The other day I was on my way up to Salt Lake City to work a “self-reliance conference.” At that time, my car had the entire back window occupied by a vinyl sign for Women of Caliber, mentioning the firearm and physical self-defense classes I used to offer regularly. Being in a bit of a hurry, I zipped through a school zone at about 35 MPH, completely oblivious and without paying attention to my speedometer. After getting midway through the school zone, I finally realized where I was and I slowed down, but if there was a police car watching for speeders I most likely would have been pulled over for speeding.
Instinctively when I recognize that I’m going faster than necessary I look in my rearview mirror to see if I got snagged. This time was no different, and sure enough, I see a police car pulling out from a side street and come up on me. I pulled over to the far left lane as I was going to make a left turn at the light, and sure enough, the police car does the same. “Busted” I said to myself, and just waited for him to finish running my plates and turn on his lights. Suddenly he pulls out from behind me and instead pulls up closely on my right hand side. He motions for me to roll down my window. “Great!”, I thought, expecting him to tell me to pull over as soon as I finished my left hand turn. The officer begins to speak. “Do you (pause)…” As he pauses I know what he’s going to say—something like “do you have any idea what the speed limit is back there?” So imagine my surprise when instead he says “Do you…have any cards? Cause I’ve got a lot of women who’d love to talk to you.” Unfortunately, I didn’t have any cards on me as I was to be working outside of my Women of Caliber scope for the conference. Instead I directed him to my website. I shared with him that I only teach private to semi-private firearm classes for women and that I focus primarily on a quick-draw self-defense firearm discipline. He encouraged me to provide him more information (while waiting for the light to change) and I wrapped it all up by telling him the shot was from the hip. Why the hip? I’ll tell you.
The Safest Place for a Firearm is ON You
First, let's start off with the fundamental principle of carrying your firearm on your person. The safest place to have a firearm is ON you. I've spoken to a lot of moms over the years who are interested in becoming skilled with a firearm for the purpose of self-defense, but their #1 concern is the safety of their kids. Ironically, the safety of their kids is the #1 reason why women are interested in owning and learning how to use a firearm. When it comes to safety with kids in mind, the anti-gun folks talk about the merits of having your guns locked up in a safe with trigger locks on each of them. But that whole scenario nearly eliminates every virtue of having a firearm and knowing how to use it to protect yourself and your family. When there's a threat against a life, seconds count and there's SO much that could go wrong when you're attempting to get to the safe, getting it open (requiring fine motor skills which are at their lowest when a person is under stressful circumstances), and retrieving the gun and removing the trigger lock (another situation that calls for fine motor skills.) If your firearm is ON your person then you've completely mitigated a whole lot of the potential scenarios in which an accidental shooting can take place as well as having it available to you when you need it.
The HIP is the Best Place to Holster Your Weapon
Now, let's talk about WHERE to put the firearm on your body.I’m sure you’ve seen the seductive pictures or movie scenes of the attractive spy woman carrying a firearm on her thigh, in her bra, in her purse, or even at the small of her back. Just the other night I saw a bra holster for a small revolver. (Yes, I hollered at the TV calling the women "some kind of stupid right there!") There’s also the other carrying areas that some holster manufacturers cater to, such as, just under the armpits, in an ankle holster, on the inside of the thigh, easy access in a purse that's specifically designed for concealing a weapon, or stuffed between the belt and the back of some tight jeans. But the truth is, if it’s self-defense that’s motivating you to own a firearm, then your self-defense mentality doesn’t stop with the purchase of a firearm or getting a “permit” for it. Yes, carrying it on your person is the best way to make sure you have it when you need it; and it’s actually the safest place to have it when around little ones but holstering it on your hip is the most strategic place to keep your firearm for your safety, the safety of others AND for fast self-defense when you need it.
I realize that some of the other frequently suggested holster areas may give you a better element of surprise or work better with a dress, but I assure you, even the law enforcement officers who keep a gun in an ankle holster, don't put it there for "quick access." It's there strictly as a back up in the event they are separated from their primary weapon. Only the hip provides proper placement for a quick draw scenario as it's right where it should be when you need to quickly defend yourself, draw, and shoot. While it may not be as well-hidden as a firearm in your purse, it still provides you with the element of surprise AND if you're trained properly in a quick-draw shooting discipline, you'll find it's the most strategic self-defense spot to have it. However, if you consider the other holster options you'll see that it could be much more difficult to quickly access your firearm in self-defense when seconds count. But if you review all of the aforementioned options to holster a firearm, you'll no doubt realize that there are some major problems with holstering your firearm anywhere on your person that hinders your ability to draw and defend yourself quickly.
I do want to offer a possible secondary option for women though. Some women just aren't comfortable having the firearm on their hip. These reasons can be aesthetics (who needs more "stuff" on their hips, right?) or just plain comfort. As such, many woman carry their gun in their purse. The problem with this though is that your purse is not always with you; if your purse is robbed you've just given the thief a weapon as well, and any time you go to a baby shower and want to put your purse somewhere; you might be creating the perfect storm for a tragic accidental shooting thanks to curious little hands. However, if you MUST carry your firearm in your purse, I would suggest that your firearm of choice be a revolver that can actually shoot THROUGH the purse for multiple shots. You should not only practice being able to quickly retrieve your firearm from the purse (which is contradicted, in my opinion, by all of the straps and such that are intended to properly secure the firearm in the purse) OR to be able to easily, while looking natural, grip and shoot your firearm from INSIDE the purse and firing within. A semi-auto slide model firearm will likely only allow you to shoot once before it gets caught on the material inside the purse, but a revolver is more likely to enable you to shoot more than once. You can see my practice shots on the right.
O.K. Moving back to the shooting from the hip...
In the event of an assault, the two most common close encounter attacks come from the back or the front. If the assailant throws you on your back, you have compromised your defense by having the firearm at the small of your back. If he throws you to the ground, it’s less likely that you’ll be in a good position to grab your weapon from your thigh, bra, or ankle. Having the firearm on your hip puts it in the closest and most natural vicinity of your hand. (Obviously, placing it on the same side as your dominant hand is important too.) But the number one reason why I believe in carrying it on the hip is because it reduces precious response time; it’s in a natural grab position, AND if you have to, you can actually take the shot from your hip, without having to fully extend your arms out in front of you. Even more important to note is that if you’re trained properly, that hip shot can be just as accurate as the one in which you’re able to fully extend your arms.
Something also to note is that the holster you use for your hip weapon, you need it to be a secure holster that makes it VERY difficult for someone else to steal right off of you. (There are plenty of horror stories in which criminals have been able to wreak havoc because they were able to easily separate the LEO from their holstered weapon.) To that end, I 100% completely prefer the Serpa holster. Mind you, as soon as I say that this is my favorite holster, there will be some person (most likely a male) that will tell you everything that they believe is wrong with a Serpa--most of which is hatched on the internet regardless of its veracity. Bottom line, is I've read the pros and the cons of every model out there and I've actually used a whole slew of them. Serpa is the best that I've found out there with the least amount of problems and secures my weapon properly-- but it is not foolproof. In fact, just the other day, on our date night, my husband was specifically training me how to take someone else's firearm off of them even though they're wearing a Serpa holster. Protecting against unlawful use of the firearm is our responsibility no matter what kind of holster or safety features are involved.
With the gun on my hip, I wear a heavy duty Wilderness belt and my Serpa holster. The belt is nice and snug through the belt loops of my pants so that when I have to use the ladies room, there’s no chance of my firearm flip-flopping away from my pants and scaring the bejeebies out of the woman in the stall next to me. The Serpa holster allows me to naturally press the release when I pull the firearm out in a quick-draw self-defense scenario. It’s designed specifically to make it difficult for someone to come up on me and remove my gun from my possession. It’s a firm holster that will also make sure that I don’t wreak havoc by shooting my firearm in a bathroom stall. (Yes, there will be those who argue about the merits of the Wilderness Belt too, but that’s to be expected. I am only willing to speak on matters of which I have experience and over a decade of tried and true use.)
Now, having stated that the hip is the best place, strategically speaking, to wear the firearm understand that it carries with it some important skills that need to be practiced.
First of all is practicing removing any clothing out of the way of the draw. Wearing a firearm on your hip usually necessitates wearing a full shirt or jacket. This means that as you go for your firearm you’ll need to use your thumb to first clear away the clothing. Every time I put on an outfit with which I’m wearing my firearm I always do a couple of practices clearing my clothing from my firearm draw pattern. If the clothing I’m wearing compromises my ability to do that, then it’s different clothing for me. It’s kind of funny shopping for clothes with my mom or sister. They are looking at how nice something looks on me while I’m making sure my thumb can clear them out of the way of my firearm. *grin*
Next, you’re going to have to make sure that you’re so familiar with the grip on the firearm and the release on your holster that you can easily remove it from your holster. Again, this requires practice and it’s JUST as critical as target practice—if not, more so. As you remove the firearm from your holster, you want to instinctively keep it close to your side and rotate the end of the barrel forward as it’s coming out of the holster. Practicing this seamless draw is what gives you the advantage in a self-defense scenario. So long as your knuckles, feet, eyes and the front of your body are all pointed towards your target, you can actually hit your target from the hip quite well if necessary.
As you might be aware, I specifically teach women in a private and semi-private setting how to master a quick-draw self-defense shot through my Women of Caliber business(--though I'm taking a hiatus until we get some business changes made.) In other words, this is my fundamental method of defending myself with a firearm. Yes, it's considered a "quick-draw" shot, but it's not for show. It's for superior self-defense and if a person learns these fundamentals then they don't have to worry about missing their shot and hurting someone else. (The #2 reason why women hesitate to have a firearm, by the way.)
The beginning of this defense shot actually begins with the fundamentals at the hip. You’d be surprised how well a woman can learn to accurately shoot from her hip once she learns these fundamentals and practices this important aspect of self-defense. These steps such as where your feet and body are pointed, may seem trivial, but they make all the difference in the world of making your shot. So might I suggest that you practice with a solid practice gun or an airsoft pistol repeatedly on a daily basis: put the firearm in your holster and taking it out properly, close to your body, being fully rotated towards your target once it clears the holster, with the barrel, feet, chest and head all aimed towards your target, and then squeezing the trigger from the hip.
Now, in the interest of full disclosure, my hips are plenty big and I don’t always find it feasible to carry the firearm on me. In such scenarios, however else you intend to carry it—whether that is in your purse, or under the steering wheel column in your car, it’s critical that you practice repeatedly how you’re going to draw your firearm, aim, and squeeze the trigger. (Remember the principle safety rules though when practicing--“the gun is always loaded”, never point it at something you don’t intend to shoot or kill, and keep your finger off the trigger until you’re ready to shoot. I've had a lot of students tell me that they've practiced with their hairbrush or hairdryer, but since you're creating valuable muscle memory during this practice time, I wholeheartedly recommend you use a real practice gun because the weight of the practice gun and the shape can perfectly duplicate that of your primary weapon. The ones they have now have some pretty sophisticated laser attachments too that will help you identify your target and then will even tell you whether or not you hit your initial target. It's great practice and it doesn't cost a fortune in ammo.
Of course this is common sense to me, but in the event that someone doesn’t think of this, might I suggest that you NEVER practice this discipline with a loaded firearm. And even without the magazine I check and triple check my firearm with my husband to be sure that it’s not loaded. Even then I still comply with all of the other safety measures—“the gun is always loaded”, never point it at something you don’t intend to shoot or kill, and keep your finger off the trigger until you’re ready to shoot.
So, as far as protecting you and those you love, the safest place to carry your firearm is on your person--especially when you back that up with some skills and muscle memory!
I hope this helps you become more confident and competent in your self-defense measures; such measures fall under the 3rd Principle of Preparedness--Physical Preparedness (security of your person) and the 5th Principle of Preparedness--Clothing and Shelter Preparedness (security of your home).