Gun-Toting Women Give Rise To Firearms Fashion Accessories

Heard on All Things Considered
Lauren Silverman

Ray’s Sporting Goods in Dallas’ Oak Cliff is a neighborhood firearm dreamland.

It’s stocked with the latest pistols, shotguns and AR-15 military-style rifles. Chuck Payne, the store’s manager, says he has sold to a lot more women recently.

“A lot of married ladies with their husbands, some without, but they’ve decided that their husband’s not home, they need to be able to do something and they need a different gun than what their husband had,” Payne says.

Items like lace belly band holster are designed specifically for women's bodies.
Items like this lace belly band holster are designed specifically for women’s bodies.
Courtesy of The Well Armed Woman
Designer Kate Woolstenhulme
Designer Kate Woolstenhulme of Plano, Texas, created a line of concealed-carry handbags after she couldn’t find one that was both safe and fashionable.
Lauren Silverman/KERA News

“Most concealed- and open-carry holsters are made for men,” says Carrie Lightfoot, CEO of The Well-Armed Woman, an online store based in Arizona. She says a woman’s body shape and size are important considerations when it comes to open or concealed carry.

“For example, a 32A bust could not conceal a Glock 19 very well — nor would a 42DD or a larger tummy allow for effective cross-draw carry,” she says.

Lightfoot sells bra holsters, concealment leggings, lace waistbands and leopard print gun holders for cars. She says sales are up 130 percent since the summer.

Still, the vast majority of women don’t openly carry. And that means one of the hottest accessories is the concealed-carry purse, which is Kate Woolstenhulme’s business.

In her Plano, Texas, home office, Woolstenhulme unpacks one of her newest designs: a black leather purse with a herringbone embossed pattern. She introduced her first line of concealed-carry bags in 2009, after failing to track down a handbag that was both safe and fashionable for her 9 mm Beretta Nano handgun.

“I was interested in making something that really functioned and yet still making sure that it looked as if that woman had walked into Nordstrom’s or Neiman’s or Marshalls or whatever they shop at,” Woolstenhulme says.

The ostrich and crocodile-skin handbags sell for thousands of dollars. Others are a few hundred. Many of the bags have exterior holster pockets — all of them have locking devices.
The National Sporting Goods Association report found that women who bought a gun in the last year spent on average $870 on firearms and more than $400 on accessories.

Both Woolstenhulme and Lightfoot warn women to choose new holsters and bags wisely — just because it’s made in pink doesn’t guarantee it was designed for a woman’s body.


Feature image: Erich Schlegel/Getty Images

What Are the Best Guns for Women?

By Michael J. Simpson

This may sound like a sexist question, but it’s one that I am asked all the time—and usually by women, themselves. The problem is, women have unique preferences and needs, just like men do. Furthermore, there is no reason why a woman can’t handle the same weapons a man can.

The truth is, any person (male or female) in the market for a gun needs to spend some time at a gun range trying out a wide variety of guns. Some will fit better in your hands than others, some will be more comfortable to carry, some will be easier to shoot, etc.

That being said, when someone asks about the best gun for women, they are usually asking for a recommendation on a small gun with little recoil but adequate stopping power for self-defense. For people who are looking guns that meet these criteria, the guns in the list below all fit the bill and might be a good place to start your search. Oh, and if you are looking for something a bit more feminine than the average firearm, be sure to check out the last gun in the list.

heinie-lady-051. Nighthawk Lady Hawk

The Nighthawk Lady Hawk was designed with the ladies in mind. It is essentially a model 1911 with a smaller frame and a thinner grip. It comes standard as a single-action 9 mm but can be purchased chambered for .45 ACP. As this is a customized gun created out of demand for a “girl’s gun,” it will set you back nearly $3,500.

Ruger-SR9c2. Ruger SR9c

The Ruger SR9c is the SR9’s compact little sister. It features a slim grip and a weight of just 24 ounces. It is chambered for 9mm ammo and has surprisingly light recoil. It doesn’t have the easiest slide in the world but it’s also not the heaviest. Most users will probably find that they get used to the slide with a little practice. Brand new, this gun retails for about $500.

S&W-M&P-Shield3. Smith & Wesson M&P Shield

The Smith and Wesson M&P Shield is sleek and slim making it ideal for concealed carry. It weighs in at a light 19 ounces and is only about 6 inches in length. In spite of its size, the M&P Shield comes chambered for either 9mm or .40 S&W giving it full stopping power with surprisingly manageable recoil. The gun retails for about $450.

Ruger-LPC4. Ruger LCP

The Ruger LCP is a tiny gun known as a pocket pistol. It weighs a miniscule 9.4 ounces. The gun is chambered for .380 ammunition, which is considered by many to be too weak for self-defense. However, special self-defense rounds are available which increases the gun’s stopping power. The basic model starts at just under $400.

Springfield-EP5. Springfield EMP

Billed as a “short-action 1911,” the Springfield EMP is a smaller, lighter version of a standard M1911. As such, it shoots the shorter 9mm and .40 S&W rounds which still give it ample stopping power for self defense. It is available with a couple of different grip options to suit your personal style preferences but this gun will set you back about $1,200.

Pink-Lady6. Charter Arms Pink Lady Undercover Lite

It almost seems sexist to include a pink gun in a list of guns for women, but I wanted to include something that had an extra feminine touch. This little gun certainly fits the bill. It is a .38 special that has a two inch barrel and weighs in at a mere 12 ounces. If pink isn’t your color, you might be interested in the Lavender Lady. In either color, these guns go for about $400.