At a local Mall, I sat sipping a cup of coffee, as my wife did some shopping. Being a student of human behavior, I enjoy watching people in there daily activities. Soon, an older lady sat down at a table in front of me and placed her bag on top of the table. We exchanged smiles and greetings and she checked her phone. I noticed that her bag had a special side zipper compartment, which to me screamed “conceal carry”. Soon, she took a sip of her beverage and realized she forgot something for it. She stood, walked 15 feet over to the condiment counter, and “dressed” her drink, which took a minute then on her way back stopped and talked with an acquaintance for about 8 minutes. The whole time between there laughs, I would glance back at the unattended bag. She finally, came back to the bag and her phone of which she proceeded to scroll through it. The birth of the article was started on Off-carry there.
When I say “off-carry” what am I talking about? Off-Carry is the carrying of a concealed firearm in a place that is not directly on your person/body. It is usually associated with ladies carrying in a purse; however, it is often used by gentleman as well, in form of laptop bags, Note bags, briefcases and other forms. There may be times that off-carry is the only true option one has. As with all forms of “carry” there are things that must be adhered to. This article is not going to make you an “expert” nor will it substitute training from an instructor. Carrying off the body brings with it some special things to consider. Following are some things to think about.
Safety- Is the “bag” your going to carry the firearm in, built for it? Just taking a firearm and throwing it in a “bag” for personal protection is an accident waiting to happen. Your conceal carry course should of included the need to carry in a holster. The “bag” is the same way. The firearm trigger housing should be secure to keep unwanted things from getting into that area. As well as, keeping the firearm oriented in a consistent place in the need for access.
Access- The “bag” should be designed so you can quickly and effectively access the firearm if the need arises. It should be pointed out, that accessing an off-carry firearm takes longer than various on-carry options. So awareness should be higher, we will touch on that little later. As part of one of my instructor courses we was trained and had to “qualify” drawing and engaging with a conceal carry purse. Yes, there is a certain technique to use, so it can be done safely and quickly. On an off-carry bag, there is a need to secure it closed, do to the nature of carry. I see zippers as the biggest means of doing this. As explained in one of our courses, if an incident a rises, the human body looses the use of fine motor skills. So, one should train to minimize the use of these. For the zipper access, I suggest a “lanyard”, can be of Para cord or other material be attached to the clip of the zipper. This will give you more control and quicker access if your awareness warrants it.
Awareness- As with any situation this is critical, as again is pointed out in one of our courses. You need to have time to gain access to your firearm in need arises. It will take longer to gain access to an off-carry firearm than it will one that is on your person. So you should be aware and have time on your side. Instead of just pulling a garment open or up, to access your firearm. You have to orient the “bag”, open the compartment, to gain access. This as will all things in self defense must be practiced. So, you can see, especially when carrying in this mode, you need to be able to actually use tactics to ensure a favorable outcome.
Security- “You have a responsibility to keep firearms from unauthorized people”! Ever heard this before? This is YOUR responsibility if you carry! You must keep anyone from not only taking your firearm (bag), but keep others from gaining access to it. As I finish this article on 12-30-2014 there was an unfortunate example of this. As a lady was looking at some item in a big box store, her child accessed her pistol in her purse and shot her. This should drive home the responsibility you have in off-carry. Though the “bag” is on a table, floor, cart, passenger seat it is still your responsibility whatever happens. I have seen some “bags” with locks on them, to keep others from accessing them. This is a personal choice that must be weighed. It is my opinion that these are not a good option. One, if you are carrying a firearm for protection, you just limited your reaction time if the need arises, not good. Two, it clouds your sense of responsibility. What I mean by this, is you will start to believe it is okay to leave it in there alone, no one will get into it (like putting a loaded firearm on the top shelf thinking “kids” can’t get to it, we know better right). In my opinion, putting a lock on an off-carry bag is the same as having a trigger lock on an on-carry firearm. The only true way to ensure security, to maintain presence of access of the firearm at all times.
Carry- “What is the best way to carry it?” There are a few differences of opinion on what the best way to carry is, let’s look at both options for a bag. Across the body- this gives more security of the bag and anything within it. If someone wants the bag, they will have to “rip” the strap (a good CCL bag will have a cable in the strap), and/or pull you to the ground. On the Shoulder- This is more comfortable carry which provides easier access to material inside however is “stripped” from the body easier, with less chance of being drug to the ground. You must decide for yourself what way will work for you. If you do carry over a shoulder, I do suggest you have a hand on the actual handbag at all times. I have come across a new design of conceal carry purse, that is innovative and helps eliminate some of the above which is displayed below by Warrior-Creek with there permission.
They also have other options which might be worth looking at.
Hopefully, you have gained some sense of awareness that comes with this form of carry. There is more to it than just throwing a firearm into a bag or purse and going on your business. I suggest doing what we teach with regular on-carry before going out the door and practice few times. There is a lot of information out there, some good, but don’t just take “you tube” video training or another persons word for it. Do some research, take a course that will address, as well as instruct you in the “how and why”. Be safe, keep training and always aware.
Todd R. Mendenhall