The decision to carry concealed is one that's personal and one that only an individual can make for him or herself. What works best for one person might not be the best fit for another.
Over the last few years, I have continually researched holsters to attempt and find the holster that's right for me. I found myself reading various holster reviews that are primarily written by men and realized that the best person to find holsters for women should be a woman herself.
I've struggled to find a holster that's comfortable for me, because I'm plus size. My options have always been to deal with the high-riding position and the decocker of my gun digging into my back or side, carry at 5 o'clock with a left-handed holster or carry in my purse. I figured there had to be more options out there than what I had previously read about.
I tested out a number of products using the H&K VP9, Glock 19 Gen 3 and H&K USP Compact 9mm. Here are a few of my favorites:
The Well Armed Woman
The Well Armed Woman was nice enough to send me multiple holsters and CCW purses to test out.
The On the Waistband Convertible holster (pictured left) was one of the most comfortable kydex holsters I've tried. The retention on the holster was perfect, and it didn't ride too high.
The TWAW Inside the Waistband holster (pictured middle) was small, comfortable and breathable.
I absolutely love the TWAW Sticky holster (pictured right). My favorite part of the holster is the versatility. Every gun I own and used for this piece fit in the holster (from compact to full size) and they all fit like a glove. This holster is definitely something that would be an option for women who want to carry in a purse without having a CCW purse.
The cross body purse (pictured left) is one of the nicest CCW purses I've come across (and I've looked at a lot of them). This purse is great for venues where you don't want to carry a lot in your purse other than the basic necessities (phone, wallet, keys and gun). The leather is nice and the purse matches pretty much anything in my wardrobe. It's definitely something I would use for concerts and other venues with a large crowd (even without carrying).
The Waist Pak is definitely one of the coolest concepts I've come across in the CCW purse arena. It's a combination of a purse meets a fanny pack. It gives you the ability to carry on your body while still being comfortable. This concept is the perfect happy medium between those who want to move from off-the-body carry to on-the-body carry.
On the Waistband Convertible holster by TWAW - $69.99 - $79.99
Inside the Waistband holster by TWAW - $52.99 - $62.99
TWAW Sticky holster - $26.95
Cinnamon and Black Slim Cross Body - $174.95
The Well Armed Woman CC Waist Pak - $79.99 - $89.99
DeSantis is a great option for someone who wants a more traditional leather holster. They're a favorite amongst law enforcement officers because of their sturdy, heavy duty nature. The Thumb Break Scabbard (pictured left) is my choice for a level III retention, which is required for law enforcement. I like that there's the added thumb break safety feature.
The SOF - Tuck (pictured middle) had great retention and was easy to clip to my gun belt. It's a great choice for something that's in between the leather and the nylon holsters.
The Pro Stealth holster is great, especially if you want to carry an extra magazine without having a separate magazine holster. The nylon makes it breathable, especially in warm weather.
The most unique aspect about Gun Goddess' holsters are their ability to customize your holster with whatever image or print you want. One of their customer service representatives worked with me to design each of my holsters. I sent them ideas of what I'd like on the kydex. They worked on placement and then sent me a proof before printing.
I absolutely love that they were able to use a drawing I had that was in remembrance of both of my grandmothers who passed. It made the holster and designing process that much more special. To accent the drawing they actually used purple backers that matched the image.
The retention on all of the holsters is great. I didn't have to make any adjustments and I don't feel like the firearm will suddenly fall out.
It's In The Bag Boutique
Out of all of the concealed carry purses I've encountered, this gorgeous purse from It's In The Bag Boutique is the most fashion-forward one I've seen. It's simple, understated but has the options for short straps or has a longer strap that can be used to turn the purse into a crossbody bag. It also comes in three colors, all of which are bound to become staples in your wardrobe.
Out of all of the products I tested out, Packin' Neat is probably my absolute favorite. I'm not a woman who loves to shoe shop. I'm actually a woman who loves purses. I have a Coach purse that I really, really love but it's not designed to carry concealed. With the Packin' Neat set up I'm able to turn my designer purse into a purse that's safe for carrying my firearm.
Not only am I able to use a purse I already have but the purse doesn't scream "I'm a concealed carry purse" or "there's a firearm in here."
I'm able to get all of the things I love about a designer purse — fabric, print, pockets, zippers — and still have a fully functioning purse that's designed for my firearm. I'm able to carry the full-size VP9 in it with zero issues.
The Tactical - $79.95
If you're like me, you want to practice as much as possible but you don't always have the ability to head to the range. The MantisX system is a great way for shooters to run dry fire drills. All you do is attach the sensor to your rail, download the MantisX app on your phone, turn the sensor on and you're ready to go.
With the app, you're able to accurately pinpoint what you're doing wrong, whether you're using too much trigger finger or you're anticipating the firearm's kick.
If your firearm has a proprietary rail like my H&K USP Compact then you'll need to get the rail adapters or magazine floor plate rails.
When trying to decide what round of ammo to use, whether it be for target practice or defense needs, it can be difficult to pick. The options can be overwhelming. The folks at Bullet Bouquets created the Boom Box, which is a great visual of various hallow point rounds. It gives shooters an idea of how each specific hallow point will disperse once it hits an object (like a person).
Boom Box - $69.95
Time to Carry
Regardless of what you decide to carry, either in a purse or in a holster, just remember one thing: be consistent and always make sure you're practicing the four basic rules of firearms safety:
1) Treat all guns as if they're loaded.
2) Never point your gun at something you're not willing to destroy.
3) Keep your finger off the trigger until you've made the decision to shoot and your eyes are on target.
4) Be aware of your target and what's behind it.
Note: All product photographs used in this article were taken by the author.