Casting a Critical Eye on Weapons Technology and Training
with Tom Marx
Fit for female cops: Belly band holsters and positioning
Be careful and recognize when 'enough is enough'
By Tom Marx
Continuing our discussion from last time about belly bands, in this installment we’ll look at how the gun is held in place and where it is worn around the body.
The Michaels design that we mentioned before used a separate holster that was threaded onto the band. That meant the drawstroke and gripping of the weapon would be something similar to what the wearer was used to, but it also meant that the gun could be positioned just about anywhere along the circumference of the body.
Other manufacturers take a different approach and actually sew what amounts to a holster onto the band. Still others attach what in essence is “half a holster” onto the band, which traps the carried firearm between it and the band itself. Both methods work well if done correctly, and they look very professional. What must be watched out for, however, is that they are be cut to allow for a complete purchase of the handgun before it is drawn from the band and that the gun is carried at the correct angle and position.
Other bands form pockets by double layering the elastic, and some companies stitch shaped compartments into multiple layers or onto the band's surface. The issues of the gun sitting too deeply to be gripped properly or not sitting at the proper angle to be drawn conveniently can be greater with these methods of containment. Again, this is not something that has to be a problem, but it can be a problem — one that can be avoided as such if you look carefully enough ahead of time.
The angle at which the gun is carried (positioned or raked) within the holster or the holster compartment on the band will determine where around the body the gun can be positioned. At this point in the series, we are discussing crossbody carries, and if the band-carried weapon is to be positioned on the non-dominant side but drawn with the dominant hand, it will need to be positioned in either a vertical or “muzzle to the rear” (butt-toward-the-front, NOT true butt forward) manner to best facilitate the draw. In essence, it needs to situated so that the gripframe of the weapon is at least directed, if not actually angled, toward the hand as it reaches for the gun during the drawing process.
Such an orientation would also allow the gun to be carried at any location from there (just ahead of the non-dominant hip), across the front of the body, to a location just in front of the dominant (or strong side) hip. Most men will probably skip a true frontal (center of the body) position unless the rake of the holster, the officer’s physical structure and the covering garment allow it. They would tend to favor either the crossdraw or an appendix carry (strong side) carry location. Some women might find, however, that in addition to the crossbody and appendix positions, if their breast size is large enough, their belly is flat enough, and their blouse is cut loosely enough, the carried firearm (if of the right size) can be located here (or at least closer to here) as well.
I know that was a lot of “ifs,” but in my teaching over the years in various parts of the country, I have been amazed at the number of women I've met who have carried a small firearm in exactly this centrally located position.
It should be noted that going past the vicinity of the appendix and all the way to the strong side/dominant hip would create the sight line problems we discussed in earlier sections of this series. Moving to an area behind the dominant hip — a location most times not generally employed with a belly band due to issues involving the movement and clearance of the covering garments in regard to the draw — would require the weapon to now be positioned in either a vertical or true “butt forward” to allow for a more natural and unencumbered draw.
All of this switching out is only possible if the band's overall design (and not just the holster rake) allows for it. While many models will afford such multiple locations, some might not. The most obvious examples of those that will not work in this respect are those that use shoulder straps to help support the weight and provide additional stability and those that have adjustments or closures that are not convenient when moved around the body. It wouldn't be the end of the world, but it's just another example of doing your homework ahead of time.
The “Executive Protection Waistband Holster” from Elite Survival Systems is such a shoulder-strap model that while perhaps a bit bulky, is designed with an eye for use while running or performing under physically exertive tasks — hence the emphasis on the stability provided by the straps. Perfectly exemplifying my oft-repeated mantra of “not getting something for nothing”, this model appears that it will do what it promises, but at the expense of compatibility to different body types and clothing. Like so many of the things in this series, depending on your needs and application, it might bear looking into.
As newer fabrics have made designs more practical, T-shirt type undergarments that have holsters or holster pockets sewn directly into them have surfaced. Because of the simplicity they create, they might not be a bad idea, but they require a “big picture” look before leaping to embrace it.
In order for this idea to “work”, the shirt itself must fit rather snugly to prevent sagging, movement, irritation, and visibility. Therefore, it must be cut correctly and made from a material that will not lose its shape through wearing or cleaning. The user must also be objective upfront and realize that because of how it is worn and cleaned, such a device might not have the lifespan that they are used to getting from other “holsters” they have owned. (Note that this might also be true of all the Bands we’ve discussed so far.) Therefore, the owners must be realistic in regard as to when such “shirts” have reached their limit and need to be replaced.
Additionally, the prospective owner must also be realistic about their body type and whether or not such a carrying means will fit them properly and fit them comfortably. These shirts are not for everyone, nor are they for every gun; size and weight becomes very important when carrying in this manner.
I’ll close out this section by emphasizing this issue of weight. For if any of these bands, vest-mounted concepts, or T-shirt-like devices are used for carrying other gear in addition to the gun (spare ammunition, handcuffs, communication gear, etc.), one has to be very careful in regard to recognizing when “enough is enough”. For even the better designs can only support so much weight before they begin to sag, move around or — just as importantly — cause doubt in the mind of the wearer because of the way the additional weight is borne on the body under even the simplest of movements. So in addition to issues of how those accessories are carried and produced from their body, the wearer, once again, must be objective as to how many of them can be carried on their body in this manner as well.