Concealed Carry

Throwback Thursday: Best Concealed Carry Options for Female Shooters

IWB holster

There are many ways to carry concealed. Some people choose inside-the-waistband (IWB) holsters, others opt for outside-the-waistband (OWB) models. There are a variety of specialized options as well, but most of them are designed for men — or more specifically, the way men dress. There are not many options designed for female shooters.

Considering the fastest-growing segment of the gun carry population is women, this is changing. When a woman carrying was an oddity, most were told, “Throw a J-frame in your purse and call it good.” Those days are over. Today, many females who carry are competent shooters and know which firearm they prefer. They are not willing to carry in an inefficient manner or to be limited to one type of firearm. This has led companies to explore various options that cater to the female body and the realities of their clothing options. But which are the best? Here are some concealed carry options for female shooters worth your consideration.

Top Carry Options

Purse Carry

Let’s begin with the simplest and oldest choice: purse carry. This method has undergone significant changes. In my opinion, it is still off-body carry and thus not optimal. However, today’s choices are better.

There are a plethora of styles to choose from, and most options have a built-in method of retention — and some manner of quick, one-handed access. This is often achieved with either tunnel access to an internal holster or a quick-access external panel.

The Bulldog Hobo purse has a zipper access panel from the front or rear, to allow for either left or right-hand access. These zippers provide quick access to a gun holster compartment.

concealed carry purse - hobo
Hobo-style purses have several features and benefits preferred by female shooters.

IWB Carry

The days of all IWB holsters being thick leather options with a bulky metal or plastic retention clip are over. Sticky Holsters makes a neoprene-like holster that is super comfortable. It also has a dual sided, tacky external texture that allows for a near infinite positioning between the body and pants with a solid waistline. This holster will stay in place and well-hidden with any non-elastic or drawstring pants.

The thinner, more pliant material aid concealment in the tighter fit of women’s clothing. With the material being soft/spongy, it is also less likely to rub.

IWB holster female shooters
Inside-the-waistband holsters are getting more and more comfortable.

OWB Carry

Some women who work in a professional environment choose to wear pantsuits or blazers. For these occasions, an OWB holster becomes an option. Many companies, such as BLACKHAWK! with its Serpa line, offer paddle holsters for small carry guns such as the Glock 43, SIG P938, and S&W J-frames. With an appropriately stiff cover garment, these options provide quick access and comfortable carry. They also provide a simple choice for hiking or in regions of the country that allow the choice of open carry.

Most of the above-mentioned options share one aspect: they do not allow on-person carry while in a dress. Can Can Concealment has an entire line of comfortable concealed carry holsters, from its waistline option, the Hip Hugger, to even a mens line. Today, I want to focus on its Garter holster series.

Garter Carry

The Garter option allows female shooters to carry a small-to-medium-sized gun while wearing a skirt or dress. The size of the gun that can be carried will depend on the size of the woman, her comfort, and how clingy the fabric is.

For most women, this method does not allow carrying a full-sized 1911, although Can Can Concealment does offer The Big SheBang for that purpose. More realistic options would be the Micro with a SIG P238, Ruger LCP, or the Classic for a Glock 43 or a SIG P365. The larger Shield 380 EZ might be pushing the envelope for some, but would likely work for others.

garter holster female shooters concealed carry
The Garter option allows for female shooters to carry a small-to-medium-sized gun while wearing a skirt or dress.

All Garter holster options are ambidextrous, in that they all feature mirror-image gun pockets. This allows for right- or left-hand draw from either leg and to choose whether the gun rides on the inside or outside of the thigh. The design is based on a 5-inch wide elastic band with added silicone grip strips at the top and bottom of the band. These strips and six layers of hook and eye closures ensure a secure grip on the thigh. If a heavy gun is chosen, there is also a garter belt to assist maintaining the gun in the proper spot. This is most useful in vigorous activity situations such as running. In a normal office environment, it would not be needed, as the base design is quite secure. But, if it helps you feel more secure while wearing your gun, who am I to say no?

Looking for concealed carry gun recommendations? Take a look at our list of the top 15 pistols for concealed carry.

Conclusion

There are multiple choices in the feminine holster category. Companies make bra holsters and other items that fit a niche. (Just think through how that will be deployed and where the gun will be pointing when you draw, under pressure.) For some, they may fit the need; for others, one of the above options may be best. As with men, women have a vast array of choices and will likely end up with multiple holsters. Some will get a lot more use than others, but there are quality choices for female shooters that factor into the way women dress, work, and live.

Do you have a suggestion for concealed carry for female shooters? Share it in the comment section.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in August of 2019. It has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and clarity.

About the Author:

John Bibby

John Bibby is an American gun writer who had the misfortune of being born in the occupied territory of New Jersey. His parents moved to the much freer state of Florida when he was 3. This allowed his father start teaching him about shooting prior to age 6. By age 8, he was regularly shooting with his father and parents of his friends. At age 12, despite the strong suggestions that he shouldn’t, he shot a neighbor’s “elephant rifle."

The rifle was a .375 H&H Magnum and, as such, precautions were taken. He had to shoot from prone. The recoil-induced, grass-stained shirt was a badge of honor. Shooting has been a constant in his life, as has cooking.

He is an (early) retired Executive Chef. Food is his other great passion. Currently, he is a semi-frequent 3-Gun competitor, with a solid weak spot on shotgun stages. When his business and travel schedule allow, you will often find him, ringing steel out well past 600 yards. In order to be consistent while going long, reloading is fairly mandatory. The 3-Gun matches work his progressive presses with volume work. Precision loading for long-range shooting and whitetail hunting keeps the single-stage presses from getting dusty.
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (15)

  1. I’m a (female) former LEO and like nearly all women who feel the duty to concealed/constitutional carry, the holster situation is a constant headache. I’d echo the reviewers who cite the Dene Adams line- great versatile options. Ultimately, every woman, body type and situation will have a different best option. Its our responsibility as moms, wives and citizens to think through hoster selections (and training with each!) just as seriously as we think through our weapon selection.
    I use a belly band holster often, and find it seems to conform to my waist better than other options. However, I live in the humid South and when I exercize, I sweat through that thing in an instant. Sweat can eat theough your gun and cause malfunction when we need it most- yikes!
    I love my Craft brand IWB holsters because I feel secure with the snap at the top (and I trained for years with thriple threat holsters). But those will sweat-through just as fast.
    The garter style holster mentioned here would only be practical for women who have a certain body type, and when wearing a very full skirt (which isn’t much the fashion lately) but like every other situation… its complicated and women need options!
    I’ve decided consistent carry is my priority and I’ve compromised my wardrobe to serve that purpose, too. Nice long, loose drapey type tanks with a boho kind of look are the magic ticket for me and I wear one slmost everyday. Boring but I just can’t make it work with other stuff so oh well. This is one piece of the puzzle as much as holster selection.
    I am currently ordering my first (gasp!) concealed carry purse, after long deliberation. I don’t subscribe to the perspective of looking at every possible self defense encounter as an extreme tactical situation. Situational awareness is far more important than an extreme quick draw, because outside LE/military scenarios, threats do not materialize with zero warning the way they might during a building search. The most important thing to me is HAVING my gun with me, on my person in whatever way is most practical, every time I leave the house. In my view the rest of the issues mentioned by folks are training issues.
    I totally appreciate Dene Adams’ insistance “ladies, purses are for lipstick!” but there can be a time and a place for nearly anything to be used appropriately– and in my book, what’s appropriate boils down to training with your weapons of choice AND all your various holsters, exercizing situational awareness and also knowing how to prevent confrontation before it starts (such as not walking downtown at night with your face buried in your phone). Obviously that won’t prevent an active shooter at Walmart but we NEED trained, confident citizens at the grocery store and everywhere else, and maybe then the need for defense would diminish.
    Holsters are a tool like any other, and its up to the user to get an optimal result. There are many types for different situations, body types and even climates. We can’t assume we know what’s best for someone else’s situation. Except training 😉 that’s always the right answer for everyone.
    Three cheers for more options and more women taking the duty seriously!

  2. I bought a ComforTac belly band for my wife. I liked it so much I got one for myself.
    she says she can make it work with almost any outfit. I wear mine high in a cross draw, very concealable.

  3. Here we go…. can I be the female writer please?
    Ladies,
    Please do a search for Bat wing shirts… for starters. Conceal carry is horrible for woman and I guess it’s time I chimed in. You can carry and not show. I highly recommend the in the waistband for any and all first time users. Feel free to get out mom and her sewing machine to make your own adjustments. THINK OUTSIDE OF THE BOX!
    It’s unfortunate but you have to find a women’s gun group as support think of them as your gun girlfriends. I am available just post and I will get an e mail.
    The let’s add to this article ready here we go
    All of the non waist band options, are going to cause some super unfunny sweat so prepare accordingly. The silicone helps are especially bad and for some can cause a rash or bad reaction. Try placing the silicone in your cloths while around the house before long term use.
    Purse carry… while I am against it for many reasons I could list if it is your choice be willing to shoot thru the purse! Do not become personally attached to any
    Purse or clothing you use knowing full well seconds count and it could mean the difference between your life and having your weapon used against you. Shoot thru your purse or cloths needs to be in the back of your mind. Including but not limited to hoodies! Look at your closet! Anything that is baggy, raunched, or heavy on material on the side can cover your hip. Remember to try and remove from packages and really check the items before buying. Ask your friends women are apprehensive to carry don’t let your self talk you out of trying! Good luck Ladies the girls who Carry support you!

  4. Honestly, I only use the Dene Adams corsets now to conceal my guns. They have them in bras, tanks, corsets, pants, shorts with inside thigh or outside thigh which works great no matter what your size and weight. They also make them now for men. I love the men’s corset style, but they are ALWAYS sold out of those. I use the tank and the corset style which I pull way down into my pants instead of wearing it around my waist. I hate drawing from my waist when I append. Carry I want my gun in front near my belt.
    There is also one called the Can Can that a friend of mine uses. She carries two glock 17’s in hers.

  5. If you insist on purse carry, please remember to hang on to the purse at ALL times. I’ve seen women leave purses in all sorts of public places (grocery carts, restaurant booths, fitting rooms, etc). I personally know a woman who left her purse (gun included) unattended in a parked car, with her kids inside, door open, engine running. Fortunately, those kids had been taught not to mess with adults’ stuff. Her husband read her the riot act for that one, and she switched to on-body carry.

    If I turned to crime, I would always grab the purse first, because I know it probably contains the money, the phone, and the weapon. If we end up in a tug-of-war for it, consider how you could handle that. Unless you’re a remarkably strong and aggressive woman, I think you’re out of luck.

  6. Although we don’t have CC here (MD), I’m still hoping for the future and keep an eye on what’s available. Purse carry is totally out and I have some problems with the IWB options although that appears to be a “best” option. For the most part, women’s waistbands are high/above the hip which puts the butt of the pistol too high to comfortably access quickly. I took a CC class way back in the ’90s and have been exploring options available to women since then. So far the only thing that comes close to meeting my needs is crossdraw and the models available could sure use some tweaking (or at least the ones that I am aware of). IWB/crossdraw seems my best option, but I understand the problems of making something like this and it would surely limit the length of the pistol, but I’d like to see someone give it a try. Thanks.

  7. What? No mention of Sneaky Pete holsters?

    The holster can look like a phone case or a first aid kit. so the holster doesn’t even have to be concealed, although you can easily conceal it with a loose shirt or jacket.

    If your bikini has a belt, you could even where it with a bikini! [end joking]

  8. What about bra holsters like the Cozee Holster my wife swears by ? She likes it because it attaches to the bra strap and keeps the gun where a shoulder holster would, but under the blouse. Pretty much for subcompacts.

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