By Tom Marx
In the previous two installments, we completed our look at upper-body/cross-body concepts by studying Shoulder Holsters and Body Armor Holsters that were worn near the non-dominant side armpit. Today, we'll look at belly bands.
The modular band offered by Uncle Mike's appears to be discontinued, but a quick check of the web when I wrote this column showed that there are still a good number of outlets who are offering them. Non-modular but adjustable bands of very good quality are available from Galco (their UnderWraps™ model), Gould & Goodrich (their "Body Guard"), DeSantis (their Model 060), and a host of others. It appears that all of these models are sold by size (S-M-L-XL), are elastic in nature, and use hook-and-loop closers to secure them around the body. Colors vary but are generally black, white or beige.
Where to wear
While many women's clothing items are far more tolerant in regard to the concealing of guns carried in belly bands, their bodies might not be. That's not to say that belly bands are not popular with women — in my experience they are — but like everything else we have discussed here, there are issues to ponder when considering such a device.
Most men can wear a properly designed belly band at any one of several points along the torso: low along the waist, in line with the belly, or on or just below the pectorals. In many cases, the gun can be positioned in a variety of locations around the body as well. Obviously women don't have as many options. In fact, for many, only the belly height is viable. Even that won't work for everybody depending on the size of the rib cage or breasts. Consider this before making a purchase.
The elastic problem
Most belly bands are elastic in nature, either completely or to allow for torso movement and expansion during exertion, so you need to decide if elastic is comfortable for you to wear. Since belly bands are designed to be worn directly against the skin, they might be irritating to the wearer. The aforementioned Uncle Mike's band was made from a smooth finish, breathable material with hook-and-loop covered elastic closures. This was done to promote comfort.
Wearing the band over a covering undergarment can prevent irritation, but that might not be as common for women. With either sex there are issues of stabilization and fit if it's fastened over a T-shirt or camisole instead of directly on the body. There can also be issues of the undergarment binding or moving unnaturally. None of these issues are insurmountable, but they should be recognized.
Unfortunately for many, wearing the band over an undergarment does not always minimize the problems brought about by the lack of breathability within some of these bands themselves. Elastics and many of the fabric materials used here can promote perspiration or at least a difference in temperature along the point of contact. For some people, this can be simply uncomfortable, but for others, it can be an outright deal breaker. Unfortunately, while many people will already know how their body will react to such things from past experience with other items, for many others, "finding out" will have to be a matter of actually "trying out" the rig.
My warnings about wearing the band over an undergarment but still under a covering garment don't mean that you shouldn't consider it. I often wear a band over a relatively tight-fitting T-shirt and it works just fine. It's just that a loose fitting T-shirt leads right into those sliding and stabilization problems, but then again, such an article of clothing is something often more associated with men's or women's uniforms than it is with many women's off-duty or concealment wear.
I also don't want you to think that I am against the use of elastic. I am not. It's just that here too, the potential buyer should be aware of what problems can (but thankfully, not always) result and make a plan to work around them – or just walk away from the design if adaptation isn't possible.