Concealed Carry

Off-Body Carry — Comfy or Crazy?

a tactical bag full of loaded magazines for a hand gun

Many people want to carry a concealed firearm for protection in today’s world. It’s no secret that it can be uncomfortable for some, especially those just getting started. Holsters rub, pistols poke and prod, and the extra weight can strain your back. 

Most of us find a workaround for this by trying different holster and pistol combinations until we find what works for us. For some, the only solution may be to carry off-body. But is that really an effective option? Or are you just asking for trouble? We’ll cover the pros and cons of off-body carry, and take a look at some tips and tricks for the most popular methods. 

Pros and Cons

Like all methods of carry, off-body has its own unique pros and cons. There’s no one size fits all option, but depending on your lifestyle, off-body carry may work for you. 

One of the biggest benefits of off-body carry is comfort. Without a pistol poking into your side all day, you’ll hardly notice it’s there. Additionally, off-body carry allows you to carry and conceal larger firearms, possibly with extended magazines and optics. Printing is not a concern and you don’t need to dress around the gun. Those who would otherwise not carry or only carry a micro pistol can now be better armed. 

Off-body carry is also incredibly discreet (if you’re not carrying a super tactical bag that gives you away). Additionally, you can have a tactical advantage by putting a hand on your firearm without brandishing (from within the bag). Revolvers can even be fired at close ranges from inside the bag. 

Further, off-body carry is a great backup option to a primary sidearm. Maybe you keep a concealable pistol on you for immediate access but pack something larger in case of a SHTF scenario. 

Your lifestyle will dictate your threat level and type of threat you prepare for. Your carry method may change depending on your current circumstance. If you spend a lot of time in the woods hiking or camping, you may be fine with the access a bag provides. If you travel through abandoned alleyways and city streets, you may need something more readily available. If you’re a truck driver or work for a ride share service, your requirements may be different. 

Unfortunately, off-body carry can also be slower and harder to access your firearm. For example, when carrying in a backpack, you must adjust to access the firearm, unzip the bag, draw, present, aim, and fire.

FN 509 LS Edge Optic Ready
By using off-body carry, you can carry a larger, more capable firearm.

Depending on the method and setup, it can also be less safe than conventional concealed carry methods. If not secured in a proper holster section, firearms in bags can get jostled around and are more susceptible to a negligent discharge. Bag guns are also more likely to be stolen. 

Remember to keep your pack or bag on you and secure at all times. It’s important to keep track of your gear and you must remember you are toting a firearm. You may need to remember to remove it before entering a restricted area, which is easier to forget with it in a bag. 

Although not ideal, more people will carry this way and not leave their gun at home, which is better than nothing. But, be sure to train how you carry. 

Backpack

A backpack is an easy way to carry off body. It’s comfortable to carry and can transport other items. The bigger the bag gets, the more we are tempted to stuff in it. More is not always better. More gear equals more weight, and heavier bags get left at home or in the car. Be sure to carry the essentials and nothing you don’t need.

Vertx Overlander Concealed Carry Backpack
Carrying in a backpack allows you to carry additional gear, but makes for a slower draw.

Ensure your bag has a dedicated section for your firearm. Ideally, this can be quickly accessed from the exterior of the bag. Some Velcro and a holster attachment can help with retention and security. You don’t want to be digging for your firearm in a self-defense scenario. 

Whether you’re studying in college or heading into the office, a backpack makes a solid option for off-body carry. It is discreet (provided it’s not overly tactical) and multifunctional. 

Unfortunately, it does have its drawbacks. Bags get stolen. It’s hard enough losing a high-end laptop, but a firearm is another matter. You must be responsible and never leave your bag unattended unless it is secured in a locked location. Additionally, as mentioned earlier, it takes a long time to access the firearm and may require extra practice.  

If you’re looking for a good concealed carry backpack, take a look at the Vertx Overlander. The pack features a Rapid Access Tab, which makes identifying and opening critical compartments fast and easy. This makes for a fast, more consistent draw. Additionally, Allen offers the Midnight Deluxe, which incorporates a lockable carry pocket that can be accessed from both sides of the pack for convenience and security. 

Shoulder Bag/Purse

A lot of people choose to carry a firearm in a shoulder bag or purse, especially women. Their clothes are more form fitting and often don’t have pockets, which can make other methods of carry more difficult. They are also more used to already carrying a bag around and it doesn’t look out of place. As with other methods of off-body carry, be sure to keep the firearm in an isolated section to keep any keys, pens, chapstick, or anything else you’re carrying out of the trigger guard, preventing a negligent discharge. This goes for work bags and day bags too. 

Unfortunately, purses are often specifically targeted by thieves. The snatch and grab is quick and hard to predict if not paying attention. When selecting a bag, look for something with a cross body strap. This helps keep the bag more secure on your person. Also look for something with a built-in holster compartment. There are plenty of CCW designed bags available with this in mind. Like all off-body carry methods, your firearm will be slower to access, but keeping it in the same location every day can help build that muscle memory needed to speed things up a bit. 

Asian woman being follow by snatch thieft
A purse is a high target for thieves.

Chameleon, Bulldog, and Gun Tote’n Mamas all make some incredibly fashionable and useful purses designed for concealed carry. They feature internal holster compartments and are reinforced in key areas to withstand long-term use. 

Fanny Pack

This is the method of off-body carry I practice the most. In a way, it sort of bridges the line between off and on body. Sure, like a backpack or purse, the fanny pack is not technically concealed on your person in a traditional way. However, the draw stroke and location is much closer to standard IWB appendix-type carry.

I believe it requires the least adjustment to your draw stroke and shortest transition time to become proficient. Of course, this depends somewhat on the type of fanny pack you select and how you choose to carry it. Worn in the traditional waist location, you receive the added benefits mentioned before; if you string it cross-body like some are doing nowadays, you lose some of that familiarity. 

I have done a lot of work with the Galco FasTrax PAC fanny pack holster system over the past few years — mostly while walking my dog, but sometimes on day trips or when I plan on being around a pool or lake. Sometimes a bag works for this purpose, especially if you’re already packing other gear for the outing, but I like that if I need to, I can toss it on over my shorts and walk around with it easier if needed. 

Glock 26 on Galco Fanny Pack
The Galco FasTrax PAC is the optimal fanny pack for carrying a pistol.

If you are going with a fanny pack for off-body carry, I’d suggest choosing a pack with a built-in holster compartment. A standard fanny pack may work, but the firearm will be less secure and the quality may not hold up for the kind of use you require. The FasTrax PAC comes with an adjustable leather holster that attaches to the large inner pocket. You can configure it to fit a number of different subcompact firearms. This works ok, but I would like to see Kydex inserts in the future for a more secure fit. 

Vehicle

One of the most popular methods of off-body carry is carrying in a vehicle. Many people don’t feel the need to have a firearm on hand at all times, but are comforted by having one close by just in case. The biggest consideration here is to understand leaving your firearm in a vehicle puts it at far greater risk to be stolen. Of course, this depends on where you part and the locations you travel in, but it is always a greater concern. Consider carrying a cheaper firearm in your vehicle that would hurt the heart and wallet less if stolen. 

Many people leave a pistol in the glove box or center console. As these either don’t lock or have even minimal security, this is not the greatest option for permanent storage. Magnet and holster mounts work well if you plan to remove the firearm and bring it with you each time you exit the vehicle. This improves your access while driving and provides an easy transition to on-body carry when you exit. Just be sure to be safe when reholstering, as this increases your risk of an accidental discharge. 

For increased security, you should install a lock box that securely attaches to the vehicle. This makes it harder to steal and provides more legal protection in states with less than friendly firearm laws. Of course, all this depends on your local laws regarding traveling with a firearm in a vehicle. Be sure to understand your laws and act accordingly. Some lock boxes even feature a number code or thumb scanner and rapidly open for faster access in an emergency. 

Hornady RAPiD Safe 4800KP
The Hornady RAPiD Safe 4800KP fits up to two full-size pistols and locks securely to your vehicle.

If you drive a truck and often transport multiple firearms, especially long guns, you may consider setting up the bed with large lockbox storage. Although this provides less immediate access than something stored in the cab, it offers added security. Another benefit to truck guns is that they may be a backup to your sidearm, giving you an additional handgun or possibly a long gun option. 

Final Thoughts

Off-body carry will never be as fast as a typical IWB or OWB rig, but it can be an effective option for those who find this to be their only method of consistent carry. People are different, and we’ve got to accept that, while not optimal, some will just not carry in a traditional manner. Not everyone is looking to be a sheepdog or tactical operator. Nonetheless, these individuals are far better armed with a firearm off-body, than with thoughts, prayers, and good intentions. Just be sure to practice and train how you carry! 

Do you ever practice off-body carry? What is your preferred method? Share your thoughts in the Comment section.

About the Author:

Alex Cole

Alex is a younger firearms enthusiast who’s been shooting since he was a kid. He loves consuming all information related to guns and is constantly trying to enhance his knowledge, understanding, and use of firearms. Not a day goes by where he doesn’t do something firearms-related and he tries to visit the range at least a couple of times a month to maintain and improve his shooting skills.

His primary focus is on handguns, but he loves all types of firearms. He enjoys disassembling and reassembling firearms to see how they work and installs most of the upgrades to his firearms himself, taking it as a chance to learn. He’s not only interested in modern handguns and rifles, he appreciates the classics for both historical value and real-world use.
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 (10)

  1. I have 2 carry vests from Wyoming Traders that are great. I think I’ll order one or two more, they have very little print if any and keep my EDC close to my chest for quick extraction. They hold 2 pistols and 4 magazines, and have several pockets. They go well with suits or jeans and shirt and are comfortable.

  2. I think the fanny pack is vital for walkers/joggers, especially for women. There are many accounts of women being targeted on jogging trails. Believe it or not, here in IL, where carrying in a park is forbidden, jogging/biking trails are excluded. You can carry there as long as you don’t leave the trail.
    Stay safe.

  3. I have a carry permit and passed a background check in order to be on our Church safety team. While not as proficient as a police officer, I am the first line of defense for our congregation and staff. We have a safety team member on each outside door. I keep my 9mm Canick in my double-sided Bible case.
    . Eighteen rounds should be sufficient. Thank God there have been no serious incidents in the
    Church and we pray we don’t. I fired expert in basic training and go to the range once a week. I feel a heavy responsibility for the congregation and any visitors. The bible case is unzipped on the pistol side and within easy reach.

  4. I bought a fanny pack at the local flea market. I carry a Beretta .380. The pack actually has 4 separate pockets, one of which conceals my piece. The rest stores my cell phone, wallet, and some writing pads and pens. I had to add a strip of material to the inside of gun pocket because of the wear from the barrel and the clip on the material but it works just fine now. I don’t strap it on like a belt. Instead, i carry it like a women would her purse, the sling over my shoulder and pack just under my elbow. Access to the piece is not as fast as a IWB or OWB but it’s adequate for my purposes. Thanfully, I’ve never had to access it but I’m always alert when I travel. At home, it’s not relevant.

  5. I prefer the “Sneaky Pete” off body type. The one that seems to be most appropriate is the one with a Cross on it similar to a Bible case. My reasoning is that most times the person you would have to use your weapon on will say “Oh God!” when they see you pull the firearm out.

  6. Alex’s article is right on point. A very well balanced analysis of the issue.

    I carry in cross-body pack. It also serves as a small go-bag with some first aid supplies.

    It came in handy when a guy died in the middle of an intersection and was laying there. He was just dead. Three of us revived him!!!! I had baby aspirin in my pack. The ER nurse who arrived a few seconds after we got the dead guy breathing again, dumped the aspirin in his mouth. Seeing the life come back to this guy and witnessing his blue color dissipate was rewarding!

    Everything in life is a compromise. Period, end of story.

    I carry an Essee tactical knife horizontally on my belt. It is available for either hand, right or left. I am told by trained real-life killers, that sometimes, drawing your gun is the wrong choice. Some of you may not believe in the 21 foot rule. I do. My coworker is alive because in close-quarters combat he drew two knives–not his firearm. He did that twice on two different occasions. He has the scars to prove it.

    Every situation requires a different tactical response.

    I am not a cop. I am 100% defensive.

    1) I will run.
    2) If I can’t run, I will hide.
    3) If I can’t run and can’t hide; then I will fight to the death.

    mm²

  7. On a fanny pack I add a ring from a keychain to the zipper of the compartment holding the firearm. This allows me to find the right zipper without looking. Just something to think about.

  8. I have tried every imaginable carry option. Tips to make hip carry more comfortable:
    1 -Buy a gun belt, specifically designed for concealed carry. It takes a lot of the awkward “I am leaning to my gun side.”
    2 – I carry OWB. I found that in most cases, I add of all things, a mouse pad for a computer to the holster. Sounds silly I know but it eases all the poking and pinching from the pistol. Is some cases, I just cut a mouse pad and put the needed amount on the body side of the holster. Some holsters go high enough with the leather to avoid the issue but I don’t like most of them. I want a friction lock that I can put in action quickly and my preference is for the Blackhawk CQC Sportster.

  9. Like Mike N, I often carry in my vest or coat designed to carry a firearm and spare magazines. And yes, these firearms – usually my HK P30SK – are always in a holster. I can draw the firearm from the holster/vest/coat in a reasonable time, leaving the holster in the garment. Better to draw slower that 1.5 seconds than not to have the firearm at all. I just need to be constantly aware that there is a firearm in these garments. They don’t print at all. That means I have to be thinking always – but using firearms is a thinking mans/womens game.

    My wife carries her 30 SuperCarry in a purse designed for firearms. Women have a more difficult time concealing pistols then men, I think. So the purse works out for her. When she must leave the purse, she hands it to me for safe keeping.

  10. I used to carry in a fanny pack, but they seem to have fallen out of favor since the 90’s. If I see someone wearing one now, I immediately believe he’s packing.
    This may,or may not, qualify as “off body”, but there are several options these days with jackets, vests, and shirts that are designed for concealed carry. The ones I use have very little, to no printing at all.

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