It’s clear that more and more women are choosing to carry concealed firearms. But how are they carrying them? For answers, I contacted Carrie Lightfoot, owner of The Well Armed Woman (TWAW).

Lightfoot had asked this same question and sought out answers. She wanted to know why women had purchased more than 23,000 holsters from her popular website in 2014—a company that also offers nationwide training and a women’s shooting league. So she asked and received more than 400 responses from fans on TWAW’s Facebook page and talked to 200 women on the phone. The women varied in age from 25 to 64 years old. The many responses were so interesting that Lightfoot created an infographic based on the results of her survey:

Concealed Carry for Women: 5 Most Popular Methods
image courtesy of The Well Armed Woman

“The results of the data surprised me,” Lightfoot said. “They also left me very impressed with the concealed-carry choices women are making. We know that many more women are carrying concealed but what we see here is that the way they carry their firearms is changing.”

She found that women are primarily carrying on their bodies—in their waistbands. “This is the best location for quick, safe, and easy access. This shows just how committed women are to finding the best and safest carry positions and holsters. This also highlights that the availability of more ‘woman friendly’ holster options is changing how women carry,” said Lightfoot.

These are the five favored holster types and the percentage of women who use each, according to Lightfoot’s survey:

  1. In the Waistband (ITW): 40 percent
  2. Belly Band: 15 percent
  3. On the Waistband (OTW): 10 percent
  4. Bra: 8 percent
  5. Underarm: 7 percent

Thigh and ankle holsters and deep concealment pouches comprise the other methods. Lightfoot also found that 13 percent of women carry a concealed firearm in a purse or other bag.

ITW, Bellyband, and OTW holsters allow a woman to carry a firearm on her midsection, which means the gun is easily accessible and attached to the body.

Underarm holsters also provide easy access. They—depending on the woman—come with the advantage of a breast hiding a gun’s grip. On some people, a bra holster—worn at the center of a bra—might take advantage of a natural shelf to conceal the firearm.

Mike Barham, product manager at Galco Gunleather, has a different opinion of sales to women than Lightfoot does. He said the company sells more off-body carry bags than on-body carry options to women. “While it may not be what ‘serious’ gun carriers want to hear, we find that most women remain attracted to off-body carry, normally in the form of one of our holster handbags” says Barham.

Many women start out intending to carrying on-body, which is obviously preferable in the vast majority of cases, but very often end up using off-body carry. This is probably due to a combination of factors, but it’s likely due primarily to the fact that some women’s clothing simply doesn’t lend itself well to concealed carry of a firearm of any size.

“As we say around Galco,” said Barham, “men can carry guns because they’re willing to dress like schlubs. Women are often less willing to make wardrobe compromises in order to carry an effective firearm. Thus, off-body carry.”

Barham did mention that Galco’s Underwraps Belly Band remains popular with women. He thinks this is because “women’s clothing so often eschews belts entirely, or allows only a narrow and flimsy belt.”

Barham listed ankle holsters, followed by OWB, and IWB holsters as the most popular options for women.