Depending on who you talk to or what articles you read, or videos you see, carrying your gun any other way than on your hip is for losers. This discounts, of course, the half-dozen other ways you can carry concealed safely and effectively. Including appendix carry, ankle, belly band, cross draw (an oldie, to be sure), small of your back, or shoulder rig. The current theory is that you should be able to get your hand on your gun and get it out of your holster (two distinct moves) within three seconds of seeing an armed threat. I don’t disagree. So, if I’m going to do off-body carry, in my fanny pack (aka man bag, belly pack, belly bag, butt pack), I need to be just as fast getting it out of there as I do when I draw from my IWB or ankle holster (my preferred way of carrying, as I addressed in the first blog I ever wrote here).
Off-Body Carry: Benefits And Hazards You Need To Know
A few fine points about my approach to off-body carry; Your Mileage May Vary, especially if you don’t do it all because you think it’s not fast enough, too girly, or whatever reason you need not tell me. I choose to use my little bag with the one big zippered pocket (for my gun) and the little zippered pocket (for my spare mags or speedloaders), depending on my gun choice that day. I don’t ever wear the bag around my waist; I sling it over my non-gun hand shoulder when I get out of my car and walk in the grocery store. When I’m in a restaurant or at the movies, I buckle it around my left thigh. I never leave it behind in a shopping cart or when I go to the bathroom.
Truth told I have left my gun bag in two restaurants over the past ten years. There are few worse feelings in the world than realizing that your firearm is back in your booth as you’re driving away. Both times I raced back and it was still on the seat. Stupid is as stupid does, sir. That would have been an awkward conversation with the waitress, the hostess, or the cops (“Uh. Sorry, officer”) if they had opened my bag. As such, I have created a number of important habits that make that dumb move impossible to recreate again.
For me, the benefits to off-body carry via a gun bag are plenty:
- It’s just more comfortable than an IWB holster. Despite all the advancements, foam and felt pads, and other attempts at comfort, even the most strident IWB carrier must admit that the thing cuts into your belly, rubs your hip bone, stabs your side when you climb into your car, and is a general pain in warm weather.
- It makes it easy to dress, especially on hot days. Sometimes, I just want to wear shorts, flip flops, and a t-shirt to the store, and not look like I’m shooting a catalog page for 5.11 Tactical gear. I don’t need a shirt and a cover shirt. I don’t need to wear long pants to cover my ankle holster. I don’t have to sweat through my clothes.
- Gun bags don’t print. At least they won’t outline your gun if you have the right sized-bag for the right-sized gun. If you try to shove your 1911 Colt into a bag that’s too small and the butt sticks out, that’s just dumb and inviting problems. I’ll admit I wonder if people are smart enough to consider I might have a gun in my bag as I stroll past them. It’s the right size and shape for one, and although I’m not wearing it around my waist, I’m guessing some people know. Then again, a lot of people are either Sheep, or distracted by their own lives, or both, so perhaps my secret is still safe with me.
As with all things in life, there are tradeoffs, and gun bags have their distinct disadvantages as well.
- You must practice getting your gun out fast or you’re dead. Not being able to get to the right pocket and then fumbling with zippers is a recipe for disaster. I have practiced with an empty gun at home (using the same safety habits as if I was dry-firing), until I can get my gun out of the bag and on target quickly. I’ve done the same at the range, moving from the bag strap over my shoulder, to my hand, to the zippered pocket, to the draw and fire, as quick as a bunny. Under the stress of really needing your gun to protect yourself, you must already have that muscle memory in place.
- You could get disarmed. We already know bad guys like to snatch women’s purses off their shoulders. We’ve seen these incidents in grocery stores and mall parking lots, as a two-man crew drives up to an unsuspecting woman, and the passenger either leans out the window and grabs her purse or jumps out and jumps back in again with it. Some bad guys are smart enough to recognize someone carrying a fanny pack might have a gun inside it. As such, I’m extra vigilant out in public or near people. Anyone who tries to grab my bag is going to lose the tug of war and get counterpunched until he falls to the ground.
Here's an episode of Into the Fray by USCCA showing that Off-body carry can work:
You could leave it somewhere (or it could get into the wrong hands). We all get distracted by life, our kids, and the stress of the moment. People leave their cell phones, coffee cups, sodas, lunches, purses, briefcases, and other important things on the roofs of their cars and then drive away. You cannot, must not, will not leave your gun bag anywhere where you are not in complete, always-touching-it control. Lord help you if you’re dumb enough to leave it near your kids, ever. You must focus on the proximity of your gun bag to your hand and your body the moment you choose to carry it that way.
What do you think about the benefits and hazards of off-body carry? Let us know in the comments section below.
Contact Steve Albrecht at [email protected] or on Twitter @DrSteveAlbrecht