Written by Annette Evans & David Lane
The gold standard of carrying a gun is to have it on your body somewhere, somehow. This being RECOIL CONCEALMENT, the challenge is to do it in a way that’s comfortable and hidden from other people.
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It’s not always easy, especially with certain fashion choices common to women — snugly fitting clothing, midriff-baring tops, belt-less bottoms, all often in thin and clingy fabrics.
None of those really lend themselves to strapping a chunk of metal and plastic on without making it look like an awkward and funny-shaped growth. The obvious answer has always been to toss a gun into a purse and tote it along that way.
There’s an in-between solution though: the hip bag — essentially, a purse worn, well, on the wearer’s hip: a dedicated Concealed Carry Bag.
Carrying in a regular purse has some really obvious upsides. There’s no longer any need to “dress around the gun.” The only obvious requirement is that the purse goes with the outfit. However, there are also a number of downsides.
The biggest is the fact that the gun is no longer attached to the wearer, making it easier to lose or have stolen. So many of the settings where women carry purses are also settings where it’s normal and ordinary to take them off our shoulders. While many of us have learned that a purse shouldn’t be left unattended in a grocery cart, it’s a little tougher in places like restaurants or homes.
The tendency is to hang the bag off the back of a chair, drop it on a couch, or otherwise get that weight off your shoulder. Even if the bag isn’t left somewhere for convenience’s sake, it can feel strange and noticeable to keep that strap on our shoulder or across our body because nobody else is doing it.
Normal, non-gun-carrying, non-paranoid people don’t insist on keeping their purses with them at every moment, but if we who keep guns in our purses don’t, we risk losing a lot more than just our wallets.
The other problem with carrying in a regular purse is that they generally swing around on a single strap. Whether slung over one shoulder or across the body diagonally, using short or long straps, purses move when we move — and not always in the same direction.
Two issues result: The first is the classic purse snatch or pick. A bad guy comes along and cuts the strap or grabs the entire bag and slips away with it, or simply reaches inside and takes what they can. Because the purse swings around naturally, the wearer might not feel the theft at all.
There are slash-proof purses and those with locking compartments, but they come with their own perils of being caught up in a purse snatching gone violent or being unable to access a gun in a locked compartment when in need.
The movement of the purse can also make it difficult for a concealed carrier to consistently and reliably reach in and pull out their gun as the bag and its contents shift throughout the course of the day, let alone when in a fight for their lives.
NOT JUST FOR THE 1990s
Enter the hip bag. They’re a descendant of the fanny pack, that bastion of uncool dads and clueless tourists. By crossing over with current fashion and practical trends, they’ve turned the corner from nerdy and clueless to chic and in vogue.
The bags themselves run the gamut of design from sleek leather to chunky canvas, with everything from fringe and studs to embroidery and logos. Some are just a simple pocket or two that can be zipped shut; others are much more complicated and use flaps, snaps, and Velcro along with zippers to give the wearer a way to carry a multitude of items.
Their key feature is how they’re carried: with a strap around the waist, and usually, a strap secured around the thigh. In some cases, they’re convertible to a more traditional purse, but they’re meant to primarily be used completely hands-free and attention-free by being attached to the wearer, which turns out are two things to look for in a concealed carry bag.
They aren’t for everyone, but there are certain types of people and looks where hip bags can fit in quite well, and not just for people who are looking for creative ways to carry guns.
Motorcycle riders have leg bags as a way to organize and bring along small items like wallets and cell phones. Since they often don’t have much storage space on their bikes and their protective gear may not have enough pockets, leg bags are a way to secure those items in a way that’s easily accessible and won’t get in their way when bent over the handlebars of their bikes.
Riders can even reach into their leg bags when seated on their bikes, but they don’t have to worry about the bag flapping around in the wind or flying off their bodies when they’re riding.
Backpackers and outdoors types, meanwhile, have retaken the world of the fanny pack, discovering that their relatively low profiles and small sizes are perfect for short excursions requiring limited amounts of gear and water.
You’ll find them as waist packs, and they don’t have the thigh strap mentioned earlier, but they’re often designed to carry more than just the contents of your pockets, both in terms of volume and weight. The wide, athletic belts that are part of these waist packs are comfortable and sturdy in ways that the touristy fanny packs we may remember from our youths or parents never could be.
The attraction of extra cargo space without needing to keep track of it has even spilled over into the fashion world, particularly for individuals who are comfortable with expressing their unique style sense even if it isn’t exactly what you might see on celebrities and models everywhere.
A quick search on sites like Pinterest or Etsy will show you all sorts of ideas on how they’re being styled without falling into the “tactical” look. See, it’s not that the idea of using an attached bag for a gun is entirely new: Maxpedition has famously been making the FatBoy Versipack for over a decade, for instance.
These styles of bags have been bulky and masculine with MOLLE straps and other militaresque features. They work for the stated purpose of holding a gun without needing to hide it under clothing, but they were a flashing “gun here” sign in many settings, hardly a concealed carry bag.
Now that regular, ordinary people, even fashionable people, wear hip bags and similar accessories, there are new options for carrying concealed firearms in an on-body bag that don’t look out of place.
The same reasons they’re becoming more acceptable among non-gun people are why they can work as a middle ground between concealing a gun directly on body, underneath your clothing, and carrying an entirely separate bag.
They can make it easier to conceal the gun because its lumpy weird shape is hidden in a bag that’s meant to stick out and hold things. Instead of making your clothes lie unevenly, your clothes will continue to fit perfectly, and you just need to match the hip bag to the rest of your look.
And unlike a purse, you won’t be tempted to put down a concealed carry bag because it needs to be taken off entirely and, if properly adjusted with a reasonable amount of weight inside, will be comfortable enough that you won’t want to remove it constantly.
That attachment to your body also keeps the bag and everything inside in a more stable position so that it’s easier and more efficient to get to anything you have inside, like a gun. Unlike a purse hanging from a strap on or across your shoulder, a classic hip bag is attached at your waist and likely to your thigh, so dropping your hand into it is mostly the same no matter how much you’ve been moving around.
Since they’re still a bag, though, hip bags still require many of the same considerations that purses and other off-body carry methods have. It’s imperative that the gun has its own pocket accessible and easy to open.
The opening should be large enough to fit not just your gun and not just your hand, but your hand fisted around the grip of your gun in a full firing grip. That way, when you go to draw your gun, you don’t have to wriggle it out with a compromised grip that can mean you’re in danger of dropping the gun or shooting it badly and missing the attacker you so desperately need to hit to protect yourself.
It’s even better if that pocket has a holster for your gun secured inside. The holster will help keep the gun in a predictable orientation so that when you reach into the pocket, you know exactly where the gun will be inside it.
It’ll also protect the trigger from being accidentally pulled by your hand digging around in the pocket, or by other items that may be inside other pockets of the hip bag. Even if that lip balm or pen are in a different pocket from your gun, they can still interact with the trigger if the fabric between them is too flimsy, or if you’re pressed up against something that pushes things around in just the wrong way.
With the advantages of putting your hip bag-carried gun in a real holster or trigger guard, there’s no reason to take the safety risk of not having one.
And while hip bags are intended to stay attached, you should always have a plan in mind to secure yours if you might need to take it off.
They can be bulky and make it difficult for you to sit down in tight seats, and they can still bounce around enough that you might not want to leave it on when you’re being very active. And just like a purse, being in friendly environments like home (yours or a friend’s) make it socially awkward to keep your hip bag attached to you.
The practical and social pressures to separate yourself from your bag can be strong — and reasonable. You could come up with arguments to keep your bag attached, but they might make you stand out, which might lead to someone paying more attention to you or suspecting that you’re carrying something especially valuable, gun or not.
Either way, you should come up with a way to lock up the entire bag, and not just the gun pocket, if and when you have to remove it from your body. Making it difficult for an unauthorized person to reach in and just get the gun is a start, but won’t prevent them from stealing the entire bag and taking the time to get into that pocket later on.
Worse, if that pocket is locked when you actually need your gun, you’ll waste precious time opening it and may not be able to draw it in time to defend yourself. In this way, a hip bag isn’t so much different from true off-body carry because it’s easily removable in a way that regular clothing isn’t.
It’s easier to keep on you and takes away a lot of the downsides, but not every single one of them.
BEST CONCEALED CARRY FANNY PACKS
Vertx SOCP Tactical Fanny Pack
Vertx makes some awesome CCW bags, and the SOCP Tactical Fanny Pack is one of their best. With loads of room, you can fit not only a Glock 19 but also a small IFAK and ammo. It even has a dedicated cell phone band on the outside.
Able to be worn across the chest or around the waist, Vertex gives you some carry options.
The main pocket that stores the pistol also has velcro, so you can attach a mini-holster. Vertex’s Tactigami accessories are perfectly matched for this.
One major thing going for the Vertex Fanny Pack is that it doesn’t carry a very “tactical” look from the outside. If you’re looking for a bag that blends into the background a bit more, this is a great option. While a knowing eye might spot this for what it is, at least it doesn’t have MOLLE all over it.
Loops on the zippers are large and easy to use, but this pack isn’t the fastest to open.
MSRP is $99.
5.11 LV6 Waist Pack 2.0
One of the new bags from 5.11 is the LV6 Waist Pack 2.0. This is a bit bigger and bulkier than others, but that comes with the ability to carry a whole lot more EDC items that you might want to have handy.
This is also a multi-role pack. While it fits great as a fanny pack, it also can connect to some of the newer 5.11 backpacks as a separate extra bag. It also comes with straps to wear as a sling pack over the shoulder or across the chest, so you’re not limited to only the classic Dad-At-Disneyland look.
I love the LV6 for its incredible versatility. While totally apt as a CCW holder, it also works as a woods bag or even a hunting bag. The extra room inside gives tons of space for a small IFAK, fire starter, hunting tags, extra ammo, and more.
For a more EDC set up, you can fit a multi-tool, Glock 17, tourniquet, and more.
The wide straps also make the pack comfortable to wear, even if you weigh it down with gear.
Downsides of the pack are that it is not totally optimized for CCW. The main pocket isn’t as crazy fast to open as some other packs offer, and the angle of the pistol isn’t as ergonomic to draw.
Inside the main pocket on one side is velcro, so you can use a velcro mounting holster to keep the pistol safe.
While a full-size pistol can fit, I find it easier to draw and use the pack if I’m using a smaller gun like a Glock 19 or even a P365XL.
MSRP is $42.
5.11 Select Carry Pistol Pouch
Reminiscent of a medieval “coin purse,” the 5.11 Select Carry Pistol Pouch is low profile and minimalistic. Three pockets, one large enough to and designed to fit a pistol and two smaller pockets for things like keys or loose change.
The gun pocket is surprisingly large and able to fit a full-size gun like a Glock 17, SIG P320, Beretta 92FS, or CZ-75. This pistol pocket also packs elastic loops for two magazines – however, if you try to fit full-size magazines and a full-size pistol into the pouch, things get a little tight. And heavy.
The extra pockets come in handy for normal EDC items.
I’m a big fan of the extra wide belt on the 5.11 bags because it helps spread the weight on your body and keeps the whole system in place easier.
Huge advantage this design has is the pistol pocket also features a quick open tab. Grip it and rip it to expose your CCW for a fast draw. This also opens the pocket enough for you to actually get a full, firm master grip on the gun. MSRP is only $42.
Elite Survival Systems Hip Gunner
For a bare-minimum style, Elite Survival Systems Hip Gunner might be for you. On the small side, at only 9.5” wide, 5” tall, and 2” deep, the Hip Gunner is suited for small pistols only – think P365 or smaller. You can physically fit a slightly larger gun, but after you include a small holster and maybe a magazine, you’ll find yourself out of room.Waist straps are also on the smaller side, so this pack won’t carry weight as well as others or be as comfy for a long wear.
That said, it’s low-profile and doesn’t stand out.
Inside the main pocket are a velcro strap and a small universal holster that will fit the most common sub-compact and micro-compact pistols. This makes it easy to use, gives you a good draw, and means you won’t have to buy extra parts.
MSRP is $60.
Longtucky Supply Hybrid Fanny Pack
I’ve been using a Longtucky Supply Hybrid Fanny Pack for almost a year, but only sometimes for CCW. The magic of this bag is that it fits almost any role you want it to fit. For me, I’ve been using it (mostly) for long range precision shooting matches – both PRS and NRL: Hunter. Able to fit my Kestrel cleaning supplies, tools, and two .308 AICS magazines this pack has a lot of room and a lot of options.
Designed to hold either 2 rifle magazines or 4 pistol magazines, the Longtucky Supply pack also has room for a compact pistol (Glock 19-ish size), extra EDC items, and a dedicated tourniquet loop.
The TQ might stand out a little for EDC, but it’s great to have if you use the pack as a go-bag or competition bag.
Inside the main pocket is velcro for a small holster, or a simple Kydex trigger guard works great.
Some very low-profile MOLLE on either side of the pack gives you some great options to expand on what you carry. This pack can also be worn across the chest with the addition of an extra strap.
I’ve put my Longtucky Supply Hybrid Fanny Pack through hell in the past year, and it has held up amazingly well. From extensive personal experience, I highly recommend it.
UUB Phoenix Hip Bag
A big change in look and style from the others, the UUB Phoenix is no less suited for CCW. Don’t let the looks fool you, this is a tactical bag for sure.
While designed to be primarily on the hip like a drop holster, this can convert for over-the-shoulder wear like a traditional purse or as a backpack. With huge pockets that can hold everything short of the kitchen sink, this is a bag that can do anything and hold anything.
From IFAKs to school supplies, this is a big bag.
A flap with magnets conceals the gun pocket giving you something that is secure and easy to open. Add a mini-holster on the inside or a Kydex trigger guard, and this is ready to go.
Wearing the Phoenix on the hips puts it in the perfect place for a fast draw and feels natural. Large straps keep it wearing all day without too much stress, but the brass clips, while looking great, aren’t always the best on hot days.
The Phoenix has a look and design that won’t appeal to everyone, but it’s a solid bag that gets the job done. MSRP is $160.
Even though we’re in a golden age of concealment knowledge and products, even when it’s possible to carry on-body, it’s not always simple and it’s not always preferred.
Off-body carry seems simpler, but the many downsides may not outweigh the singular upside of not having to dress around the gun. Hip bags, though? They can be the perfect compromise solution since they’re worn, hands-free, but act as their own concealment mechanism.
The only trick? Making sure that they fit your personal style and that you don’t forget some of the purse carry considerations that carry over because the gun won’t be attached directly to your body or your clothing.
More on Concealed Carry
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