In discussions of self-defense holsters you see various writers advocating this or that holster option: OWB (outside waistband), IWB (inside waistband), shoulder, ankle, kidney, crossdraw, etc. I sometimes see references to the belly band, but cannot remember ever seeing it recommended.
I’ve become increasingly unhappy with pocket carry, mostly because over many years I became used to having my pocket available for other things, mainly car keys and change. I thought I would try Thunderwear again (photo at right); years ago I carried a Glock 19 with empty chamber in that device, and I wanted to try it again. But I couldn’t find my Thunderwear, even though I had seen it not long before. Shortly afterward I went to a gun show and noticed a belly band on a table. It was a cheapo nylon model, with a double slot for the gun on one end and two slots for spare magazines on the other end. Twelve dollars changed hands and I walked out with the band.
Coincidentally I had just taken delivery a short time before of an excellent-condition S&W 3913, a single-stack, stainless 9mm which turned out to be an excellent shooter and completely reliable. So I’ve been carrying the Smith in the belly band for almost two weeks, and I have a few observations that might interest you.
When I bought the band, the seller told me he uses his not over the belly but above the belly. It’s almost a chest carry. Maybe we should say between the chest and the belly. (See the photos below.) I’ve found you can cinch it up fairly tight and it will stay put even if you don’t pull it tight enough to be uncomfortable. At least that’s true if you have something of a beer belly. You skinny guys might have it slip down too far, but I wouldn’t know anything about that. Mine fastens with Velcro, so it’s easy to get the exact tension that I want. Positioning it like that puts the gun at just about the same position you would expect a vertical shoulder holster to put it (again see the photo).
Concealability and security: As far as I can tell it’s completely concealable. Last night I attended a committee meeting in our subdivision. For the first time I was armed for the meeting. In the past there was no method of concealing a weapon that I was comfortable using among neighbors. There is just nothing for anyone to see. I didn’t tell my wife I had the gun there day after day, and she hasn’t noticed it yet, even with hugging. By security I mean there is no way the gun can fall out of the holster and land on the floor or table where everyone can see it. And of course, there’s no way anyone can grab it.
Flexibility of clothing: I can’t think of any clothing that won’t work with a belly band. I usually wear button-up shirts, and I'll explain below how that works. It works well with a T-shirt, but requires the weak hand to pull up the shirt. You don’t need a vest or sport jacket or any other special clothing. But if you’re wearing a jacket it’s just as easy to draw.
Comfort: I’ve never carried a gun in any fashion that was completely comfortable, which is to say that I don’t feel I have a gun. For me there’s always a little discomfort. Same way with this method. But it isn’t bad.
Ease and speed of draw: Here I’m willing to compromise in a way that others are not. There are two things to consider. The first is when you’re taken completely by surprise and have to draw without warning. The trouble here is that you have to unbutton one shirt button. (editor's note: or just rip the shirt open.) It’s fairly slow, but still faster than a fanny pack or ankle rig. If you’re walking in a dark parking lot or using an ATM it’s easy and unobtrusive to undo that button before hand and then rebutton when safely in your locked car. In that case it’s quite fast, probably faster than any other means of carry apart from strong side belt. It’s faster than a shoulder holster because there are no straps to unsnap and you don’t have to draw straight up or straight forward. You just yank the gun out by the handle and the elastic lets it go. Unlike some carry methods it’s about as easy to do seated as standing.
Economy: They cost less than almost any decent holster, and that’s only the beginning of the economy. They’ll work with any concealable weapon. Small or medium revolver, small or medium auto. Get a new carry gun and you won’t have to get a new holster.
Lack of flexibility in guns: This will be a deal breaker for some, maybe many people. But not everyone will have my standards. There’s a potential danger in that you can sweep yourself if you’re not careful, and possibly others as well. Especially in a high stress situation. Carrying with an empty chamber can be safely done with any gun, but there are disadvantages in not having a round in the chamber. For me a Glock with a loaded chamber is completely out. For me any SA (single-action) auto is out too. I also would probably not carry a loaded DA (double action) revolver and fully-loaded typical DA auto. Others will not be so wimpy–after all you can’t touch the trigger with the gun in the pocket of the band. But that’s the way I am, so I live with it. What makes this a doable deal for me is that the traditional S&W autos have a positive functioning safety that can’t be moved except purposely. So you thumb the safety up, and then have a standard DA pull. That’s the kind of security I want.
Until you learn the technique, it seems as if a major drawback is the difficulty of reholstering without tearing apart your clothing. I've learned that it's quite easy to do with this technique: If you need to hold on to the gun in the strong hand, pull on the elastic pocket of the holster through the material of your shirt. Holding the pocket open with the weak hand, insert the gun through the open shirt into the pocket. If you can set the gun down it's even easier. Reach through the open shirt with the strong hand, use it to open the pocket, then hold the pocket open through the shirt with the weak hand, and then pick up the gun with strong hand and insert it.
Here I am dressed normally with the gun concealed in the belly band. (It’s backward because I took the picture in the mirror.)
Here’s the picture without the shirt, so you can see exactly how the gun is held.
There are many belly bands available. See belly band holster in Google and you’ll be directed to them. The ones I found on the web are all fancier and more expensive than mine. Some of them have extra pockets for your wallet and so on. My guess is that none of them will actually work better than my cheapo, but some of you guys are high rollers and will want to put some real money ($30-40) into this.