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Packing heat in style: High-end purses help women conceal guns

Today
Surprise! This crocodile-print leather hobo has a discreet compartment specially designed to conceal a firearm.

Leslie Deets cares about fashion. She loves skirts and pretty heels. She adores Coach and Michael Kors handbags. And the gun she owns is pink.

Less than a year ago, Deets blasted her way into a largely untapped market: the growing and wildly diverse demographic of U.S. women who carry handguns. Deets did so by founding Concealed Carrie, a business based in Roswell, Ga., that makes high-end leather handbags, totes and computer bags for women who want to be able to protect themselves and look great while doing so.

Today
“When I didn’t have something that I found attractive to carry, I wasn’t carrying,” said Concealed Carrie founder and CEO Leslie Deets, pictured here with a brown leather satchel.

“If you looked at me, you wouldn’t be expecting me to be packing anything — except maybe some Lancôme,” said Deets, who is 5-foot-3 and weighs 100 pounds. “But I like feeling more alert and more empowered knowing that that firearm is right there next to me.”

She kept encountering a logistical problem, though: How exactly should she carry her pink Walther PK380?

“I don’t want to carry a firearm in my bra, OK?” said Deets, 47, who has a background in architecture and design. “And this is such a male-dominated industry that the options out there for women were very limited. A lot of the handbags that existed were very tactical or very plain.”

This got Deets thinking about the kind of purse she’d want to carry — and shortly before last year’s holiday season, Concealed Carrie was born. Deets’ inventory of leather satchels, totes and computer bags, which range in price from about $250 to $300, sold out almost completely in eight weeks. Cabela’s, Overstock.com and other outlets quickly picked up the Concealed Carrie product line, and in the business’ first six months of existence, sales topped $200,000.

Deets unwittingly triggered a firestorm of interest among women who want to be highly discreet about the weapons they carry. Polling research and gun-sale statistics reveal that an estimated 15 million to 20 million women in the United States own their own firearms, and more women are learning how to shoot all the time.

‘Chicks with Guns’: Some 15 million US women pack heat

“I really didn’t expect this, but (shooting) relieves more stress than an afternoon at the spa,” said Beverlee Athens, 42, a certified public accountant who lives in Alpharetta, Ga.

Athens recently began taking an introductory course in gun safety and marksmanship after her husband bought a handgun. She became hooked almost instantly, and she now owns her own Walther PK380 — as well as a Concealed Carrie brown leather hobo purse, and an ostrich-print computer bag for her gun and her laptop.

Today
This leather tote is large enough to hold an iPad or another tablet. Its gun compartment is equipped with two zippers for left-handed or right-handed shooters.

The bags appeal to female gun owners because they come with special, discreet compartments designed for handguns only. The “ambidextrous” compartments have two zippers so left-handed shooters can access their firearms just as quickly as right-handed shooters.

Each bag also is equipped with an adjustable Velcro holster, and Deets masterminded an added customer-service touch: “If you can produce the police report that shows you needed to use that firearm to protect yourself, and you had to shoot through the handbag, we’ll replace that bag for you for free,” she said.

Cindy Satterfield, 39, a language arts teacher from Waleska, Ga., immediately fell in love with the brown Concealed Carrie satchel her husband got her for Christmas.

“I’m always hearing, ‘Oh my gosh, I love your purse!’ and I say, ‘Thank you!’ and I can tell they have NO clue that I’m carrying,” said Satterfield, who learned how to shoot as a child on her family’s farm.

“I’ve always had a gun for personal security,” Satterfield explained. “I’d carry it in my purse before, and where would it always go? Straight to the bottom of the purse, and that’s extremely dangerous. This is just so much better.”

‘Girl Hunter’ shoots, eats squirrels — and makes it gourmet

Today
An avid runner and dog lover, Leslie Deets has started working on casual jackets and athletic wear for female dog-walkers, joggers and cyclists who want to arm themselves with discretion.

For her part, Deets is stepping up production of leather Concealed Carrie bags and launching a lighter-weight, lower-cost line of “Carrie’s Closet” bags, which will be made of microfiber with leather trim and will cost $150 to $250.

She’s also designing casual jackets and athletic wear for female dog-walkers, joggers, hikers, cyclists and others who want to feel safe wherever they are.

“We have a denim jacket that we hope to have available in the fall,” Deets said. “If you’re out walking your dog, you’re not carrying a bag with you, that’s silly. But this will still allow you to protect yourself discreetly.”

Need a Coffey break? Connect with TODAY.com writer Laura T. Coffey on Facebook, follow her on Twitter or read more of her stories at LauraTCoffey.com.

  • Slideshow Photos

    Lindsay McCrum

    A perfect shot: Photos of women with guns explode stereotypes

    Lindsay McCrum’s book “Chicks with Guns” explores issues of self-image through photographs that are both beautiful and unexpected.

  • A perfect shot: Photos of women with guns explode stereotypes

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    ‘A very special world’ -

    Lindsay McCrum’s book “Chicks with Guns” explores issues of self-image and gender through photographs that are both beautiful and unexpected. Here are images and caption excerpts from the book.

    Lee
    Ridgeland, S.C.
    Boss 20-gauge side-by-side

    “Hunting and shooting are the foundations of a complete and very special world ... Once you’ve held the work of art that is a best-grade London side-by-side in your hands – especially if made in the 1930s (the golden age of English gun making) – you will never forget that miracle of balance and weight. It seems so natural to swing and hit the bird that you’re endlessly surprised when you miss.”

    Lindsay McCrum / Lindsay McCrum
  • A perfect shot: Photos of women with guns explode stereotypes

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    ‘I can do this’ -

    Jamie
    Loomis, Calif.
    .44 Magnum Ruger Super Redhawk double-action revolver

    “I got a BB gun when I was 6 years old and practiced shooting at old cans and such. I got my first .22-caliber rifle, which I still have, when I was 10, and I still have that very first paper target from the shooting range ... I was a police officer for five years ... When I was in the academy, the shooting instructor knew immediately that I had been shooting before ... I think they were really impressed that I could shoot. I thought, ‘You know? I’ll show these guys I can do this.’”

    Lindsay McCrum / Lindsay McCrum
  • A perfect shot: Photos of women with guns explode stereotypes

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    ‘Hunting doesn’t mean killing’ -

    Jen
    Emigrant, Mont.
    Browning .270 with a Leupold scope and handmade sling

    “My husband bought [my favorite gun] for me. It was so nice of him to do such a nice thing for me ... Hunting is very important to me for many reasons. Hunting doesn’t mean killing – it’s about the amazing experiences that you almost always have when you are out in nature. Hunting is what you make it; and for me being out seeing what Mother Nature has to offer and sharing these experiences with my kids is so special and important. I wouldn’t want them to learn it from anyone else.”

    Lindsay McCrum / Lindsay McCrum
  • A perfect shot: Photos of women with guns explode stereotypes

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    The old West -

    Belinda
    Watsonville, Calif.
    Pair of Ruger Vaqueros .45 Long Colt

    This striking portrait of Belinda appears at the very beginning of Lindsay McCrum’s book “Chicks with Guns.” It is one of the few portraits in the book that doesn’t have an accompanying caption written by the photograph subject. “This whole project really evolved and took on a life of its own because of the enthusiasm and the excitement of the women themselves,” McCrum said in an interview. “I found everyone in this book by word of mouth.”

    Lindsay McCrum / Lindsay McCrum
  • A perfect shot: Photos of women with guns explode stereotypes

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    Addicted to adventure -

    Lynn
    Houston, Texas
    Sako .308 bolt-action rifle with scope

    “I think my philosophy of hunting has always been about the adventure itself. During the years we’ve been married, my husband Oscar and I have been on some amazing hunts. At the North Pole we stayed in an ice house built by our guides, ice brick by ice brick, before our very eyes. ... We’ve hunted from our log cabins in Colorado and Utah, and we’ve also hunted in Georgia and of course Texas. Once in 1982 on an African safari I tracked a lion for 10 and a half hours. It was exhilarating! I love the juxtaposition of stalking game one day and then dressing for a glamorous evening the next.”

    Lindsay McCrum / Lindsay McCrum
  • A perfect shot: Photos of women with guns explode stereotypes

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    ‘Life is to be revered’ -

    Anita
    St. Paul, Minn.
    Glock .40-caliber and Remington 11-81 Police Model

    “I was pushing middle age the first time I held a gun. I wasn’t raised around hunters and the only other cop in my family history was my great-great-grandfather. He was a cop in New York City and I imagine he carried nothing but a nightstick ... [Today] I am a practiced shooter, and I enjoy the drills at our monthly qualifications ... The type of gun I carry has no bearing on the respect I maintain for all weaponry. It is life that is to be revered, and I have sworn to protect it.”

    Lindsay McCrum / Lindsay McCrum
  • A perfect shot: Photos of women with guns explode stereotypes

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    ‘A lifetime love of the outdoors’ -

    Pamela
    Monte Sereno, Calif.
    Freedom Arms .454 Casull

    “My father was a subsistence hunter. Every year he harvested a deer and butchered it himself. We stored it in the freezer and consumed it throughout the winter. When I was first dating my husband, he invited me to go dove hunting. I was so flattered that he had asked me to join him on his hunt that I said yes. That was the beginning of a lifetime love of the outdoors and hunting. My husband and I have been hunting for 35 years.”

    Lindsay McCrum / Lindsay McCrum
  • A perfect shot: Photos of women with guns explode stereotypes

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    ‘Integral part of ranch life’ -

    Sarita
    Armstrong, Texas
    Parker 20-gauge side-by-side

    “I grew up on a cattle ranch in South Texas, where shooting was a part of daily life and hunting traditions abounded. My late father taught his five children to shoot shotguns, rifles, and pistols before we were 10. We were also instructed in gun safety and how to field-dress and clean all game we shot. Shooting is still an integral part of our ranch life and work. Most of our entertaining at the ranch revolves around shooting and hunting.”

    Lindsay McCrum / Lindsay McCrum
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    ‘The magnificence of it all’ -

    Alexandra and Truett
    Houston, Texas
    Ithaca 20-gauge side-by-side

    “Guns, like everything in my childhood home, were considered treasures and works of art ... My parents taught me to appreciate the art of the hunt, the serenity of the outdoors, and the magnificence of it all. I now have two sons, Thomson, 5, and Truett, 3 years old. The bundled energy and palpable excitement in their eyes as they watch us pack the car with hunting gear is intoxicating! This book actually made me realize that the guns my father gave me when I was married will one day pass to my sons.”

    Lindsay McCrum / Lindsay McCrum
  • Image: "Chicks with Guns" book cover

    A perfect shot: Photos of women with guns explode stereotypes

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    Trained from infancy -

    Greta
    Napa Valley, Calif.
    English Forsyth system scent bottle pistol, ca. 1820

    “I was only 7 or 8 months old when I received my first gun, a gift from a longtime friend of my parents ... For my seventh birthday, my father gave me my first BB gun ... I studied hard with my dad’s help and completed the hunter’s safety course at the California Department of Fish and Game so I could receive a lifetime hunting license. I was so proud when the certificate arrived in the mail three weeks before my 10th birthday!”

    Lindsay McCrum / Lindsay McCrum


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