That’s what she said: More Words on Purse Carry

| October 12, 2015 | 1 Comments

I spent some time with Melody Lauer of Limatunes, John Lauer, and Jon Johnston of Ballistic Radio a couple of weeks ago. Melody was doing research on purse carry, and I was able to take part in the process.  The 2 part series came out this week. If you or someone you love carries in a purse I urge you to read it.

Four extremely well-trained shooters tested popular purse carry methods. We experienced some issues, including but not limited to:

  • a prohibitively slow draw and unsafe re-holster in purses with built-in holster pockets
  • a low percentage of successful hits on target when they tried the seemingly faster technique of firing through the bag
  • near constant malfunctions with semiautomatic pistols when firing from within the bag
  • bullets were diverted by everyday items in the bag like tissues and lotion, and stopped by spare change

I wondered how the articles would affect the women who chose to carry this way — and never trained to use them. The results we experienced were almost universally opposite of conventional, untested wisdom. I’ve been following the comments on Melody’s articles with interest.

Commenters are still not convinced.

Fans love the versatility, have problems finding the right on-body holster for their body or lifestyle, and came out in droves to defend their purses.

How can we make a better product?


These two 5.11 purses debuted at SHOT show last year. They were designed by a female LEO.


Notice the baby toys attached to the handle? Because of it’s larger size, this bag is targeted at moms. The holster pocket is secured with a magnet.

When you know better, you do better.

Currently, concealed carry bags fall into two categories. They are either marketed strictly to women with an emphasis on style while the function is treated as an afterthought, or functional to a fault and aimed at large male tactical-cosplayers.

Today we have better data to make functional changes in a product that has been treated as little more than a novelty in the past. The louder the community speaks out, the sooner the manufacturers will make their designs more safe, useful, and appealing to a wider audience. So, what do we want? Our testing in Iowa showed us several design flaws in bags on the market now.

Here are some ideas for improving them.

Sling-style or cross body straps.

Keeping control of your bag is paramount, particularly if you are moving away from a threat. In the testing process, I found that bags featuring only short straps were slippery and divided my attention between getting to and maintaining control of the gun and keeping the bag from sliding down my arm. The dangling bag gave attackers a big handle to grab onto. I carry a gun because I suck at melee, I don’t want my own handbag to assist in grounding me.

A cross body strap system would keep the bag off of my arm. While the bag won’t stay constantly fixed in place, its relative position is predictable enough to be useful.

Larger zipper pulls on pockets that all hand sizes can fit into.

Think about the circumstances in which you need to find the zipper pull to your holster compartment. Can you find it under stress, in the dark, or while keeping your eyes on multiple threats?  It’s the kind of thing you don’t think about until you need to think about it. The lack of this single feature has eliminated options from my EDC when I’ve tested their function in various force-on-force classes (more on the importance of this later). Closures that seal on contact like Velcro and magnets make getting to your gun and safely re-holstering more difficult. They also prevent you from locking that pocket if you choose to.

A low-profile bag that is attractive and well made.

If your bag has pink camo and rocker studs you might as well go full operator and equip yourself with molle and multicam. Both ends of the spectrum are equally identifiable as concealed carry bags. This year some manufacturers at SHOT utilized waxed canvas. This material has been trending on handmade goods sites like Etsy for its durability and unique look. While moving away from heavy duty fabrics like cordura is a step in the right direction, there is still room for improvement in the function and design of these bags..


Not bad if this is your style, but that smaller messenger bag lacks structure causing it to collapse on itself when you open it. The floppy flap is secured only with a magnet. You can also access the carry pocket from that top zipper, but the narrow opening is a concern for users with larger hand size or those who carry full sized handguns.


The bag with better closures (also magnetic) was far too big to be useful to me and the dual strap style would make getting to my gun impossible if someone grabbed me from behind.

You can read our coverage about these BLACKHAWK! bags with a specific review of the Waxed Canvas Satchel for more information.

My happy medium has been the Vertx EDC Sling Bag.  It’s still way too big for my frame but it was the smallest and best designed purpose built sling bag I could find. The tactical elements are kept to a minimum, and the price was something I could live with.

While the humble sling bag lacks style, it’s function is faster and safer than the handbags we tested in Iowa with the Lucky Gunner crew.


None of this matters if we don’t train.

There are thousands of handbags marketed to women every year. These are supposed to be a safe way to protect women and their families.

How many classes can you find that teach those women how to fight from purses? I found zero. That is fucked up. Seriously.

There are articles online about purse carry practice at home, but no article can replace a good instructor.

If your local instructor isn’t comfortable with letting you shoot a class from your purse, try force-on-force scenario based classes. Because they are not live-fire classes your instructor might be more willing to let you experiment with different holster options. I’ve tested different backpacks, purses, flash-bang holsters, and compression short holsters in these classes and I can assure you that it will be very apparent if your gear will be viable under real life conditions.

I am lucky. I have been training with QSI for about five years. When I approached them about working from my bag during an 8 hour live fire defensive handgun class they knew me well enough to allow it. Your instructor might too.

Purse carry isn’t going away.

Love it or hate it the industry is booming and it’s only getting bigger. Purse carry may be here to stay, but shitty purses that happen to have a “gun pocket” can be rendered obsolete by smarter designs. Let’s not stop there though. Let’s develop classes for purse carry to train women to be competent and safe.

Ask your local instructors if you can use your bag in their classes, and then ask them for advice on the best way to draw and defend yourself with your purse holster. Get your purse carrying friends together and ask for an entire class just on purse holster use. You should also consider things you will need to support your purse carry. Tatiana Whitlock has excellent advice on making your purse a life saving kit in American Shooting Journal.

I think purse carry has limited benefits. In an active shooter scenario where you are not the primary target of the assault, you might have time to assess the situation and use your defensive training. But close quarter one-on-one assaults are fast and violent. Victims almost never see them coming. When you are the primary target, the odds of getting to your gun before the attacker gets to you are not in your favor. The odds get even worse without training.

Make sure they read Melody Lauer’s series, there isn’t much point in you getting training if it’s based on bad advice or untested Internet rumors.

Instructors develop classes based on interest. Specialized classes will only appear if you speak out.


The majority of firearms training courses are geared towards men, and the situations they are likely to face. We need more classes geared towards how women carry and the dangers we encounter on a regular basis.

Revamping purse carry is a good start for establishing better fight-focused training curriculum for women.

About the Author:

The She-Shepherd The She-Shepherd is a defensive firearms student, mother and advocate for pushing the boundaries of how we train. She believes that defensive training must balance context, mindset, and skill to be most effective. Her specialty has become testing alternative modes of firearms carry and best practices of less than lethal force options through rigorous force-on-force scenario based training.

1 Comment on "That’s what she said: More Words on Purse Carry"

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  1. Cymond says:

    “I’ve been following the comments on Melody’s articles with interest.

    Commenters are still not convinced.

    Fans love the versatility, have problems finding the right on-body holster for their body or lifestyle, and came out in droves to defend their purses.”

    Weird. There’s only a few comments over there right now, and none are defending/promoting purse carry. Were the comments purged?

Post a Reply to Cymond