Despite Stigma, Interest Grows For Off-Body Carry Education


Vicki Farnam (far left) discusses fundamentals during a off-body carry and protection course for instructors.

If you walk into almost any gun store or indoor range, you’ll see a selection of purses designed for concealed carry — often tucked away in a corner. Yet the vast majority don’t offer training aimed at educating firearm owners on how to properly carry off-body. Why is that?

“Off-body carry has long been condemned and ignored by instructors and the majority of the firearms community, but it doesn’t change the fact concealed carry bags and purses are often preferred over on-body holsters, especially with new shooters,” said Vicki Farnam of Defense Training International and DTI for Women.

“Nearly every tactical gear brand produces off-body carry bags including backpacks, fanny packs and briefcases. Yet because they are ‘tactical’ they are primarily marketed toward men; they’re not viewed as taboo in the way purses are,” she added. 

Inspired by ongoing conversations with Claudia Chisholm, president of GTM Original, Farnam began offering a Fundamentals in Off-Body Carry & Protection course for NRA- or USCCA-certified instructors in the fall of 2019. Since then, around 40 instructors have completed the course at either Farnam’s home base in Colorado or at various locations throughout the U.S.

“GTM was already including an in-depth owner’s manual with the purchase of their handbags, which in essence became the structure of our curriculum,” said Farnam. “So many things are vilified about off-body carry, and both the manual and the course address them.”

Chisholm said the course serves two purposes: one is to demonstrate off-body carry can offer protection with proper training and quality products.

“Second; what an incredible opportunity for any retailer or range to reach out to this neglected demographic,” she added. “By filling this void with talented educators and trainers, it is a win-win where it’s desperately needed.”

Regardless of one’s personal feelings or preference about off-body carry, it’s a popular option for those times and places where it is difficult (if not impossible) to carry a defensive pistol on your body.

“Physical capabilities, the environment where one carries and why and manner of dress don’t always lend themselves to on-body concealed carry holsters as many instructors would like their students to believe,” Farnam reasoned. “It’s no one’s place to dictate how another person should carry a gun as long as they’re doing so responsibly.” 

Off-body carry bags also give users, particularly those with smaller body types, more options to confidently carry a mid-size or full-size firearm when they might otherwise be stuck with a micro-style carry gun.

Fundamentals & Skills

Depending on the bag, you can have a two-, three- or even a five-step draw, so DTI’s Fundamentals in Off-Body Carry & Protection course spends time on how to safely draw a firearm without muzzling yourself or others.

Other fundamentals covered include re-holstering (which can be just as dangerous as drawing), managing the off-body carry bag while simultaneously shooting, movement, situational awareness and other skills commonly taught in a defensive-handgun class.

Farnam also brings a large selection of bags in varying sizes, materials, shapes, weights and carry-pocket configurations. Due to their range of options, high quality and popularity among firearm owners, the majority of bags are from GTM Original, but some other brands students have the opportunity to handle include Coronado Leather, Ukoala and Travelon.

Throughout the three-day course, students change bags every two hours. This way, they are not only better equipped to train students on how to use them, but also to offer guidance on what features to consider when shopping for one.

“Each bag is different and has its own characteristics. Some have zippers, magnets, flaps, etc., so it’s important for users to know how to navigate the unique features of their particular bag,” she explained. “We’ve developed techniques for doing so and go through them step by step.”

Although one might assume the course is strictly for women, every single session offered to date has had men in attendance.

“They’re always astounded at the fact you can draw effectively from a bag,” said Farnam. “And at the sheer variety of options available on the market.” 

“I’ve found even those who have already had some other basic level of firearm education, either with me or someone else, are signing up because it’s a specialized experience.”

Christa Forrester, Owner & Lead Instructor
Confident Carry Firearms Instruction

Student Success Stories

One of Farnam’s most recent graduates of the off-body course is Christa Forrester, owner and lead instructor of Confident Carry Firearms Instruction in Georgia. Forrester also serves as vice president of Shoot Like A Girl, an event marketing company that empowers women to participate in shooting sports.

“I’m very invested in taking training that allows me to connect with the individual,” shared Forrester. “Vicki’s course was so much more than I expected. It equipped me with vital information needed to help my students, such as how to educate others on the importance of prioritizing safety over fashion when choosing a bag.”

Forrester has since added an off-body carry course to her offerings.

“I have former students signing up as well as new students who have never taken a course with me,” she said. “I’ve found even those who have already had some other basic level of firearm education, either with me or someone else, are signing up because it’s a specialized experience. I’ve even been getting out-of-state interest from people who don’t have access to off-body carry training in their area.” 

To address the growing need and demand for off-body carry education, Donna Anthony launched an online course last year. Anthony is the first certified graduate of Farnam’s course and owner of Point Blank Firearms & Self Defense Training in Palmer, Ark. Titled Purse/Bag Off-Body Carry Course, it’s the first of its kind in an online format using the Farnam method.

Anthony’s course is available to those people who wish to gain off-body carry confidence from the convenience of their homes, which can be especially useful to retailers and dealers wanting to offer a class that brings more women to the store/range. 

“It’s no one’s place to dictate how another person should carry a gun as long as they’re doing so responsibly.”

Vicki Farnam
Defense Training International and DTI for Women

Get Certified

Registration for DTI’s three-day Fundamentals in Off-Body Carry & Protection course is $785 per person and is limited to six students per class. Instructors who go on to share what they’ve learned with others can order up to three concealed carry bags or purses to aid in teaching how to carry firearms off-body through GTM’s “Instructor PreLoved Bag Program” for $20 plus the cost of shipping.

Those who aren’t certified instructors and eligible to take the course are encouraged to ask their local range to have their instructors certified. 

For more information, visit or email

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