This bra holster, called the Flashbang, gets a lot of press in the male dominated gun world because of its novelty, but it only fits a few specifica body types well, and even then it tends to pinch and jab the wearer. This article is an overview of several other concealed carry options for women, as well as the bra holsters, using products found at The Well Armed Woman, a company dedicated to the specific needs of women shooters, owned by NRA trainer Carrie Lightfoot.
If you click the picture you will see this pistol concealed using an inside the waistband holster called The Betty. It has an adjustable cant and doesn’t stick up as high as a lot of IWB holsters, made for women who have shorter torsos than men, as well as a different outward shape.
The belly band is probably the most universal holster off the belt for women of several body types. Shown here with a Smith & Wesson Airweight .38 Special, the belly band allows a draw from several different positions.
Jenna Howell, one of our testers who graciously allowed us to take pictures of her in various states of undress (nothing more revealing than an episode of the Kardashians), felt that the belly band could be used with several types of shirt cuts that allow for different loose place to conceal a gun. The nice thing is that with an untucked shirt you don’t have to worry about the gun showing when you bend over. This is the 4″ belly band with the Springfield XD-S 9mm.
The soft foam of the TWAW ankle and thigh holsters was a pleasure for all of our testers. This garter for the ankle holster holds the weight of the firearm so you don’t feel like you are swinging a sand bag around on your foot.
This was the only way we could photograph the thight holster with a sense of modesty. You wouldn’t wear it with a short skirt like this of course. It is meant for a long skirt, but you can see the way the garter for the holster hangs on the hip. For both of these holsters we used the Kahr P380.
Thunderwear has been around for a lot of years, and this is a special TWAW version made for the hips of a woman. It holds the gun just under the pants line, so there is nothing to stick out. It is perfect with a mini-skirt where the “package” doesn’t print, and there is room for keys, money, and a spare magazine in the side you aren’t using for a gun.
This is a side picture of the Flashbang bra holster from a TWAW customer. It fits her great and it is concealable.
After wresting with the different straps and trying the holster with different bras in different positions, we concluded that it was not the product for Jenna.
Technically the holster works, but it is very uncomfortable and not very concealed with anything but a loose shirt, which this is not. The biggest downside is that drawing the gun from the holster quickly takes too much force, enough to damage the bra. Note the handmade necklace.
The other bra holster is called The Marilyn. Theoretically it sits on the side of the bra cup with the sharing the cup with the breast. There are some web pics up there of very large breasted women using this successfully, but none of our test models, even D cups, could get it to work as advertised.
Switching to a shorter strap we got it to work for Jenna as something like a shoulder holster rig.
Even in this configuration it would take some adjusting and experimentation to become usable for concealed carry.
Jenna is an experienced shooter living in the wilds of back country central Florida. All of these products would require extensive practice with drawing and firing quickly, just in case you jump a den of Coyotes and mama comes after you. Only the belly band made both the concealment and the draw easy and comfortable. But just a woman’s actual wardrobe, a wardrobe of concealed carry options, some comfortable, some not, is just part of the female equation.
The Well Armed Woman
Carrying a gun as a woman is nothing like carrying a gun as a man. Men can get away with wearing the same thing almost every day, and loose and comfortable men’s clothes naturally lend themselves to belt or front pocket carry of a firearm. Even men’s shorts generally have numerous deep pockets and a belt. A woman who wants to carry a gun every day has to navigate pants, shorts, skirts, dresses, and enough different types of tops to make your head spin. Very few of them have the cut and support to hide a firearm. Most women’s clothes are form fitting by design, and unless a woman wears bluejeans every day, there is no guarantee that any garment is going to have any waist support at all. We found an interesting company called “The Well Armed Woman” owned and run by Carrie Lightfoot, an active NRA certified trainer who works with women. Facing frustration with the male holster world, Carrie has found, modified and even created a whole bunch of products made just for the concealed carry needs of a woman. Female wardrobes being what they are, there is no way that a woman can just buy and use one option for concealed carry. CCW for a woman also requires a “wardrobe” of sorts. The holster you use for jogging isn’t going to work at the office, and the holster you use at the office isn’t going to work out on the town. We tried a number of options, including the belly band, a thigh holster, a camisole with holster built in, and even the famed inside the bra holster. Every option has its place, but on a limited budget you’ll have to choose a couple that fit most situations.
This amount of mis-information is staggering when it comes to women’s CCW. One woman on Youtube who did a video on the Flashbang bra holster actually tells you to buy a dummy gun, as if practicing your draw with an unloaded J-Frame revolver is less safe. OMG! That is why, for this article, we started with the videos at the TWAW website, then asked Carrie to get some actual reviews from her customers, and send us some physical products to try. Overall, it was clear that all the women who have used these products developed their own preferences for not only how to wear them, but what to wear them with. That was also our experience with asking some women to try the products that Carrie sent. Body types have everything to do with preference for specific products, as well as how these products are used. What works really well for a 5′ tall 105 lb. woman won’t work for someone 5′ 6″ and 150 lbs. , and that is only the beginning of the female CCW spectrum. If you think about it, Nordstrom, Macys, Bloomies, and even Wal-Mart and K-Mart all have different types of clothes for different types of female figures, and so does the world of concealed carry. This is just a basic overview. If you Google around on all of these products you will find advice from hundreds of women online with hundreds of different body types and physical preferences. This overview is meant as an introduction to the issues, not a sales pitch for any product or products. This stuff isn’t cheap, so do your homework before you buy.
IWB (Inside the Waistband)
By far the most popular method of concealed carry for women is inside the waistband, wearing some kind of belted or tight waisted pants, like jeans or khakis. If you can get away with belted pants, concealed carry of a firearm will be a lot easier for you than it is for women who have to wear an office or sporty wardrobe. But even on the belt, you will find that male IWB holsters don’t have the right cant for women, and they ride too high and stick into a women’s ribs. “The Betty” is a special IWB holster made just for women. It has an adjustable can’t that is a favorite of TWAW customers, and it fits a women’s figure much better than male holsters that look the same, but sit higher. And at $49, it is reasonably priced. The adjustable cant makes it so that the holster can be worn in the front, at the side, or in the back, with the right angle for a quick draw. TWAW customer Ginger Gallagher says, ” I use The Betty every day. There are times of the day that I must employ other modes of carry, such as yoga class, bellydance or acupuncture, but the moment I can, I immediately change back to The Betty. Absolutely hands down everything that I had expected. The strength of the clip is fantastic. I love the adjustable cant. I’m happy to pay the price to get something that really works for me. Great value. Certainly a must have holster.”
The Betty can also be used inside the top of a boot with a small gun. It is a simple clamshell Kydex design and is available for nearly all the concealed carry guns on the market, including some of the larger ones like the XD-S, PPS, and Bersa. Our test holster came for the Walther PPS, which we used for a giveaway by mistake oops. Several customer reviews praised The Betty though, and it seems like a very good, sturdy and useful design.
TWAW also sells a magnet holster that we were sent to review but that somehow got misplaced before our pictures. It is meant to be worn with sweat pants, jogging shorts and other garments that don’t have a rigid waist, but which can handle the weight of a small firearm. Our test holster worked great with the Kahr P380 and J-Frame .38, and because it doesn’t have a clip, you can position it where you want. The magnet on these holsters is made from rare earth minerals and they don’t lose their magnetism, but they are a little scary at first to get used to just because the magnets are so strong. At $50.99, they come in three sizes for most guns, and if you have several firearms of relatively the same size that you like to carry, the magnet holsters are the most affordable and versatile multi-gun option.
Belly Band Holsters
Once you have made the decision to carry a gun, it is very difficult to leave the gun at home, because you feel like you are inviting a Murphy’s Law incident where you absolutely need to use your gun. For slim people, and even some chubby people the ultimate “catch all” kind of holster is the elastic belly band. TWAW makes them in two sizes, 4″ and 5″, $41 and $43 respectively, and the size you need depends on your body, your gun, and your preference for comfort. If you don’t want the barrel of the gun jabbing you when you bend over, and you carry anything but a micro-380, you probably will want the 5″. The nice thing about the belly band is that you can wear it with just about any loose shirt or blouse. It won’t expose like a waist holster when you bend, or if a gust of wind blows your shirt up, and it can hold keys and extra magazines as well. The TWAW belly bands come with both left and right hand draw holsters sewn in, so assuming you don’t want to go Demi Moore on someone using two guns, whichever side you aren’t using can be used as storage for other things. We tested the 4″ version with a Kahr P380, a Springfield XD-S 9mm and a S&W J-Frame .38. All of guns fit well, drew easily, and seemed secure. The XD-S and J-Frame stuck out of the bottom a bit on the 4″ but probably would be contained in the 5″. Carrying a gun for a slim woman is kind of a nightmare no matter what holster you use, but this can be worn low with a loose shirt without having to compromise the ability to wear something form fitting. A woman with a few more pounds can carry it above the belly and below the breasts, without having to deal with the bra holsters, which we’ll get to.
TWAW customer Charlotte Niebuhr gives some pretty good tips in her comments: ” The belly band is fairly comfortable. It is important to position it so the edges of the Velcro line up with each other to avoid chafing. The amount of stretch is a good balance between enough firmness to hold a small pistol securely, and yet avoid restricting my breath. There is some movement when I am jogging but it doesn’t feel as though the gun will come out. Since the bottom of the holster pocket is open to allow for different sizes of guns, I do have to adjust the position of the muzzle occasionally to avoid chafing or poking. I may sew the bottom of the opening closed since the 238 is short enough not to protrude beyond the bottom. In short, it is a versatile and affordable option for activities or clothing where waist carry isn’t possible, but it’s not a perfect solution. As most of us know, that is hard to find. I think a belly band is a good addition to any holster collection, regardless of gender, as long as the wearer realizes that some practice drawing is very important.”
Our experience with the TWAW belly band was that it is extremely adaptive to different body types, for both men and women A belly band isn’t going to be the quickest and most versatile draw, but when nothing else works, a belly band is a way to take your gun along when you otherwise couldn’t. The TWAW belly band holsters come in both skintone and black.
Ankle and Thigh Holster
Most options for women that are not IWB are made simply because the majority of women’s garments don’t have the ability to hold the weight of a gun. This is especially true of elastic waisted skirts and dresses, which of course have no waist. If you tend to wear loose skirts and dresses, one of the few modes of carry that will fit your wardrobe are ankle and thigh holsters. Thankfully they are also among the most comfortable of all of options, and the TWAW models of both of these holsters are way ahead of the Al Capone style ankle holsters you think of from the movies. To start with, both of the TWAW holsters have a garter to hold them up. This makes a huge difference, because a regular ankle holster can feel like you are walking around with a sandbag attached to your leg that is gradually working its way down, on the way to off. The garter makes it so the weight of the firearm sits on your calf, or on your waist for the thigh holster. The draw is somewhat compromised, but that is true of nearly every mode of concealed carry for women.
For our test holsters, the $57.99 TWAW ankle holster was by far the most popular of all. It can be worn low or high, and the garter, secured on the top part of the calf, holds the rig in place securely even while jogging. Our testers, as well as many of the TWAW customer reviews, felt that the ankle holster could be worn low with flare jeans or loose khakis as well as it could with a skirt or dress, but like a man’s ankle holster, pants are going to significantly increase your draw time. In a gunfight, with a skirt or dress, you can draw and shoot. With pants, the better advice would be to find cover, draw and shoot. Even with practice it is all too probable that the pants could get hung up on the holster, preventing a draw.
Darlene Aspinwall, a TWAW customer who has worn the ankle holster for about 6 months says, “I find the holster very comfortable, except for one time I wore my short boots and the boots came up half way on the gun and the boots pushed a little on the gun and it became uncomfortable while walking around shopping, so I don’t carry on the ankle when wearing those boots, so this had nothing to do with the holster itself just my shoe choice. Love it, Love it, Love it, so comfortable I could wear it all day and you forget you are even carrying, I really like the top strap extension this helps with the holster not falling down. If you wear slim fitting shirts and cannot carry IWB then you can wear this with most pants as long as they are not tight fitting, I can wear this with jeans and Kaki’s. I was concerned that I would need to adjust the holster during the day, but have never had to adjust the holster during my outings. The holster can be adjusted to fit many leg sizes so this is a plus. I am very glad there are products out there made just for women; I did a lot of shopping around when first buying my concealed carry holsters ….thank you TWAW for making these holsters available to women. ”
The Bond Girl’esque thigh holster is meant to be worn just above the knee, and the garter goes around your waist. This is similar to the leg drop holsters that you see in the getup of special forces soldiers, but they don’t have to lift a skirt or dress to get at their guns, while on duty at least. Having to lift a skirt all the way up to the thigh makes the chance of the gun peeking out extremely unlikely, but depending on the garment, it can be a lot of cloth to have to navigate to get to your gun, or conversely, a thin skirt or dress may print the gun noticeably. Nonetheless it is a great option for girls who like to dress really girly, without having to give up the security of carrying a firearm that can be drawn quickly. The thigh holster is made of the same soft foam material as the TWAW ankle holster, so it is comfortable, but we weren’t able to test the durability on either of these holsters long term, and that could be an issue. The garter on the thigh holster is not as well secured as the ankle holster. It relies on a loop instead of a sewn patch, and the garter belt tends to fold over. At $68.99 for the thigh holster with the garter, it could be done a little better, but with the limited options out there for women, good enough is good enough.
Garment Holsters & Thunderwear
The coolest of all these products are two garment holsters made by TWAW. One is a camisole with two holsters sewn under the arms. The other is a pair of compression shorts that resemble Spanx, or biking shorts, and they likewise have two holsters sewn in. Both products are $70 each, and both products are made of a high quality Spandex type of material that is expensive in any women’s garments in which you find it. Jenna Howell, our model for a lot of these pictures, felt that the cami was the one product, besides the ankle holster, that fit her way of dressing casually. We weren’t able to test the compression shorts, but most women are familiar with Spanx, and that is what these most resemble. With holsters for two small firearms, a woman’s best friend is really a woman’s best friend.
Thunderwear is an old product that Carrie has updated with the company for use by women. It hangs on the hips and rides the gun in the crotch. Both sides are sewn into holsters, so you can carry cash, keys, or an extra magazine in the side you are not using. The most practical use of TWAW Thunderwear we found is with a denim miniskirt. The “package” isn’t obvious, and you can wear a bikini or tank top without the need to involve your waistline at all. This is a perfect product for the woman who wants to go to a biker festival or county fair and feel protected, without having to dress around your concealed weapon. This is a comment from Elaina Bonar, who has used the Thunderwear product with a Smith & Wesson Airweight for over 3 months since purchasing it from TWAW.
“This holster is fantastic for wearing with active wear and pants that you can’t wear a belt with. It does not move or bounce at all while running. Don’t make the mistake of wearing the strap too tight or it will ride up to the waist. The holster sits very comfortably on the hips and won’t go anywhere when comfortably secure. I found this to be better than hip holsters because it doesn’t dig into my skin and is easier to conceal my firearm. Despite it’s gimmicky name, this holster works really well for carrying a gun in a preferred position while being active.”
We saved these for last because they tend to get the most press in the male dominated gun world, and bra holsters just aren’t for everyone. The premise of a bra holster is that the bra is already a support harness. Adding another pound or two shouldn’t be that much of an issue, but it isn’t that simple. With the most popular bra holster, the $49.99 Flashbang, the gun is secured with a leather strap from the middle of the bra, and the gun actually rides under the breast, or breasts, depending on how you conceal it. Theoretically, you then reach up and violently draw the gun directly down and out of the Kydex clamshell holster. Does the product work as advertised? Generally yes, but really only with large soft breasts. Even a firm C-cup is going to have issues with getting the gun to rest correctly under the breast where is the most securely concealed. Lots of women like the Flashbang, because if you have the right body type it can be very comfortable, and the firearm is well concealed. You don’t actually have to flash someone to get the gun out as the product names suggests, but the gun doesn’t come out as easily as you would like either.
“I purchased one about a year ago, and one about nine months ago.” explains Bo Roberts, after she saw a video on Youtube. “So far, with my J-frame revolver, the Flashbang has worked with every shirt that I have tried. With my Glock, I like to wear a cute little tanktop under a western blouse. I use this method least, but it is great when there is no other way with certain outfits. It is too hot where I live to wear it in the summer. I had to buy all new bras to accommodate the holster/gun combo. It doesn’t just fit in any bra.”
Sonja Starkey, who provided some of the pictures here with the Flashbang, says, “I love the Flashbang, much better than anything in the pocket or pants. I find it less bulky and easier to conceal. I use this every time I carry now. Make sure to get a bra with a smaller width between the cups. Great product, very comfortable. The only thing I find is the butt of the gun digs in a little when sitting, so I’d love a piece of cloth to sit between the gun and my skin. I tend to stretch my back a lot, and it might show just a little when doing so. I have to research this further to be sure. I felt so much safer having a gun on me than in my purse or center console, like I could easily get to it if the need arose.”
Those are along the lines of a half a dozen other reviews from TWAW customers on the Flashbang. The holster has gotten a lot of exposure and they have sold a good deal of them, but almost universally everyone who carries with it offers some kind of inside advice as to how they got the holster to work for them, because it isn’t an out of the box product that just works for everyone. Our model Jenna didn’t like it at all, and it didn’t fit her body type at all. Yet others swear by it. Again, look around the internet for comments on articles like this, and some of the discussion boards have interesting threads as well.
The other bra holster that Carrie sent us is called the Marilyn, We were not able to install it the way it shows in the pictures on the website, though looking around the web, a few people have found bras and body types that work correctly with the product. The idea of the Marilyn is to position it on the side of the bra so that the butt of the gun is sticking out of the top of the bra cup, slightly under the arm. However we found that with several women, from B cups to large D cups, the Marilyn with the gun sticking out of the top of the bra was not what anyone would call concealed carry. We installed the Marilyn instead so that it could be drawn from under the side of the bra strap, resembling a shoulder holster. In this function the Marilyn worked well, and could be concealed as easily as any other shoulder holster type of product you would find in the men’s CCW world.
For both of these products there is rarely any mention of practicing the draw, or wear and tear on the bra. A regular bra from Victoria’s Secret is generally around the same price as one of these holsters, and drawing the gun repeatedly can take some serious wear and tear on the overall structure and support of the bra itself, even to the point of ruining a brand new bra. The Flashbang we used was made for the Kahr P380, and it is not easy to get the gun out at all without tearing the bra. None of our in-house reviewers thought that either of the bra holsters were terribly comfortable, nor did either of them work with tshirts, tank tops, or any tight fitting garment whatsoever. Boob pictures on the internet get a lot of interest and probably sell a lot of bra holsters, but there are far better options for the vast majority of women.
Purses, Bags, Packs Etc.
Outside the scope of this article is the subject of carrying a gun that is not on the person. We took a look at some really nice concealed carry bags back at SHOT Show, and Carrie sells several brands that have been vetted for good usability. A CCW bag is something that has a holster somehow built into the structure of the bag. This can be an actual holster, or just a hidden compartment. Generally, carrying a firearm in a handbag is not going to be your best option. Handbags get left places, and they are the most common target of snatch and grabs while walking on the street, and smash and grabs when left in the car. If someone steals your bag, they also steal a nice new, and loaded, gun. Sometimes handbag carry is your only option, and you just have to be super aware that you can’t let that bag out of your possession at all. Bags are a big deal to many women and if you can’t find a CCW bag you like, take a look at the $60 Recluse Holster, or even the $25 pocket holster from DoubleTap. The Recluse allows you to separate the firearm from the holster without anything securing the holster, yet it provides full trigger protection. The DT holster is just plain old useful, and can be drawn and shucked from a purse just like you would from a pocket. Most “Coach” and “Mark Jacobs” style bags have a side pocket, and either holster could be secure to the bottom of the pocket to fall free on the draw, no special CCW purse required. DoubleTap also makes a neck holster for small guns. This is always an option for women and men.
We are hoping that Carrie Lightfoot will bring some of her expertise for a regular column here at GunsAmerica, because there are all kinds of nuances to shooting and concealed carry for women that can only be discovered and explained by a woman. This is an official introduction to The Well Armed Woman, and you should take some time and watch the videos on the website. The biggest growth in the firearms market in the past several years has been with women shooters. Firearms are the great equalizer among men, and now among the fairer sex. Please comment below and let us know what you’d like to see next!