Firearms Food for Thought: Off-Body Carry

When you decide to carry firearms for self-defense purposes you’re not only taking on a major responsibility, you’re setting yourself up to make far more decisions than just which gun or guns to use. Aside from caliber, ammunition, model – the list really does go on – there’s the issue of method of carry. We’re not talking about IWB versus OWB. This goes a bit more in-depth: on-body carry versus off-body carry.

There’s an entire market out there supporting the idea that off-body carry is not only a legitimate way to carry your gun but a desirable one. It isn’t just concealed carry purses, either. There are fanny packs, satchels, even backpacks made with interior pockets specifically designed for firearms. But is it a good way to carry? What if it’s your only way to carry? What if, without that purse or fanny pack you won’t carry at all for whatever reason? How about when it’s only for your backup?

What do you think? Does the additional time it takes to draw your gun with off-body carry make a significant difference or can you train delays away? Can you – can anyone – be disciplined enough to never, ever set the object containing their firearm down unmonitored for even a moment? Is there a time it’s better than nothing?

Off-body carry is certainly a more common issue for women than men but that does not by any means remove men from the equation, or the discussion. There are guys who like fanny packs – although they may call them something else – or who stash their firearms in a briefcase or satchel. And let’s not forget the surge in so-called man bags.

Furthermore, do you feel this is an important enough issue to warrant the cessation of producing off-body carrying products? Or do you think it’s a non-issue – or, if not exactly a non-issue, just not your problem since you don’t do it.

Let’s hear it, guys.

TFB Staffer

TFB Staff, bringing you the latest gun news from around the world for a decade.


  • CanadianShill

    Now I’m from Canuckistan, so therefore the queen says I’m not responsible enough to defend myself, so I can’t speak from any experience, but to me unless it’s something that is attached to you 100% of the time, and that you can’t drop, snag or forget somewhere on the body carry is far and above superior, it just has to be. If I was able to carry it would be IWB or OWB, unless I was in extenuating circumstances where it just wasn’t possible. The chances of a fumble or grasping at a zipper or something just turns me right off. If it’s going to be for defense it’s not you dictating the terms of when you pull the weapon, it’s a threat, and you need to be able to address it as quickly and smoothly as possible…. However, again, I’m Canadian so I’m too genetically inferior to be trusted with my or my family’s safety.

    • JumpIf NotZero

      That’s the other issue. Off-body carry does not mean you don’t need a holster. It does not mean you can just carry in condition 3 and that’s OK.

      You still need a holster like a Raven Vanguard tied inside the bag for example.

  • Major Tom

    There is absolutely nothing wrong with off body carry. It works quite well in the woods. The main drawback is the increased draw time but that’s irrelevant in some mass danger scenarios like a guy holding up the convenience store and he’s got his weapon pointing away from you most of the time. In the woods you’ll have time to draw if dealing with a bear or some other territorial animal. Unless it’s a hungry hungry cougar in which case even on-body carry won’t help you.

    And then there’s the other issue, not everywhere will allow regular concealed carry so keeping it stashed in a backpack or purse or other off-person storage allows you a place to keep it while you conduct your business. Take a backpack for example, got some business to do in a courthouse (notorious gun-free zones)? You just toss that handgun into the backpack, take your wallet and ID and what you need and head in. (Don’t forget to secure the backpack in a locked car or compartment.)

    • CanadianShill

      In the woods I either or sling it or have it in a backpack (shorty shotgun) so I agree there, but in public where it’s a human threat I just don’t see it as ideal, when you need that gun you need it NOW. If you have time to whip off a backpack, open it and pull it, you have those 3-5 seconds to put distance between you and the attacker/threat

      • Major Tom

        But to be fair not all defense scenarios allow a route of retreat. A few seconds of concealment as it unfolds allows you prep time.

        This allow applies to on-body carry.

  • Dr. Longfellow Buchenrad

    I prefer on body carry (particularly IWB) because it is always there at close reach. However when I go out into the boonies (depending on what Im doing and who Im with) I will usually open carry (OWB) or carry in my day pack and rarely carry IWB.

    I see nothing wrong with off body carry as long as you are willing to do what it takes to maintain control over your weapon and take responsibility for it. As far as tactical advantages go, I think for your average man, carrying somewhere on your waist allows faster and easier access than off body carry methods in most situations, but there are a few (the HPG kit bag for example) that can be just as fast. I dont have any experience being a woman so I cant speak for them.

  • Joel

    While I normally carry IWB, I have outfitted a run of the mill fanny pack velcro inside that mates to velcro on two of my holsters, allowing me to concealed carry either my S&W Bodyguard 380 or S&W Shield 9 when hiking or biking, and the draw is quick and easy. Since it’s a fanny pack I never have to set it down anywhere so there’s no danger of my leaving it somewhere or someone snatching it, and there’s nothing to distinguish it from any other fanny pack.

    • xtphreak

      I have an older (1990’s) beltbag/fanny pack/buttbag that is purpose built for CCW.
      It has a rigid back panel to prevent collapse or printing, a Velcro mounted holster with Velcro mounted straps to fit most handguns up to my High Power (note: not Hi-Power as that signifies a Browning, mine’s an FN USA with SFS).
      It has two elastic sleeves in the front panel for extra mags, the double pull zipper goes up across and down three sides of the front panel and has a “rip cord” sewn in at both upper corners, you leave the ripcord hanging out and zip both pulls up to it.
      Then with a tug on the ripcord, one zipper pull goes down & the other across the top, opening the bag from the corner where the handle of the pistol sits at a great angle for a draw.
      The front pocket is good for other things.
      It is a bit big, but it conceals the weapon well and provides very good access.

  • Patrick Haggerty

    I generally pocket carry with my snubbie, OWB carry with my glock, and one night a week I carry off body. I need to carry a bag to game night, and I’m always with it, since it sits right between my feet. off body carry will always be the least desirable option for me, but since I’m usually wearing sports shorts and light clothing I don’t want a gun weighing down my pocket or sitting on a string-tied waist band.

  • FiremanNip

    Working at a local gun range, one who sells lots of guns and teaches lots of classes to women, I am often asked that exact question. There, we certainly do try to figure out on body ways to carry first but most of the time, with women’s apparel and how they wear it just doesn’t work. So we teach off body carry. Purses to be more exact. We are asked what if dirtbag grabs my purse? Well if he grabs it and takes off, that certainly does suck but is there a threat? We tell them to cross strap to be a deterrent. Have a plan. Hand on your firearm when in a “bad area”. And most of all teach them how to prevent most bad situations from the beginning. As far as CCW purses? No way. I can spot them from a mile away. You don’t think the career dirtbag can’t? So don’t be a target. Tried the “brazier holsters” and just aren’t not a big fan either. My gf tried it on with a 238 and it printed so bad. In an awkward spot.

    • DIR911911 .

      a spot that ALL OF US look is never the place to hide a gun ( bra holster)

  • I generally carry two guns. A .380 in the pocket, a single-stack nine IWB, and/or a double-stack nine in my Maxpedition magic murder bag, depending on my attire and location. Off-body is never optimal, but it sometimes is the best choice for certain situations.

  • Bill

    It’s a lumbar pack, not a fanny pack πŸ˜‰ Like shoulder holsters and cross draw holsters they may not be ideal for all-purpose general carry, but they have their niche in specialized applications. Cycling doesn’t allow many options for normal carry, but a buttbag with pistol, cell phone, IFAK, tools, windshell, etc solves a lot of problems simultaneously, while ruining aerodynamics.

  • Bub

    FYI the two dudes that just came into your local Cracker Barrel for breakfast wearing 5.11 pants and tactical boots with fanny packs are carrying guns.

  • Will

    I never carry off body.
    I always dress in such a manner that allows me to carry on my body with a back up in my pocket. I always carry in he same location, no exceptions. In OBC the gun is not always where your memory says it should be.
    After 30+ years as an LEO old habits are hard to break.
    Just my choice, my opinion.

  • Vhyrus

    I don’t consider a fanny pack off body unless you are regularly removing it. A fanny pack usually stays on you the whole time.

  • Aaron

    I’m happy you are having this discussion. I have only been carrying for a few years now. I am very active with physical training, fishing, photography and normal art work. In other words I always carry a good amount with me and IWB is not always suitable. My answer was Proppers BIAS Sling with their pistol strap. It has taken time to get used to but the only draw back is having to open the compartment to draw the firearm. The velcro system makes adjusting extremely easy.

  • JumpIf NotZero

    There is nothing “wrong” with off-body carry except that people think it’s a safer option than on-body. It’s actually step above on-body carry in terms of required experience, training, responsibility.

    If you don’t think you can on-body carry a 3.5lb trigger Glock in condition 1 all day every day – then you are not ready for off-body carry.

    • Don Ward

      So if someone can’t hack your arbitrary definition of where to carry a gun, using your arbitrary equipment with an arbitrary trigger pull, then they aren’t ready for off-body carry.

      Truly you never fail to amuse Jump, with your grand pronouncements.

  • Cymond

    Off body gives the option to carry a much larger, heavier firearm as well as more ammunition. Personally, I like the idea of on body carry of something small for typical personal protection and off body/car carry of something bigger.

    I was in an incident a few years ago. I was driving down a rural mountain road after midnight when 3 big dudes stopped their truck in the road, got out, and came towards my car. I was able to perform a 3-point turn and drive away in the opposite direction. However, my only weapon was a P32 in my pocket. After that, I kept a backup double stack 9mm in the glove box or in a Versipack, depending on the situation.

    • εŠ‰δΈδΈ

      Run instead ofescalating. Good call.

      • Cymond

        It was easy and safe to escape. I might have reacted differently if we’d all been on foot.
        Of course, even if I had decided to fight, it might have been difficult/impossible to deal with 3 big guys with only 7 rounds of 32ACP. Worse, it was night so no chance of seeing the little nubs that KelTec calls sights. And of course, they might have been carrying, or had a rifle in the truck.
        Short version: running was clearly the best option.

  • Don Ward

    While not preferable, I can think of a handful of occasions where off-body carry might come in handy. For myself, it is when I ride my bike on the trail and I don’t want to wear my IWB holster.

  • Nocternus

    I carry almost entirely off body. I am a Diabetic and insulin dependent. I am already carrying a bag with my insulin kit and sunglasses and eye glasses in it. It just made sense to carry my CCW in an off carry bag since I was carrying one anyways. That said I am incredibly diligent about maintaining total constant control of my bag.

    • Jim_Macklin

      Sorry about your medical constraints. That said; your bag may be a target for muggers, making you a target for muggers because you’re seen as an easier target than others.
      Off body carry is convenient, but a concealed IWB holster inside your trousers is not a target and you are not likely to lose control of it in the first moments of an attack.
      If you must carry your full size concealed carry you should consider a small [Ruger LCP] to protect your off body carry.
      Just my opinion.

      • Nocternus

        I am 6’09” 375lbs with 20 years of law enforcement and security experience. I would say I am the complete opposite of a soft target. I suppose you are entitled to your opinion and I am entitled to mine. IMO small subcompacts are borderline useless.

        • Jim_Macklin

          81 inches tall, 375 pounds. I don’t carry that much weight on a much smaller frame, I’m 71″ according to my pilot certificate, 210 pounds. I carry a Colt 45 ACP and if I could afford a 2nd gun it would be a 9mm. I do carry several knives and 5 reloads for my Colt.
          If my knee is bothering me, I’ve got a Cold Steel sword cane.
          When you said diabetic I got a different mental picture.

          • Nocternus

            I would describe myself as built kinda like shrek. Also as hyper vigilant. I spent 10+ years bouncing at bars and my head is constantly on a swivel. Sizing people up and determining threats. I do not get surprised. If you are approaching me and have ill intent in mind most likely my CCW compartment is already open and I am prepared to draw.

          • Jim_Macklin

            You are not typical of the average person on the street. People are concentrating on their smart phone, talking about the basketball score. They look no further than 20 feet ahead of where they intend to walk with zero attention to the sides or the predators a block away who are being a stalk.
            A few years ago [before CCH was legal] I was on layover at MSP [Minneapolis]. I was out for a walk and saw two young men a block away walking side by side. Then they separated about 30 feet apart and continued to walk in my direction. I slipped by Gerber folder into my hand but did not open the blade. When the closer man was about about 20 feet away he said “He has a knife.” They both turned and crossed the street. Awareness saves lives.

          • Nocternus

            I usually recommend that people find CCW methods that fit them and do not prescribe to preset theorys of how one ought or ought not carry. Off body works well for me given my situation and awareness level. I find that I am most effective with a full size duty weapon. I have owned several sub compacts and small revolvers and found by and large that I did not like the reduced effectiveness of small firearms. I found the best method for me is to find a way to comfortably carry a full size weapon concealed. Off body afforded me that. If I were to add any weapon as a back up to my current method it would probably be an AR15 with a 10.5″ barrel and a Sigbrace in the truck. In my state the only requirement for CCW is that it is a pistol.

  • Wanderlust

    Its kind of funny, whenever I see a fanny pack I always assume the person is carrying.

  • Oldtrader3

    I own and use (2) Sneaky Pete belt clip holsters, made of leather, they look more like a cell phone carrier than a holster, being smallish and rectangular. I wear the one for the Colt Mustang, almost daily and have never had any issues. My other Sneaky Pete is for the S&W 2 inch and works well also.

  • nick

    like many here, im from north of boarder, so….we seem to not be trusted, even though I carried for years in the “service of the queen” , and then moving money around ….anyway, closest i have to an “off body carry” , is my truck,…. luckily, working as an RSO at a large outdoor range, i have a legit reason for having a gun in the truck for varmint control, and of course, its quickly deploy-able ..for those pesky varmits

    That, and i still carry as a contract backcountry guide (12 ga back up) ….. but its all work related stuff. Some guys i know are prospectors, and do have permits to open carry large caliber wheel guns, but only while they are in the field. Come to town, double lock her up

    for us up here, we just have to work with what we have

  • Jim Drickamer

    The main problem with off-body carry is the ease with which you can be separated from your weapon. Set your briefcase or manpack or dayplanner on a bench or table. It is easy for someone else to walk off with it. You might even just forget it yourself. The main advantage I see in off-body carry is the ability to carry one weapon on your person and a second one or spare magazines or a knife in a fanny pack. A .380 in a pocket with a .45 back up sounds about right. You can use the weapon on your person to fight your way to your backpack and the weapon in the backpack to fight your way to your rifle or shotgun.

  • ToddsMonster

    I’m a stay at home dad of 3. I use the Maxpedition Jumbo Versipack for diapers, wipes, ass cream, bandaids, baby bottle, rattles and toys, extra change of baby clothes for when shit gets real. Then there’s still the extra pocket for my CZ 75 Compact, extra mags and flashlight. When I’m out, I don’t ever take off the bag because it’s just easier to grab wipes, phone, grocery list, gun, etc., when it’s on me.

  • Dolpy

    No noooo nnoooooooppppe nope nyoooope nyet nah nay. Too easy for it to be lost or taken.