Carrying a firearm as a woman in South Africa? – A Women’s Month Message

By Lynette Oxley from Tac SHAC

In South Africa we live in an extremely violent society. You only have to open the paper, listen to the news or look at social media to see that we as citizens are under constant and violent attack by criminals in our society. The only way we can attempt to level the playing field with a man twice our size or a group of thugs is by protecting ourselves and our family members using a firearm. Do not expect your husband, boyfriend or any other Good Samaritan to be there to help you when you are attacked. The only two people who are guaranteed to be at the scene of an attack are the attacker, and the victim! You are more than likely to be on your own or with your children when such an attack happens – Bad Guys see woman as easy targets… I have listened to some criminals talking about attacking woman in their cars and saying with a big smile that the first thing that woman do is “scream helplessly” and that is how they perceive us… and this is what gives the armed woman an advantage. Another consideration that I have given a lot of thought to is that when you are in a group and there is an attack that they will go for the biggest perceived threat first – the men – which will give you, as an armed woman, an advantage. I refer to the recent home invasion attack in Glen Vista – the woman in this case took out the intruders as I am sure they were concentrating on her husband and did not see her as a threat. Obviously there are a lot of considerations and challenges involved carrying a firearm full time but it is well worth the hassle.

The first step in deciding to carry, is to change your mind set. If you decide to purchase a firearm you need to change the way you think. It does not help to lock up a firearm in a safe. If you decide to carry, have the gun with you 24/7. And you have to work around this, within your particular circumstances.

I have personally been carrying since 2003. It was not an easy decision – but I see it as the only viable option in the current circumstances we live in, in South Africa. I will not be a victim. I will not tolerate harm coming to my loved ones whilst I stand helplessly by. It is better to conceal carry on your body than in a handbag but ultimately a gun in a handbag is better than no gun at all. Heaven forbid that when and if you need your firearm – you don’t have access to it as quickly as possible. Clint Smith made the following observation “Carrying a gun isn’t supposed to be comfortable, it is supposed to be a comfort”. Concealed carry inevitably means that you need to make some concessions and changes to your lifestyle and wardrobe.

Whatever method you choose, you need to firstly consider carrying the firearm safely – that firstly means that the trigger guard of the firearm should be covered by whatever method you choose and that the firearm is securely attached to your body. That means that if you use a holster (Inside Waistband, Outside Waistband, Sticky Holster, etc.) you need the trigger guard of the firearm covered so that the trigger cannot snag on clothing or anything else. If you do decide to carry your firearm in a bag – make sure that you have easy access to the firearm and secondly that you don’t just dump it in a bag with everything else. The best option in terms of this is to have a separate compartment for the firearm – like, for example, the Vism bag or Maxpedition bag and secondly that you then have a holster, like a sticky holster to put the firearm into this compartment – covering the trigger guard.

‘On the waist carry’ is the best location to carry your firearm because it offers easy access. I carry my firearm daily in an Inside Waistband Holster (Comptac MTAC) on my hip, as this is the position that I also use for my Outside Waistband Holster which I do sport-shooting from – and I find that this works with my particular circumstances better as I have built significant muscle memory for this position – meaning that the gun is where my body is used to it being, even if I don’t have time to think about it. Most other ladies that I know either appendix carry or carry “small of back”.

I am not trying to say concealed carry is an easy option, at times it is inconvenient and uncomfortable but that is the choice that one has to make. Having a constant reminder of the firearm is not a bad thing, as it is a constant reminder of why one carries. A sort of physical and tactile Aide Memoire that you need to be aware of your circumstances at all times. At times when I had to fly to Cape Town and I could not carry my gun, I actually felt naked without the gun, and pretty nervous.

Considerations in terms of clothing that you need to take note of:

• When you buy clothing make sure that the waistband can accommodate your gun.
• Wear looser shirts or incorporate sleeveless concealment garments into your fashion choices.

Whatever method you choose to conceal your weapon, make sure that you learn how to draw from this particular concealment method.

Currently in South Africa we do not have that many choices as to concealed carry but it is something that I am personally working on.

So here comes the most controversial issue. Which firearm should you choose as a woman? My answer to this is, whatever firearm suits your specific needs and that you like and you find easy to shoot. Whatever firearm you choose should fit both your hands and your body type. The size and weight of the gun should fit in with your particular lifestyle and circumstances. For example if the firearm is too big for your particular lifestyle you would be less likely to carry it. One of my biggest irritations are what a lot of men (I am not saying all men) think woman should carry on some of the firearm forums. The first option always coming up is a revolver – usually a 38 special. I personally do not think that this is a very good idea for a variety of reasons. Revolvers are not that concealable, they have really bad triggers and are not easy to shoot, they have very limited capacity and if you have a stoppage you can’t easily fix the problem – and they DO have stoppages… trust me on this. If you have a choice go for a pistol, if you only have a revolver it is better than nothing. Pistols are usually more concealable, have a higher capacity and if you have a stoppage, 99% of the time you can sort it out quickly.

Which calibre should you go for? I personally would rather go for at least a 9mm Parabellum round than a 380 auto/9mm Short. I find self defense ammunition in small 380 auto’s is very snappy (combined with the fact that you typically don’t have much gun to hang onto) and would rather go for a 9mmP, 40 S&W or .45 acp….whatever calibre you find easy to shoot accurately and quickly.
What ammunition should you use for self defense? Any of the major manufacturers makes good hollow point ammunition. Do not carry cheap range ammunition for self defense. Rather invest in good carry ammunition, and cycle this on a yearly basis. Make sure that the particular brand that you choose, cycles through your particular gun and that you have some experience with the recoil of these rounds – usually it is a lot “hotter” than the ammunition that you will shoot on the range.

If you decide to carry a firearm, one of the most important things to take into consideration is that you need constant practice and experience with your firearm. Rifles and shotguns are actually very easy guns to shoot, handguns not so much. Handgun skills are said to be perishable… they go off if not used. If possible join a sporting organisation like the South African Defensive Pistol Association (SADPA) and shoot your gun at least once a month. It will give you confidence, let you get to know what your strengths and limitations are and will teach you how to clear stoppages and other malfunctions.

I would like to urge South African ladies to stand up for themselves and take responsibility for their own safety! Don’t moan about crime – do something constructive and get yourself a firearm.

Have a safe and awesome day!

Lynette for Tac SHAC
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