A number of arms representatives mentioned a recent increased demand for smaller handguns for "protection." To appeal to this market, Ruger, Colt, Kimber and others introduced smaller handguns at this year's SHOT Show. Makers of concealed carry holsters also marketed to this growing niche. Maybe it's because I was living in Texas when it became easy to get a concealed carry license or because I now live in New York where it isn't—but I am continually fascinated by the ways one can wear a gun without looking like it.
Robert Gould of the holster makers Gould & Goodman told me that there are three main things to assess when looking for a concealed carry holster: your body type, the clothes you wear, and the gun you use. "Holsters are such a personal thing that you really need to put thought into it," Gould said over a table of rubber guns and leather holders.
It isn't a surprise that someone with a larger build, loose-fitting clothes, and a tiny handgun will have an easier time concealing it than a petite-framed, cat-suit-clad individual packing a Smith & Wesson Governor (I'm not sure why one would need to carry around a revolver that shoots shotgun shells but anything is possible).
I examined several varieties of concealed carry undershirts like the Packin' Tee and UnderTech that store the firearm on one side of the body under the arm, but the best option for under-arm placement might be the Deep Conceal CCW Shoulder Holster. Like other under-arm holsters, it affords access whether the wearer is sitting or standing but unlike many options, it is highly adjustable and accommodates a range of body types. Its holsters can hold firearms ranging in size from the smallest Colt Mustang to the enormous Desert Eagle. The latter gun is what Deep Conceal inventor Steve Morrow wore when he demonstrated the holster for core77. Beneath a velcro-fastened dress shirt, the gun was hidden and easily accessible.
Steve Morrow demonstrating the Deep Conceal
One of the more ingenious holsters I found is the FlashBang. For ease of access and lack of pocket space, I often stick my iPhone in my bra and the Flashbang holster works essentially the same way—but for a handgun. Developed by Lisa Looper of Looper Law Enforcemnet LLC, the FlashBang snaps over the mid-chest section of a bra enabling easy concealment and relatively easy access. The Flashbang has been so popular that Looper recently launched four other holster styles geared specifically towards women.
Lisa Looper wearing four (plastic) firearms
When I met her, Looper was wearing no fewer than four firearms (all rubber and purely for demonstration purposes). I asked if I could try out the Flashbang and she said, "absolutely!"
Barbara Wearing the Flashbang
The holster didn't feel particularly comfortable but the tiny rubber pistol was effectively concealed. Depending on one's priorities, the discomfort of the Flashbang could be overcome by the security of having one's handgun close at hand.
I'm not sure I would be mentally at ease wearing a pistol beneath my clothes every day but to a degree I can understand the appeal. The gun hidden in my bra was a fake but I still felt a weird little power buzz knowing that it was there. That it was a secret.
More from the SHOT Show 2012:
Barbara Eldredge is a design writer and researcher living in New York City. An MFA candidate in SVA's Design Criticism program, Eldredge has spent the past year exploring the relationship between design, guns, museums and morality for her forthcoming master's thesis.