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Why Carrying a Handgun in a Purse or Bag is a Bad Idea

Many gun companies make purses, backpacks, and other bags for the purpose of concealing a handgun. Why? I’m not completely sure why these products are designed. Bag or purse carry is a terrible choice for conceal carry. There are two main reasons why off the body carry is not a good options.

Reason 1: Speed and Accessibility

For those who carry around a purse, murse, or backpack all day, think about where your bag ends up throughout the day. Is it on your body at all times? Or do you set it down beside your desk at work? Do you leave it in a locker in the break room? Or leave it by the garage door at home? Do you pick it up and carry it with you as you walk around the office? What if you leave your bag in your car while you’re washing it?

Criminals get to set the ambush time and location, so what if you were attacked when you walked away from your bag? Or what if someone stole your purse sitting next to your desk at work? Now you’re being attacked without your bag, which means you don’t have your sidearm available.

The only conceal carry firearm worth a damn is the one that you have with you.

Take a look at this video. The store owner does not have his firearm on him and must run back to retrieve it. While in this case he is able to successfully ward off the attacker, if the attacker had been a little more aggressive or if the attacker had entered the area with concealed firearms and drawn while right on top of the store owner, he would not have even had the option to use his firearm in self defense.

Even in a self defense situation where the defender is able to see the attack coming from far off, purse/bag carry is simply much slower and many more things can go wrong. What if your handgun had shifted in the bag? What if your bag gets caught on something? If nothing goes wrong, drawing from a bag or purse still has several extra steps resulting in a slower draw time. Self defense is fast – having something take an extra few seconds can be bad.

Here’s a compilation video showing how fast self defense encounters can go down. Do you really think waiting an extra 3-15 seconds to retrieve your gun is a good thing?

Reason 2: Purse Snatchers

A very common form of theft is a brute force attack. Thieves regularly pair up to grab a bag, usually from a woman, one grabs the purse/bag, and the other beats the woman/man and they run off with the bag. Some thieves will even use a knife to slice the purse/bag strap allowing for an easier escape.

In most of these situation, the best course of action is to simply let go and let them run off with the purse/bag. But if you are conceal carrying a handgun in that purse/bag, letting the thieves run off with the bag is a bad idea. Furthermore, if the attackers are armed, you have no option to defend yourself.

Watch this poor woman get attacked in just such a purse snatching. Even if she had a firearm in that purse, she would have had absolutely no way of retrieving the firearm and defending herself.

Purse snatches are almost always from ambush and happen very quickly. You cannot retrieve your firearm while you’re in an intense struggle and barely able to hold onto the bag as it is.

“Don’t carry anything in your bag you aren’t willing to lose.”

What is a better alternative?

Without a doubt, on the body carry is the best way to conceal carry. Thankfully there are many conceal carry combinations through different firearm sizes, carry locations, and holster types.

Check out Dene Adams for a wide variety of holster options.

It is very easy to conceal carry a single stack 9mm handgun on the belt, be it at the 4 o’clock, or as an appendix carry. Something like an ultra compact Ruger LCP can easily be tucked into your pocket with a pocket holster. Even then, it’s easier to conceal carry a full sized Glock than many people think, it simply requires some wardrobe changes in order to be able to do so, like baggy un-tucked shirts.

Off body carry tends to be most common among women, given many women’s wardrobe choices. With the proper holster and a compact gun, or even leggings with a built in spot for a gun, it’s very possible to appendix carry a handgun even with some of the common wardrobe choices for women. There’s even a bra holster which works with just about any shirt.

Unfortunately, it is not possible to conceal carry with every wardrobe out there. Conscientious wardrobe choices must be made in order to successfully and safely conceal carry – but there are many options out there.

It comes down to a simple question. Are you more concerned with what clothes you wear? Or being able to safely retain and quickly get to your self defense firearm?

Brian Purkiss
Written by

Brian Purkiss is a Christian, husband, competitive shooter, firearms instructor, proponent for individual liberty and Second Amendment rights, and a web developer. He primarily focues on USPSA and Run & Gun competitions, but enjoys most other forms of shooting competitions as well.


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Categories: Self Defense, Vault | Tags: , , ,

12 responses to “Why Carrying a Handgun in a Purse or Bag is a Bad Idea”

  1. Robert Sawtelle says:

    Good article, some really good points, now I’d like to see a follow up on some good on body ccw options for women.

  2. Catherine says:

    Back in the 80s and 90s my mom carried a specially designed gun purse. It had a concealed pocket for a handgun and the holster was designed to prevent accidental firing. Wire mesh was sewn into the strap to prevent it from being cut off your shoulder.

    As a woman, I would be very concerned about anyone catching so much as a hint of a gun on me. I remember a case of a man walking in New Orleans. Someone found out he was concealed carrying and targeted him in a surprise attack, knocking him out and stealing his handgun.

    The example picture stinks. You can sort of see the outline of the gun under that thin shirt. If she moves it’ll be plain as day. And things will have to get a lot worse before I’m willing to dress sloppily.

    • “Wire mesh was sewn into the strap to prevent it from being cut off your shoulder.”

      That wire mesh doesn’t prevent people from grabbing the strap and wrestling you for it while another person beats you. You can’t get to your gun in the struggle, and you can’t give up the purse because it’ll give them the gun. If you carried your gun on your body, then you could let go of the purse and let them simply run off, or you can draw your gun at the same time. Think about that video of the girl being attacked in the elevator. If she had a gun in the purse, she had absolutely no way of getting to the gun.

      “Someone found out he was concealed carrying and targeted him in a surprise attack, knocking him out and stealing his handgun.”

      Things like that happen. But they are VERY rare. You’re more likely to be struck by lightning than be the victim of such an attack. The vast majority of people don’t see concealed firearms, even poorly concealed firearms.

      “The example picture stinks. You can sort of see the outline of the gun under that thin shirt.”

      You see some wrinkles in the shirt. You see a gun because you know a gun is there. Anyone else who didn’t know the gun is there wouldn’t see a wrinkle in the shirt and think gun.

  3. Linda says:

    Brian, great ideas here. One “fear” I of having the CCW purse is that I might need to shoot through it and ruin it. I find it odd that this fear would be going thru my head, considering the true horror that would result from having to use the weapon at all. While a sensible wardrobe choice is needed to carry your weapon on your person, a sensible wardrobe choice is also needed if you opt to carry in a purse. Two thoughts here: 1) don’t get a purse you love so much that you might hesitate to damage it in an emergency, and 2) simply consider your CCW handbag a disposable item and plan to get a new one if you ever have to draw (not an easy concept, when the nicer bags cost can cost $200 or more). Each of these options bolster the mindset to protect yourself now, then mourn the loss of your leather bag later. This could help insure that you don’t add another second to the decision of pulling the trigger with the gun still inside. If you buy the bag out of pure fashion sense, you’ll want to protect it (and might do so at the cost of personal harm).

    A great alternative I have found is wearing a hip hugger holster from Can Can Concealment. I am very pleased with their product, it is comfortable and practically eliminates printing. You can wear it all day long and it never binds or “gets in the way” of your other garments. Take care.

  4. Kip moxness says:

    One you did not address with purse carry is small curious children finding the gun and if in condition one fired often into mom while driving or in her back or headm

  5. hotrodvettejms says:

    You are spot-on concerning not carrying in a purse. A female friend knew that I was a retired police officer and proudly told me that she has a carry permit and told me that she carries all the time. Here’s where she goes way wrong: She carries an unloaded .380 semi-auto with the magazine removed in her purse. I explained to her that an attack would most likely be fast and violent and her shaking hands would have great difficulty “fishing” around in her purse looking for her gun, it’s magazine, inserting the magazine and racking the slide. For her, it would be “game-over!” Sad to say, some people that have never been face-to-face with pure evil are clueless. Jim

  6. Molly powers says:

    You are not a woman and know nothing of what works best for us. I carry in a crossbody purse with a cut proof strap. The location if the gun is no more of a movement for my hand to grab than if it was in a different on body holster. A lady’s purse is never away from her except at home. I have other guns at home located around for accessibility if a thug shows up there. These other holsters you tout I have tried they either leave it obvious you are carrying or are awkward and time consuming to get the firearm out if as opposed to a good proper conceal carry purse. Women that carry dont tell men that carry how to carry and men that carry need to do the same for us gun toting mamas. Trust us we have this without make input.

    • I’m not a woman, but I do carry a bag with me every work day. Or do you think women only carry bags? Bags are completely independent of gender. I’m not a woman, but I know what bag carry is like, I experimented with it. Bag carry is slow and you cannot get to your gun during a struggle.

      So since bags are independent of gender and I have plenty of experience with bags, I have a few questions for you.

      1: Can you draw your gun in under two seconds? What about under 1.5 seconds?

      2: Do you ever once ever set your purse down and step away more than arms length? Do you ever take your purse strap off your shoulder? Do you ever set your purse down at your feet? If you do any of those, your gun is not accessible and it is easily stolen. I do so for my bag and just about every woman I’ve observed has done the same.

      3: If I were to walk up next to you and grab your purse to steal it, would you be able to draw your gun? Can you get to your gun while I have a hard grip on it and am wrestling it around to get it away from you?

      The holsters I suggest only make it obvious you’re carrying if you do a poor job with your wardrobe choices or use a crappy holster. I strongly recommend carrying on the hip, be it 4 o’clock or appendix. I’ve carried daily on my hip for years around people who never knew. So if you think it makes it obvious, then you should make some adjustments until it isn’t obvious.

      My few specific advice for women are not my own suggestions, but suggestions I have received from women for women. I even interviewed a woman for her perspective and it is linked to in the article. Even then, only one paragraph addresses gender – the rest of the article discusses the deficiency of bags.

      Just because I’m a guy, doesn’t mean I somehow don’t know what bags are like. Again, I carry a bag every day.

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