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.

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?

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…