Concealed Carry & Home Defense

CCW Weekend: But What If I Hate Belts?

(Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)

Guns and Gear Contributor

By Sam Hoober, Alien Gear Holsters

For most people, concealed carry takes place somewhere around the belt. Typically they wear their concealed carry holster inside the waistband – either at or behind the hip, or on the front of the waistband if they appendix carry – or conceal an outside the waistband holster with a garment of some sort.

What if you don’t want to do that?

In the interests of disclosure, honesty and so on, I work for a holster company. We sell these products. You can choose to buy them or not. You can also complain about it in the comments and, if it makes you feel any better, I will pretend like my feelings have been hurt by your witty obloquies.

This is intended to tell newbies or people looking to vary how they carry on what their options are, but also what the limitations are.

One of the more common carry methods is pocket carry. This keeps the pistol in a relatively accessible location, and if you carry a very small gun (say a S&W Shield or smaller) it’s perfectly viable.

However, there are some problems. First, pocket carry without a pocket holster is dangerous; the trigger can easily snag and accidentally discharge. This is the most common cause of accidental/negligent discharges while carrying a gun, so get a holster if you’re going to carry this way.

Second, you have to be able to train, which is not always easy. Quickly accessing and drawing a pistol is not necessarily easy from a pocket, so you have to train with your carry rig to get proficient. Speaking of access, it’s basically impossible while sitting.

During colder weather, you could switch to carrying in a coat pocket, but the same ideas apply. The pistol must be retained well, the trigger guard must always be protected, and you need to practice with your carry gear to be effective with it.

Pocket carry is easy, and with the right gear safe enough, but clearly not without limitations.

Another common solution is some sort of belly band. Designs vary by manufacturer; some are little more than a spandex girdle with a pouch on it to carry the gun. Others get a little more inventive; a few companies make essentially a padded strap that you can hang an IWB holster from.

The latter are the kind to acquire. They are more comfortable to carry with and – if paired with a decent holster – are the most secure. The former, however, usually don’t offer the best retention, can’t really be trained with very easily (you can’t reholster well and the inevitable velcro thumb strap – which is needed for the gun to be retained worth a darn – slows you down) and aren’t always the most comfortable as you’ll often feel the pistol through the fabric.

If you want to carry on the body, but don’t want to use a heavy leather or web belt, it’s not the worst option. Select the right model, however, and it’s very viable.

A shoulder holster is another well-tread carry option, but concealment requires you to wear a jacket, which means it becomes impractical for at least one entire season, if not basically half the year.

Some people find that fitment can be a problem, as not all shoulder holster rigs allow for sufficient adjustment. Others find that dangling a gun off one shoulder (which is what you’re doing) is uncomfortable. Models that lack belt hooks – which anchor the straps to a belt – result in the gun flapping while you walk. Then you have the problem of walking around with a big goiter under your arm.

There are, of course, plenty of people that carry in a shoulder holster all the time without issues, but also plenty of people that bought one only for it to be consigned to the holster drawer because of discomfort soon after. The latter tend to outnumber the former.

So, it’s doable. Getting the right shoulder holster will make enough difference for some people, but it’s one of those things that most people find they either prefer it or they don’t.

Ankle carry is not a very viable primary carry option, since access takes too long in most instances. It’s great for a backup gun, but having to kneel down, get your pant leg out of the way, draw the gun and then get ready to shoot takes too long to be viable for a primary carry gun unless all other options are ruled out.

If you must, get an ankle holster that gives you sufficient support and retains the pistol well. Make sure that it’s comfortable enough to carry for extended periods, or else you’ll find reasons not to.

Carrying in a backpack, purse, or briefcase takes too many chances in case of dropping the parcel or having it stolen. If you feel like you must, store the pistol in a compartment with nothing else in it, and get some sort of holster for it. Even if it’s a cheap nylon or leather pouch, so long as the trigger guard is totally closed.

As a compromise, a fanny pack is not a bad option. However, the same applies; the gun must be in its own compartment with nothing else in it, and should be in a holster of some sort that protects the trigger guard.

So, you can definitely find ways to stay armed if you can’t carry with a traditional holster on a belt, but you need to take care to select the right gear to do it with, and you need to train so you can effectively use the pistol in defense of yourself or others.

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Sam Hoober is Contributing Editor for AlienGearHolsters.com, a subsidiary of Hayden, ID, based Tedder Industries, where he writes about gun accessories, gun safety, open and concealed carry tips. Click here to visit aliengearholsters.com.