PAYING IT FORWARD—PATTY McCONNELL
by Sheila Rockwell
Six years ago, Patty McConnell took an introductory course on handgun handling and safety, and her love of firearms was born. Empowered by her newfound knowledge and skills, she chose to further her training, obtaining her CCW and eventually her NRA Pistol Instructor Certification. Everyday carry presented itself as a challenge to Patty, who wanted fashionable and functional clothing that would both conceal her carry pistol and fit her properly.Frustrated at the lack of options available for women, Patty decided to take matters into her own hands and, after collaborating with a friend who had a background in fashion design, formed Silver State Apparel in 2013. Silver State Apparel donates a portion of it’s proceeds to a charity for abused women. Here, Patty shares her story of how she turned a “problem” into a successful business.
TAWS: “Patty, what is your personal choice of a firearm for CC?”
PATTY: “For the first five years I carried a .38 Ruger LCR because a revolver is “tried and true”. That small revolver had a lot of recoil, I did not enjoy shooting it, and it was a challenge to conceal. Yet I pressed on, because I was not ready to carry a semiautomatic. About a year ago I purchased a .380 Glock 42. It is actually easier to conceal because it is thinner and it is a pleasure to shoot with little recoil. I prefer to carry IWB and have a Flashbang Ava holster that is very comfortable. I also have a concealed carry purse, and of course my Glock fits nicely in one of my women’s concealed carry shirts from Silver State Apparel.”
TAWS: “What types of shooting do you most enjoy?”
PATTY: “My love of guns and shooting evolved to an interest in hunting big game in the last couple of years. It was a joy to attend Hunter Safety class with my grandson, Jordan. To continue to learn, I attended a rifle class and purchased a rifle on my own, the Lady Hunter rifle from Savage Arms, a rifle designed specifically for women. In 2014, I shot my first cow elk in Wyoming and in 2015 I filled my Nevada tag for a buck antelope.
TAWS: “Tell me about what prompted your decision to start Silver State Apparel?”
PATTY: “After obtaining my CCW permit in December 2009, I faced the challenge that all women face who carry concealed, “what clothes should I wear?” I started looking for clothing that would assist me in concealing a weapon. I wanted cute clothes to wear that were also tactical, so I started searching the internet and retail stores and could not find anything. For a few years I kept looking to find clothing thatwas covert and tactical, yet fashionable and feminine. Those two concepts had not been combined to produce concealed carry clothing for women. There were just a few items on the market for women and they looked similar to the items available to men. The end result was that I found nothing. Because I did not have the knowledge in fashion design, I reached out to my friend, Julene Franklin, who has a background in fashion design. My career has been in the business world. In 1989 I graduated from Montana State University with a Bachelor of Science in Accounting. I have been an Accountant for 26 years and held a Nevada CPA license for 20 years. Julene graduated from Texas Women’s University with a double major in Fashion Design and Fashion Merchandising andhas over 25 years of experience as a designer and production manager with designed lines that have been sold in small boutiques and major department stores. She was able to take my concept and sketch out a shirt that was exactly what I had in mind. Julene successfully turned my concept into a reality. We became
business partners with Julene overseeing the design and production processes and I assumed responsibility for our operational and financial management. Our first sales were in October of 2013.”
TAWS: What makes your clothing different?”PATTY: “Our women’s concealed carry shirt has a boutique look and comes in various colors and multiple sizes from Extra Small to size 3X. There are long sleeve, three quarter and short sleeves all with various embellishments but the same overall construction. The shirt has two concealment pockets that are accessible through openings on the front of the shirt with Velcro closures. Concealment pockets on each side accommodate right and left handed shooters and hold small light weight handguns up to 6 1/2 inches long and weighing no more than 16 ounces. Double layers of fabric in the shirt front, distribute weight evenly from the shoulder. Our shirts are made of comfortable stretch fabric for fit and function. “
TAWS: “Do you think that wearing your clothing motivates more women to carry their firearms?”
PATTY: “Women have a more difficult time finding ways to conceal their firearm. We wear different types of clothing depending on the situation. Sometimes we are in t-shirts, jeans, and boots, some events require us to wear a dress, and others of us have to work in a professional environment and must wear business attire. We cannot always carry the same way every day, so we need options. Clothing from Silver State Apparel gives women one more option for on-the-body carry, which is the best option to have instant access to our firearm. By providing another option for women, our product encourages and assists them to carry when a purse or holster may not work in a certain situation. Our shirts are also designed to cover a larger gun carried with an IWB holster because they are cut a little longer and looser on the bottom. The concealed pocket can also hold an extra magazine if you are carrying your firearm or pepper spray if you are in a gun-free zone. If you are traveling, you can carry your wallet, passport, lipstick or car keys in the hidden pockets.”
TAWS: “If you could change something about the firearms industry in general, what would it be, and why?”
PATTY: “Over the past five years I have seen some positive changes in the firearms industry regarding products designed for the new emerging market of women gun owners. At first the firearms industry thought all they had to do was make everything pink forwomen. Then we started to see almost every firearms manufacturer come out with a small compact carry gun designed more for women. We have also seen special ammunition designed for women to soften the recoil and there are other companies like mine that have designed holsters just for women. The firearms industry needs to follow the example of Savage Arms, who designed a rifle just for women based on the unique geometry specifically suited for women. It was not a youth rifle or a smaller version of a man’s rifle. Women are unique and we know what we want and need, and the firearms industry needs to ask us for input when designing new products. When I attended Shot Show for the first time in 2015, it was obvious that the firearm industry is a longstandingmale-dominated industry which is now growing in part due to women entering the market and purchasing guns for protection, competitive shooting. and hunting. I would like to see the new companies in the firearms industry, like my company, that have been created by women for women, supported by the industry as a whole. All these