like it.

I also had the opportunity to try a ukoala bag, which I've seen good things about, but it tore me up and had no place to store a readily accessible extra magazine. It was okay to draw from, but it felt like drawing from a thigh rig, which is essentially what it is.

One of the best things to come out of sitting through the class the second time was finding the Travelon Concealed Carry bags. I immediately fell in love, not only with them being pretty utilitarian (which fits my 'style'), but also with their access.

Travelon, being a luggage company, has put a lot of thought into the security of all of their bags, not just their concealed carry ones. The material is slash-resistant, the zippers have an anti-theft device, and they're sturdy as all get out. I don't know who they tasked to help design their concealed carry purses, but the gun compartment is excellent. The compartment is large with a good hook and loop backing to secure the included holster (not a great one, but we'll get to that in a minute) and mag carrier. The 'locking' zipper is actually pretty easy for the carrier to defeat with minimal practice.

I loved the bag so much that the day following the end of the class, I ordered two: the Slim Bag and the Tour Bag. I've linked directly to Travelon above, but I found my purses on Amazon for a fraction of the price, and I'm reasonably certain they're not knock-offs. 

Since I don't usually carry a purse, I didn't have to worry about finding a purse that would carry all my daily crap and a gun and trauma kit. As I'm trying out this form of carrying, I find comfort in having an IFAK with me, as I've never been able to carry one in the past. 

Travelon Slim Bag

"Locking" zipper

Knife or flashlight pocket

Easily fits a Glock 43x and spare magazine with included holster/mag carrier.

Room for pepper spray, flashlight, and IFAK

The Tour Bag is bigger than the Slim

The gun compartment is the middle compartment in the Tour Bag

It holds the M&P 2.0 nicely. The mag carrier, though, is a bit tight for a double stack.

The included holster and mag carrier are okay, in fact, I like them better than the GTM ones because the mouth of the holster stays open, which allows safer reholstering. It's sufficient, but I decided to order holsters from CROSSBREED that would hold my guns more securely. The beauty of their modular system is that I can move my holster from purse to purse, or from purse to get-home bag, or to one of their belly bands.

I ordered a holster for the Glock 43X and my M&P 2.0

The CrossBreed modular system is a perfect replacement for the Travelon holster

I fully intend to utilize my Instructor's Certificate and teach off-body carry, but felt like I needed to have some more experience with actually carrying in this manner, so I've spent the last couple of months carrying in a purse. Part III of this series will be a reflection on my change to purse carry.

Sunday, October 24, 2021

Off-Body Carry, Part 1 - The Basics

DTI's spring Off-Body Carry Instructors' Course

Last spring, I stepped outside of my comfort zone and attended DTI's Off-Body Concealed Carry Instructor's course. While I have never been one to tell students to never carry off-body, I knew there was more to it than "just throwing it in your purse".  I learned a lot and had my eyes opened during the first class; I became much more comfortable with the practice of off-body carry. Recently, I had the opportunity to sit through the course again and learned even more. With the huge increase in new gun ownership, and a great number of those new gun owners being female, I feel it's important to share.

If I had to distill down everything I learned in class it's this: off-body carry is a far more complex and advanced skill than most people believe. 

Please, if you are going to off-body carry, take a course from someone certified to teach it. It is a skill that not many concealed carry instructors have. I believe there are (currently) approximately 20 of us certified by DTI (a list will be provided in Part 4).

Having said that, it's doable. Just like any other form of concealed carry, it takes education and practice. I found that there were more things to take into consideration with off-body carry than with on-body. 

Here is a list of 10 things you must take into consideration prior to making the decision to carry in a bag:
  1. You must be aware of your bag at all times. When your bag is on your body, it is a holster. When you remove it from your body, it is a storage device, and a terrible one at that. If you must take your bag off and leave it somewhere, lock it up! Having a mental lapse can have catastrophic consequences - do not leave it at your chair in a restaurant when you run to the bathroom, don't plop it down in the shopping cart and step away from it, don't allow children to rummage through it. It seems that every year we hear of children who either shoot themselves or someone else while digging in mommy's purse.
  2. The gun compartment must only contain your gun and an extra magazine. Nothing else. A holster is still required - the compartment does not count as a holster. Remember that a holster must meet the following criteria:
    1. It must protect the trigger and prevent it from being pressed inadvertently;
    2. It must securely hold the firearm;
    3. It must provide a secure and consistent draw.
  3. The gun compartment location and access in each bag is slightly different. When inspecting the gun compartment, make sure that there is room for both the holstered gun and for you to obtain a master grip.
  4. Take into account how the compartment is held closed. Zippers, magnets, snaps, or the quick-release loops (designed to yank open a zipper pocket). I found that some zippers tore up my cuticles, the magnets closures ripped up my knuckles, and the quick-release loops often were more trouble than they were worth.
  5. Additionally, the gun compartment should have a sheet of hook and loop (Velcro) to hold the holster in place. Make note of where the hook and loop is, you'll want it to be on the side closest to you to ensure a good master grip.
  6. "Sticky" holsters are not adequate, your holster needs to be held securely in your bag.
  7. Cross-body carry, with the bag hanging on your strong side, is the safest and most effective. Cross-body, with the bag hanging on your support side is the least safe (hello, muzzling everyone around you) and should be avoided.
  8. While inspecting the bag, prior to buying it, make sure there's a place for a spare magazine that you can reach with your non-dominant hand.
  9. Find and take a class from a qualified instructor. This is an entirely different skill than on-body concealed carry, so make sure your instructor has taken a good, quality instructor's course. Safely drawing from a bag can be quite complicated - but doable - it takes training and practice to master it, just like learning to draw from concealment.
  10. Use a blue gun or a triple-checked unloaded gun and practice, practice, practice. Be aware of your muzzle at all times - it's much easier to muzzle yourself when drawing from a bag than from an on-body holster.