Ten years ago, Anna Taylor was dealing with the fallout of divorce.
“I became a single mother. I was responsible for my own safety and the safety of my family. I wanted to take our defense into my own hands,” she remembers. Taylor took action, getting a concealed-carry permit and gun but she struggled to find training and an acceptable holster. She ended up locking her gun away and “feeling very disappointed that I wasn’t able to practice my fundamental right”
Around the same time, Dawn Hillyer was wrapping up a traumatic six years during which her life was threatened by a stalker whose threat was so grave that she went into hiding. The stalker received 10 years in prison for Felony Stalking. During the ordeal, Dawn bought her first gun which she named “Hilda” and obtained her own concealed-carry permit.
It wasn’t something that others in her line of work (as an executive recruiter) did. In fact, her company had an explicit non-firearm policy. “But I was afraid for my life,” she says. She remembers another kind of fear, the anxiety that people would know she was carrying firearm. “I’m not ‘tactical,” she thought. “I needed to be able to blend in.”
She needed to find a way to hide Hilda.
The Rush To Arm
Anna and Dawn are far from alone. According to the Crime Research Prevention Center (CPRC), a firearms and public safety research organization, surging demand for guns has been accompanied by a spike in demand for concealed-carry permits.
Applications for the permits have surged 34% in the past four years. Demand is so high in 2020 that it has overwhelmed many jurisdictions, resulting in waiting lines according to the CRPC’s latest report. As of this month, there are 19.48 million concealed-carry permit holders in the U.S., more than 9% of the 209 million adults in America and 820,000 more than in 2019.
In the report, recently retired CRPC president, Dr. John Lott, says that, “Permits for women and minorities continue to increase at a much faster rate than for either men or whites.”
Available metrics may be under-reporting the trend according Lott’s findings in which he notes that 17 states no longer provide data on the number of people legally carrying a concealed handgun because people in those states no longer need a permit to carry.
What Works For Her
In Dawn Hillyer’s search for a way to hide Hilda, the predominant advice she received was to carry the gun on-body she says. For her that didn’t work. Existing holster/carry options “imprinted” when on her body as gun industry folks call it – the outline of the gun is visible.
Dawn gave it some thought and realized something about herself and cold Indiana climate in which she lived.
“The most consistent thing about me is my purse. It’s right there outside my clothing. I can walk with my hand on the firearm if I want to. It’s an easy draw.”
Unable to find purses that really worked with Hilda, bags that provided access, securely held, and separated a pistol from other typical purse accoutrements, Dawn determined to design her own and start selling them. She calls her company Hiding Hilda.
Hillyer sells her own concealed-carry purses directly online via Hiding Hilda, manufacturing them with a partner in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Their made-in-America imprimatur is important to her customers she says though the pandemic has made sourcing material difficult this year.
The site also sells several lines of what the industry calls concealment accessories – hip bags, backpacks and sling bags from makers like UUB Gear. Hillyer attends many gun shows including the USCCA Concealed Carry & Home Defense Expo. Social media, a blog and lots of networking move product which she ships throughout the country.
“We’re trying to be the face of concealed-carry purses in particular,” Hillyer says.
Anna Taylor is arguably doing the same for body-worn holsters for women and men. Taylor’s gun eventually came out from under wraps after she decided that the only way to integrate it into her life was to do something herself.
“When I couldn’t find a safe and comfortable way to carry daily, the responsible thing I felt was to create something that would.”
Despite having no significant business experience, Taylor founded Dene Adams LLC in 2013. Based in Olathe, Kansas, the company is named for Taylor’s grandfather who taught her and her siblings that guns are to be respected, not feared. Dene Adams offers a variety of holsters and concealment garments from bras to corsets.
Regardless of the specific item, Taylor says her products holster a gun snugly on a squishy spot (abdomen, inside thigh) rather than on the hip. Employing compression shape-wear fabric, Dene Adams’ holster garments surround the body, pulling the gun in, reducing its imprint, and distributing its weight comfortably. And they’re designed with the smaller handguns the women favor in mind, nine-millimeter pistols like the SIG Sauer P365, Smith & Wesson M&P9 Shield 2.0, or Ruger LCRx.
Dene Adams’ women’s holsters range from $69.99 – $139.99. Taylor attends some gun shows but relies more on direct online and dealer sales. Social media and U.S.-sourcing (manufacturing is in New York) are part of her branding as is the subtlety of the wearables she offers.
“One of the issues when you’re new to concealed-carry is that you’re always worried that someone can see it,” Taylor explains. “My products help with that. You’re able to go through your day without worrying.”
Both ladies agree that the surge in overall demand, particularly the concealed-carry demand from women, is real. Current events, police funding questions and single-parent families they say are fueling a hunger for security.
“The world is crazy,” Hillyer affirms. “It’s so different from what it used to be. I’m not just selling a purse. It’s about educating women, about [building] confidence. It’s not just about making a buck.”