A mistake first-time buyers make is cramming a handgun, holster, magazine pouch and other gear on the gun belt without much thought about how it is spaced.
The result is a conflict of comfort and draw speed. Most of us have a yard of belt space more or less.
This is more than adequate to carry the tools and devices we need during the day.
Proper allocation of space with each tool in its correct position in order of importance is not an art, but a learned skill. As a working cop, I carried a handgun, spare ammunition, handcuffs, a baton and a radio on my gun belt.
I did not allow any item to interfere with the deployment of another piece of equipment. I prioritized my gear, making certain that critical gear was easily deployed.
I adhere to principles learned the hard way. By carefully allocating belt space and practicing presenting each tool, I am aware of potential conflicts.
In order of importance, the handgun comes first as primary life-saving gear. The most-used item is the cell phone and it should be handy, but it isn’t critical.
Let’s look at the principles of allocation I have developed to avoid conflict.
Weight Reduction Opportunity #1: The Handgun
The handgun should be carried in a position that affords a natural draw. Writers often tell us that the element of surprise is important to concealed carry.
Surprise is lost once you initiate the draw. You had best be fast and sure in your action or the adversary may be able to physically interfere with your draw.
At conversational range, an opponent interfering with your draw is a real possibility. The most common carry position is strong side on the belt.
The elbow shoots to the rear and scoops the handgun out of the holster. You must practice in brushing aside covering garments and reaching under the garment in order to draw the handgun.
The draw angle is less handy with an inside-the-waistband holster. Like most holsters, the IWB is a compromise.
The IWB may conceal a handgun without a heavy covering garment, as the holster is not visible below belt level.
A belt scabbard will protrude below the belt and requires a longer covering garment. Just the same, with proper selection, the belt scabbard may be a good concealment tool.
The handguns I deploy are proven by design and personal experience. I use what I am comfortable with and I have confidence in.
I prefer a handgun that is fast on the draw, powerful and accurate. I most often use an inside-the-waistband holster.
The strong-side belt scabbard and the inside-the-waistband holster are my choice, and I plan allocation of my belt space around this type of holster.
An exception is when I am carrying a cross-draw holster. I deploy a cross-draw holster often, particularly when traveling.
The cross draw is carried on the weak side just forward of the hip. The handgun is carried tight against the body for good concealment.
When you are seated, you may practically keep your fingertips on the handgun grip. When driving, an inside-the-waistband holster is practically impossible to draw from.
I am not advocating drawing while driving, although the prospect of a carjack attempt is one scenario that comes to mind.
If you need to draw while seated, the cross draw is a lifesaver.
Shopkeepers and business people who are active during the day and spend considerable amounts of time seated may find the cross-draw holster ideal for their use.
Weight Reduction Opportunity #2: Spare Magazines
A compromise many find works well is a strong-side holster with a severe cant, worn under a light covering garment.
This type of holster is more comfortable than an inside-the-waistband holster and offers good speed.
The Don Hume DAH is among the best of the breed with custom quality and an affordable price. After choosing the holster, you must decide what support gear is important.
Secondary only to the handgun itself is spare ammunition. When carrying a self-loader, there is always a possibility of a malfunction.
Malfunction drills may require a spare magazine. I have seen magazine carriers in impossibly difficult locations, including the small of the back and just behind the primary handgun.
The proper position for the spare magazine is on the non-dominant hand side just behind the hipbone.
I find that with the slim 1911 magazine, a dual-magazine pouch is practically as easily concealed as a single pouch. The single pouch is wonderfully flat, taking up little space.
Avoid carriers that place the magazine in a horizontal position. A 4 13/16-inch length 1911 magazine becomes uncomfortable in this carry mode.
I occasionally see these, and some feature a ‘four-way’ loop that allows horizontal or vertical carry.
In horizontal carry, the magazine is carried lengthwise on the belt and carried on the strong side. I find the type ill-suited to concealed carry.
Keep the spare magazine on the weak side just in front of the hip and practice drawing the magazine often.
Since we fire and reload on the range, practicing reloading is simple. Rather than draw from a stack of magazines on a range bench, draw more often from the carrier.
This practice will build speed quickly. If you carry the handgun cross draw, there is no need to place the magazine carrier on the strong side.
The carrier is worn behind the hip and the holster is worn forward of the hip. The weight of the magazine and carrier is insignificant compared to the weight of the handgun.
I have come to appreciate holsters with built-in magazine carriers more with the development of well-designed units.
While the concept eliminates the need for a spare carrier, drawing the spare magazine is slower.
This is a tradeoff. I see the combination as best suited for a person who is not convinced they need spare ammunition and will seldom carry a magazine carrier.
Weight Reduction Opportunity #3: Speedloaders
Spare ammunition for the revolver is more difficult. Conventional reloads demand that the speedloader is carried on the strong side just in front of the handgun.
Speedloaders are difficult to conceal, as they are as wide as the revolver cylinder. Just the same, with the Galco speedloader carrier, carrying the speedloader isn’t difficult.
When concealment is at a premium, carrying the DeSantis speed strip in the pocket is a reasonable option.
The snub .38 is a deep concealment handgun and a speedloader isn’t concealment friendly. The speed strip can be. I carry the DeSantis strip in my right-hand front pocket.
You must not allow keys or change to interfere with the speed strip, so carry it in one pocket and gear in the other.
Weight Reduction Opportunity #4: Lights
A modern necessity is the combat light. I don’t necessarily carry a pistol that accepts a weapon light, but I like to have a lightweight, easily-carried light such as the Surefire Stiletto.
While I encourage everyone to purchase the best gear they are able to afford, there are a number of quality lights that are relatively inexpensive.
The point is to have a light. Illumination is desirable even when simply walking through a parking lot.
We may not move along with the gun in hand, but there is no reason not to have the light in hand, eliminating the need to draw both handgun and light if the ball goes up.
The Stiletto should be carried clipped to the weak side pocket.
Weight Reduction Opportunity #5: Support Gear
At this point, we have chosen the holster and the spare magazine carrier, and we have used our belt space efficiently, with a good balance.
Now we add support gear. My work once demanded I carry a Nextel, today I carry a cell phone.
I simply carry the device as far toward the belt buckle as possible on the weak side if I carry on the gun belt.
During the winter months, I carry the cell phone in the forward pocket of a Blackhawk! jacket.
If worn on the gun belt, it does not interfere with the draw when on the weak side and balances the weight of the spare gun load.
When I deploy a cross draw, naturally, I carry the cell phone on the strong side.
When carrying the cell phone or Nextel on the belt, you need to be certain that you do not expose the handgun when deploying the communication device.
It is easy to sweep the jacket back too far and reveal a handgun. When sweeping the hand under covering garments, a cell phone carrier may interfere with the draw.
While there is a chance of interference with the spare magazine when carried on the weak side, this is less vital then avoiding conflict with the handgun.
The handgun is the most important and the one that should save your life.
If you are obliged by work to carry more then one cell phone or a phone and pager, then you have to come up with something that is comfortable and workable.
Perhaps carrying the devices on each side of the buckle, forward of the belt loops, is workable. Be certain that you practice often with your chosen gear.
Carry the holster, spare ammunition, light and cell phone to the range exactly as you carry them on a day-to-day basis.
Practice your draw and practice drawing from a seated position. You may find some movements are uncomfortable to impossible with the allocation you have formulated.
I have found conflict such as a folding knife in the pocket that interfered with leg movement when I was seated, and also discovered holsters that were pressed against the body too tightly when seated.
The draw angle cannot be compromised.
If you are serious concerning personal defense, you will practice often with your daily gear, rather than opting to practice with a range holster that does not afford realistic practice.
Weight Reduction Opportunity #6: The Gun Belt Itself
An obvious need for concealed carry is a good belt. Most belts are not designed as holster belts, but rather designed for fashion.
A quality leather belt is a necessity for concealed carry. The gun belt and the holster should be tightly mated.
The holster must be in the same place every time we draw, no slop is allowable.
The belt must be thick enough to carry the weight of the holster, spare magazine, light carrier, and cell phone.
The gun belt may cost as much as the holster and will be money well spent. A quality gun belt will usually outlast the holster.
Conclusion / Other Considerations
When considering allocation of belt space, making certain that the draw is not impeded is foremost.
Your gear must not conflict and each item is given a place in order of importance. Finally, practice with the gear in the daily carry mode.
Comfort and safety will be assured if you follow these rules. Less is more when choosing gear, lightweight but durable is the watchword.
Magazine carriers for concealed carry don’t need to be as thick and heavy as magazine carriers designed for police duty, but they need to be strong enough to reliably retain the magazine during movement.
Holsters do not have to be thick saddle leather, but they should be thick enough to get the job done.
Another solution — during the winter months I often wear a shoulder holster. The handgun is balanced against spare ammunition carried on the non-dominant side.
If you have a weak or injured back, the shoulder holster can be a good solution. Be certain that you understand how the holster works.
When you sit, the components may sag and contact the belt or hips. With proper understanding, the shoulder holster is a good choice.
Be certain to choose a quality example.
How do you set up your gun belt for concealed carry? Let us know in the comments section below!