The Cornered Cat
Do you know how to use a purse?

A word of advice to would-be firearms instructors: If you have never carried a gun in a purse, or drawn and fired from such a purse at the range, you almost certainly do not have the experience to teach or express opinions about purse-related skillsets to other people. This limits your ability to teach women the skills they need.

To fix this lack, get yourself a purse or a murse with a holster compartment, and carry it with you for a few weeks. If you (understandably) don’t want to carry a gun in that purse, put something of equal size and weight into the holster compartment so you have a reality-based idea of what it’s like to carry a purse with the right amount of weight in it… and never put the purse down or lose control of it during your tests.

Work with it on the range a bit, too. If you don’t have a friendly range that will allow you to draw from a purse (most won’t), figure out how you would safely practice your drawstroke at home. Get yourself a Training Barrel from Blade-Tech, or a firearm block from TrainSafe, or a dummy gun, and figure out how you would safely and efficiently get the gun out of the bag and onto target. How will you avoid sweeping your brachial artery (or any other body part) as you draw? What will you do about the pendulum effect of the purse slipping off your shoulder and swinging from your elbow? How will you get the gun out of the purse if you only have one hand available?

Don’t express opinions about how to draw from a purse, or tell your students to “just shoot through the purse,” if you have never done either of these things yourself.

Does it sound dangerous to shoot through a purse that has a lot of other clutter inside it? I think so, and firmly recommend against the practice. I can recommend against doing this because I have done my homework. I have taken crummy old purses and good guns out to the range, then shot through the former with the latter. I even supervised a group of experienced shooters doing likewise, under very controlled conditions. We discovered that even at very close ranges (less than two steps away), it was shockingly difficult to hit the target reliably when shooting through the purse. This was with experienced shooters who were all good at unsighted fire.

As we talked about what had just happened, we also realized that nobody was going to practice this skillset enough to get good at it. How many $200 gun purses are you willing to destroy to learn how to do this safely and well? How many $200 gun purses would you expect your students to purchase and destroy? Even buying cheap old purses from Goodwill — purses that do not have a built in holster or gun compartment — soon gets very expensive. And make no mistake: this is a high-skill activity. Pointshooting usually requires a lot of rounds downrange to master, and pointshooting through a purse is not the same as pointshooting in general. This means it’s not a skill you can just try once for confidence’ sake. It’s something you would need to practice a lot to get good at.

In addition to basic trouble hitting the target, there’s also the high likelihood of a jam. You get one shot with a semi-auto, and even a revolver can get its hammer caught on the purse liner either before or after that one shot. If there are other items in the purse (and of course there will be), the bullet can be deflected by the clutter when you shoot, meaning that even an otherwise good shot might go astray under realistic conditions that include a purse that has a wallet, keys, and lipstick inside it.

So go out and do that homework. Figure it out, because if you haven’t done your homework about purses, you cannot ethically give advice to your students about them.

Generally speaking, I’m not a fan of off-body carry, but as a realist I know that many women do carry in a purse and will carry in a purse no matter how much they get chided by the tactical crowd. Wouldn’t it be nice if every instructor who works with female students knew how to safely teach purse-related skills, and could provide experienced-based advice about using a purse-carried firearm for self defense?

11 Responses to Do you know how to use a purse?

  1. vieuxcarre13 says:

    Dear Kathy:

    I recently received my concealed carry license and since I work in an office and have to park in a garage purse carry seemed like the logical choice.

    I just purchased a purse from Gun Tote’n Mammas and have been at home practicing drawing techniques. My boyfriend suggested bringing the purse to the range (we haven’t attempted that yet). However, after reading your blog I am worried that maybe purse carry isn’t the best choice.

    Do you have any suggestions?

  2. vieuxcarre13 says:

    Me again 🙂 I have been pouring over your blog after writing my first comment and have found many great tips on options for concealed carry. Thanks for such an awesome website!!!

    • Kathy Jackson says:


      Thanks for the kind words. Though you probably didn’t realize it, you asked a really long question!

      The short answer is, try for on body carry first — ideally using a traditional holster on the belt. Lots of articles on that around here somewhere (click “content” and browse through the holster section). If belt carry doesn’t work for you, then start looking at alternative on-body carry methods, such as belly bands or shoulder harnesses. Only if you can’t make on body carry work should you look at purse carry as a primary method, IMO.

      I’m kind of in an odd place, because I do think that every woman who carries a firearm should have a purse designed for concealed carry — but I also think that a purse is a poor place to keep a gun on a regular basis. I’d rather use the purse just as a back up to a safer, faster, more reliable on body carry method. However, if it comes down to a choice of either carrying in the purse or not carrying the gun at all, use the purse! It’s better to have a way to carry the gun all the time, everywhere it’s legal, than it is to have a “perfect” carry method that you can only use once in awhile.

      Hope that makes sense.

      As for advice about other methods, it really depends on you, your body type, your preferred clothing styles, and about a gajillion other things. Short version is: for carrying the gun on a belt, slender women tend to do best with behind the hip carry, while curvier ones tend to do best with appendix carry. (This is the opposite of how that works for men.) You probably won’t have to change your clothing styles as much as you fear, and the biggest change is likely to be wearing a belt every day. You also might want to buy your pants in mid-rise styles, because mid-rise jeans tend to help holsters work a little better than low-rise styles do, and because natural waist styles tend to place the gun too high. Once you’re used to carrying in a holster, a belly band makes a great addition to the wardrobe because you can put the gun in the same place a belt holster does, only without the belt. Pretty clothes can cover a gun just as easily as ugly ones do, and layers — which are stylish anyway! — really help with concealment.

      Hope it helps.

  3. urbanmoxy says:

    For those gals who want fashionable options for concealed carry, look up Urban Moxy bags. 🙂

    • Kathy Jackson says:

      I’d love to get my hands on one of those bags for a review. Any idea who I should talk to?

  4. DaddyBear says:

    I carry a Maxpedition bag as a laptop bag. It comes with a pocket that can have a velcro holster installed in it for off body carry. You’re right, training yourself to smoothly and quickly unzip the pocket, draw the gun from the pocket, and then present it to fire is very different from drawing from either a belt hoster or pocket carry. I’ve never gotten it right, and I think that even if I became as good at it as possible, it would still be slower and clunkier than other methods of carry.

    Then again, a gun in a murse or purse is better than no gun at all.

  5. UncleBob says:

    My wife carries in a purse, but I don’t believe purse carry is safe/secure.
    Once, 10+ years ago, we were going to meet inside walmart. Inside, I saw her before she saw me. I watched/stalked her for a minute. When my wife turned away from her purse in the cart, I walked up and snatched it as i passed by. It took 3 minutes for her to realize her purse had been ‘stolen’
    Over lunch we talked about the purse I stole. She promised it would never happen again. I have been trying to steal her purse/gun again for 10 years now, and haven’t been able to.
    Last week I asked her how she got so good at protecting her purse for a decade.
    She explained ‘I don’t think of it as a purse. It is my gun holster I carry around, that I also happen to keep my keys and phone in.”
    So that’s the trick to purse carry safely, don’t think of it as your purse. Think of it as your gun holser. And practice SAFELY!

    • pppp says:

      UncleBob –

      I would be in SO much trouble if I had done that to my wife. She would think of it as more of a practical joke than as a lesson, and would be absolutely distraught for the time between when she thought it had been stolen and I revealed it was I who took it.

      Mind you, it is a good thing for people to learn, that items left in the top of a shopping cart are easily removed. Many years ago when she would put her purse in the top of the cart I would quietly move it down into the cart, just below the toddler seat. When she asked why, I reminded her about the time a woman at church set her purse down on the counter in the nursery. She retrieved her child over the counter, and while she was momentarily distracted someone lifted her wallet with several hundred dollars in cash out of her purse. I reminded her of that event, then pointed out all the women in the store who were constantly turning away from their shopping carts to reach for produce or other groceries.

      Long story, but a good way to help other wives see how quickly they can lose their purse, whether or not they carry a gun in it.

  6. boogerscat says:

    Sigh. The purse thing… My wife carries in a purse. Even though I have made custom holsters (yes, plural…) for her, and she even likes them, she invariable reverts to the purse. It’s a concealed carry version, but folks, I thing it conceals a small aircraft carrier, plus the crew! She’s practiced pulling her revolver from it – “drawing” isn’t really an good word for it – and it works OK at best, but if she were caught off guard, the blasted thing is a mean bludgeon. It works for her.

    As a side, here’s how she keeps her purse from wandering off. She went to Home Depot and bought a carabiner clip and a replacement chain link that screws shut. The link goes around the shoulder strap (built as one piece with the purse, so no weak point there), and the carabiner clips to the link. No messing up or modifying the purse. When she places the purse in the seat area of a shopping cart, she clips the carabiner to the framework of the cart. Even the plastic ones usually have a thin metal bar in that area. So if someone tries to snatch the purse as they go by, they’ll grab the whole cart! Hard to miss that even if you’re not actually holding the cart at the time. Now that winter’s creeping in, she’s starting to carry both on body and in the purse, at the same time. Makes me a little happier!

  7. Bethmerle says:


    I carry a concealed carry purse and my choice of firearm is a S&W 642. I went with this 38 special revolver especially because it was designed with an internal hammer so in the event that I had no choice but to fire through my purse the hammer could not possibly snag. I also have a hip holster for those times it is not appropriate for me to carry my purse.

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