The Concealed Carry Holster Fashion Show

A couple of weeks ago, after a long day in the PHLster workshop, I hurriedly packed a bag and made some final travel arrangements.  I went to sleep that night with the kind of anticipation that children have on the night before Christmas.  But it wasn’t visions of saccharine sprites dancing in my head.  I dreamt of skillfully concealed pistols and empowered women exercising their rights.  (Ok, I might have also dreamt of fighting off a malicious invasion of angry cyborg cats, but that’s for another article).

Recycled brass centerpieces at the CC Fashion Show

The 1st Annual Women’s Concealed Carry Holster Fashion Show was held at the Churchtown Firehouse Banquet Hall in rural Hudson, New York (or thereabouts. My navigation couldn’t accurately locate the spot within 5 miles) on July 21st.  By all accounts, the sold-out event, put on by Trish Cutler with help from Kitty Richards, Gracie McKee and Annette Evans, was an overwhelming success, and an example that is sure to be emulated across the country.  A packed room of women, and quite a few men, listened to speakers give talks on a wide range of gun and self-defense related topics, browsed merchants’ tables, and watched women of various shapes, sizes and ages demonstrate some of the most popular holsters on the market today.

A packed house in upstate New York.

The fashion show itself started with a demonstration on proper drawing and re-holstering techniques including from-the-hip, cross draw and sitting.  Gracie McKee gave excellent commentary and stressed the importance of becoming proficient with these techniques.

Annette Evans demonstrates proper draw and stance.

Then the fun part started.  The models, including Gabby Franco of Top Shot fame, sashayed up the improvised runway and onto a small stage to an eclectic mix of gun-themed music including NAS’s “Got Yourself at Gun” (which cause an embarrassing out-burst of laughter on my part).   Most did a quick twirl before revealing where the holster holding a replica gun was concealed.  Meanwhile Gracie provided info on the make and model of each holster.

Master of Ceremonies, Gracie McKee

The enthusiasm and camaraderie in the audience was palpable, and as each new model came out a flurry of whispers erupted around me, excitedly trying to guess where the gun was.  It was an exercise in futility though, since the guns were all so well-hidden that I don’t think anyone was able to identify them through the models’ clothing.  Some of my favorites were the shoulder holster– a Galco I believe, one of Looper Brand’s newer offerings, the Marilyn and the various holster purses (since I have a special interest in lady gun bags).

A model displaying a concealed carry purse.

Seeing how these holsters look and operate on a real woman, in real life was tremendously helpful to me, and I’m sure, many of the other women at the show, as well.  I saw many taking notes on their napkins and conferring with each other about the pros and cons of the various offerings.

For me, while I found the event to be very informative and interesting, it was equally gratifying getting to meet and talk with so many other gun advocates in the community.  The ladies behind popular gun blogs Packing Pretty, Armed Candy , new kid on the block, Walther and Me and the lovely [armedinstilettos] whose t-shirt you might recognize from my video, were all in attendance, as well as two other alumni of The History Channel’s Top Shot.  Among other things, we all bonded over the discomfort of having to leave our guns at home. (Note to the state of New York: your gun laws are bogus).

Lady gun bloggers unite.

As we saw earlier in the summer with the much-Tweeted-about Girls Gun Getaway, any gathering of pro-gun females both boosts morale among lady shooters, and garners good publicity for the gun world.  On a personal level also, it’s tremendously energizing to meet others who are working passionately towards the same goal of empowering women to exercise their Second Amendment rights.

The lovely Gabby of Armed Candy.

I had a number of enlightening and thought-provoking conversations during the brief time I spent in Hudson that I know will stick with me, and inform both my writing and my shooting.  I can’t wait to share some of these new insights that are percolating in my over-caffeinated brain with you guys.  I sincerely hope that events like this catch on across the country, in the wake of the success in New York.  There is already talk of this becoming an annual event in Hudson, and I am delighted at the possibility.  I can’t wait to see more holster options and hopefully, to meet more of you guys at next year’s Concealed Carry Fashion Show.

For  more info on the show, check out Gracie’s post on Packing Pretty and Gabby’s slide show of the holsters that were featured.

Women, Guns and Sexual Assault

I think it might finally be time to address the R- word.

I have tiptoed around it since I entered the gun owning population, partially because it is an attention-grabbing taboo that comes with its own laundry list of connotations and associations, but mostly because it is something that I have very strong feelings about.  I didn’t want to slap together some off-the-cuff rant about how I think guns will put an end to rape.  This topic deserves a more nuanced treatment.  I planned on waiting and gathering data and doing research.  But today I was reading this article and I felt like my brain was going to explode at the absurdity of the assertions the author makes.  Then I ran a quick Google search on guns and sexual violence and found this  and this and I just can’t keep quiet on the subject any longer.

Whether or not you believe guns will prevent sexual assault, the language and tone of these articles is infuriating and demeaning.  It implies that while the threat of sexual violence is very real and entirely reprehensible, if we’ve gotten ourselves into the situation that results in rape, there’s nothing to be done about it.   We should just close our eyes and wait for it to be over.  They claim that we have no viable chance of defending ourselves against a rapist and even if we do, no one will believe our sad story anyway. The fact that these articles are all written by women, for women makes them all the more galling.  This line especially made smoke come out of my ears  would a judge and jury really believe a woman who says she shot her husband in self-defense because he was trying to rape her? Furthermore, a gun won’t protect you if someone takes advantage of you while you’re too drunk to consent to sex, nor will it stop someone from slipping a date rape drug in your drink.” (Hodrick, http://www.PolicyMic.com, July 25, 2012)   It sounds an awful lot like premptive victim blaming to me. Why bother learning to defend yourself?  It’s not going to work and everyone is going to think you are a lying, boozing slut anyway.

Then there’s this neat, little package of condescending problem-solving: “Guns are not the solution. Education is. There are ways to protect yourself: don’t walk at night alone on campus, don’t run at night on campus with earbuds in, when going to a party or bar only accept drinks that you have seen made with your own eyes, try to stay in well-lit, people-filled areas, don’t wear your hair in a ponytail because it is easier to grab, be observant of your environment to see if you’re being followed in any way, always listen to your gut if your instinct is telling you something is wrong, and if given the chance, take a self-defense class”  (Alvarez, http://www.twodaymag.com, August 4, 2011) Oh! Just don’t wear a ponytail! Perfect!  We will all be so educated and happy, in well-lit, people-filled areas sipping drinks that we have meticulous observed the production of, listening to our guts (but not our earbuds! Dear no!) with our hair down.  It will be utopian.  There will be no guns there, for they are not for us ladyfolks.  Maybe we can have mace, or a bat or a knife.   We definitely should take a self-defense class.  But a gun won’t do us a lick of good.  In fact, Alvarez goes on to say, guns can only create more problems.”  Well, I’m so glad she told me.  I’ve had my gun for almost two years now.  When should I expect the problems to begin?

I hope that by now we all know that guns don’t do anything on their own.  They don’t prevent or cause anything to happen.  Yet a palpable fear of firearms exists in our collective subconscious.  We demonize guns even as we fetishize them as an icon of violence.  There is a perception that a gun will turn a sane man, or woman, into a crazed, trigger-happy criminal, or that a gun is a gross over-reaction to the threat of rape.  I contend that the gun is a great equalizer.  Why do only criminals, police and nut-cases get to have guns?  Do we, the potential victims, not get access to these same implements, so that we might properly defend ourselves?  In fact, might we have these tools so we no longer have to be victims?  Maybe we can take some action in preserving our own safety instead of just staying in well-lit areas and hoping for the best.

Most importantly, the act of shooting and owning a gun has a profound impact on the way most women see themselves and the world around them.   Shooting a gun is empowering, energizing, stress-relieving and confidence-building.  In my experience, women who shoot walk taller and apologize less.  They are also sensitive, caring and protective of their loved ones.  Women who carry guns have already decided that their lives and their bodies are valuable enough to protect.  Carrying a gun, and training to defend oneself with it, is a huge responsibility, not to be taken lightly.  It requires a vast amount of situational awareness, mental fortitude, education and commitment. In fact, gun ownership fosters just the kind of attitude and awareness that Ms. Alvarez suggests is the solution for preventing sexual assaults.  And that might be enough.  You might not ever need to pull the gun out.  But at least you have it and you know how to use it, if you do.

I’ve never been under the illusion that a gun is some kind of magical talisman that can be carried to ward off menacing attackers.  No amount of training, nor tools, nor mindset can deter all violence, all of the time.  The best we can hope for is a chance—an opportunity to run, a chance to call out for help, a moment to draw our weapon and fire a shot.  Why not employ all the tools at our disposal, and acquire as many skills, and as much knowledge as is available in order to improve that chance?

Get educated.  Investigate all of the resources you have access to.  And PLEASE don’t believe anyone who tells you that you don’t have a chance of defending yourself.

I’ve read a lot of articles and posts this past week about the recent shooting in Aurora, but couldn’t get his one our of my head. It is such a simple, concise defense of concealed carry without playing on sympathies or blame. It also underscores the point that the vast majority of the legal gun owning population is primarily concerned with the protection of innocent lives, not the extermination of them.
If you enjoy this piece as much as I did, please check out Greg’s blog. http://www.gregorycamp.wordpress.com

Greg Camp's Weblog

The recent shooting incident in a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado raises a question of basic rights. According to the reports that I’ve seen, the theater in question bars the carrying of firearms. Of course, we see how well a sign declaring a “gun-free zone” worked, but that’s another matter. I want to consider the broader point about the boundaries of rights.

Take my home as an example. It’s generally agreed that I have a large measure of a right to privacy within its walls. Under our laws, if the government wants to come in, there must be a warrant issued by a judge to allow that, minus a small number of exigent circumstances. Our government violates that all too often, but many of us recognize that to be a violation. In addition to privacy, I have the right to say who gets to come in and what my guests…

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Concealed Carry (even when it’s like a billion degrees)

I’ve been talking a lot lately about concealed carry options, so I thought I would share with you guys another method that I use frequently, wardrobe permitting.  It’s a PHLster skeleton holster for my M&P Shield, that I appendix carry IWB.   This is the same holster that I showed off in my EDC Pistol Options video.

As you can see from the photos, it basically disappears even in summer clothes.  The shirt I am wearing is a bit roomy in the front, but the cut doesn’t feel unflattering to me.  I also like the layered tank-tops for warmer weather.  You can tuck one tank-top in and wear a larger one over top, so that your gun isn’t pressed right up against your (likely sweaty) abdomen.  Carrying this way is secure, comfortable and provides a quick and easy draw.  It’s also nearly invisible, even if you know what you’re looking for.

How do you guys carry in the summer months?

A Closer Look at the CC Holster Bags

I’ve had some requests in the past week for more information on the bags I’ve been making.  I’m only too happy to oblige, so I made a little video in which I explain more about the impetus behind making holster bags and show how they function when in use.

Please let me know if you have any suggestions for design or hardware improvements.  I am particularly interested in working more on the compartment where the gun is housed.  Ideas for a quiet, quick-deploying closure system would be THE BOMB.

*Also, thanks to Armed in Stilettos for my awesome t-shirt!

Bag Lady

If I was a rapper, I would say that today I am “ballin outta control”.  Sadly, I am not a rapper so I’ll just say that I’m having an awesome day.

For the past few months, I have been working on constructing small bags for concealed carry with varying levels of success.  In the last 24 hours however, I’ve completed two that I think are pretty good examples of what I am going for.

My goals in this project are to make a bag that is versatile (that is, can be carried in multiple kinds of outfits, all year round and is compatible with various models of pistols and/or holsters), stylish and comfortable.  Too much?  I figured it was best to set the bar high and see what I could achieve, rather than compromise right out of the gate.  My ideal bag meets all of the criteria above and that’s what I wanted, so that’s what I aimed for (Yeah, I’m making shooting puns.  I can’t help myself).  Overall, it has been pretty slow going.  I haven’t been able to find a sewing pattern that is close enough to what I want to actually be useful, so I’ve been making it all up as a go, which is alternately thrilling and exasperating.  My motivation for the project is constant though, since I hate having to leave my gun at home.  More so now that we are in the hot summer months and I can’t wear the PHLster skeleton holster that I love.  (Why, you ask?  One word: chafing).

The two models of bags I am working on now are based on a kind of fanny pack platform.  They utilize a belt or a strap to fasten around the user’s waist, and then a pouch that conceals the holstered gun within.  The result: you look like you’re wearing a stylish accessory and no one suspects you are packing the heat.  Win/win.

Here are a few photos to give you an idea of how they turned out:

You can see that in the smaller, rectangular bag, the user would have to supply their own sturdy gun belt.  I like this design, however it is limited to outfits that can be worn with a belt.  I’ve found this to be difficult in a skirt or a dress.  The other option is a little more versatile since it has a built-in strap that can function as a belt or a shoulder strap.  I very much like to carry bags in a cross-body configuration, so I designed this one to be able to be easily convertible between a belt bag and a cross-body bag.  The external pocket on the back opens on two sides, allowing easy access to your firearm.  I am currently using a piece of paracord that is sewn into the bag to hold my holster in place.

I am planning on doing a follow-up post, so I can show you how they look while in use and discuss the pros and cons of the designs.  Please let me know if you have any suggestions for improvements.

Also, special thanks to Philly Art Girl for the totally awesome Luger belt buckle FTW.

You Never Forget the First Time

Monica shootsLast week I had the opportunity to take a brand new shooter to the range.   It was a surprising, terrifying, frustrating, exhilarating, transformative experience, unlike any other.  It also highlighted for me the aspects I like best about shooting and the attitudes I like least in the community.

I am a very “ducks in a row” kind of person.  Up until quite recently, I did not feel like  I was knowledgeable or competent enough to teach someone else to shoot.  Before I stepped into that role, I wanted to make sure that I could adequately explain and demonstrate all of the fundamentals of safe marksmanship, and I just wasn’t sure I was there yet.  But then I went through the NRA basic pistol class, which reinforced a lot of the skills and knowledge that I already had.  And I also began really committing to going to the range once a week and working on the basics.  These things paid off and I finally started to feel like I was in a place where I could share my love of shooting with a beginner.

On the day of the lesson,  my lovely friend was enthusiastic and eager to shoot a gun for the first time.  She definitely brought her “teachable attitude”.  We were also joined by another friend who is curious, but not quite ready to pull the trigger.  I got us targets, ammo, eyes and ears and  we set up in the lane.  As I opened my mouth to start the instruction, I realized the enormity of what I was about to try to explain.  My friend had read a few articles about gun safety online, but other than that she was entirely uninitiated.  I had thought about what I was going to say, but once we were actually there I was suddenly overwhelmed by the amount of information I felt like she absolutely NEEDED to know, and also empathetic to the anxiety and trepidation she must have been feeling.  I didn’t want to bombard her with instruction, but I wanted to make sure she knew enough to be safe and have a little fun.  So, we went over the safety rules first, which she had already memorized. (I told you she brought her A game).  Then we did grip, stance and trigger pull.  She was hitting her target almost instantly (like a boss).  Excitement quickly replaced our anxieties.  My friend seemed genuinely,  pleasantly surprised at what the experience of shooting a gun is actually like.  She  says that it is both easier and harder than she thought it would be.  I feel the same way about teaching her how to shoot.  Our other friend, who was observing, says she would like to give it a try the next time we go.  They both expressed enthusiasm about the prospect of a monthly Ladies’ Night at the range and an interest in becoming proficient shooters.  I couldn’t ask for more.  I can only hope that any other teaching experiences I have in the future are with people who are as open-minded and willing to learn as these girls.

me and Monica

Unfortunately, it wasn’t all sunshine and gunpowder.  As a group of young women alone at the range, we definitely attracted a fair amount of attention.   I usually go to the range with my husband, and I am generally left to my own devices.  Most of the employees know I am safe and competent.  Turns out though, that a group of women shooting alone inspires a lot of Advice Fairy/Fun Shark behavior.  This usually entails a dude stepping in to repeat the instruction I have just given, but in a louder voice while puffing up his chest and displaying his biceps.  Peacocking, one might say.  As a new teacher, I do appreciate help and a more experienced perspective, but I didn’t see anyone stepping in to help the girls who were there with their boyfriends or husbands.  There was a noticeable difference between the reactions our little posse garnered versus how I am treated when I am with male friends.  It felt as though we, as “unsupervised”  ladies, were deemed less competent.  On top of all that, I have a sneaking suspicion that the RSO was dying to ask me for my friend’s number.  Sigh.  I thought that’s what Match.com was for.

Fueled by both my exhilaration at my friend’s success and my irritation at being underestimated, I immediately went home and emailed a friend about getting my NRA Instructor credentials.  I’ve been thinking about it for a while and this experience tipped the scales.  Lately, I’ve noticed increasing numbers of ladies getting involved in firearms, however I have not seen an increase in female instructors.  I think it is time for me to step up and put my money where my mouth is.  I want to see a change in certain perceptions and preconceived ideas in the gun community, and this is a chance to be that change.  Also, I can blog my behind off about it and that will be fun for all of us.

If you have tips about teaching or getting instructor training, please let me know in the comments.  I would be grateful for any feedback.