Off-Body Carry: Pros, Cons, and Best Practices

There are plenty of arguments and controversies in the world of concealed carry. Take, for example, the whole “appendix carry is dangerous” argument or the empty-chamber carry argument, among others. Off-body carry often opens up a can of worms on the internet. It’s either portrayed as the only way to carry or the dumbest way to carry. Like most things in the gun world, it’s somewhere in the middle. Also, like most things, the difference between it being a bad idea and a good one is time, training, and knowledge.

Today, we’ll dissect off-body carry and discuss the concept in detail, examining the pros and cons, as well as discussing best practices. We’ll even talk about a few off-body carry options that tend to work quite well.

Defining Off-Body Carry

Off-body carry is a concealed carry method that takes the weapon off your waist, shoulder, or body in general and places it in a separate container. It’s most often a bag, purse, or something similar. Although, those mini personal planner cases would qualify, and there are plenty of odd exceptions.

main pocket fanny pack
Off-body cases offer plenty of room for all your stuff, guns, and beyond.

The most common off-body carry method is some kind of bag. It can be a purse, a backpack, a sling bag, a messenger bag, etc. The bag itself is carried by the user and offers them access to their gun at a moment’s notice.

Benefits of Off-Body Carry

The off-body carry concept has a lot of benefits, and many are often overlooked in arguments made against it.

Enhanced Concealment

Printing is a very real event, and even if you use the best holster and clothes that work, there is still a chance of the gun showing itself. Printing can occur at odd angles, or if your clothes get wet, and so on. In a bag, the gun is completely hidden and fairly tough to spot. The exception is trying to shove a Glock 34 into a Kate Spade clutch. Obviously, if the gun’s too big for the bag, you’ll have problems, but common sense is your solution.

No Need to Dress Around the Gun

I’ve written extensively about picking the right clothes for concealment, but with off-body carry, you don’t have to worry about it as much. This makes it easy to dress the way you want or potentially have to. Men often get more options for clothing that conceals guns, but women are often left out. Women’s formal wear is not carry-friendly by any means, so off-body offers a comfortable alternative to dressing around the gun.

off body carry bag
Off-body carry can be a very comfortable way to stash a gun.

Ease of Carrying Larger Guns

Carrying a Glock 34 with an RMR and Surefire X300 AIWB is completely possible, and I bet a lot of people do it. It may not be for everyone, but that Glock 34 with optic and light is quite handy in a fight. It’s easy to pack a Glock 34 into an appropriately sized bag. Even a relatively small sling bag can effectively carry a big gun. Plus, you can carry spare magazines very easily.

handgun in chest rig
Yank the hot pull and boom, accessible firearm.

The Pre Draw

The pre-draw is a method of gripping the gun and having it ready before anything pops off. If your Spidey Senses are tingling, you can pre-draw with an off-body carry gun. You can reach into your bag and grip your gun, and no one will be the wiser. It’s a concealed action. If you tried to do the same thing with your waist-mounted gun, you could attract a lot of potentially negative attention.


Comfort might not be the most important factor in carrying a gun, but it is a factor. Off-body carry doesn’t poke, prod, or rub you. In a bag, it’s 100% comfortable and will never become a serious pain.

Downsides of Off-Body Carry

As comfortable and convenient off-body might be, there are some sacrifices you will have to make.  Typical concealed carry methods are almost the same when it comes to functionality as open carry.  Off-body is not that way.

You Have to Carry the Bag Everywhere

The main downside to off-body carry is having to carry the bag everywhere you go. While many folks are fine with that, I’m sure it gets old carrying a bag wherever you go. Rarely do I feel like packing a bag and accommodating it all stinking day.

bulldog bag
In this case, the gun is tough to draw, but it’s comfortable to carry.

Slower Draw

Sure, the pre-draw makes it plenty fast, but outside of the ability to pre-draw, the draw from a bag is slow. You likely have to defeat a zipper or Velcro closure to access the gun, and then defeat any active retention your holster might have. We also have to adjust the bag position for the draw. A backpack or sling bag adds a whole new step to your draw, which can be quite difficult.

More Complicated Draw

My normal draw-stroke is pretty simple. Clear cover garment, grab gun, draw gun. With a bag, I have to get the bag into position, defeat the closure, grab the gun, and draw it. It adds more steps and takes intensive practice to get proficient at. You need to practice enough that it becomes second nature, so when your adrenaline dumps, you’ll have the muscle memory needed to draw the weapon without fumbling around.

drawing gun from bag
The draw from a pack can be difficult.

Best Practices

When it comes to off-body carry, it’s not necessarily as easy as tossing a gun in your purse and calling it a day. You’ll need to pick a dedicated carry bag or have a bag that can be a dedicated carry bag. I prefer bags that are designed for concealed carry. Bags from Vertx, 5.11, and my Blackhawk fanny pack are my typical go-to choices.

Tactical-oriented companies tend to build their bags to ensure a safe and smooth draw. 5.11 Tactical puts hot pulls that allow you to grab a tab and pull it to defeat the zippers with a quick tug. Your carry option needs a dedicated carry pocket. You certainly don’t want a gun flapping around wildly in your bag or pack.

Carrying a handgun in the Bulldog Go-Bag.
The Bulldog-Go-Bag comes with a Velcro holster to carry your favorite handgun. [Photo: Jason Mosher]
It needs to be secured onto your bag with a holster. Yep, you still need a holster. An exposed trigger guard needs to be covered to ensure a safe carry experience. The gun needs to be secured for safety’s sake, and a secured gun is always in the same position for an easy draw.

If you choose to carry off-body, the gun might be off your body, but the bag can’t be. Your bag has to stay on you at all times. You can’t drop the bag in your shopping cart and leave it unattended. The same goes for sitting at a restaurant or on a bench. If the gun is in the bag, the bag is on you. Leaving it unsecured is asking for trouble.

Unexpected Benefits

As I wrote this article, I carried off-body and trained off-body to squeeze out some real-world experience. I did come up with a few unexpected benefits to off-body carry that I figured I’d share.

First, when you’re carrying a bag, the bag itself can be turned into a tactical advantage. You can use the bag as a rest when shooting your gun. It provides support and flexibility when tossed on a piece of cover or table. When you take long-range shots with a handgun, a rest can go a long way.

Backpack with PCC for self-defense.
While EDC bags are good for carrying first aid kits and other items, they can also carry weapons that work great for self-defense. [Photo: Jason Mosher]
Second, with the right bag, you can insert a piece of soft armor and have some armored coverage. A sling bag across the front of your body with a soft armor plate might not be a plate carrier, but it’s still a little extra protection. Check out my friends at Premier Armor for appropriately sized panels.

Keep Carrying

Off-body carry is not the optimum solution for everybody, but it is a solution. Like all solutions, it caters to a certain demographic of shooters. To get the most out of it, you have to train, choose the right bag, and always remember to never put that bag down. If you can do that, then off-body might just be for you.

Travis Pike is a former Marine Machine Gunner and a lifelong firearms enthusiast. Now that his days of working a 240B like Charlie Parker on the sax are over he's a regular guy who likes to shoot, write, and find ways to combine the two. He holds an NRA certification as a Basic Pistol Instructor and is probably most likely the world's Okayest firearm instructor. He is a simplicisist when it comes to talking about himself in the 3rd person and a self-professed tactical hipster. Hit him up on Instagram, @travis.l.pike, with story ideas.

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