The Cornered Cat

It has been said that there are no embarrassing questions … only embarrassing answers. That may be true. But if that’s the case, why do we always blush when we ask the questions?

Warning: This page may be difficult reading for the faint of heart. Be sure to eat some chocolate before you begin. It won’t make you any less embarrassed, but don’t we all need a little more chocolate in our lives?

Portapotty Protocol

If you shoot very often at an outdoor range, chances are that at one time or another, you will have to deal with a portapotty while you have a gun holstered on your hip. This is risky business, people — take it from someone who knows.

What’s the risk, you ask? Well …

A friend of mine once entered a portapotty during an IPSC match. She was carrying a Glock in a kydex holster which had a very open front to allow faster speed draws. The Glock was unloaded, per IPSC rules. She closed the door to the portapotty, began unfastening her belt …

… and the firearm jumped right out of her holster and landed, KER-PLUNK, in the slime. Ewwwwww!!

Even for those of us who rarely carry in open front holsters, range portapotties pose an annoying risk of dropping magazines, speedloaders, pocket knives, flashlights, and anything else you might fasten on or near your belt while hanging out at the range. The more crud you somehow end up carrying, the more likely it is that whatever you’re carrying can end up in the crud.

Here’s the basic portapotty protocol to avoid that kind of nastiness:

  1. Close toilet lid.
  2. Lower your trousers.
  3. Open lid, sit down, do whatcha gotta do.
  4. Stand up and close lid.
  5. Then pull your trousers back up.

If the portapotty is so primitive that it does not even have a lid for the seat, you can instead turn to face the toilet while lowering your trousers. This reduces the risk of dropping things off your belt in the first place, and improves your chances of a last-gasp save if something other than the gun does jump off your belt. Never grab for a falling gun, though — that can be dangerous.


Public Restroom Procedures

If portapotties pose problems, public restrooms do, too. There’s still the risk of dropping your gun into the toilet. But there’s also the added risk of getting discovered carrying while you’re at it. What’s a woman to do?

First and most important thing to remember: you are not breaking the law. Engrave that firmly on your conscience so that you don’t make a silly of yourself. People tend to notice, in a vague sort of way, when other people are putting out emotional vibes. The stronger the vibes, the more they notice. If you’re new to carrying and are not quite sure how you’re going to manage this discreetly, remind yourself that you’re on the sunny side of the law and have nothing to fear. Don’t put off those vibes if you can help it.

Basic tips:


Watch Out for Curves

Women who are not well-endowed probably won’t understand this one, but … well, here’s the thing. Some of us have this minor little difficulty when we draw or reholster. Sometimes, a well-endowed woman finds that certain upper-body parts might get in the way as she works with the holster, either drawing or reholstering. During the reholster, what happens is that a shooter generally needs to see the mouth of the holster in order to reholster the gun safely. But some folks’ body build makes it impossible to see the holster without first reaching over to pull our bosom out of the way. And some women find that the motion of the drawstroke may be obstructed if they don’t hold the side bosom out of the way with the other hand during the draw.

Sorry about this one, friends. There’s nothing for it but to go ahead and do that maneuver when you have to — even at the range when there’s strange men around (and remember, all men are strange). 2

As a general rule, if you do this one matter-of-factly, nobody is really going to notice. You’ll only draw curious eyes if you have the vapors about it and put off those noticeable emotional vibes, or if you are awkwardly trying to figure out what to do about the problem without looking matter-of-fact. For this reason, I recommend that you begin working with your holster at home, with an unloaded gun and a safe backstop (within the protective confines of a good dryfire ritual, of course). At home, you can figure how how your body needs to move in order to complete the draw, without self-consciousness or embarrassment.

If the problem is mild, you may find that you can manage the drawstroke without encountering any difficulty, but that you’ll need to move your breast out of the way if you want to look the gun into your holster as you put it away. Don’t get too hung up about this. After you look the gun into the holster enough times, eventually finding the mouth of the holster will become second nature and it will be easier to manage.

While you are reholstering, it is best to look at the mouth of the holster. So even when it’s embarrassing, make the safe choice and go right ahead. Don’t give off those embarrassed vibes if you can help it — just matter-of-factly do what you need to do.

There is one time when it will always be necessary to look, and that is when there is some unexpected difficulty getting the gun into the holster. If you think you’ve got the right spot, but something “feels wrong” or the gun seems to be hanging up on something, STOP. Do not keep pushing the gun into the holster because it could be dangerous. Instead, bring the gun back up out of the holster and to the midline of your body, with the muzzle pointed downrange. Then look down at the holster. Make sure the holster mouth is clear of obstructions before you try again.

To help avoid getting those obstructions into the way in the first place, after each time you put the gun into the holster, you should carefully sweep the flat of your hand along your side next to the holster. Then tuck in any loose material your hand encounters. This makes sure that your shirt won’t get tucked into your holster along with the gun when you go to reholster it.

So work with the unloaded pistol at home as much as you can, until you are able to draw and reholster safely. Sweep and tuck after each time you reholster. And if you find yourself on the range one afternoon with a choice between poking the muzzle of a loaded gun around your midsection blindly probing for the holster mouth, or just flopping the girls out of the way so you can see where the muzzle needs to go … make the safe choice, okay?

The Flasher

This one’s really fun. You’ve signed up to take a basic handgun class designed for concealed carry. Among the topics taught in the class is how to safely draw and reholster your firearm while wearing a cover garment. So what should you wear to the range?

That’s entirely up to you, of course. But if it were me, no matter what else I wore, I’d be sure to wear a nice long undershirt that tucked in very securely. Because when it is time to learn how to draw from concealment, several of the basic techniques involve grabbing a handful of cover garment fabric and yanking that garment up and out of the way, clear into the armpit if possible.

You can do the math yourself!

Bra-zilian Line Dance, or the Cha-Cha

Speaking of clothes to wear to the range, I hope we’ve all figured out by now that shooting semi-automatic firearms puts hot brass into the air around us.

Actually, that’s not quite true. Shooting semi-autos puts hot brass everywhere, not just into the air. Somewhere around here I’ve got a picture of a friend of mine with a piece of brass perched jauntily atop her ear muffs. How cute!

Not quite so cute when that same friendly piece of brass decides to snuggle up next to your skin, though. Many women have learned, to their painful shock, that hot brass is strongly attracted to women’s brassieres — just as it’s also attracted to male plumber’s crack and to the cleft between bare toes in sandals.

Weird Dreams, Nightmares and Intrusive Thoughts

A surprising number of people experience unpleasant dreams when they first begin exploring the topic of armed self-defense. This is normal, and not a cause for worry. It doesn’t mean you’re unusual and it doesn’t mean you won’t be prepared to defend yourself if you need to. Rather the opposite, actually: those who have really thought things through beforehand are more likely to act decisively in a moment of danger. “Thinking things through,” of course, doesn’t just happen when you’re awake. Even when asleep, the human mind continues to process new information and new ideas, reconciling those new ideas with data already in storage. The more significant the mental shift is for you, the more likely you are to experience such dreams.

Similarly, people new to firearms often find their minds drifting to thoughts of self-defense, planning scenarios and considering possibilities, even when they don’t consciously want to do so. Rest assured that this isn’t the way your mind will work for the entire rest of your life. Once you have come to terms with your new outlook on life, these intrusive thoughts will fade away and only rise to the surface when you summon them.

See the article titled “Nightmares and Dreams” for some ideas about how to cope with vivid dreams.

One word of caution: if dream-active sleep or intrusive thoughts are a concern for you, don’t give into the temptation to simply stuff your worries down inside or to avoid learning anything more about the topic. Rather, study up! The active dreams and bothersome thoughts are nature’s way of alerting you that your mind has some issues it wants you to work through with your full attention. Although it seems counterintuitive, the truth is that learning more about these topics is the most effective way to soothe the subconscious worries, setting them to rest permanently rather than temporarily. As you learn more about self-defense, both the dreams and the intrusive thoughts will slowly subside, arrive less often and become less upsetting when they do show up.


  1. Incidentally, this is a good use for a dedicated concealed carry purse; you’ll have a definite, safe place to put your firearm whenever it absolutely must be removed from your ordinary belt holster.
  2. So are all women. It turns out that the only normal people are the ones you don’t know very well.