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?