Women in the gun world receive a lot of advice.
The advice is often well-meaning, but, admittedly, some of it is better than others.
After over a decade of concealed carrying and being an all-around “gun girl,” I’ve kind of figured out what advice is worth listening to and what’s worth avoiding.
And I love nothing more than sharing that information with other ladies!
So, today we’re going to explore concealed carrying from a woman’s perspective. We’ll walk through different ways and places on the body to carry and look at holsters you should check out (and ones to stay away from).
By the end of this article, you’ll at least know what gear is out there and if it’s worth your hard-earned cash.
Let’s dive in!
Table of Contents
Women’s Concealed Carry
Women’s bodies come in all fabulous shapes and sizes, but this means carry becomes very individualized.
For reference, I’m super petite — like, my 9-year-old son and I wear the same size.
At 5’2″ and 100-pounds, things that work for me might not work for someone with a different shape.
So, just because another woman can’t make a holster work doesn’t rule it out for you.
Concealed carry is a lot of trial and error — figuring out what works for your body and lifestyle.
You might have to try a few methods before eventually settling on one that works for you, and that’s okay!
The key to anything gun-related is don’t get discouraged or give up. Trust me; you can make it work!
Fashionable Concealed Carry
While a lot of our clothing proves advantageous — hello prints and florals — not everything in the fashion industry comes tooled for CCW.
Women’s clothing tends to favor lighter fabrics which aren’t always great for concealment. We also face pants with no pockets or belt loops.
And don’t get me started on dresses, skirts, rompers, and pantsuits.
There’s a lot of diversity in women’s fashion, so your concealed carry setup needs to reflect that.
In short, you’ll probably need to invest in a couple of holsters you can rotate based on what you’re wearing.
For instance, I use a Dark Star Gear Orion holster when carrying AIWB in jeans. But, as a single lady on a date, I might switch over to an ankle holster or belly band for dressier attire.
Having more than one holster gives me the ability to work with what I have in my closet.
On-Body Belted Options: IWB, AIWB, OWB
If you regularly wear belted pants or jeans, you’re in the right spot!
IWB, AIWB, and OWB all rely on a good gun belt and belted pants to work well. (You can get some good gun belt recs here!)
Keep reading to learn more.
Inside the Waistband seats the holster and gun on the inside of your pants, between you and your beltline. These holsters come in leather, Kydex, polymer-injected, fabric, or even hybrid (a blend of fabric and Kydex/plastic).
IWB is, by far, one of the most popular styles of concealed carry for both men and women.
It feels pretty comfy and does a great job of concealing the gun…especially for women.
While men can sometimes get away with carrying right on the hip in a 3 o’clock position, ladies often do better moving the gun behind the hip, around the 4- to -5-o’clock position.
This area tends to be less bony and more squishy, making it a more comfortable experience. Women can also utilize natural curves with the gun placed behind the hip.
Curves go a long way in concealing a gun.
It’s important to note that IWB is not the same as small of back. SOB carry places the gun right over the spine.
As such, I DON’T recommend carrying this way as it can cause severe damage to your back and spine if you fall onto the gun. Not to mention, if you’re fighting from your back, it’s incredibly difficult to draw your firearm.
People who SOB also have a tendency to flag themselves on the draw. So, let’s not do that.
IWB, just behind the hip, on the other hand, is how I recommend most women start if they want a great concealable option!
The downside to IWB is the draw requires you to twist ever so slightly to reach the gun — especially the further back you place it.
This might take some practice to get used to.
There are a lot of great IWB holster options, and you can see our list of preferred brands here.
Pro Tip: Patterns are a great way to break up any printing you might experience. So add some polka dots, florals, and plaid to the mix!
To read more on IWB, check out our article on Strong Side Carry.
AIWB is an offshoot of IWB, but it differs in location. In AIWB, or Appendix Inside the Waistband, the gun is placed…well, over the appendix.
Basically, anywhere between the hip bone and navel works. For this, you’ll want to play with location and fine-tune it for you.
Some women prefer to carry more centerline, while others like to carry just in front of their hip. It depends on where it feels the best.
Some women find AIWB more comfortable than IWB because the gun presses against your squishy parts, not bony parts. And you don’t have as far to reach.
Not to mention, AIWB offers great concealment for certain body shapes.
The downside? Sitting can take some getting used to, depending on your body type, and you might not enjoy the feel of metal on your abdomen.
Plus, there’s a little something called “gun dick.”
A phenomenon that occurs when your pants are a wee bit tight, and the muzzle of your gun ends up looking like a…well, you get the idea.
Pro Tip: If your abdomen looks a bit bulky with a holster, gun, and belt, rotate your belt, so the buckle sits on the opposite hip. This balances the beltline and allows clothes to lay more evenly.
To learn more about AIWB, check out our article here!
Outside the Waistband is similar in placement to IWB but situates the gun on the outside of the pants on your dominant side.
This style is great when you’re on the range, carrying around the house, or in the winter months when you’re sporting a jacket or coat.
With the gun positioned here, there are fewer layers to fight with to get the gun. Accessing your gun is quick and easy.
Not to mention, this style is pretty comfy, cozy. The gun existing on the outside of the pants means no metal parts rubbing your body in weird ways.
But the downside is that, for some bodies, it can be difficult to conceal well in every outfit.
If you’re brand new to carry and still testing the waters, I recommend OWB around the home to get used to the gun. Then you can move into IWB.
Pro Tip: OWB is a great means to carry in the winter! Ditch the IWB for the OWB and a puffy vest! Concealment meets snow bunny!
To learn more about OWB, check our IWB vs. OWB.
On-Body Carry: Non-Belted Holsters
Where my boss babes at?
If you sport professional wear without belt loops, skirts, dresses, or pantsuits…we’ve got you covered with some alternative options.
Thigh Carry/Ankle Carry
Dresses and skirts necessitate a different kind of carry since there’s no beltline for a holster to grab.
In cases when I’m in a skirt or dress, I turn to thigh carry or ankle carry.
These holsters wrap around your leg and secure to themselves. They offer a small pocket or holster area to slip the gun.
It’s worth noting that this style is best for small, compact guns.
I use my Sig Sauer P238 when carrying this way, so it doesn’t weigh the holster down.
Drawing from a thigh or ankle rig does prevent you from moving, which is a pitfall to this design.
So, prioritize getting to cover first then drawing your gun.
For shorter skirts and dresses, I recommend the Can Can Concealment Thigh Holster.
For longer skirts/dresses and pant suits/jumpers, I use a Bear Armz Tactical ankle rig.
Pro Tip: Measure your leg before ordering a thigh or ankle holster. The wrong size will cause slippage.
For more on ankle carry, check out our article here!
Belly bands also offer a means to carry in a skirt, shorts, yoga pants/leggings without belt loops…because, yes, that’s a thing.
A belly band wraps around the wearer’s body and secures to itself with either Velcro or snaps/hooks.
Some styles are all fabric, while others, like the Crossbreed Modular Belly Band, offer a fabric waistband paired with a Kydex holster shell.
These holsters often offer at least one area to carry the gun and sometimes even a pocket for extras like a spare mag or knife.
The advantage to these? The ability to carry without the need for belted pants.
Plus, some models offer a ton of pockets, so you can even carry non-gun things like IDs and chapstick.
The downside, though…these get warm in the summer months, and I tend to sweat a lot in a belly band. Sweat then leads to the belly band twisting ever so slightly on my body.
So, I have to run to the bathroom more frequently to ensure it stays where I want it.
Pro Tip: Play with placement, and don’t be afraid to turn that holster 1/4-inch to get it just right.
Similarly, corset holsters adopt a belly band approach but use a corset instead of a band.
These holsters often come decked out in lace and provide a sexy look to deep concealment.
The downside to this style is it can get hot and sweaty, especially in the summer. Like, seriously, I felt like I was in a sauna.
Corsets also offer less forgiveness when it comes to sizing. If your weight fluctuates throughout the year, this might not be the best option.
Also, not every corset comes with an integrated trigger guard, so you’ll want to do some research to see what materials are used and if the trigger can be pulled through the fabric.
Dene Adams more or less launched the corset style. They offer both petite and standard styles. Just make sure you get one with trigger protection.
Pro Tip: When possible, purchase an extender for the corset. If you gain a few pounds, you’ll still be able to use the holster.
There’s no secret here. Bra holsters allow a holstered gun to sit on your bra.
This style brings a deep method of concealment and only really permits the carry of small guns.
Worth mentioning that bust size, body shape, and bra type play a BIG factor in success here.
Small-chested women have reported issues with printing, while short-waisted gals report discomfort with their gun’s grip poking their abdomen.
Me…my gun wanted to continually flip up, allowing the grip to poke out like a Chestburster from Alien.
Also, boob sweat. It’s a thing. You might find yourself wiping down your gun more than other carry methods.
While we’re on the topic of atypical things about bra carry…you’ll need to practice the draw and reholster situation since it’s different.
You also want to closely monitor your reholstering to ensure you don’t accidentally flag yourself.
For holsters, stick with Flashbang. They offer Kydex clamshell designs that secure the gun and cover the trigger.
Pro Tip: Invest in a sturdy bra with a strong middle band to support the gun.
Though you won’t wear these in an office setting, clothing holsters work best in your off-time on the soccer field or making a Starbucks run.
Clothing holsters consist of apparel with an integrated holster. You’ve probably most often seen these in the form of leggings.
UnderTech UnderCover was one of the first companies to innovate in the leggings world, but more companies have jumped on the bandwagon.
While, again, you’re going to want to think small and choose a subcompact or micro-compact for clothing holsters, you also need to be aware that not all offer a trigger guard.
What does this mean?
The trigger area is unsecured, and something interacting with that space could cause an ND.
However, companies like Alexo offer a small pocket forward of the gun pocket. The pocket provides space for a card to slip into, thus blocking the trigger.
In short, thoroughly check out apparel holsters and ensure that you know their limitations and safety issues.
Pro Tip: Make sure you size correctly since clothing holsters are clothing. When in doubt, grab the measuring tape before hitting the buy button.
Purse carry is exactly how it sounds and involves sticking a gun in your purse.
To be completely honest, I don’t advocate for this style of carry. It presents more risk than on-body carry.
That said, I realize that not all women enjoy the privilege of working from home for a pro-gun company.
So, let’s talk about purse carry.
When going this route, you want to select a bag dedicated to purse carry. That means it offers a pocket or integrated holster that secures your firearm.
DO NOT put a gun in your regular purse.
Having an unsecured firearm is incredibly unsafe. It prevents you from quickly accessing the gun, presents an opportunity for junk to end up in the barrel or action, and increases the risk of something tragic happening.
So, again, buy a purse designed specifically for concealed carry.
Secondly, when purse carrying, ALWAYS keep your purse on you. Always. At all times.
Do not set it in the shopping cart or slid it on the back of your chair at a restaurant. And do not leave it in the backseat with your kids.
You want to maintain possession of your gun at all times to prevent theft or little hands from finding the gun.
Pro Tip: Shop around! Not all gun purses look like gun purses. So long as they offer a dedicated gun compartment, you’re good!
How to Choose a Women’s Holster
A lot of gun world marketing focuses on making women’s gear appear feminine or sexy.
While I love being feminine (my Sephora and Ulta rewards can attest to that), safety and access are more important.
When choosing a holster, I look for a few things that indicate it’s a good holster.
Ideally, a good holster will do the following:
- Keep the gun securely in place until you intentionally draw it
- Prevent the gun from being fired while in the holster
- Offer the gun up in the same orientation/angle consistently
- Allow for a full firing grip on the gun
Additionally, good holsters will be well-made and durable.
Just because we’re friends, I’ll let you in on a little secret. Good holsters can run a bit expensive.
I know, I know. You just dropped a few hundred on a gun…now I’m telling you to look at an $80 holster. But trust me, it’s worth it!
I’ve spent a lot of time testing holsters — enough to fill one full drawer in a dresser and two storage bins.
In the world of holsters, you truly get what you pay for.
So go ahead and spring for a good holster. It will last longer than the cheap ones, give you better peace of mind, and likely provide a better concealment experience all around.
Finding the Right Belt
If you opt for a holster that requires the use of a belt — IWB, AIWB, OWB — your belt makes a big difference in concealment.
Too bulky, and it’ll make you look thick in the middle. Too flimsy, and the gun will rotate on the belt.
Like Goldilocks, you have to find the belt that’s just right.
Due to those bony hips I mentioned earlier, some gun belts feel more comfortable than others. I find that traditional leather gun belts leave welts on my hips and dig into my skin.
On the other hand, nylon belts tend to provide enough flex to work around the hip while still offering the structure to hold a gun.
So what’s the best way to carry as a woman?
As much as I would like to give you one carry method to rule them all…I can’t. Every woman is different — both in body shape and lifestyle — so every concealed carry setup will vary.
What I can tell you, is to spend some time narrowing down what you need from a holster to fit into your life. This will help dictate the best method and holsters for you.
And sometimes that even means purchasing more than one holster, so you can swap based on the outfit.
Bottom line, figure out your lifestyle and then build your concealed carry set up around that.
Carry on, sis!
As always, if you have any questions, feel to drop us a line in the comments. Looking for more lady-specific content? Make sure to check back every Wednesday for a women-centric article. In the meantime, check out the Best Firearm Resources for Women and the Best Female Friendly Brands!
Article updated: Apr. 28, 2021 at 5:30 ET