I had the opportunity to provide some advice to a lady who was taking her CPL class (not through us, due to distance). The advice I gave her was to concentrate on her front sights (she had vision constraints) and once she gets her CPL to carry on-body only (no purse, no handbag).
The reasons for on-body carry are, frankly, numerous. In fact, on body carry is appropriate about 99+% of the time under a normal CPL paradigm (carrying a pistol in case of general lethal threat).
Here are a few of the points…
Firearms are extremely safe on their own. Mechanical safeties render most firearms unshootable except when the trigger is actuated. The act of manipulating a firearm increases unintended trigger actuation. This is irrefutable and merely a function of interaction with the object. To reduce risk, good handling and trigger finger discipline are practices to make this risk as low as reasonably possible.
In on-body carry, the firearm on your person will likely be handled twice per day: When you put it on in the morning and when you take it off at night. If you have non-permissive environments, handling will likely increase as you remove/rearm to access/vacate these places.
In these cases, the firearm in its holster together should be removed if possible. By keeping the trigger area covered in the holster, the risk on unintentional trigger actuation is minimized.
For vehicle staging, there are holsters, magnets, and other devices to make the firearm readily available to the driver or occupant. If these regularly require unholstering from on-body carry to put in the vehicle-staged area, then reholstering to on-body carry when you need to go somewhere, multiple iterations of handling are incurred which is increased risk of unintentional discharge.
All opportunities to reduce casual handling of the firearm increase safety and good practices.
We have a class called Intermediate Handgun I, which is what the CPL class should really be, and not the home-intent course Michigan requires. We practice tons of drills, and those drills are all from the draw. The average student will draw their pistol about 200 times in those 8 hours. They will PRACTICE it. They will develop consistency. They will develop ‘muscle memory’ as the act of drawing becomes more familiar and effective.
After classes like this, it is unlikely a person will practice drawing as intently. We hope they do, but most ranges do not allow shooting from the draw, and will have a nice bench in front of the stall to operate from. In short, we have a limited amount of range time we can practice from the draw. Why, then, place the firearm off-body in some place you won’t be able to practice it? If it’s in your car’s center console, will you practice that draw? Attached to a magnet under the dash? Will you practice that?
There is no object more familiar to us than our own bodies. Without looking, we can reach our hips, touch our knees and elbows, clap hands, and anything else. After a single class, we can access our holstered firearm with little more than a glance. Maybe not even that. Our bodies provide this ‘familiar environment’ and we can feel the gun there and know to reach for it instinctively.
Reaching into a glove box or a center console or a dresser drawer or any other things is inherently less familiar. Less familiarity equals milliseconds to seconds.
In an ideal world, we would be able to stage the firearm in any container in any proximity near us and have 100% proficiency at accessing it. In the real world, almost all CPLers will not practice that extensively. This is not a bash, it’s an honest assessment of real-world priorities with our time. If we’ve prioritized practice for a couple days, let’s keep our carry methods in line with what we’ve already practiced.
In addition to the consistently drawing the firearm, with on body carry the firearm is always on you. Going in to get a Slurpee? It’ll just be a minute? The temptation of having off-body carry and just leaving the gun behind is there. Yes, we can ‘program out’ this temptation, but with best practices we can negate this temptation. In short, the safest place for your firearm is under your direct control and access. There are hundreds of reasons to not bother holstering. “It’s right there under the seat while I pump gas”, “I’ll just be in there a minute”, etc. Those 10 feet or that closed door might just become miles and walls when you need it the most. “Its always on you” is a far better and more consistent answer than “variable”.
A firearm is risk mitigation. Risk is severity, probability, and detectability. A firearm is to deal with a high severity, low detectability risk (armed bad guy ‘comes out of nowhere’). We instruct our students to stage their firearm with that in mind. In other words, don’t let it go somewhere it cannot be gotten immediately, EVEN if its use is infrequent (low probability).
Placement and conflict
Off body carry, namely a purse, handbag, or satchel, is literally putting the life saving tool IN the most likely point of contention. If someone is attacked, odds are it is for their purse or their stuff. Females have the added concern of ‘sexual access’. For a robber, his focus will be on getting the container, and getting away. If it is armed robbery, handing over the purse or bag will be the only action available. You will literally be giving the criminal your gun.
For a female facing sexual assault, she must fight off any percussion attacks, attempt to get away, and attempt to ‘restrict access’. A firearm on body might be able to reached during a fight (please train ground fighting!). If the firearm was in a purse, she must add retaining the purse and getting into the purse to those objectives.
For any altercation with on-body carry, the criminal may not yet notice the gun, and the gun is not (yet) the object of contention. Best case, you’re not putting a gun in the bad guy’s hands. More importantly, you’re not giving up your protective tool. If the situation escalates to “lethal force imminent”, you’re not in a fight over a handbag to get your gun while the criminal has his lethal force weapon in hand.
There are of course no absolutes in life, and trying to make the crux of an argument wrong through exceptions is a bit foolish. But, there are some exceptions to on-body carry only.
There are of course many more, but from a CPL paradigm where the Average Joe/Jane is going about their day responsibly armed, on body carry is right almost all the time.