Among many choices for concealed carry, the belly band holster is among the most misunderstood methods. This article aims to inform potential belly band holster users of the pros and cons of this method, including safety considerations.
For most people, the hardest part of establishing a regular practice of concealed carry is figuring out a carry system. Adjusting one’s habits to include a loaded gun carried in public is no small undertaking. The different concealment methods and holsters can be mind-boggling in variety. Most who carry with regularity have gone through a trial-and-error process with different holster types.
In an effort to save you time and effort, this article addresses belly bands — defined as fabric band with holster that encircles the torso, designed for concealment. Within this narrow genre, there are still a couple of varieties. I’ll do my best to cover considerations regarding these holsters, based on my mileage as both a concealed carrier and an instructor.
The advantages of employing a belly band holster for carry are significant. At a minimum, most people wear them in a way that doesn’t necessitate removal of the holster or gun to use the restroom or to try on clothes at a store. There is tremendous value in always keeping the gun under your control without having to think about it much. Belly bands are among the royalty of concealment systems in this regard.
A related advantage is that belly band carry is hands-free. Compared to a purse, pack, or other off-body carry method, they don’t require you to carry something in your hand or on your shoulder.
Comfort is an important factor. If the inconvenience or pain associated with a holster exceeds the perceived benefit of going armed, the gun will be left behind where it can’t protect you when you’re separated from it. Opinions about whether belly bands are comfortable vary about as widely as hair color does in people.
Before attempting concealed carry, familiarize yourself with the rules of safe gun handling and avail yourself of training that helps you understand how to put those rules into practice with your handgun. That class experience should include an honest evaluation of your safety habits, especially where muzzle and finger control are concerned. If you aren’t yet keenly aware of what your fingers are doing while handling a firearm, or if you’re oblivious to where the muzzle is pointing at any given time, get training and become competent with safe gun handling before carrying any firearm.
A safe holster does two things, at minimum. It prevents anything from penetrating the space inside the trigger guard, and it prevents the gun from coming loose from its concealment location, in the context of the physical activities typically done by the wearer.
Based on these safety guidelines, it’s likely wise to eliminate from consideration any belly band that lacks a mechanism to keep the gun from working its way out or simply falling out. Many bands accomplish retention via a simple fabric strap that goes over the backstrap and secures with a snap or Velcro.
If you plan on wearing the band under any fabric that’s less stiff than jeans, consider that the trigger guard on an entirely soft belly band may not be enough to prevent intrusion by environmental miscellany such as toddler fingers, firewood carried on your side, or dog toenails. Jeans and some coats can often provide protection of the trigger guard that soft-sided gun pockets don’t. Unless you wear a heavyweight garment over the soft gun compartment on a daily basis, avoid soft sides on the holster part of any belly band.
Belly Band Construction
The classic belly band design is a long piece of fabric, four to six inches wide, with built-in slots or a structured holster for a gun. There might be pockets for magazines, money, or what-nots. There is generally elastic either throughout the product material or where the ends come together.
Bands can theoretically be worn anywhere around the torso, from just under the armpits to below the waistband. The term “theoretically” is used because bodily conformation has a definite influence on where a band can comfortably be secured. The securing mechanism is usually Velcro, but a few have wire closures akin to those on a bra. Colors vary, but white, black, and beige are common. Color can be important if you plan to wear the band under tops that are thin enough to show color through the garment.
A variation on the theme of a fabric slot or pocket for the gun is a band that has a sewn-in or Velcro-on Kydex shell over the gun. These add bulk but also add safety and retention. They are gun-specific and, when made correctly, entirely cover the trigger guard.
Other advantages of a Kydex shell over a plain slot, with or without a Velcro slot closure, include a quiet draw that doesn’t involve the infamous Velcro RRRRRRRRIP, and the greater probability of being able to re-holster the gun while the band is on the body. Soft-sided holsters or slots sewn onto fabric, for instance, go flat when the gun is removed.
Re-holstering safely for holsters with soft pockets means removing the holster entirely and reapplying the holster to the body with the gun in place. Repeated live fire practice is therefore inconvenient to do safely with a soft-sided holster. Never use the muzzle as a digging tool to get a gun back into a holster that’s on your body!
There are other types of torso-borne holsters that aren’t covered here due to space. Much about them can be inferred, though, from understanding more about belly bands as defined in this article.
Wearing a Belly Band
Belly bands offer great concealment, but access to the gun often depends on the user’s choice of covering garment. The ability to draw quickly is a tremendous advantage when life is at stake. Consider the style and arrangement of shirts, pants, and skirts accordingly.
The level of tightness required to keep the gun in place depends on how a person’s shape and physical activity interfaces with the band. Most people work out the perfect band tension over time. If you’re someone who doesn’t like being constricted or having sweaty patches on a hot day, a band may not be for you.
Do not wear the band so loosely that it allows the gun grip to flop outward or allows the gun to rotate around the torso. Some people find a snug band comfortable for limited periods but experience digestive interference if it’s worn all day.
If you have sensitive skin or are using the band during repetitive activities, seek a band that has rounded corners and no bumpy knots where lines of stitching come together. Or, plan on wearing an undergarment under the band — again, usually this represents an option only for the heat-tolerant or during cold weather.
Drawing from a belly band can be a pleasure or chore depending on the overall setup. Concealing garments are of course up to you, but my advice for any holster is to find one that allows you to obtain a full firing grip (with the trigger finger straight and on the frame), with the gun fully holstered. Seek that first, as well as a system that meets trigger guard protection protocols as described here, and you should have a successful belly band carry experience.