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Thread: Women's carry questions

  1. #11
    Thanks so much for posting these questions, Hambo! I hope your wife will consider joining Pistol-Forum herself if she hasn't already. I'll start out by saying I was first trained to always carry strong side hip in leather or kydex with a good, strong, thick, sturdy gun belt -- period, end of story. I have found that to be a lot easier said than done, especially for women. I would encourage all trainers (especially men teaching women) to be creative and help students find carry modes that accommodate their lifestyles (which, realistically speaking, are not likely to change that much at this point). Otherwise, the gun will end up in the sock drawer.

    I carry in a belly band about 95% of the time. I carry two Glock 17s, one or two spare mags, and usually two knives (or at least that's what's in the belly band). The trick to making a belly band work is not being satisfied with whatever you get off the shelf. That's one of the cool things about a belly band: because they're cloth, they can be customized pretty easily and cheaply. I bought two belly bands, chopped them in half, and sewed the two holster halves together so that I would have a holster on each side. They do sell belly bands with double holsters, but they're almost never in the "right place" (which of course is different for every woman). I took my belly band back and forth to a seamstress until I got it exactly the way I wanted it. Then I had her make three more just like it. Here are a few things you can do to optimize belly band carry:

    - Add extra Velcro (not the grippy side but the outward-facing soft side). I extended my velcro strip from the standard four inches to about eight or nine. Stronger grip for more secure fastening, and more flexibility in terms of how tight or loose the band is pulled around the waist (which allows you to accommodate different types of clothing).

    - Round off the sharp right-angled edges. This lessens the chances of getting "dog ears," which can either print on your shirt or poke you in the thigh when you sit, both of which are irksome. Also, by rounding the edges, you can cant the band a bit so that it fastens at an angle rather than straight across. In other words, tilt the two ends downward and fasten the belt so that it forms a shallow "V" shape in the front rather than a straight line. Especially if you're a curvier woman with hips and a little more "junk in the trunk," this configuration hugs the shape more precisely and allows more freedom of movement without causing the band to ride up into your armpits.

    - Reinforce the holster(s). You can simply sew a second layer of cloth directly over the existing one. Even that little addition will greatly increase trigger security. I just went to a fabric store and bought the thickest fabric I could find. No, it's not leather or kydex, but that added protection makes a huge difference. And it's really easy for any seamstress to do, so you don't have to ship your gear off to a master-holster-maker like you would if you were customizing kydex or leather.

    - Reinforce the holster opening. If you do add a second layer of cloth over the holster, consider sewing a strip of harder material in between the two layers of cloth. There are lots of options to accomplish this. If you want to get fancy, you can have someone mold a narrow strip of kydex to fit your gun. If you're keeping it simple and cheap, a milk carton works just as well. Just cut a strip to fit across your trigger guard at the mouth of the holster, and sew it in between the two layers of cloth. This not only protects the trigger, but it helps with the issue of collapsing holsters. If you can get a good fit with a sturdy-enough material, it'll hold the holster open just enough for you to hook the muzzle back in there and re-holster without having to open the thing with your non-gun hand and risk muzzling yourself. It's not ideal, but it works.

    - Look for softer cloth. Not all belly bands are made with the same material. Some is softer and easier on the skin (also cooler and more breathable), while others have an almost rubbery, plastic-like feel. The latter can start to irritate the skin after a while. Of course you don't want something where the cloth is so soft that is tears apart or doesn't support the gun, but conversely if you get something that feels like wrapping a tire around your waist then it kind of defeats the purpose of wearing a belly band. For me, the Gould and Goodrich band strikes the best balance between strength and comfort, but you might have to shop around a bit.

    Other practical benefits of belly bands:

    - On-body carry. No worries about leaving/dropping/losing purses or fanny packs (or having them snatched off your body).
    - Inexpensive. Even after the alterations, you're spending way less than you would for an average or high-end belt holster.
    - Bathroom breaks. Sounds silly but this is a huge convenience. Belly bands allow women to use the bathroom without messing with their gear at all.
    - Lightweight. Gun belts are clunky and relatively heavy. Belly bands are light as air by comparison.
    - Highly effective concealment. Elastic hugs the gear against the body. Reduces printing, creates cleaner lines, no tenting, no gaps.
    - Quiet. Belly bands make no noise whatsoever. No clicking or snapping or clacking like you get with kydex; no "squeaking" like you get with leather.
    - Can be worn high or low, front or back. Depending on what I'm wearing, I can situate the belly band low on my hips or higher above the waistline or anywhere in between. I can also spin the band around so that my gun is back behind me at 5'oclock or closer in front more like appendix carry, as necessary (personally appendix isn't my thing, but some people like it). And of course even though mine has two holsters, I can still wear only one gun if that's all my clothing will conceal.
    - Easily removed. When I do have to run into a courthouse or a post office or a school, I don't have to spend 20 minutes un-threading a bunch of belt loops and gear loops. I just pull the velcro apart and take off the band - gear and all. Three seconds. Done. Less fiddling, less chance of NDs.
    - Other uses. Some of my bands have additional pockets too. Perfect for a cell phone or pen or flashlight or whatever.
    - Comfort. I have literally fallen asleep in my belly band and gear (yep, two full-sized handguns and mags). Once you get the right fit, it's like wearing contact lenses.
    - Washable. All gear gets funky eventually. :-) Unlike leather or kydex, you can toss a belly band in the washing machine.

    But of course, there are downsides:

    - Probably won't withstand a day-long or multi-day training course with lots of presentation reps. You could (and should) practice presenting from the belly band at the range on your own (obviously being extra careful to observe trigger finger discipline and muzzle discipline, as always). But a few reps is probably all you can do without the band starting to move around a lot and the elastic getting yanked and stretched and worn out.
    - Not as durable as kydex or leather. Whereas I've used the same leather for about 15 years, I replace my belly bands about every three years or so. But since it's relatively inexpensive, that's not a problem.
    - Slower presentation. If you're counting milliseconds, my draw from the belly band is slower than my draw from leather.
    - Flexibility is a blessing and a curse. I love that the belly band gives me so many options, but of course ideally you'd want your gun to be in the exact same place every time, all the time. I would hate to reach for my gun where I wore it yesterday instead of where I'm wearing it now. However, with a little dry work every morning before you go out, you can reorient the brain to know where your gear is, even if its location changes slightly. It's a trade off. It sounds great to say "keep your gear in the same spot all the time," but that's just not realistic, unless of course you work at a gun range and wear the same uniform every day.

    Sorry for the long post. Hope this is helpful. Here are a few pics of what's possible with a belly band: Good luck to your wife -- I hope she finds something that works well for her! :-)

    P.S. - I also sometimes carry on my ankle instead of (or in addition to) the band. Again, not ideal, but better than no gun at all.
    Last edited by Tiffany Johnson; 05-17-2015 at 11:07 AM. |
    | Learn more. Plan well. Fear less.|

  2. #12
    Smoke Bomb / Ninja Vanish Chance's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2011
    Tiffany - how well does your setup work when you're running or rolling around? Can the fabric keep everything acceptably retained? Also, what off-the-shelf belly band do you use as the base to all of your modifications?
    "Sapiens dicit: 'Ignoscere divinum est, sed noli pretium plenum pro pizza sero allata solvere.'" - Michelangelo

  3. #13
    Hoplophilic doc SAWBONES's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2014
    The Third Dimension
    Quote Originally Posted by 41magfan View Post
    There has always been a fairly large disconnect between the training that is generally available and the reality in the way many folks carry guns. Most trainers remain inflexible by simply inferring that the student is "doing it wrong", while the majority of prospective students continue to go about their business without proper training. Most people that carry guns are forced to make compromises of all sorts; not because they want to, but simply because they must.

    Training people to be safe and effective as possible while utilizing belly-bands, pocket holsters, purses and other alternative carry methods is tedious, time consuming and you certainly can't do it with 15 people on the line.
    Admittedly, most training having to do with CCW and self protection using a sidearm is geared to men.

    With respect specifically to non-LEO women and CCW, Vicki Farnam will accommodate students who practice purse-carry, noting that for those women who will actually will practice CCW faithfully, it's the most applicable method and the only method many of her students will actually utilize.

    Rehearsing all the negative issues related to off-body CCW (and there are several quite valid concerns about it) doesn't make any difference to women whose lifestyle and mode of dress cannot (or in any case will not) change sufficiently to permit CCW via a belt holster or shoulder rig approach, including belly bands or AIWB, or one of the bra holsters.
    "Therefore, since the world has still... Much good, but much less good than ill,
    And while the sun and moon endure, Luck's a chance, but trouble's sure,
    I'd face it as a wise man would, And train for ill and not for good." -- A.E. Housman

  4. #14
    Tiffany, what brand of belly band are you using?

  5. #15
    Site Supporter Hambo's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2014
    Behind the Photonic Curtain
    Tiffany, thanks for the great post!
    "Gunfighting is a thinking man's game. So we might want to bring thinking back into it."-MDFA

  6. #16
    Man, (woman) that is a lot of weight to carry in a cloth strap! And a lot of weapons to defend...

  7. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by Chance View Post
    Tiffany - how well does your setup work when you're running or rolling around? Can the fabric keep everything acceptably retained? Also, what off-the-shelf belly band do you use as the base to all of your modifications?
    Actually, I've been pleasantly surprised with how (reasonably) sturdy it is, particularly after the modifications. Make no mistake, leather and kydex are more secure by far. But I find that the belly band (mine, at least) is adequate for my lifestyle. Sadly I have opted for chubbiness over doing much distance jogging or anything like that, so I can't speak to how well this rig would hold up under an intense workout. But on those occasions where I've had to run short distances -- late to a train, catching a bus, whatever -- I haven't had a problem. I mentioned in the post that I've accidentally fallen asleep in my gear before (not an exaggeration). Everything was still in place and undisturbed when I woke. I've worn this rig while moving (lifting boxes, bending over, climbing stairs, jumping in and out of trucks), no problem. I've sprawled out on a couch pretty much horizontal, flipped over to get comfortable or whatever, no problem. Gear is secure. I've also had a kid unexpectedly leap into my arms -- you know the classic kid bear hug with arms around neck and legs around waist -- no problem. Now, I'll admit that if I did a handstand my gear would probably be lost. But as long as I'm right side up, everything seems pretty good. The elastic provides just enough tacky tension against the gun to keep it relatively still (as opposed to some of the cheaper one-size-fits-none pocket holsters and the like, which will spit out a gun with the slightest jolt).

    As for shelf brands, what I'm wearing now was concocted from a 4-inch Gould and Goodrich "Body Guard." Lately I haven't seen it in stores as much, though I'm sure you could find it online. But again, it's pretty much a whole different animal once I've finished tinkering with it. One thing I look for in belly bands is that trigger guard contour in the holster seam (again, see the G&G link). Even though it's not gun-specific, that extra angle in the holster design drastically improves security and fit, as opposed to bands that just have a square or rectangular pocket with nothing even remotely resembling a gun shape. Hope this helps! |
    | Learn more. Plan well. Fear less.|

  8. #18
    Quote Originally Posted by SLG View Post
    Man, (woman) that is a lot of weight to carry in a cloth strap! And a lot of weapons to defend...
    Well, again, it varies depending on what I'm wearing and where I'm going throughout the day, but that's pretty much my standard where feasible... You get used to it. The wide band helps distribute the weight so it's not nearly as noticeable as with a gun belt, which is (at most) only half as wide but at least twice as heavy. Another helpful tool for supporting gear - hips. :-) |
    | Learn more. Plan well. Fear less.|

  9. #19
    Quote Originally Posted by Clay View Post
    Tiffany, what brand of belly band are you using?
    Clay, see my response to Chance... |
    | Learn more. Plan well. Fear less.|

  10. #20
    Thanks Tiffany.

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