“Concealed”: Women Photographed with Guns (Being Unsafe)

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Houston, Texas, based photographer Shelley Calton recently decided to document the rising number of women who carry concealed handguns in a photographic series she aptly named “Concealed.” Calton is a native of the Houston area and recalls growing up around firearms; her father kept a pistol in the bedside table for home defense, and shooting tin cans was a common enough event which she participated in along with her two sisters. But as Calton got older, guns became less a part of her life, and it wasn’t until the day a rather concerning story was relayed to her that her interest was renewed.

The story that stirred her photographic interest took place in a hair salon: a woman visiting the salon was apparently carrying a pistol in her purse, and, somehow, a negligent discharge occurred, and the resulting bullet ricocheted around the room for some unknown length of time. Calton didn’t say why that story resulted in her deciding to draw attention to women with guns; my immediate reaction to the story was less than positive. For whatever reason the story inspired her, and photos from “Concealed” have been making their way around the internet.

Recent statistics show that, in the general population, just 15% of women own guns, and when you enter the gun world less than one-quarter of consistent shooters are women – and that’s a 51.5% increase since 2001. It’s fantastic more women are carrying guns. Women are definitely capable of becoming proficient shots and should absolutely learn to defend themselves instead of relying on someone else to always be there to shoulder that particular responsibility. And as an increasing number of women get involved with guns, a number of issues have cropped up, but there’s no way to get into them here. Today we’re going to focus on Calton’s photos.

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The series consists of 28 photos. Of those 28, 1 photo is of a bookshelf with a blurry gun in one corner, 3 don’t appear to show any gun whatsoever (hence “Concealed”), and in a few it’s hard to see details. And then there are the photos I found truly frustrating.

In one photo a revolver is shown stuffed in a slot in one of those over-the-door cloth shoe racks. Hopefully the photo was just for show, but even if it was you can be sure some woman (women) are going to see it and think how clever that is, and replicate it as a storage method. And in another photo it looks like the gun’s muzzle is pointing directly at one of the two women pictured. This may not seem like much to you, but photos of blatant disregard for basic safety do nothing whatsoever to help any of us. And as much as those two bothered me, there’s more – and worse.

Seven photos depict women with their fingers hooked over the trigger of their gun. There’s no doubt about it: their fingers are touching go, their booger hookers are on the bang switch, their trigger fingers are getting ready to give someone or something a lead injection. You get the idea. And as I brace for those who will rush to the comment section to condemn me for what they will deem an overly harsh judgment, I’m going to explain why this is a problem.

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We all know the golden rules of gun safety, one of which is…what? Keep your finger off the trigger until you’re on target. There’s a reason we keep that trigger finger straight and resting alongside our gun rather than bent and balancing on the trigger guard or, worse, on the trigger: safety. After all, accidents happen and the best way to stave off a horrific accident is by practicing safe gun handling techniques. It doesn’t matter how seasoned you are or how many years you’ve spent as a police officer, Grunt, or competitive shooter. You keep your finger off that trigger. And when we go ahead and show people practicing unsafe techniques in photos, we’re encouraging bad behavior.

Not only do those photos encourage bad behavior, they model it for people who don’t know any better, and many who will admire those photos are women. Women with little to no gun experience. They’ll see those photos and take it all in: the revolver “hidden” in the net pocket of the over-the-door shoe storage, the muzzle aimed at its owner’s legs, and, worse of all, seven women with their fingers on their triggers.

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This may seem a small thing, and I know someone is tapping furiously at their keyboard right now, ready to jump on the “stop being overly sensitive” bandwagon. It isn’t being overly sensitive to be concerned about gun safety, and it’s absolutely logical to believe some uneducated person will emulate what they see in those photos because they don’t know any better and will see no reason not to imitate women whom they believe to be experienced.

It’s fantastic that more women are getting involved in guns. When I visit my local range right now I’m almost always the only woman present, and it would be nice to see that change. I always encourage women to get (safely) involved with guns, and I am deeply adamant regarding the importance of our handling our own protection. But let’s be safe about it, please. A little safety goes a very long way, and though some will see these images as harmless, well, you might be surprised just how much harm a photograph can do.

Phil took this photo of me running a course recently, notice my finger?

Phil took this photo of me running a course recently, notice my finger?

See it for yourself: Concealed



katie.ainsworth

Katie is an avid shooter, hunter, military journalist, and Southern girl. Firearms are her passion whether at the range or on a spot-and-stalk after a big buck. She’s a staff writer at The Firearm Blog and writes about guns, hunting, and the military for various publications both online and in print such as Outdoor Life, Handguns, and Shooting Illustrated. Shoot her a message at ainsworth.kat@usa.com


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  • Gordon J Davis Jr

    Keep your booger hook off the boom switch!

    • DIR911911 .

      with all the eloquence of shakespear , love it

    • Katie A

      Exactly! 🙂

  • M.M.D.C.

    “…as I brace for those who will rush to the comment section to condemn me for what they will deem an overly harsh judgment…”

    I don’t think you’re being harsh and I doubt many here will condemn you for pointing at the problem. The trigger discipline police are pretty thick on the ground in interwebs land.

    I wholeheartedly agree with you about women handling their own protection. (I have been teaching my daughter to shoot.) If the word on the streets is that women have armed up then less women will be attacked. This photo series is a step in the right direction, bad trigger discipline and all.

    • Katie A

      I said it before and I’ll say it again, it’s fantastic women are getting more involved in firearms (you might notice I’m one). But I do think it’s a big negative these women were photographed in this manner. It means either the women holding those guns don’t really know what they’re doing or they don’t care about safety enough to refuse when told by the photographer to place their finger on the trigger. Safety is incredibly important, and I know I’m preaching to the choir, especially since you’re teaching your daughter (Which is extremely rewarding, isn’t it? Awesome!). As much as I love encouraging women to shoot and seeing more women shooting, it needs to be done safely, because accidents happen, and the last thing any of us want is to see someone maimed, crippled, or dead because an inexperienced shooter had their finger on the trigger at an improper moment. And think of the permanent emotional and mental damage it would do to the person who’d inadvertently pulled the trigger, also. I’m just disappointed these photographs weren’t done properly, because if they had been you can bet I’d be all over promoting them.

      • M.M.D.C.

        “Which is extremely rewarding, isn’t it?” You bet! Here’s my girl posing with her first “kill” AND demonstrating good trigger discipline. Boom!
        (Ear and eye pro taken off for the photo.)

        • Katie A

          Outstanding! Good for both of you! Not much greater than bringing up the next generation of proficient shooters.

        • Tassiebush

          Great picture M.M.D.C.! It’s a fantastic feeling and you are rightfully proud! I have really enjoyed teaching my daughter to shoot! I find her far safer and trustworthy than some of my adult male friends too.

        • Very cool!

  • echelon

    Step 1: Get women to ACTUALLY carry and use guns.
    Step 2: Get them to keep their fingers off the trigger…

    • Katie A

      The two can be managed concurrently. I’ve never taught someone the ropes of gun use without drilling basic gun safety into their heads before they even touched the gun. If an 8-year-old child can keep her finger off the trigger except when on target, so can adults.

      • echelon

        Calm down. This was not meant to be an offensive comment it was meant to be light hearted.

        The same thing can be said about a lot of men. I still see lots of fingers on triggers on various sites and vids…and most 80s and 90s action movies…

        • You can find men, women, military,police you name it and I’ve seen them hanging onto that trigger—just a combination of dumb and no or poor training.
          Oh she’s calm just passionate about the subject.

          • Katie A

            Yes, that and you’d know if I was angry…you wouldn’t like me when I’m angry… (this is better with green special effects)

        • Mike Price

          Nobody will take you serious if they see your finger isn’t on the trigger ready to shoot.

          • echelon

            I know right? I learned my guncraft from Willis, Stallone and Schwarzenegger and they taught me to:

            1. Always keep my finger on the trigger. Preferably with your fingertip all the way through and using the crease of your 1st knuckle to jerk the trigger.
            2. Fire from the hip/point shoot. Basically – don’t use the sights at all. They just slow you down. The bullets are basically human seeking so just let them do the work.
            3. Don’t worry about reloading or changing mags. They’re bottomless. And they’re really called “clips”.

    • Wetcoaster

      As long as the NDs happen far, far away from me, I guess that’s okay.

      Otherwise, I’d prefer they (and everyone) figure out the safety part first. (I and my health insurer would thank ’em for that).

      Mind you, given all the people driving cars and backing up without looking or merging without shoulder-checking, I don’t have particularly high hopes for that.

      • echelon

        That’s human nature. That’s why it’s still better to kit up and plan for the worst, hope for the best. You never know when someone’s gonna have their finger on a trigger or their head in a smartphone while driving…stuff happens.

        • Wetcoaster

          Buckling up is second nature and airbags (crush zones, roll cages) are built into cars, but wearing a vest all the time would get irritating (hot, heavy, awkward) rather quickly.

          • echelon

            I think you kind of missed my point, or rather may have taken it too far.

            By “kit up” I didn’t necessarily mean wear a vest. I meant carry a weapon for self defense. Basically just be prepared. Although I suppose one could choose to wear a vest were it of utmost importance. If I lived in Kabul or Compton for instance, I’d probably wear a vest.

            Planning for the worst is just a fancy way of saying “risk mitigation”. But buckling up is not second nature to a lot of people and all of the things built into cars are nice but I’d rather that they weren’t government mandated.

          • Ethan

            echelon, Westcoaster,
            Trauma Kit. Trauma Kit. Trauma Kit.
            This may be more important than your gun. Most gunshot wounds are survivable if you can do some simple things to stop the bleeding. Something I didn’t take seriously until I watched someone bleed out in minutes from an arm injury.

          • Wetcoaster

            If I could… well, I probably wouldn’t as there’ve only been a couple instances where I’ve worried about personal safety. Carrying a weapon for self-defense doesn’t mitigate the danger of being the victim of someone else’s ND (or a random shooting) at all.

            It’s certainly it’s place, but I don’t see where that would help much in this specific situation. Ethan’s suggestion is the best so far, I think. Also, some basic first aid is probably a better Phys Ed. module than four weeks of square dance.

            As for the cars, I don’t think we have a choice between gov’t mandated and well… have you seen the crash tests on the products of some of those fly-by-night Chinese carmakers?

            Most of us don’t have the engineering know-how to inspect a car’s design nor the resources to test multiple examples of a car to destruction or the ability to tear down and inspect a car on the dealer lot before buying it.

            Efficiencies of scale and all that.

          • echelon

            Sigh…

          • Wetcoaster

            I live in Victoria, BC so for one thing, it’s not a legal option and for another, the risk-benefit is pretty poor, unlike carrying a shotgun into bear country.

          • echelon

            I’m sorry you live in a place where the government willfully disarms you. I would respectfully disagree with your statement that the risk-benefit of carrying a firearm for self defense is poor. Millions of people do it everyday without nary a problem.

            But, like I stated previously, the world not being perfect and humans being human, things can and do happen so why not be prepared for the worst of it? I mean, how many flights take off and land everyday without a hitch? Does the occasional plane crash or tragedy make people not fly? No. Risk mitigation. People are required to wear seat belts and car companies are forced to put in airbags and such, but yet we can still choose to ride motorcycles…which last time I checked the government hasn’t mandated that an automatic bubble shield does not deploy to envelope the rider in the event of a crash so…again, risk mitigation.

            And again – I don’t want the government telling me how I can or can’t defend myself any more than I want them telling me how I can or can’t drive my car or mandating that a company do this or that.

            If I screw up or make a bad choice then I’m responsible for that, period. If a company makes a substandard product that maims or injures then they deserve to go out of business! Simple. Otherwise, people should be free to do as they please as long as they are not infringing on the inherent, natural rights of others in some tangible way!

            Cars would be so much cheaper and way more reliable and safe if the government were actually out of the equation! Why? Because then natural free market forces would be at play, not the artificial markets and practices created by a Corporate/State leviathan we have now…

          • Wetcoaster

            Right, risk mitigation requires weighing the risks accrued vs. the risks mitigated – in this specific situation (my daily life) the risks of (if available) daily carry are low (but non-zero), but so are the risks that it potentially mitigates (low but non-zero)

            Change the equation (if I lived or plan to pass through certain parts of town) or the situation, and the calculus will change (warmer weather and darkness always seems to bring out the miscreants)

            I disagree on the cars because the traditional model for competition stipulates two things: Low (down to no) barrier to entry and no efficiencies of scale.

            The low barrier to entry is both knowledge and capital. The requirements to become a software developer are time, functioning computer (people throw perfectly usable old ones away all the time), and an Internet connection (available at a fast food restaurant or mall near you), and a development environment (open source ones like Eclipse are free). The knowledge is generalized and available, the startup costs negligible so almost anyone could potentially become a software developer.

            To become a serious car maker… We’ll need designers and material engineers with their own specialized knowledge. Testing facilities (track, wind tunnel), An assembly line, legal team, production engineers, robots, mechanics.

            Now, you don’t *need* any of those things, but you can’t compete with the big boys without it. Watch Suzuki or Isuzu as they get squeezed out by Hyundai, Toyota, Ford, VAG (Volkswagen Auto Group), etc.

            Consolidation *IS* a natural free market force. Some industries naturally gravitate towards monopoly or oligopoly situations and it usually comes down to scale requirements and efficiencies – just look at aerospace. Aviation is a cyclical market and every time there’s been a market downturn, the weakest companies go out of business and get bought out by their competitors – but no one new steps in when the market picks up.

            It’s not like the AR market where when the black rifle craze hit, it suddenly seemed like every machinist with access to rough forgings and LPKs was suddenly selling their own lowers – and when the market turns, they’ll go back to whatever they did before.

          • echelon

            I don’t feel that my house will ever burn down so I’m not going to have smoke detectors or fire extinguishers around. Maybe if I moved somewhere else where fires were more prevalent I would do so.

            None of what you said about business and regulation addresses the fact that we now have the government in bed with most corporations and that leads to over-regulation and ridiculousness.

            I’m not saying that there *might* not be some benefits in certain circumstances, but I can also assure you that even without gov interference cars and other things would still be legitimately safe. Building a product that is unsafe or gets people killed or maimed tends to be a death knell for companies who are looking to make a profit.

            Instead what we have is a system where a company, such as GM, can totally fail and make subpar products and rather than let them die a natural death the government comes in and gives them a boat load of taxpayer funds and then meddles around with their upper management and other various things. This should never be.

    • Ethan

      (I know you weren’t trying to start a debate echelon, but as long as you’ve broached the topic..)

      Safety First. Always – unless in dire emergency.

      Equipping someone with a gun is only a good thing if the end result is bringing more safety into their lives. If they pose a far greater threat to themselves than they are likely to prevent by carrying, I would probably *ask* them to make time THAT DAY to spend an hour doing basic handling drills with you in their living room.

      Have them practice:
      1. Picking up the gun safely (trigger finger, muzzle direction)
      2. Clearing the gun safely.
      3. Carrying it around the room safely, navigating around people without sweeping them.
      4. Loading and unloading safely. (start with snap caps)
      5. Holstering and drawing safely.

      This is our most basic responsibility as advocates of an armed citizenry. If you are not creating SAFE shooters – you are helping to harm the innocent.
      Don’t help create THAT GUY (or THAT gal).

      Not all will share my perspective, and that’s OK – it is (for now) a free country.
      I approach this topic as an NRA instructor who is legally liable for every student I teach – but all of us are morally liable for the people we introduce to firearms.

      1 – Every firearm is always loaded.
      2 – Keep your finger off the trigger.
      3 – Don’t point the firearm at anything you don’t want to kill.
      4 – Know your target and its surroundings.

  • Scott C.

    Katie,
    Speaking of noticing details in pictures, lucky you getting to run some lead thru AACs HoneyBadger. Nice jacket, although i cannot think of the brand offhand. I also really like the Okley gloves (i went with the PIG gloves instead) i like that American Infidel patch also. But a little detail i did notice is , all that high dollar gear, gun, suppressor, & swag you don’t wear your cheapy earplugs unless you are just poseing for this picture.

    • From the original Honey Badger article: Even on full auto felt recoil was surprisingly minimal, control was easily kept, and the gun was quiet. With the suppressor on the Honey Badger ear protection wasn’t necessary; the rounds popped so quietly, in fact, you almost wouldn’t believe you were firing what is a truly powerful rifle.”

      • Katie A

        Thank you.

    • You don’t need ears with that rifle.

      • Simcha M.

        Yes you do, Phil! I learned my lesson the hard way when I had a case rupture on a .22 rifle. Instead of a small “crack” I heard a very loud CRACK and my ears were ringing through the next day.

    • Katie A

      Actually I always wear ear protection, which my hair frequently covers, with the single exception being the suppressed Honey Badger, where it was not necessary for anyone present, including myself, Phil, the photographer, and the range master who ran the course with us.

      • Scott C.

        Just pointing out that the picture projects the perception of using a rifle without earpro….
        … I also know all about the advantages / limitations of 300BLK, SBRs, & Suppressors. I run a DD Mk18 suppressed, 300BLK upper next on my list and hopefully Surefire will release their 300BLK SOCOM at Shot Show 2015.

        I wasn’t knocking yor article, just being observant to details…

        now, about this HoneyBadger… 🙂

  • Don Ward

    I see the woman in the first picture is using recoil reducing shoulder pads…

    • Katie A

      ba dum bump…where’s the drum set when you need it…

  • Katie A

    I don’t know how I missed that…yes, probably the photographer had the local PD bring in some local felons and shackled them off camera. Good observation!

    • Mike Price

      You just naturally put your finger on the trigger if you pick a gun up. I’ve seen people do it in gun shops and at the gun range when somebody was showing me a new handgun.

  • Grindstone50k

    My wife is a very new shooter but she has trigger discipline drilled into her head. I take pride whenever I see her handling her gun, my guns, or guns at the shop in a safe manner.

    Trigger discipline is no small matter and it does make me cringe to see these pictures, especially since they’re presented as a representation of gun-owning women.

    • Katie A

      Agreed. It’s too bad, really, because this could have been an excellent way to promote women as competent shooters, but the trigger issue is no small thing. And that’s great that your wife is shooting, and good you’ve made sure trigger discipline is firmly ingrained. Definitely an important detail.

  • USMC69

    Have to keep in mind that these are staged photos. Just as you’re assuming risky/unsafe behavior, another could be these guns are unload and the poses made just for the camera. One could also assume they are stage props. But then, those assumptions don’t make for writing articles.

    • Katie A

      It doesn’t matter one iota that they’re stage, neither does the guns purportedly being unloaded. As bbmg already said, one of the rules of gun safety is that we assume all guns are loaded and treat them as such. These photos are meant to promote women with guns, well, it’s promoting women mishandling guns, and that’s disappointing to me as both a gun lover and a woman.

  • I love seeing women become empowered. I’ve owned a gun store for 6 years and am excited that we are seeing an increase in training. Firearms safety is the most important. We added a scenario based trainer and a membership/partnership training program that has been well received. We are even seeing men encourage their significant others to train. That makes a big difference too. I’m happy to see a growing commitment to training & keep pushing it anyway we can. Hope to open a range soon so our training can really take off. Great article. I applaud you for making safety the big deal that it is. Stating expected standards everywhere we can certainly helps.

  • Pete Sheppard

    Good article, Katie! Now, we in the choir need to ‘go forth’ and help coach our less experienced fellow shooters.

  • Phillip Cooper

    I’ll go another way…

    I’m not convinced all of those are pictures of women with guns…

    Parse as you wish. 😉

  • MountainKelly

    No I think we’re all in agreement. Poor form on the photographers part encouraging that

  • Mike Price

    If I draw my gun out I will have my finger on the trigger ready to use it and planing on using it. That time moving it may cost you your life.

    • Ethan

      I used to train that way as well, until I unintentionally dropped the hammer (on an empty chamber) while doing dry fire practice. All it takes is a little stress, a little too much speed, or a gun with a trigger a little lighter than you’re used to and you wind up touching off a round during your draw. I’ve seen it happen. I’ve done it.

      Rule#2: Finger off the trigger until your weapon is on target.

      Its sympathetic movement – especially when you are gripping with your other fingers on that hand. Our natural bio-mechanics curl all fingers at once – its how you’ve been picking things up your entire life.

      Under stress we tend to squeeze with all 4, making it pretty darn CRITICAL our trigger finger is up against the solid metal of the frame, not resting on the bang button relying on your brain fore-brain’s ability to override your mid-brain doing what it does naturally.

      • Mike Price

        I’ve always carried a gun with my finger on the trigger. Never went thru a safety class on gun use. New to me. I have been carrying a gun that way since I was about 13 and walking down the rail road tracks shooting 22’s. I always have the safety on so it shouldn’t fire accidentally.

        • Ethan

          Your choice is your own, but I’d work to rectify that. Relying on memory (forgot to turn the safety on) or a mechanical device that can fail is not a great idea…

  • Ethan

    Rule #1 actually.

  • Dan

    Finger on the trigger. I wouldn’t feel safe around those females….