Shooting From Off-Body Carry: The Man-Purse Test

I make an effort to read the comments on every article I write or video I post on YouTube. I want to know if there is something that a reader or viewer is left asking themselves that I can answer. I also appreciate that it offers you a chance to disagree with me or take me to task about what I have put out there. Some of the time I am left scratching my head, not knowing what to say or do. I get my share of trolls and I think this quote sums up my response to them really well.

“When I was a Cop I was taught if I build a WEAK case the defense team will attack the case. But, if I build a STRONG case, they will attack me. The internet is the same. I make a good case with the info in my videos so the haters attack me on a personal level. I would let this upset me but I get distracted living my f**king awesome life. That is how I know I win”. -James Yeager

You asked for it. What happens when you fire a gun from inside a bag designed for off-body-carry.

You asked for it. What happens when you fire a gun from inside a bag designed for off-body-carry.

Sometimes a comment on an article or video inspires another one. This article is in direct response to a comment left by Nick Shoup JULY 6, 2015, 9:44 AM on the post Shooting Revolvers and Autos From the Pocket here on GunsAmerica.com, “I look forward to this study being done with a man purse.”

My editor, David Higginbotham, and I both agreed this comment was worthy of more than just a reply.

If you intend to have this in your bag-of-tricks, work with placement of your off-hand. Where can it go that is safe?

If you intend to have this in your bag-of-tricks, work with placement of your off-hand. Where can it go that is safe?

The Test

The test was designed to replicate what has been seen in the wild: a gun in man purse. I wanted to follow the same protocol we used when shooting from the pocket. Two guns: a pistol and a revolver, and two rounds. Next, we selected a man purse from inventory (aka what we had lying around.) On a side note…does anyone know if there is 12-step program for gear addicts?

Editor’s Note: The bag was an early version of this Optics Planet OPMOD bag. The bag would not be my first choice for daily carry, and I didn’t mind shooting it. Not that I had judged it too harshly–that was to come later.

The Taurus didn't run from the bag, mostly because of human error. But there are limitations.

The Taurus didn’t run from the bag, mostly because of human error. But there are limitations.

The Pistol

We chose the Taurus Millennium G2 in 9mm to test shooting from the bag. The plan was to fire 2 rounds to establish if the gun would fire and repeat.

We predicted the slide would stall, leaving us with a single shot pistol. The test was prepared and we began. Then…nothing. The gun would not fire from inside the bag! Upon careful inspection, we determined that the bag had caused the Taurus slide to move out of battery. This had rendered the G2 useless. Yes, we could have drawn the gun and cycled the slide, but that was not the test. And the OPMOD bag was a bit tight for a reliable draw.

What caused the slide to move out of battery? Higginbotham shoots a lot of guns. He has habits (some bad, some good). When he gripped the gun in the bag, his first inclination was to push out as he does when shoots normally. That push wasn’t enough to push a slide out of battery inside a coat, but the bag was stiff enough to cause trouble.

Could he have simply pulled back a bit and fired? Possibly. But when you are working on a drill like this, your brain is focused on all of the new and unknown elements, and your old habits take control of motor function. This closely mirrors what could happen under the duress of a self defense situation.

We did experiment with the gun in different positions, but only the most relaxed position allowed for the gun to fire. And then, like we had originally guessed, the slide stalled.

The Smith & Wesson worked as well from the bag as it did from the pocket.

The Smith & Wesson worked as well from the bag as it did from the pocket. Is there a better gun to shoot from concealment?

The Revolver

The S&W 642 hammerless in .38 Special was selected to perform the next test. We staged the gun in the untouched bag and began.

The gun was accessed and two shots were sent down range. The performance was unimpaired by the bag as evidenced by the sudden opening on the bottom of it! The one notable caveat was the tester’s hand was scorched by the blast from the 1.87” barrel. In other words, don’t try this at home. We’re talking burn-the-hair-off-your-knuckles scorch.

Did it work? Yes. Would it be an adequate way to shoot in a last-ditch self defense scenario? Possibly. But there are a couple of things we need to establish before we can say it was a success.

Shooting from a bag leaves a hole in the bag. We had hypothesized that this would occur. But what happens if there's stuff in the bag--like an extra mag or two?

Shooting from a bag leaves a hole in the bag. We had hypothesized that this would occur. But what happens if there’s stuff in the bag–like an extra mag or two?

Variables Not Tested

The test was conducted with an empty bag (except for the loaded gun). I feel sure if we had added the usual load found in most mag bags or purses it would have created several problems. First would be accessing the firearm with the added weight and volume of the gear. Second, the bullet could be deflected by items in the bag. This could be problematic for accuracy, the safety of the tester and any bystanders. What was that I said? Oh yes, don’t try this at home.

Conclusions

Objects in the bag could also have an even more deleterious effect on accuracy. Shooting from the pocket was hard enough–but then the bullet only had to pass through layers of cloth or leather. If you can point shoot well, you can connect from the pocket. But the bag is different.

The bag is built of a heavier nylon. the edges and seams are bound or taped, which creates more of an obstacle for the bullet. Accuracy from the bag, even with the revolver, was not what I’d consider good. At contact distances, the method could be reliable. Beyond that? I’d say no.

If you are going to carry in a bag, you need to plan on using a draw stroke. I will freely admit that shooting from the bag can be made to work with all the right conditions, but I would not bet my life on the stars aligning when I am in a violent encounter.

The Maxpedition bags are more expensive than the OPMODs, but the quality is noticeably better, too.

The Maxpedition bags are more expensive than the OPMODs, but the quality is noticeably better, too.

And what did we learn about the bag itself?

And now a post script, of sorts. We shot the old OPMOD because we had it around. It wasn’t anyone’s go-to bag for EDC. Both Higginbotham and I carry bags of one sort or another, and we’re both fond of the Maxpedition bags. While we’re not here to shit on the OPMOD, I have to make two observations. The first has to do with the sting pulls that guide zipper movement. They broke before we’d gotten to the live fire testing. As soon as we pulled the zipper with any force, we were dead-in-the-water, so to speak.

The second was less deadly. The hook-and-loop panels that hold the holster in the bag were not bound or taped. The edges are not as sharp as they are serrated. When you reach into the bag, you find the wall with the backside of your fingers. As you reach around the grip of the gun, your fingernails slide behind the hook-and-loop material. It is painful. Not as painful as getting shot, or stabbed, or bludgeoned, but it makes practice hell.

Trying to find a gun in this bag is no fun, as you slide these plastic-backed hook-and-loop panels under your fingernails. No lie--they draw blood. Shitty design.

Trying to find a gun in this bag is no fun, as you slide these plastic-backed hook-and-loop panels under your fingernails. No lie–they draw blood. Shitty design.

{ 16 comments… add one }
  • DEFENDER August 4, 2017, 6:01 am

    I ended up with a compromise that many will not like but works for me.Fanny Pack. Yeah, yeah – I know.
    But
    I can carry (comfortably) a bigger gun(9C v Shield IWB) with more capacity(almost double) – S&W M&P9C.
    I shoot M&P9 competition and the 9C shoots a lot more like my match gun.
    I also help with church security and worry about facing a mass shooter with a rifle.
    I can access it while in the car w/o having to take it off/out.
    I found IWB carry a pain in the A*s. At 70yo it tends to slide down now.
    Fanny Pack Fashion bonus! – at 70yo no one cares what you look like anyway.:)
    It does slow my draw from 1-2 sec to 2-3 sec but worth the compromise, 4me anyway.
    I carry the pack at 3 o-clock, similar enough to IWB at 4 o-clock.
    I rigged a holster(held in place vertical ) so the gun would sit in it but the holster does not come out of the bag on the draw.
    Gun comes out, holster stays in.
    So the draw is just like from IWB.
    IWB – Shield I had 8 + 1 + 8spare = 17 tot.
    Fanny Pac – M&P9C 12 +1+17spare = 30 tot.
    How did I get 17spare you say for a 9C? I carry a full size M&P Mag as a spare – yes it will fit the 9C.

  • Randy September 9, 2015, 7:10 pm

    Good rundown of this. I liked your article. I will also preface my next comment with “I’d rather be judged by 12 thank carried by 6”. THAT SAID…I would like to open the discussion that at least in PA it would be illegal to shoot from inside of a bag like you are describing in your test, even in self defense. Shooting from a bag, purse, pocket or otherwise covered contained turns the firearm into an AOW and you would be met with a whole host of other issues. I know this is PA but am not clear if it is across the board at the federal level. This is the same law that took the little desantis shoot through wallet holster for pocket 380’s that covered the gun with a flap of leather to cover to look like a wallet. The new version the entire slide is exposed above the holster with no flap. So you now have a shoot from holster that looks like a wallet in your pocket but is not covered enough to be firing from concealment. So there you have it…discuss….would I do it if I had to defend my family…YES… But the more you know…the better you can formulate your sd plan. Be safe all.

  • Mal Cap September 8, 2015, 4:33 pm

    I have a Maxpedition Fat Boy and still haven’t carried a pistol in it. I EDC a Smith Titanium Airlite since 2000. I never recommend an off-body carry for a handgun and never in a purse or bag. Video was certainly instructive.

  • Marco September 8, 2015, 9:08 am

    Nothing is perfect. I believe with more practice you would be more fluid as your technique was less than stellar with this test.
    Things I learned over the few yrs of carrying a Maxpedition Verispack Jumbo… nothing in the bag of value except the gun.
    What that means wallet, money, spare mags stay on the body, my bag was used as a diaper bag that could carry a firearm.
    Don’t carry the bag slung over your back, use the belt anchors so the bags stays secured at your side. Just because a Full sized firearm will fit doesn’t mean it’s the best choice.

    I also practiced drawing from it daily, and had the zipper and pull string re-enforced.
    Thanks for the video, it does shed light on potential problems.

  • aydene September 8, 2015, 8:11 am

    Well gentlemen, no self respecting woman, with a sense of style and comfort, carries a back pack over her arm for her purse. Meaning, leather is the only way to go for a good purse, man purse, or otherwise. The canvas may have a certain macho look to it, but holsters are best made out of leather, and a quality purse is also, thus, a purse is best built around its holster for her as well as for him. There are “his” purses. There are hang ups regarding carrying a man purse, but really, guys carry all manner of folios, business cases, work bags, etc.. As far as shooting through the purse holster ( pocket ) who gives a damn if you’re seeking to save life and limb. In the midst of violent confrontation and the increased adrenalin flow, one needn’t worry about a purse replacement. Oh, common sense dictates, don’t keep those extra mags in the same pocket as the gun. Besides, if you don’t down him with the first couple of shots – kick off those heels and run like hell.

  • Dale Hutchens September 7, 2015, 9:26 pm

    Hi: I like all of your articles, that being said you always will have someone talking out their ass cuz their head knows better.
    I am in a wheelchair and been looking for a way to carry my SW 40. I bought a fanny pack at Smoky Mountain Knife Works that has a holster inside with Velcro attach to it to position the weapon inside. It is a good idea except the fact the fanny pack is made of thin material. I can position the zipper to still conceal the weapon but leave me room to get my hand inside to reach the weapon. I am currently in search of someone who could make the same style bag on in leather. I also would like to see you do more articles for people like me who are in wheelchairs. Feel free to contact me.

  • William Campbell September 7, 2015, 3:25 pm

    Dude! Here in NC we have concealed carry LAWS !!! Plaid shirt, brown shoes, black purse? Your ass is going to JAIL.

  • Bill September 7, 2015, 3:19 pm

    Interesting article thanks for sharing. I feel compelled to comment on the number of times you “swept” yourself with your weapons. Please review the video and find a way to do what you do without risking damage to yourself. All the best!

  • Don Miller September 7, 2015, 11:50 am

    It would be nice if the accessories suppliers designed a shoulder bag for off body carry that would permit in position firing .I designed my own using a discarded binocular shoulder carry bag , walls and floor lined with 1/16 in plywood and a formed pocket support . Just not the best to carry on the beach , people have a tendency to ask for a quick see at the surroundings .

  • Matlock September 7, 2015, 10:46 am

    Great video, and like many others I agree with @Roberts comments on being purposeful and consistent with safety presentation. You guys obviously know quite a bit about guns and I know the ‘golden’ rules as well.. but as Robert pointed out, many viewers will just grab their firearm and try to reproduce the ‘practice/training’ portion of this video and do so with a loaded firearm. Again, great work and I’m sure you’ll receive the feedback for what it is, constructive.

    This video was very interesting for me as I carry at times with my 5.11 bag, a very similar design to the one you utilized in this video. I too find that drawing from the bag can be cumbersome and although mine doesn’t have the Velcro ‘nail destroying’ line in it.. the zip is difficult to use under pressure, even in training scenarios. Although I think it’s possible, though I had not trained or planned on using it that way, firing from within the bag is an option, I guess. I completely agree with you guys that it’s not the best option, for sure.

    Side note.. can we all agree to call the MAN BAGS.. instead of purses? Not to be insecure, but I really don’t prefer to carry a purse unless I’m holding the wife’s while she needs an extra hand. 😀

    Great video guys.. really appreciate the effort to get practical, real-world info out into the community.

  • Mikey September 7, 2015, 9:15 am

    With the semi, even if you had managed to get the first round off, you would not get a second round off. You would have had a FTE of the first round caused by the confined space of the bag. Revolvers only for this type of shooting.

    • Richard September 9, 2015, 3:36 am

      From what I think of the situation…. the handgun should be substituted with a brick. It would be a lot safer than trying to shoot through the bag with a semi-auto. The brick would inflict some serious pain on a mugger, rapist or robber. Many bad guys would attest to the damage an old lady could inflict with a heavy laden purse.

  • Robert September 7, 2015, 8:46 am

    Hey, man, just a comment that I think needs to be made. This is not an attack on you personally; it is meant to be some good firearms safety advice. In reference to the “Laser Rule,” you ‘lasered’ yourself several times over the course of this video. Given, it was mostly when you were loading the guns in you bag, or when you were demonstrating something with the gun supposedly unloaded; however, good firearms safety is only effective if practiced all the time. I know that you had your finger indexed along the frame, but to ensure that no accidents happen, all of the rules need to be followed. I want to encourage you to reenforce good weapon safety by practicing it in your videos. There are going to be many people who watch this video and mirror your example, so you could really influence a lot of people to do this the right way. Particularly when you are giving instruction on a technique that would be used in high-stress situation by people with relatively small amounts of training or practice, firearms safety should be paramount. By the way, I am not saying this to be a jerk, or to say that your video was without tactical merit. It was very interesting. I look forward to seeing more of your tactical technique videos.

  • Kim September 7, 2015, 7:10 am

    i have a bag very much like that. There is another area that can be used for concealed carry. It is in the very back of the bag. It’s more open and closes with just a snap. It is much easier to draw from that pocket than the zippered pocket shown in your video.

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