|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:
- 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.
- 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:
- It must protect the trigger and prevent it from being pressed inadvertently;
- It must securely hold the firearm;
- It must provide a secure and consistent draw.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- "Sticky" holsters are not adequate, your holster needs to be held securely in your bag.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.