Ballistics by the inch

Reprise: The Secret to Concealed Carry Comfort

Prompted by my friends over at the Liberal Gun Club, this is another in an occasional series of revisiting some of my old articles which had been published elsewhere over the years, perhaps lightly edited or updated with my current thoughts on the topic discussed. This is an article I wrote for, and it originally ran 8/10/2011. Images used are from that original article. Some additional observations at the end.



Psst – wanna know the secret? The real secret to carrying a concealed weapon comfortably?

It’s not the kind of gun. Almost any kind (well, within reason) will work.

It’s not the kind of holster. Again, almost any kind will work.

It’s not even the location of the holster/gun combination.

It’s the belt.

Yeah, the belt.

No, seriously. It’s the belt. I’m not kidding. It seems really trivial – a belt is a belt is a belt, right? Except it’s not. No, I didn’t believe it either, when I first started trying to sort out my preferred concealed carry set-up. But really, it’s the belt. So, save yourself some grief, and get a good belt. It makes a huge difference.

It makes sense if you stop to think about it. A properly fitting belt, and one designed not to just hold up your pants but to hold up your gun, makes a world of difference.

What do I mean by “designed to hold up your gun”? Easy – the belt needs to be both wide enough to distribute the force of your holster hanging off of it, and reinforced so as not to twist even a bit. If it twists, then the holster won’t have a chance to work properly. A high-riding OWB (Outside the Waist Band) holster will tend to lean away from the body if the belt isn’t a good one. That’ll push the grip of your gun away from you, sticking out where not only will it be obvious that you’re carrying, but may actually get in the way of everyday activities. And it’s damned embarrassing to have your gun banging off of doors and tables all the time.

A low-riding OWB holster (including all varieties of pouches and packs) won’t have that particular problem with an improper belt, but it may have a different problem: sag. Sad, saggy, sag. And if you have to keep pulling your belt up, you’re gonna look like a little kid who’s wearing hand-me-down clothes that are too big for him. Ugh. Not subtle.

If you wear an IWB (Inside the Waist Band) holster, then not only will you have sag, but your pistol may not even be secure. Because a lot of IWB holsters rely on the belt to keep the gun close to the body, and the pressure between the belt and the body as a retention aid. Without it, the gun may go flopping out. And you know what a faux pas it is to have your EDC skittering across the floor.

OK, you’re a special snowflake who only pocket carries, and the holster (you are using a pocket holster, right???) has no contact with your belt. Why should you care about having a good belt? Once again, because of the weight. Yeah, sure, there are guns out there in the sub-half pound weight class. OK, if you’re going to carry something that small and light and useless, you have my permission to not have a good belt. But if you carry something more than an itsy-bitsy pea-shooter, you still want a decent belt to avoid the “pants falling down” problem mentioned above.

Sure, there are carry methods which don’t really require a good belt. Off-body carry (say in a purse/man-purse, attache case, and so forth) doesn’t need it. Neither does a vest designed for concealed carry (I actually have one of these and love it). Some shoulder-holster rigs don’t use a belt-anchor, some do. If you use one of these methods, sorry I’ve wasted your time. Well, it’s not really a waste, because you should know this in case you ever want an alternative carry option, which would involve a belt. And besides, you want to be able to tell your friends to stop messing around and get a good belt.

Seriously – get a good belt. It should be at least 1.5″ wide. It should be long enough that you’re not on the last set of holes for the buckle. It should be reinforced in same way, either with a stiffener of plastic or some heavy leather inside/behind the decorative outside. It should come from either a custom holster maker (almost all of them either carry them, or recommend where you can get one), or from one of the big manufacturers of quality factory holsters – no, just getting a “stiff belt” at WalMart will not suffice. Yes, you’re going to pay more for a good belt – probably $50 on up.

But it is worth every penny. It will mean that your holsters work properly. It will distribute the weight around your waist correctly, not have it localized in one spot. It will stop your pants from drooping/pulling down.

I don’t know how many times I have told people to stop screwing around with trying to get a holster to do something it can’t without a good belt. It seems absurdly basic, but the right belt makes a huge difference. Huge.

That’s the secret: get a good belt.

There, did I say it enough times that you believe me?


This is still one of the pieces of advice I give out regularly. And it is still the one that people dismiss most readily. Until they try a real belt with their carry rig, and see just how much of a factor a proper belt really is. So, no kidding: get a good belt. Do it sooner rather than later. You’ll be glad you did.

Jim Downey


October 1, 2017 Posted by | Discussion. | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Boberg XR45

I’ve written about the innovative Boberg Arms XR9 previously. Here’s the take-away from my review:

This gun is a winner. It is well designed, and well made. The innovative design makes your brain hurt when you first see it. But the recoil is nothing like what you get from any other “pocket gun”, even when shooting full +P defensive ammunition. Usually with a pocket gun, you trade off the pain of shooting it a lot for the convenience of being able to carry it easily. With the Boberg, you don’t have to make that trade-off. I honestly wouldn’t be bothered at all by running a couple hundred rounds through this gun at the range.

Well, guess what followed me home today.

No, not an XR9. Something a little … bigger:


Yup, one of the new XR45s.

Here’s a pic of one from my outing with the other BBTI guys a few weeks ago:


It’s a little hard to tell how big the gun is in that pic. Here it is with some others:

all 4

Starting in the upper left corner and going clockwise, those are: A Steyr S9 in 9mm, a Springfield EMP in 9mm, the Boberg XR45 in .45ACP, and a S&W J-frame in .38sp.

Here’s the Boberg back to back with the Steyr:

with S9

With the EMP:

with EMP

And with the J-frame:

with j-frame

And just for grins, here’s the Boberg with the J-frame sitting right on top of it:

on top

Yeah, the 6+1 Boberg is actually smaller than the three other compact pistols. And it has a longer barrel than all three — 3.75″ on the Boberg, compared to 3.5″ in the Steyr, 3.0″ in the EMP, and 1.875″ on the J-frame.

How does it do this? Because of the innovative … some would say just plain weird … way the feed mechanism works. For the best explanation, take a look at the animation on the Boberg homepage, but basically as the slide comes back, it grabs a new cartridge out of the magazine by the rim and then positions it into the chamber. Yeah, you put the bullets in the magazine nose first. Like this:

with mag

And here’s a detail of the top of the loaded mag:

mag loaded

It takes some getting used to, I admit.

Now, while the Boberg is actually smaller in overall size than the other guns, it still has some heft to it: 22 ounces, as opposed to both the Steyr and the EMP at 26. The J-frame shown is a Model M&P 360 with the Scandium frame, so it comes in under 14 ounces. All of those are unloaded weight.

How does it shoot? Like this:

“Not bad at all.”

That was with .45 ACP+P high-end self-defense rounds.

Since I just got mine, it will take a while to find out all the little quirks that it has. But based on shooting one a few weeks ago, and in a much longer session with the 9mm version, I have little doubt that I will be very pleased with it. I’ve already poked around my selection of holsters, and found that the XR45 fits perfectly into a little belt slide holster I have for my Glock 21 Gen 4, as well as into a Mika Pocket Holster I use for the J-frame.

Jim Downey

December 6, 2014 Posted by | .38 Special, .45 ACP, 9mm Luger (9x19) | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Take a chance on a holster.

I haven’t mentioned it here yet, but last weekend I launched a Kickstarter project to support my next novel:

St. Cybi’s Well – a prequel to Communion of Dreams by Jim Downey

Prequel to the popular novel Communion of Dreams. Get an early release download or a hand-bound copy in your choice of cover material.

So, *why* am I mentioning it here now?

Well, yesterday I got an unexpected box in the mail. Sometime a few weeks back I contributed a few bucks to a firearms-related website, and was entered into a drawing for various goodies. I never win these things, but participate just to be supportive of groups I like. Anyway, as you might have guessed, I actually won something for a change. This is what the box contained:

Here’s the holster with my Springfield EMP in it:

This is a perfectly nice holster, made by  It’s marked as being for an “L-frame” S & W revolver with a 2.5″ barrel, but as you can see it isn’t molded specifically for that, and seems suitable for IWB use with a range of medium-to-small guns. I also tried my Steyr S9 and M357 guns, which fit perfectly, and smaller guns such as a Bond Arms derringer would also work, but ride deeper in it. A full-size 1911 and my Colt Python both fit fine, but the barrel protrudes out the end.

Now, the thing is, while this is a mighty fine holster, it’s made to be either used IWB or OWB left-handed. Note the position of the clip in the second image above. To me, it’s useless (or almost so). As I was thinking of how to find a new home for it, I also got to thinking about several other holsters of varying quality I have which I have wound up with but which I never use and I had another idea: use them for a promotion for the Kickstarter.

So, here’s the deal: make any kind of contribution to the Kickstarter (as little as $1.00 – I won’t mind), and enter into a drawing for a holster. Please note that this is *IN ADDITION* to the other rewards there on the Kickstarter – all perfectly good and valuable rewards. Then just come here and leave a comment, or post it on the BBTI Facebook page, or send me a Tweet. I’ll enter your name into a completely separate drawing. And each week or so while the Kickstarter is going I’ll select a name and send that person whichever holster is up for grabs. Each winner’s name will go back into the hat for the next drawing, so you have multiple chances to win (meaning that the sooner you enter, the better for you).

If you’ve already contributed to the Kickstarter, just let me know and your name will go in the hat for the first drawing (and subsequent ones).

So, what are you waiting for? Go – get entered!

Jim Downey

September 21, 2012 Posted by | .357 Magnum, .357 SIG, .45 ACP, 9mm Luger (9x19), Discussion., Links | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments