When I first decided I wanted to be a woman that concealed carried a gun, it felt hard to find my way. It was like I could see where I wanted to go but I couldn’t find a bridge to get me there.
I had to build my own bridge to get to the concealed carry lifestyle I desired. I knew other women were concealed carrying but I couldn’t find the bridge they used to get there. It felt like I was building my own bridge plank by plank as I crossed. It took me a couple of years to get to get across.
If you are a woman who wants to conceal carry, Pew Pew Mom is here to help you! After figuring out my own way to becoming a concealed carrying woman, I also became an instructor so I could help other women. I don’t want you to have to build your bridge from scratch all by yourself.
The License is the Easy Part
It is relatively easy to figure out how to get a concealed carry license in your state. (Or maybe you live in a state that doesn’t require you to get a license making it even easier.) You do some Googling to research how it works in your state.
Once you know what your state requires, you know exactly what steps to take next. It’s all laid out for you. Of course the requirements in some states are easier than in others. Still, the bridge to the license is already built. You just have to cross that bridge.
After you get the license, the path is not so clearly defined. Figuring out the the concealed carry application process is the easy part. Figuring out the concealed carry lifestyle is much more difficult.
You have the license that says you can carry, but you have to figure out how to make it actually work in your lifestyle.
More Women Are Becoming Concealed Carriers
The number of women owning guns and getting concealed carry licenses is growing rapidly! My husband and I own a company called Armed2Defend in Columbus, Ohio. We have seen this growth first hand.
Since Armed2Defend was created in 2010, we have trained over 19,000 concealed carriers in the Central Ohio area. In 2011 only 10% of the students in our concealed carry classes were females. So far in 2019, about 40% of our students have been women! That is quite an increase!
Concealed Carry is Different for Women
1. The firearms world has traditionally been built for men
Guns are stereo-typically considered “boy toys”. It is exciting to see that this dynamic is changing. Even though it is changing, the reality is still that the vast majority of training, gear and resources are designed for and marketed toward men.
Women can feel like the rabbit in the Trix commercial. Instead of the kids telling the rabbit “Silly rabbit, Trix are for kids,” it feel like society is saying to women “Silly women, guns are for men.”
2. There are less female role models in the gun world
We don’t have as many female role models in the gun world. They are some awesome ladies in the firearms world for sure! Julie Golob is an amazing female professional shooter. Carrie Lightfoot, founder of a the Well Armed Woman, has been a trailblazer for women in the firearms world. There are more awesome ladies out there, but even so, the men in this industry are exponentially more prominent and plentiful.
3. Women are biologically different.
Different doesn’t mean superior nor inferior. Different just means different.
Please don’t misunderstand my message; I don’t expect every woman to fit in to a perfect cookie cutter of what an average woman is supposed to look like, act like and do. Life would be really boring if we were all just alike. Still, when talking about a typical woman versus a typical man we can agree that:
- Women typically wear different types of clothes than men
- Women are typically smaller than men
- Women typically have less upper body strength
- Woman are typically curvier
- Some women have activities that impact their concealed carry lifestyle like breastfeeding, carrying toddlers around, etc.
- Women typically have different colors and styles preferences than men
Many guns, gear and training will work equally well for men and women. But sometimes our body shape, style preferences and amount of body strength make certain products better suited for women.
Concealed Carry Terminology: CCW, CHL, CHP
You’ll hear a few different terms thrown around to refer to concealed carry. The most universally understood and most widely used is CCW. This stands for “Carrying a Concealed Weapon” or “Concealed Carry Weapon”.
If you want to get in to technicalities, the term CCW is incorrect to use in many states. For example, in Ohio, it doesn’t cover all “weapons” just handguns. The proper term for the license in Ohio is CHL, Concealed Handgun License. Some states refer to theirs as CHP, Concealed Handgun Permit. Some states, like Florida, truly have a CCW because their license covers other weapons like knives, stun guns and billy clubs.
Have you ever gone into a restaurant and ordered a Coke and then they say “We have Pepsi, is that ok?” In that instance, in my head it’s all the same. Technically, Pepsi is not Coke. And when I go to the grocery store, I buy Pepsi instead of Coke. But in that instance at the restaurant Pepsi equals Coke for me. My point is that CCW isn’t technically the same thing as CHL or CHP but we don’t have to get hung up on the technicalities. CCW is more universally understood and therefore a convenient term to use to refer to concealed carry.
What is Open Carry?
Open carry is a commonly misunderstood term even though it means exactly what the name implies. Open carry refers to carrying a firearm in a manner such that it is visible. When a person is open carrying, it is obvious that the person is carrying a gun. Usually the person has the gun in a holster on the outside of their pants with no shirt covering it. (Picture the way police offers carry their gun on the outside of their clothing as an example.)
Concealed carry is when you carry a gun in a manner such that it is not visible. The most common means of concealed carry is a person having the gun on their waist with their shirt covering the gun and holster. It could also be that the person has the gun in a purse or fanny pack. Nobody should be able to tell that the person is carrying a gun if they are concealed carrying.
In simple terms, when you open carry, you advertise that you are carrying a gun. When you conceal carry you hide the fact that you are carrying a gun.
The pros and cons of concealed carry versus open carry is a huge topic. We will cover that in another blog post in the future. For now I’ll just say that I personally am not a fan of open carry. There are major tactical disadvantages.
How Common is Open Carry?
Many people don’t realize that most states allow open carry. In fact, 30 states allow open carry with no permit at all! 15 states allow open carry but require a permit.
My home state of Ohio is one of the 30 states that allow a person to open carry a handgun without a permit. To conceal carry that same handgun would require having an Ohio Concealed Handgun License (CHL).
Here is an example. Jane Doe lives in Ohio. She does not have an Ohio concealed carry permit (ask CHL) yet. She can go jog on the bike path near her house with her Glock 42 on her hip as long as her clothing doesn’t conceal the gun. Jane would be open carrying in this case.
If Jane got chilly and put her jacket on and the jacket covered the gun making it concealed, Jane would now be committing a crime. She would be concealed carrying. Concealed carry requires a license in Ohio.
I’m using an Ohio example because that is what I know. There are some states that allow concealed carry without a permit. If Jane Doe was a resident of Vermont instead of Ohio, she wouldn’t necessarily be breaking any laws if she put her jacket on in the example above.
(Please note that laws are much more complex than we have time and space to go in to for this post. We are simplifying our example with Jane Doe. I am not an attorney. If the trail was on school property, the example becomes more complex. If we were talking about a store, the example also gets more open ended. Stores are private property and can have their own rules. I am not an attorney.)
How to Become a Concealed Carrying Woman
There are 3 main things you need to be a concealed carrier.
- License/Training: Understanding the licensing process in your state (usually involves taking training)
- Gun: Figure out which gun(s) you want to carry
- Holster: Figure out a way to carry that gun
Let’s talk more about each of these 3 main things.
1. Research how concealed carry licenses work in your state
As already explained, each state is different. It would be impossible for me to tell you exactly what you have to do in your specific state. Do research on what the requirements and processes are using reputable sources (like www.handgunlaw.us). There is a lot of bad info out there in Internet Land. You don’t want to just take advice you found on a random Facebook discussion.
What is Constitutional Carry?
You may find your state is one of the 16 states that have Constitutional Carry. What’s that? Constitutional Carry means a person can conceal carry a gun without needing a license or permit. Sometimes this is also referred to as Permitless Carry.
Constitutional Carry doesn’t mean it’s open game with no regulations. The laws in these states regarding who can carry and where they can carry vary. Be sure to research the details on your particular state. Getting in trouble for carrying a gun illegally is not light stuff. You need to know what you are doing.
Also, some of these states allow non-residents to also carry without a permit in that state and some do not. If you are traveling to any of these states with your gun, be sure your dot your i’s and cross your t’s.
Of these 16 Constitutional Carry states, 15 of them also have an official license that residents can get. Vermont is the only state that has Constitutional Carry but does not also have a concealed carry license.
Even if you live in a state that has Constitutional Carry, getting a concealed carry license could be beneficial. It could allow you to carry in more places. It could also help you travel to other states with your gun.
Concealed Carry Training
The majority of states require you to get a license in order to be able to conceal carry. The requirements for the length and content of that training differ greatly state to state. Some states don’t require any training while others require lots of training. Most fall somewhere in the middle. Also, the government entity that issues the license differs state to state. Here are some examples:
- Georgia doesn’t require any training. You apply for the license through the county Probate Court.
- Florida requires training but doesn’t specify a required length. You can apply in Person at a Florida Deptartment of Agriculture and Consumer Services office or by mail.
- Ohio requires 8 hours of training (6 hours classroom, 2 hours range time). You apply through the county Sheriff’s Office. (Current & former Military can use their Military experience in place of training requirement.)
- Illinois requires 16 hours of training. Licenses are issued through the Illinois State Police.
More Concealed Carry Training is A Great Idea!
If you live in a state that doesn’t require you to take training but you are not comfortable with guns, I urge you to take training anyway! If you carry a gun that you are not competent and comfortable with, you become a bigger threat to yourself than anything else.
If your state does require training, think of that as being a minimum. Here in Ohio, we are required to take 8 hours of training. Would 8 hours of piano lessons be enough for you to consider yourself a pianist? Would 8 hours of French language lessons be enough for you to be fluent in French? Concealed carry is a skill, much like learning a sport, language or musical instrument. It’s not something you learn once and then never train and practice for again.
Not all concealed carry training is equal.
Research a company before you take training with them. Read reviews. Make sure they are reputable. There are training companies out there that are just going through the motions. We sometimes jokingly refer to them as CCW Farms. I actually went through a bad training company originally when I was getting my concealed carry license. The instructor didn’t care if I learned anything or not. He was just there to collect his money, check off some boxes and give me a certificate.
Checking out a trainer’s experience is a good idea but don’t be put too much weight on how shiny and impressive their experience is. Think of it this way: do you think a race car driver is required to teach a regular person how to drive? Their experience as a race car driver is cool but it’s not going to make them a great teacher in and of itself. Your next door neighbor might be a better at teaching your 16 year old how to drive than a profession race car driver.
I personally care about their teaching experience, teaching abilities and reputation way more than I care about any military or law enforcement experiences. I know instructors with impressive military and law enforcement backgrounds that are also excellent teachers. Unfortunately, I’ve also encountered instructors with impressive backgrounds who were lousy at teaching. Experience can be helpful but it’s not the full picture of what makes a good instructor.
2. Find the Right Gun For You
This is a really overwhelming part. There are so many choices out there. Guns are relatively expensive. We don’t want to spend all that money and then later realize it wasn’t the right gun.
The only way to know for sure what guns you like and don’t like is to shoot them! We had two sisters who looked and acted very similar come through our class. They did what we call our “pistol sampler pack” (the ability to test fire 16 different guns in a variety of calibers for only $35). Their taste in guns was very different and they ended up liking very different guns. I use this example just to reiterate that you can’t tell what someone will actually like just by looking at them.
If you have friends that will go to the range with you and let you shoot their gun, this can be a way to try different guns without spending a fortune. If you happen to be in Columbus, Ohio you can do the pistol sampler pack at Armed2Defend for only $35!
It can be expensive to go to a range and try out alot of guns. Even so, if it is your only option then it’s better than the alternative which is to end up wasting money on a gun that isn’t right for you.
3. Holster: Figure out How to Carry Your Gun
I truly believe that this is the thing that prevents most concealed carriers from actually carrying their gun regularly! You can have the license and the perfect gun, but if you don’t figure out a comfortable, practical way of carrying it that works for your body and your lifestyle, you simply won’t carry it.
Holsters are tricky. There are lots of options out there but what works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for another. Finding the right holster is kind of like finding the right jeans. I have friends who swear by American Eagle’s jeans but they just don’t work well for my body.
My gun cost around $600. The very first holster I bought to carry that gun was $80. Today that holster sits in a tote that I carry to my classes to use as an example of what NOT to buy. I bought several other expensive holsters. In fact, when I add it all up it, they amount to more than the cost of my gun!
I have 2 go to holsters I use today but it was an expensive road getting to where I figured out what worked best for me. One of those go-to options is my Flashbang Bra Holster. 6 Reasons I Love My Flashbang Bra Holster
I know what a struggle it is to find the right holster! It is exactly why I’m working to create a course to help you understand what options are out there and the pros and cons of them so you can make better choices from the get go.
Tips for Women Who Want to Conceal Carry
1. Join a Group
The Well Armed Woman (Find a TWAW Chapter) and A Girl and A Gun (Find a AG&AG Chapter) are two of the largest and most widely known groups. You can usually attend one meeting free to check it out before joining. There might be other lesser known groups in your area too that are not affiliated with a national organization. For example, I lead a group in Columbus, Ohio called Rosie Pistol.
Participating in a group is a way to make sure that you are getting to the range regularly to practice. Saying you are going to go to the range regularly to practice is one thing. Actually doing it is another.
Unfortunately we are good at making excuses when the time rolls around. “I’m really busy this week. I’ll go next week,” we tell ourselves. Then next week we are even busier so we push it to the next week. It’s never a good time! Life is just really busy for everyone. The beauty of going to a meeting is that it happens at a predetermined time so you are more likely to force yourself to go at that set time.
The women who are involved in these groups are usually amazing women! You will be encouraged and inspired by being around them. You will learn alot too. And you will make “gun girl” friends you can ask for advice when as you grow on your journey. Ladies in the gun world tend to be very friendly and eager to help other shooters.
Some groups are more active than others. If there are multiple groups in your area, try them all out and see which one feels like it fits you better. Or join them all! There’s no such thing as too much shooting!
If they offer the ability to try a meeting before having to join, there is no reason not to try it out! I bet you’ll love it!
2. Keep Learning & Training
Concealed carry isn’t like a school subject you memorize. It’s a skill. This means there is always room to get better.
If you memorize a list of math formulas or the 50 state capitals then you achieved that specific task. You’re done.
If you learn how to play a sport or an instrument, you are never done learning. Even Lebron James practices and is working to get better and better. You never really arrive to a point where you are done learning when it comes to skills.
Many people see concealed carry as a destination they arrive to when they get a concealed carry license. In reality, getting that license is just one stop on a much larger journey. Don’t let the license become a destination!
It is a bad sign if someone feels like they have “enough” training. The reality is they don’t even know what they don’t know. I don’t want to discourage you but honestly the more I learn in the world of concealed carry, the more I realize how much more there is to learn! Concealed carry is about so much more than just aiming a gun and pulling the trigger.
- So what does it look like to keep training and learning?
- Take formal training classes.
- Read blogs like this one!
- Listen to podcasts.
- Read books.
- Go to the range regularly.
- Attend conferences (I learned so much at the USCCA conference).
- Hang out with other shooters and learn from each other.
Doing a combination of these types of activities will keep you well rounded.
3. Join the USCCA
Carrying a gun is a huge responsibility. The reality is that I go through the trouble of carrying a gun around, because I truly believe that I could someday be the victim of an attack.
The gun will give me a fighting chance of physically surviving an attack. I could win the gun fight but still lose everything in the financial and legal fight. Being a USCCA member gives me so much peace of mind. If I do ever have to use my gun in self defense, they will cover all my legal fees.
Not only do I enjoy having this financial safety net in place, they also help me to keep growing as a concealed carrier through excellent training resources that only members have access to. I can log in to my member dashboard to watch training videos and read e-booklets on many relevant topics. I also get an awesome magazine that always has interesting articles on concealed carry lifestyle topics.
There’s far too many benefits to being a USCCA member than I could list in this blog post. I will create a post that covers the USCCA membership in more detail.
The gun, holster and continued training I do at the range are the tools I have to make sure I win the gun fight. My USCCA membership is the tool I have to make sure I win the legal fight.
Common Questions About Concealed Carry for Women
Do I Need to Change How I Dress if I Want to Conceal Carry a Gun?
I promise you don’t have to give up on style in order to be able to carry a gun! You don’t have to dress manly or wear baggy clothes to hide a gun. The fact that women typically wear tighter, more fitted clothing and have more curves in their shape adds complexity, but it is not impossible. With some time and practice you can figure out options that will work for the way you like to dress.
We traditionally picture concealed carriers using holsters that clip onto the waist area. These traditional holsters require wearing rigid jeans and a sturdy gun belt. This is how the majority of men conceal carry. Don’t worry! That’s not the only way to carry a gun! On days I wear jeans I sometimes go for that style of holster but more often than not I don’t wear jeans.
Of course it depends on the size of the gun you carry and your particular body but with some playing around I know you can find a system that works for you without giving up on style!
I Plan to Carry in my Purse. Do I Need to Buy One of Those Expensive Conceal Carry Purses or Can I Use My Regular Purse?
It is dangerous to just throw a gun in a regular purse if you don’t take the proper precautions. Your keys, lipstick or anything else in your purse could engage the trigger and cause your gun to go bang! Please never ever put a gun in your purse without it being in some kind of holster that securely guards the trigger.
Even if you use a holster that covers the trigger, there is still the question of how quickly you can realistically get to you gun if it is just in your purse. We ladies know how hard it is to find the thing we are looking for in the deep dark abyss of our purses! It is unlikely you could quickly draw the gun quick enough in a defensive encounter if it’s just swimming around in your purse.
A quality Concealed Carry Purse will solve the unguarded trigger problem and position the gun to allow for more efficient draw time. One thing I’ve learned about holsters over the past 7 years is that just because they call it a holster and charge alot of money for it, doesn’t mean it is a good safe product. There is an $80 holster I bought in the past that today I would never use because it doesn’t meet the standards I have for safety. Learn how to really evaluate the safety and effectiveness of any concealed carry purse you consider before investing in it.
There are some neat products that allow you to use your regular purse and put an accessory in it that will allow guard the trigger and position the gun so it is ready to draw. The Crossbreed Purse Defender is one option. This is a really smart option. It is interchangeable with other products in their modular system. Packin’ Neat is another option. This insert answers the dilema of how to safely put a gun in your regular purse with the bonus of also being a handy purse organizer.
I’m Nervous About Having a Gun in the House Since We Have Kids. How do I Teach My Kids Gun Safety?
Having kids in the house sometimes makes people nervous to own guns. They are afraid of their kid finding the gun and there being an tragedy. But for me, having kids adds to the reason I need guns! As a woman, I’d be hard pressed to fight off a large male attacker if it was just me. Add the fact that I also have to escape with children and keep them safe in the process and now I’m really at a disadvantage. I really didn’t care to have a gun until I had kids and my mama bear instincts kicked in.
Depending on the age of the child(ren), you may want to take them to the range and teach them how to shoot. The taboo-ness of guns is often what makes them so tempting to children. Take your child to the range regularly and teach them how to safely shoot. A kitchen knife could be really dangerous but I’ve taught my kids to respect the knives in the kitchen and I’ve taught them how to use them safely.
You should have safes in your house and car. If you have kids, your guns should always, 100% of the time, be either on your body or in a safe. If you are diligent and never make any exceptions then there shouldn’t be any chance of your child ever getting access to your gun unintentionally.
If you have other questions not covered here, please reach out to me. I want to help you!
You Got This!
As women, we sometimes feel like uninvited guests in the world of concealed carry. It is definitely getting better as there are way more resources for women out there today than there were just a few years ago. I don’t want you to struggle your way through. If concealed carry is something you want to do, I want you to know that you can do this! I’m here to help you.