There are so many things to learn on the journey to becoming a full-time concealed carrier, and it can easily become overwhelming to the newcomer. In addition to learning state and federal guidelines, there is the matter of finding and completing training (which truly never ends) and applying all you learn toward your everyday life.
Fortunately for women, the industry has grown to better accommodate the fairer sex, which dominates the fast-growing segment of new gun owners in the last 3-5 years.
There’s no shortage of information out there to help point you in the right direction but if you still find yourself a bit overwhelmed, here are five essential concealed-carry tips for women:
1. Your Gun Needs to Fit You AND Your Method of Concealed Carry
As much as I believe we’re past the “I’m buying my little lady a gun” days, I still feel it’s my duty to remind everyone that the most important tip for concealed carry is to make sure the gun fits your hand as well as the primary method of carry you plan to use.
I’ll be honest: when I bought my first handgun, the salesman was more interested in directing me to the sale they were running on the Smith & Wesson M&P Shield 9 mm than listening to me. Thankfully, the Shield is one heck of a great gun and not only fit my hand like a dream, but because of the sale, it also fit my pocketbook. Years later, I still carry it every day.
Think of your handgun like a great pair of shoes; you don't need to fit the gun, the gun needs to fit you and how you carry it. If you can't get into the range to shoot a gun before you buy it (which I highly recommend), you at least need to hold it and handle it to make sure it fits your hand and feels good in your grip.
Without a good grip, it doesn’t matter what you’re carrying, it’s no good to you. A good grip is essential, so make sure it fits you while keeping in mind that it needs to fit into your method(s) of concealed carry.
If you prefer a larger firearm, be prepared to tailor your holster and wardrobe to accommodate it. There is no “right answer” when it comes to which firearm to carry. It’s only right if you say it is.
2. Take Your Wardrobe Into Account When Buying Holsters (And Vice Versa)
One of the biggest reasons women find it difficult to carry is that their preferred method of carry doesn’t always work with every outfit in their closet.
While I don’t recommend carrying in a purse, I understand that for some women, this is the only way they will carry a gun, either at all or until they get to a point where they’re comfortable with carrying on their person.
If that’s the case for you, it’s essential to choose a satchel that has a slash-proof strap, protects the trigger at all times and that the firearm remains within your control and your reach – and only your reach – at all times.
Thankfully, there is no shortage of functional fashionable options for any and every outfit you want to wear. From executive shirts to hip-huggers, purse holsters to range pants, the industry has grown to accommodate every type of female carrier.
Additionally, between the expanding number of female gun owners and women in executive positions in the firearm industry, national groups like the Well Armed Woman, A Girl and A Gun, the Pink Pistols and Operation Blazing Sword emerged on the scene to help connect and empower women and other emerging groups of new gun owners. These organizations also provide guidance and training to ensure women become efficient, effective concealed carriers.
The easiest way to become a comfortable everyday carrier is to connect with other women who have been in your shoes, so take advantage of the guidance these organizations and thousands of other women have to offer you. All you have to do is ask. There’s not a woman out there who isn’t eager to help you in any way she can.
3. Concealed Carry Isn’t Just for Outside the Home
So many people think “concealed carry” means “away from home,” but nothing could be further from the truth. One way to ensure you’re equipped to defend yourself when you mindlessly take the dog out to the backyard or walk down to pick up the mail is to get in the habit of carrying at home.
I work from home, so having options to carry—not just open-carry but comfortable carry—around my house and office is paramount. Many times, I’m in my office and need to skip out for errands. Because it’s a daily habit to carry around the home, I’m always ready to go. Remember: a firearm does you no good if it’s not within your reach when you need it.
4. Be Sure to Inform Your Loved Ones of Your Personal Protection Plan
It might be a discussion that comes naturally for you or one that might be extremely uncomfortable but it’s important to let your close friends and family know that you’ve decided to take charge of your self-defense by carrying for your protection—and to protect them, if necessary.
Your significant other should know what your plan is if an intruder breaks into your home in the middle of the night and your children should definitely be taught the NRA Eddie Eagle Gun Safety Program or the rules of gun safety if they are at an appropriate age.
I also highly recommend running drills in your home to ensure everyone is adequately prepared for what you plan to do if the need to defend yourself or your family arises. We practice frequently with our children much like we do with a tornado drill. We do this because if I do need to shoot, I want them on the ground where they aren’t in the line of fire. Try designating a warning phrase (ours is, “Don’t move, I have a gun!) that your family and roommates know means ‘hit the ground’, then practice it to make sure they’re ready.
5. This Journey is a Marathon, Not a Sprint
Many women are gung-ho to buy a gun and start carrying immediately. Unfortunately, that’s rarely how it works in real life. It’s okay to take your time, especially if it means being comfortable and proficient with your Every Day Carry (EDC).
Just because you happen to buy a certain firearm or holster doesn’t mean you’re going to stick with that gun and carry method for the rest of your life. Every woman I know has several methods to carry and we’re continually checking out the latest and greatest firearms coming to market like the new M&P380 Shield EZ pistol.
You also need to make sure you don't buy the gun and lose the right to carry it. Consider joining the NRA and purchasing insurance to protect your rights. These go hand-in-hand with gun ownership. Staying on top of your local and federal firearms legislation will help to protect our right to keep and bear arms for generations to come.
These five essential tips for concealed carry are, I admit, just the tip of the iceberg, but they are an essential start for any woman to take the first steps onto the path of fully owning their personal-protection plan!