When it comes to CCW, the idea of carrying your pistol in a bag certainly seems easier than strapping it to your body. But, if you’ve been around the gun community long enough, you’ve probably heard a horror story or two about why you should never, ever carry off body.
The truth is, there are a number of pros and cons to off body carry. While many people enjoy carrying off body because of how comfortable and convenient it is, others criticize the practice, saying it’s unsafe, slow to draw, and risks your gun finding its way into the wrong hands.
Before you decide whether it is the right move for you, it’s important to consider a few factors.
What is Off Body Concealed Carry?
Carrying off body means, well, carrying your gun off your body.
In all seriousness, this term encompasses any means of carry in which your firearm is with you, but not attached to your body, typically in a bag, purse, or backpack of some sort (for those of you who are wondering, yes, fanny packs work too!).
There are several reasons why people choose to carry off body.
Most people who carry off body do so for the convenience factor. Many people, particularly women, who already carry a bag find it easy to simply slip a gun into their purse or backpack and go about their day. Some people also find it easier than trying to hide a pistol under tighter fitting clothes (yoga pants for life, right?!).
Not only that, but off body carry is commonly used during activities like hiking, where a gun can easily and comfortably be carried in a backpack. And some carriers like to keep their firearm in a concealed carry bag or briefcase while at work to avoid wearing a holster at the office all day.
Regardless of why people choose to carry off body, there is a great debate in the gun community about whether or not it is safe and effective. Let’s start with the benefits of this mode of carry.
Benefits of Off Body Carry
Easy to Dress For: By far the most common reason for concealed carrying off body is that you don’t have to wear anything specific to do so. With IWB and OWB carry, you have to dress in a way that won’t cause you to print, which is when the outline of your gun is visible under your clothes.
When carrying this way, all you have to do is put your pistol in your off body carry bag and go. You can wear anything from leggings to gym shorts to bikinis without having to worry about what holster you’re going to wear and whether or not your gun is visible.
Comfortable: Along with being able to wear whatever you want, not carrying on body makes it easier and more comfortable to do certain activities such as driving long distances, going for a run, or hiking.
Some people with disabilities also find off body carrying to be a better alternative if carrying around the waist is uncomfortable or difficult to reach.
You Can Carry What You Want: Carrying off body offers a great deal of flexibility regarding the kind of weapon you conceal. You can comfortably carry some pretty large pistols and still have room for all your other EDC gear as well. You can even carry multiple guns if you want, making off body carry an easy way to bring a backup handgun in addition to your on body piece.
Offers a Tactical Advantage: Finally, carrying in a bag could give you a tactical advantage in certain scenarios. John Lovell, CEO of Warrior Poet Society, says having a pistol in your bag could actually help you be prepared for a defensive situation without brandishing your firearm.
“I can’t just have a gun out in public ready to defend myself, but imagine … if I’m in a seedy area and I put my hand inside this bag, and I’ve got a gun, I could be pointing this gun at anyone I want, and they couldn't really see that,” he said.
Dangers of Carrying Off Body
While there certainly is a convenience factor when it comes to off body carry, there are some serious potential dangers to consider as well. Many critics of the carry method, including the owners of Geauga Firearms, Neil and Kim Nemetz, discourage the practice altogether.
“I would prefer you not carry than carry off body. That’s how dangerous this mode of carry actually is,” Neil Nemetz said in a Geauga Firearms video.
Slower to Draw: The first downside to this carry method is that it significantly slows your draw speed. When seconds count, it’s much faster and easier to access a weapon on your hip, where you only have to move a layer of clothing, than to dig your pistol out of your purse. By the time you reach your off body gun, it may be too late.
“A gun is not going to keep away crime just because you have it. You have to be able to access it. You have to be able to deploy it and use it effectively. Having it is not enough,” Nemetz said.
With sufficient practice, and proper position of your pistol inside your bag, you can learn to draw from a purse or backpack relatively quickly. While it still won’t be as fast as drawing from IWB or OWB, the extra second or two you can gain from consistent training could be enough to save your life if you make the choice to carry off body.
Easy to Steal: Another serious concern when it comes to off body concealed carry is the potential for a purse snatcher to take your concealed carry bag and your pistol with it. This is (obviously) a major problem because not only does a thief then have your wallet, keys, and other valuables, but they have your gun as well, which they can then use to commit other crimes, use it against you, or both. Either way, having a weapon in your bag is more likely to cause the situation to escalate.
“There’s a great likelihood that you’re going to do something stupid now because rather than just giving someone your purse and being done with it, you may try to fight for it and get really mangled,” Nemetz said. “There’s no real positive outcome to this.”
Loss of Control: Any time you carry a gun, you need to commit to keeping it with you at all times to avoid anyone else getting ahold of it. This is a pretty easy thing to do when your firearm is strapped to your body, but it’s a whole other story when your pistol is in your concealed carry purse.
When you’re off body carrying, it’s critical that you keep your bag with you at all times. That means you can’t leave your purse unattended while you go to the bathroom, you can’t walk away from your briefcase under your desk for a quick meeting, and you can’t toss your backpack into the backseat while you’re driving your kids to a play date.
“Once you have a gun in a bag, you have to babysit that. If you get up and go somewhere, this is now a permanent part, just like your pants,” Lovell said.
Leaving your firearm unattended for even a few moments makes it possible for an unauthorized user, whether a purse snatcher or your 6-year-old niece, to find it. And we don’t have to tell you how tragically that could end.
So, before you make the decision to off body carry, think about whether you can realistically be in possession of your carry bag at all times. If there’s any doubt in your mind, this mode of carry probably isn’t the best choice for you (and that’s okay!).
Luckily, you can take a few measures to mitigate some of the downsides this popular carry option.
Tips for Safely Carrying Off Body
Choose the Right Bag/Holster Combo: Casually tossing your gun into a random bag that’s currently hanging in your closet is not how you should carry off body (we don’t care how cute the purse is!).
If you’re going to use this mode of carry, it’s absolutely essential that you invest in a bag that actually works for concealed carry. While you can find bags that aren’t explicitly made for CCW that will work just fine, it’s usually best to buy one that is designed to hold a pistol (though keep in mind that just because a bag says it’s for concealed carry doesn’t necessarily mean it is the best choice!).
There are a few specific things to look for in concealed carry bags. The first thing to look for, no matter what kind of bag, is a dedicated pocket for your gun and your gun ONLY, Beth Alcazar of the USCCA writes in an article. Ideally, this will be a pouch on the backside of your bag with a side-oriented zipper for easy access.
“The No. 1 thing to look for in a CCW handbag is the separate pocket or dedicated compartment … designed specifically for a firearm. You do not want other items (such as pens, makeup, keys, etc.) to be near the firearm or its trigger,” Alcazar wrote.
When it comes to concealed carry purses, specifically, always look for a cross-body bag. When you can strap your purse across your body instead of slinging it over your shoulder, you make it harder for a would-be criminal to steal your bag. If you want to go one step further, you can even invest in an off body carry bag with slash-proof straps.
Finally, just because you’re carrying in a CCW bag does not mean you don’t need a holster. Having a holster secured inside your bag is an essential part of off body carry. Without one, your gun will just be sliding around in your bag and may get debris in its barrel. Even worse, the lack of a proper trigger guard can leave you susceptible to a negligent discharge.
We can’t stress this enough: it is absolutely critical that your gun is secured in a quality holster inside your bag. Some carry purses already come with velcro patches or straps inside so you can attach your holster to the inside of the bag.
If your bag comes with straps, the Vedder Holsters LightTuck™ Kydex holster is an excellent, lightweight choice. If your bag has a velcro patch or lining, you can easily add velcro to a regular pocket holster and firmly stick it inside. Whatever you choose, make sure you can secure your gun in a way that ensures it won’t slide around so it’s safe and always right where you need it.
Choose the Right Gun: While it’s true that one of the benefits of carrying your weapon in a bag is that you can successfully conceal a wider range of firearms, some work better than others when it comes to safety.
One thing you have to consider when carrying off body is that you may have to shoot through your bag if you don’t have time to draw your weapon. In this instance, a semi-automatic handgun may not have the room it needs to successfully cycle, which may cause it to jam. If you missed the first time, or one bullet was not enough to stop your attacker, then you have lost.
To help ensure this unfortunate scenario doesn’t happen, you can trade your semi-auto for a revolver. Because revolvers operate using a cylinder, you can rest assured knowing you have multiple shots to take, despite the cramped conditions of your concealed carry purse.
Train (A Lot): Training is an essential part of concealed carry, no matter how you choose to do it. Whether you’re carrying off body or on body, you need to practice regularly to practice safe habits and build speed and muscle memory.
You should always train in the same manner you carry (which means sticking with the same bag every day, even if it doesn’t match your shoes!). Start with some dry fire training, then work your way up to live fire if you can. Practice drawing your firearm in different scenarios, such as sitting, standing, driving, and even running – which is harder than you think, considering your bag will be bouncing around as you run!.
Be Consistent: Another thing to keep in mind is consistency. Drawing from a bag is already a slower process, so it’s crucial that when you go to grab your weapon, it’s exactly where you expect it to be. That means you must put your gun in the same place in your bag every time and always carry your bag in the same way.
If you’re the type to haphazardly fling your bag over your shoulder without thinking about the direction it’s facing and where it sits on your body, you may want to opt for a different carry method.
Keep Your Bag On You: We can’t say it enough: the key to safely carrying off body is to keep your bag on your person at all times. Leaving it unattended, even for a second, both leaves you unarmed and opens you up to the possibility of someone else finding your weapon. The last thing you want is for a purse thief or your curious 5-year-old son to get ahold of your pistol.
A good rule of thumb is to treat your concealed carry bag like it’s any other holster (because it is!). Would you hang your exposed handgun on the back of your chair at a restaurant? Would you place it in a shopping cart and step away from it to grab a box of cereal? Would you leave a gun sitting on your desk at work while you went to the bathroom? Practicing this mindset and behaving accordingly can help ensure you carry responsibly.
Alternatives to Off Body Carry
If you’re not sure carrying off body is the right way to go, don’t worry. There are plenty of other carry methods to choose from (which are arguably more effective anyway!).
Inside the Waistband
Inside the waistband carry is by far the most popular choice for concealed carry. This method allows you to easily hide your pistol by clipping your IWB holster onto a gun belt with the firearm and holster sitting comfortably between your body and waistband. This mode of carry is incredibly easy to conceal and quickly accessible in an emergency.
Outside the Waistband
If you don’t like the idea of carrying your weapon inside your waistband, you can always carry it outside your waistband (duh!). Similar to IWB, OWB involves clipping your holster to a gun belt, except your pistol sits outside your pant waistband instead. This is a very comfortable way to carry, and can still be easily concealed with the right layers of clothing.
Other: If you don’t want to carry on your waistband, but you’re not sure you want to carry off body, you’re in luck. There are dozens of different carry options to choose from.
While there are plenty of options for concealed carry on the market, such as ankle holsters, shoulder holsters, bra holsters, belly bands, and concealed carry clothing like leggings and tank tops, one of the best alternatives to waistband holsters is pocket carry. With a quality holster, like our Vedder Holsters Pocket Locker Holster, you can easily fit a small pistol in your front pant pocket for easy and comfortable access.
Whatever your needs, there is a concealed carry option that will work for you. The important thing is that you do your research, make an informed decision, and train consistently.
Is Off Body Carry Right For Me?
Though there are serious downfalls to carrying off body, there are some tremendous benefits as well. It’s important to understand the carry method's positive and negative aspects so you can make an informed decision for yourself.
“Off body carry can be dismissed really quickly by some because they noticed the cons without really noticing the pros. And some people who are really big fans of off body carry see the pros, but they don’t really understand the cons, and that can set you up for failure,” Lovell said.
At the end of the day, whether or not off body carry is a good choice for you will depend on your lifestyle, preferences, and how much time you’re willing to commit to training. It’s important to weigh the pros and cons realistically and think about whether the benefits outweigh the risks in your particular situation.
Carrying off body simply means your gun is with you but not fixed on your body. Most often, those who practice this method carry in a concealed carry purse, briefcase, backpack, or another kind of bag.
While many people enjoy off body carry because of the comfort and convenience it offers, others are wary of doing so as it can potentially slow down your draw and put you at risk of your gun being stolen or found by an unauthorized user.
If you’re looking for belts or holsters, we recommend visiting our Holsters by Gun Model page if you are looking for holsters that are custom-made for your weapon of choice. For all of our belt and holster options and for more information to help you choose the carry system that works best for you, visit our Vedder Holsters website.
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