The Danger of Off-Body Carry

One of the big stories over the holiday is the unfortunate accident in Idaho involving a toddler who got into his mother’s carry purse, and managed to shoot her dead. I lean more toward Bob Owens position, “I hate off-body carry with an unbridled passion, and personally feel that if you can’t carry a weapon on your body, that you should not be carrying a firearm at all,” but I’m an absolutist about damned few things. That said, it’s I think it’s a pretty terrible option. Anyone who feels they need to carry this way needs to think long and hard. Are you a forgetful person? Are you prone to misplacing your purse, satchel, or briefcase? Are you habituated to leaving it unattended, even for short periods of time? How would you access it if you had to use it? Is your draw technique safe enough to deal with the fact that you will have to cross-draw with a purse?

Deciding on your method of carry, or whether to carry at all, requires serious introspection. I had considered briefly keeping a pistol in a jacket pocket, but I remembered that one time I left my coat at a restaurant. I’ve left my laptop bag in a restaurant once. Two incidents is enough to convince me that off-body carry is not an option for me, because I’m too careless with items that aren’t directly on my person.

The other big issue with purse carry is that in perusing concealed carry purses with Bitter, I’ve come to the conclusion that they are all pretty awful. Most models I’ve seen just have a special pocket you stuff the gun into. Some of them provide an access opening so small, you couldn’t effectively and confidently draw from it. You almost certainly couldn’t re-holster the firearm intuitively. None I’ve seen have adequate protection for the trigger. None I’ve seen have good enough retention to keep the firearm in the purse if you decide to leave the compartment unzipped. If there’s retention at all, they often have awkward passive retention, often just velcro. A simple polymer sleeve, fit to the gun, would be enough to provide both good trigger protection and to keep the gun locked in sleeve until broken by the draw. I’ve never seen a concealed carry purse that had such a thing, or could even reasonably accommodate it. In belt holsters, we mock the sausage sack, but I’ve never seen a concealed carry purse that had anything better than one, if it had anything in the gun compartment at all.

That said, if you have enough people, with enough guns, the law of averages is going to catch up with you eventually. This case is the first I’ve ever heard of like it. With probably about 10 million people having toters permits by now, many of them carrying regularly, one incident is hardly an epidemic. With the need to keep bringing more women into the issue, I’d hate to demand that all women eschew off-body carry. But I do think off-body carry requires a lot more habituation and training than other methods, if it is to be done safely. Holster and carry purse makers designing better options for women wouldn’t hurt either.


17 thoughts on “The Danger of Off-Body Carry”

  1. I’m in general agreement with you. But I did recently hear of one situation where I thought briefcase carry was appropriate.

    The statute of limitations has passed on this so I’m not too worried about telling about a teacher who, after the Columbine shooting, started carrying a loaded handgun in their locked briefcase while at school.

    On body carry would be more prone to discovery and in a school shooting situation the odds are that you will not be targeted on the first shot or two. So getting the kids into a corner, retrieving your gun, and waiting for the shooter to come through the door would appear to be a valid plan and doable with briefcase carry.

    1. Yeah. That’s why I didn’t want to get religious about it. There’s always a situation where it could make sense.

  2. The issue of a gun in a purse is that a purse is often not on the owner. However if the gun is not racked and on condition one having a gun in a purse is better than not having one. I know people who have a gun stored in their luggage without any problems. Not everybody can carry a gun on the person ,especially woman. Eleanor Roosevelt carried a gun in her purse.

    1. Under some conditions, yes. But in the even of a sudden and violent attack, carrying a firearm without a round in the pipe, you might as well just carry a rock.

  3. This mother had her gun not on safe mode and that was the problem The gun in purse was not the real problem. This is a tragedy plain and simple

  4. The other issue to think about is if the mother, not to pile on her, this applies to all of us who carry bags, was looking away from the bag long enough for the toddler to go through all the steps to access and and fire the gun she was looking away from the purse long enough for someone to just walk off with it, gun and all.

  5. I am thinking about adopting the Israeli carry, that a round is not in the pipe and one has to rack the slide (almost always carry a pistol) during the draw. It sounds like it has some merit, especially with a Glock, which has no safety once a finger is on the trigger.

    I also prefer 1911’s for the platform and the manual safety. I am very intrigued with Browning’s new iteration in 85% scale in .380, if I can’t carry my Kimber Commander replica.

    As to off-body carry, I used to carry in my briefcase but it was heavy enough that I was unaware always that a weapon was aboard. Eh, I changed that after some embarrassment. I carry in a dedicated pouch (fanny pack) or on my person. No excuse, I failed. It was too easy to forget, so I changed to make it (nearly) impossible to screw up like that again.

    1. My personal opinion is that Israeli Carry is a bad idea. If you’re more worried about the gun accidentally discharging than you are about being attacked suddenly by someone who’s closed the distance on you, then that probably tips the scales into not carrying. The big issue with not carrying with a round in the chamber is that you need two hands to make the gun functional. You won’t always have two hands available. You might need the other hand to protect against a grab attempt, for example.

      1. Every choice has contextual risks. Deciding whether or not to adopt Israeli Carry should be something that you do only after you’d seriously considered the tradeoffs associated with it as compared to Condition One carry with respect to the threats and risks that you may encounter.

        Israeli Carry gets a lot of flack on the internet, and almost every argument against it always centers around scenarios where the individual carrying the firearm is surprised at arm’s length by an assailant. In that scenario, Israeli Carry presents a risk that is likely greater than the risks associated with Condition One Carry. The phrase “throwing a rock” frequently appears as a truism in such arguments.

        However, there are other scenarios that you should consider in your quantification of risk. There are numerous scenarios beyond the one that I described above where you would have more then enough time to chamber a round. Workplace violence, for example. Having actually been in such a situation when I was younger, I know that I would have had more than enough time to rack the slide, even with adrenaline that was in my system.

        Even in the first scenario, if your situational awareness has failed so thoroughly that an individual can jump you to the point where fractions of a second matter, you have already failed the first rule of staying safe. If that can happen, there’s a nontrivial risk that the assailant will be able to take the firearm from you. If that can happen, you need to weigh the risk of not having a round in the chamber vs the risk of having your own fully loaded, ready-to-rock firearm pointed at your torso.

        Simply saying “carry with a round in the chamber” as an absolute truth offers a dangerous illusion of correctness and certainty.

        Realistically evaluate your personal abilities and the risks that you may face. Make your decisions based on those realistic evaluations. Try not to over or under-estimate threats or your abilities, and periodically reevaluate both to make sure that your circumstances have not changed.

        For most people, it will likely be best to keep a round in the chamber. Some may find the risks of having a round in the chamber to be greater than not having a round chambered.

  6. About 8 years ago I was carrying my Kimber in my laptop case. Mostly I did this for carry at the office I worked in. After work I went to a local restaurant for a meeting. I left the case with the gun in the cab of my truck. While inside some dick head broke into my truck and stole everything of value including my lap top case with my pistol. The jerk was never caught but the pistol was recovered about two years later by the cops making a traffic stop. Luckily I had the serial number and put that in the police report. Believe it or not the police and county attorney returned the gun to me. That was the last time I carried off body.

    I often wonder about women carrying in their purse and purse snatchers. I feel bad for the family and the toddler. The kid will have to live with that forever.

    1. You can get a small gun box that will cable to your seat frame for under $30. Like you I never leave a gun unlocked in my car anymore. Had one stolen years and years ago from behind the seat in a bag outside my work (got that one back years later), had another a decade plus later stolen from my unlocked gun box when I forgot to lock the damn door too.

      If I can’t wear it or carry it in with me, I lock it up. The vast majority of thefts from cars that are locked are smash and grabs of opportunity. No real tools involved, just a handy rock, and the thief doesn’t want to spend the time it would take to defeat even the simplest security in any event.

      Similarly, the idea of a “car gun” that stays unlocked under the seat or in the console or glovebox baffles me; there is nowhere you can think to hide a gun that thieves don’t know to check in the first 30 seconds of gaining entry. Take it inside at night or lock it up if your car itself isn’t behind locked doors.

      1. I have a trio of these, all keyed alike.

        My only regret is that I didn’t spend a few more $$ and get the large size! My S&W 915 fits in it, but not my 6″ Ruger GP100. Oops. Last time I flew with guns I had to move stuff around and take my larger handgun safe with me to fit the GP100.

      2. There is one easily accessible place in a Toyota FJ that a thief won’t find. In fact MD, NJ, and NY police may not find it either. Since thieves don’t frequent the blog, I’ll share: Toyota put a second ‘baby’ glove box right in front of the steering wheel on the top of the dash! It’s almost invisible, and unless you’ve owned an FJ you wouldn’t know it existed!

  7. My first thought upon hearing about this tragedy was that this could have happened any time if any number of the things that commonly occupy my wife’s purse got caught up against the trigger.

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