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.

Some Greatest Hits; So Far.

I was going through the photo library on my computer recently, and realized that I now have about 18 months worth of photos that have never been used.  One of the best things about owning guns is how photogenic they are.  Sexy things–you really can’t help but ogle them.  So, I put together a little excerpt from my visual diary from the past two years.  Hope you guys enjoy them and trust, there will be more to come..

A New Kind of Holster

Alright, kiddos.  I think I’ve done it.  Today I finished a bag and then successfully used it to carry my M&P compact while I ran some errands.  FINALLY.  It seems like it’s been a long time coming.  Here are some photos of the bag and me wearing the bag:

The bag consists of one large pocket that fits over a Kydex holster like this one, and has velcro tape at the top and two smaller pockets on the exterior for things like a phone, keys, money, credit cards, etc.  The belt loops on the Kydex holster have an extended tab on them that allows the gun to ride a little lower on the thigh.  I find this to be more comfortable and it makes the bag sit better.  The nice thing about this design is that the front pocket basically hides any gun outlines you might be able to see through the fabric, while providing room for my other EDC items.  I also like how snuggly my pistol sits against my hip in this configuration.  I took a long walk and then did a couple of sprints up and down the steps in my house to see how it felt and it seems very stable.   It’s also easy to access my phone and money without flashing my gun at the people around me.  Important.

I used  Kwik Sew pattern K3651 for the general size and shape of this bag and then I added the pocket in the front and the openings for the belt loops in the back.  I also changed the seam allowance to 1/2 inch instead of a 1/4 inch.  I could probably have made it a teansy bit taller to accomodate the velcro.  I have mixed feelings about the hook-and-loop tape I’ve been using.  It’s easy to install in the bag, keeps it closed securely and can be operated with one hand.  My reservation is that I feel a little clumsy on the draw stroke right now.  The velcro seems like an impediment to getting to the gun quickly.  Maybe I just need practice.  Or maybe the hook-and-loop tape will go out the window as I progress.  If anyone has any suggestions on a better closure method for the pistol compartment, I would be happy to hear them.

Or if you have any suggestions at all for improving the bag, please let me know.  I’m making these things based on what I perceive my concealed-carry needs to be, but I’m sure there are considerations I’m overlooking or more expedient ways of getting there.  What would you like to see in an OWB holster belt bag?

“Now I’m back! I’m back from the future!”

Oh hey!  That’s right, I have a blog!

I’ve been so busy for the past month helping to run the surprise small business that lives in my spare room that I totally forgot to write blog posts.  Sorry about that, dudes.  It wasn’t you.  It was me.  We can still be friends.

So some really rad stuff has been happening over here lately.  One of the most exciting things is that we’re on track to get an LLC for PHLster.  Yay! Legitimacy!  Hopefully that will help us feel like “real” business owners instead of delusional recluses who act like Golem with a gun and sizzle like vampires when they leave the house during the day.  That could be more a nature than nurture thing though, so I guess we’ll see.

Also, I recently lucked into an amazing Craigslist find that could possibly be one of the most spectacular thing I’ve ever gotten for free in my whole life.  This 1964 Singer 331K1 industrial sewing machine:

Yeah, that's right.  It was FREE.

Taaaa-daaah!  Isn’t that sweet as crap??  It runs like a champ, the motor is super strong and I’m pretty sure it would sew my hand to the cat if those things happened to be under the needle when the treadle was pushed.  So my only dilemma now is what to make first?  This thing will sew leather, vinyl, canvas, denim, nylon, whatevs.  It’s basically the honey badger of sewing machines and it’s all mine.   Once I rein in my ambition (and get the hang of the incredibly touchy pedal) I will post some pictures of my projects.

Additionally, I have been trying to get back into going to the gun range at least once a week.  I got that awesome Ruger Mark III for Christmas (What?!  I still haven’t posted pictures?? OMG.  Can I do a worse job at blogging??) and the cost of .22 amo is so little that the only excuse I can come up with for not going once a week is laziness.  The payoff for getting up off the couch though, is that it shoots so well and with such little recoil that you feel like a total badass.  In fact, the other day I had a real exciting interaction at the range after shooting the Mark III (like a boss).  A couple of guys who I’m guessing were around my age, were finishing up just as I was done shooting and they approached me and asked about my gun.  I told them the make and the model and they asked if I practiced shooting it a lot.  When I replied in the affirmative, one of them said, “You can really tell.  You’re a good shot”.  I was very excited not only because someone complimented my shooting (it’s always nice when bitches recognize), but also because there was no mention of me being a good shot, “for a girl”.

In the past year, I’ve noticed more and more women at my home range looking less and less like they’ve been dragged there by their overzealous boyfriends.  It’s really encouraging to see ladies buying and shooting their own guns and thus, all of us together, starting to turn the tide of popular opinion about female shooters.  I’m hoping that the trend continues and that women become regular fixtures in the gun world and not just random outliers.  And, in that spirit, I am on the hunt for a new gun that I can base my personal concealed carry set-up on, i.e. belt bags, holsters, maybe even some compression shorts, if I’m feeling frisky.  I’m really excited to start carrying a gun regularly now that I have my permit, and some good starting points for developing a safe and effective way to conceal a pistol in everyday clothes.  I’ll be sure to share once I nail down the purchase and I’ll definitely let you guys know how my EDC plan works out.  Hopefully, before Thanksgiving…

Alternative Concealed Carry Options; The Belt Bag

Sometimes I make things.  Actually that’s not really accurate.  I very frequently make things, but I don’t usually share them on the internet.  Consumables get shared with my husband, drawings usually are shared with my art school buddies and holsters are shared with our PHLster customers.

But today, dear friends, I made something that I am very excited to share with you.  I made my first (usable) prototype of a holster belt-bag.  And it doesn’t look like something your grandpa would wear to Disneyworld.  Great success!  Then I made another one, cause anything worth doing is worth doing twice, right?

I have been kicking this idea around for a while now, ever since I got my permit to carry a concealed firearm in Pennsylvania. You would think that living in a structure which also houses a holster-making business would mean that I would have no trouble finding a safe, easy way to carry my pistol, but that did not turn out to be the case.  It would seem that concealing any reasonable-sized gun in lady clothes is actually quite tricky.  Now, a quick Google search will tell you that there are a lot of options for women in the concealed carry market, but who wants to wear a velcro and elastic shoulder girdle in July?  I don’t.  In fact, I don’t want to wear anything called a “girdle” ever.  I don’t even like those Spanx things.  And as far as purses for carrying (or gun purses as they are sometimes called) are concerned, I am unconvinced that that’s a safe way for me to carry my pistol.  I live in a major metropolitan area with a reasonably high crime rate (that’s why I carry in the first place).  I’ve seen women get their purses snatched.  I wanted something more secure and at the same time, more convenient.  I don’t want to have root around in my bag in a moment of panic to find my gun.  I also don’t want to  accidently grab it when I’m trying to pay for my burrito at the Mexican spot.

In other words, I have long been on the search for a way to carry my 9mm or .380 caliber hand gun in a safe, secure and convenient way.  Enter the belt bag.  There are belt bags for this purpose already on the market.  I especially like this one, and thought about just buying it and being done with the whole mess.  But it’s not really my style and it’s more satisfying to make it myself, the way I want it.

So, here’s what I came up with:

You’ll notice that totally rad skeleton holster on the CZ-83 in the first photo, courtesy of Jon Hauptman.  He makes awesome things, and this project would not have turned out so well with out him.  He also took most of the photographs in this post.  He’s a swell fellow.

I had initially conceived of a belt bag that would work in conjunction with that skeleton holster, but I’m still working out the logistics on that one.  You might notice an opening at the back of the green bag.  It was designed to accomodate the lanyard that attaches to the skeleton holster.  It didn’t come out exactly the way I had planned, but I haven’t given up on the idea.  My brain is buzzing with all of these new ideas and potential projects, so I’m sure I will have some more holster solutions to share with you in the future.  In the meantime, I can’t wait to take these guys out for some R&D…

The Possibilities

Kimber Raptor II full sized 1911 .45ACP

Kimber Stainless Ultra TLE II 1911 .45ACP

Smith & Wesson M&P 9mm

Smith & Wesson Escort .22

Sig Sauer Nitron 1911 .45ACP

Sig Sauer P238 .380

CZ 83 .380

Mossberg 500 shotgun

Mosin-Nagant rifle

That’s all of the guns that live in my house currently.  I’m a little amazed at how many there are, and also kind of surprised that there aren’t more.  I know how to shoot, disassemble and clean almost all of them (Mossberg disassembly lesson tonight?).  I’m proud of that, eager to learn more, and periodically astounded that this is my life.  Sometimes the process of change seems very gradual, and then sometimes it feels like you wake up in someone else’s shoes only to realize that it’s your crazy-ass life.

I was a vegetarian for about 10 years, through most of high school and all of college.  I was committed to not eating meat, sometimes going stretches of a few months with no animal products at all.  It felt like the right way to live my life at the time, and I wouldn’t have believed that I would ever eat meat again if you’d tried to tell me otherwise. I ate a lot of soy-based proteins and meat replacements.  Consuming animal flesh seemed gross and foreign and cruel to me.  Then I decided to go to culinary school.  No one at the school made me eat meat.  It just seemed like the best way to fully understand the food I was cooking.  How was I going to prepare and serve meat to people without having any idea how it tasted?  Also, I was paying for this educational experience and  I wanted to learn as much as possible about food.  It started to make perfect sense for me to eat meat.  Then it started to make sense for me to look into where my meat was coming from and how it was treated when it was alive.  Supporting small, local farmers who make a living raising animals for food in a responsible way seems like the best choice for me right now.  I have a lot of friends who are vegetarian and vegan, and godspeed to them.  They have to do what’s right for them, and I have to do what’s right for me.

I don’t think that everyone in America or everyone in the world needs to get involved in firearms.  I respect that some people are uninterested, apathetic or entirely against gun ownership.  And I’m not out to convince anyone otherwise.  I have absolute faith that you, Reader, know what’s right for you and your life.  I humbly suggest that you just be open to the possibility that what’s right for your life can and will change.  We live in difficult times.  Traditional paths to success aren’t as available as they once were.  If you want to make your own path to success, it’s very possible that you’re going to have to change your mind about some things.  In the past I was worried about changing my mind too often.  I was concerned that people wouldn’t take me seriously.  If you watch politics, you  might think that changing your opinion on something is akin to killing babies with your teeth, the way politicians are raked over the coals for “flip-flopping”.  But I  have much more respect for someone who is willing to change their stance based on new information, rather than cling to old ideas in an effort to save face.  To me, it’s not about being right or being wrong.  It’s just a process of evaluation.  You’re like a radar system.  You send out your pings, they bounce off of what’s around you and come back.  That’s how you orient yourself in the world.  You don’t stop moving and the the things around you don’t stop moving, so the process of evaluation and orientation is on-going.

I have no idea how long guns are going to be a part of my life.  Right now, it’s a fun hobby and an interesting lens to view the world through.  Maybe someday it won’t seem relevant to me anymore.  And that’s cool.  I have to remind myself often that it’s ok to toss out things that aren’t working.  All I can do is be where I am right now, and trust that I will be open to whatever comes my way.