Letter Re: Pistol Holster Recommendations for Women

Dear James,
The recently given today about pistol holsters is fine….fine for men! And this is in no way criticizing the author – I just wanted to make a few continuation points on this subject that I think need to be addressed, in order for your readers to develop more well rounded preparations.

What often gets neglected in the firearms world is the plight of women. Women, in general, are not taken in to consideration when it comes to weapon and equipment design, and are usually talked down to by many in the industry, especially counter persons in gun shops.

Granted, some steps are being taken to correct this – I think the S&W M&P [semi-auto] pistol is a step in the right direction, with its various sizes of replaceable grips, and its torque absorbing design (in regard to shooting the .40S&W round.) But this is just start, and is by far not the norm in the industry.

In my opinion, nowhere are women more ignored than with proper pistol holsters. What works for men rarely works with any comfort or ease for the majority of women, and there are a few factors that need to be taken into consideration when the women readers of SurvivalBlog choose their gear (or a well meaning significant other does it for them.)

First – Women’s waists are approximately 2″-to-4″ higher than men’s. You can take a man and woman of the same height, stand them next to each other, and note where the belt line is. You’ll see it immediately once you know to look. This creates your first problem with any kind of 3-o’clock carry position. What ends up happening is that when the lady attempts to draw the pistol, she ends up drawing it into her armpit. It’s slow and uncomfortable for her. Look close at the next female police officer you see who’s department requires her to carry a standard issue holster in the 3 or 6-o’clock position. You’ll note how much higher the stocks of the weapon are in regard to her armpit, and how cumbersome that would be if you had to carry that way.

Second – Women have hips, and women have rear ends that curve outwards. And isn’t that why most men like them? We can’t deny that we know this, it’s what us men are always getting backhanded for staring at, so no excuses! Where this effects holsters is: a) 3-o’clock carry, because of the hips, ends up flaring the barrel of the pistol out, and causing the stocks to dig into her side – and it just gets worse when she sits down. b) Attempting to move the holster to some sort of kidney carry or small of the back is right out to to the curves on her rear end. c) Trying to carry IWB holsters just exaggerates the problem, regardless of clock position.

Third – Most holsters set up for strong side carry have what’s called an ‘FBI Cant.’ All this does is create even more problems on the draw stroke. What you usually end up seeing women do is roll their shoulder forward as they draw in order to compensate for the odd angle. Another discomfort factor. And lest not forget that some women have breasts (no really, it’s true), and that cant and carry method can be very uncomfortable.

So, the question now is: what do we do about all of this?

Here’s a base point: The only flat spot on most women’s waists (note that I said most – some women have flat rear ends and flat hips, but it’s far from the norm) is the inguinal channel. That’s the spot right where the leg meets the torso, and is commonly referred to in the gun world as the appendix carry position.

Many women find this the most comfortable place to wear a holster, both standing and sitting, should they choose to carry on their belt. One issue when choosing a holster is the proper cant angle, as the FBI cant will not work with this method of carry. One hint is to look for a cross draw holster set up for left-side carry (for the right-handed shooter), and [then instead] wear it on the right side of the body [, just to the right of the belt buckle].

There are a few companies I know of that will make such holsters in polymer, at the customer’s request:

And there are a couple of leather holster makers that will custom make them, as well:
Milt Sparks
C. Rusty Sherrick

Expect to pay, and expect to special order. And in the case of leather makers, expect to wait a long time. As I said in the beginning of this, the industry is not catering to the needs of women.

Next option, shoulder holsters. I’m not a fan of them for a number of reasons, but for some women it really is their best option.

Now, why is all of this such a big deal? For starters, all of us should care about the women in our lives, and women should care about their own lives. Seems pretty much like common sense, but my observation over the years when it comes to women allowing their men to buy their guns and holsters for them is this: It’s much like allowing your man to buy your underwear for you. He’ll buy what he thinks you look good in, not what functions for you in a practical manner. Many women will also go with what their father, brother, husband, boyfriend, or stranger at the gun shop recommends, because most women simply aren’t as experienced with such things, and will trust who they think knows more about it.

But the problem comes in when they try to train with ill-fitting gear, or to use it on a day-to-day basis. They end up fighting it the whole way, and many eventually give up on it. This doesn’t serve any of us well! If things ever get as bad as well think they might, we will need very set of hands available, to do as many jobs as they can. Your wife, grandmother, girlfriend, sister, daughter, etc., may be the only other adult on the spot that you trust. She may be who you rely on to defend you, or defend your children, or defend herself. And it probably won’t be during open warfare! It will probably be during the next extreme batch of weather or economic conditions, or when some evildoer decides to target you. She will probably have to carry a pistol concealed, everyday, all day. And she will need to do so as comfortably as possible, and with as much practice as possible beforehand. It will need to be on her person, and ready to go at all times. And if she can’t do so practically, she may just opt out of it all together in order to function, and that opens you, your family and her up to all kinds of potential risk.

Get the right gear for the right application! Yes, sometimes we all need to make due, and obviously lack of a proper holster should not be used as an excuse to loose a fight. But we should be getting proper gear now, while we can, and while we need to fire a few thousands rounds in training. And knowing what “proper” is….well, that’s half the battle! – Bill from Ohio

JWR Replies: Thanks for those comments. Just one proviso: Positioning a holster or magazine pouches forward of the hips makes crawling when prone very difficult. Plan accordingly. For post-TEOTWAWKI tactical carry, consider wearing a Y-harness or a load bearing vest. Not only will it distribute the weight of the belt more evenly, but you can also un-buckle your pistol belt when you need to low crawl, and not lose it.