By Mike Keleher
Due to a complete lack of temperature awareness on my part, I recently spent some high temps time in the California Mohave Desert, followed by driving over to Phoenix for an additional week-where the temperatures were even higher-up to 114.
Now to be fair, it is a dry heat- compared to the Midwest or South’s humidity, but anyone running around above 110 degrees talking about “It’s a dry heat” risks getting throat punched by the locals who are just hot and tired of hearing about it.
Having the ability to concealed carry in both locations I packed with my favorite minimal bulk pistol, a 9mm Sig Sauer P365 with two twelve round mags stuffed full of Hornady Defense premium ammo. I also threw in some extra holsters knowing the high desert heat would make concealment difficult. The last thing you want to do out there is toss on a vest or jacket cover in the summer time.
I am no longer a fan of fanny pack holsters-they just scream “Gun inside!”, but having lived in the desert previously, the fanny pack was often times a good way to carry a medium or larger gun in the heat.
For this trip, the temps were ranging from 109 to 114 daily, so I took along four minimal bulk and easy to conceal holsters. If that seems like a lot, I generally travel with at least two holsters to match the amount of bulk and comfort I will allow versus the needs to have maximum conceal ability.
My favorite outside the waistband holsters have long been the Fobus brand Israeli made polymer holsters. I wore them daily for a couple of decades while on the job, and found them to be extremely light and have hands down the most comfortable paddle I have ever worn. They are easy on and easy off, protect the pistol and trigger guard, and are very inexpensive.
Fobus paddle and Versacarry.
At first blush you might think the Fobus is “flimsy” or not up to traditional standards being so light weight. I have a bunch of them and have put them through the wringer and they just flat work. (If you happen to get a Fobus holster that is hard to draw from you just hit it with a hair dryer for a few minutes and loosen the molded fit.)
The Sig 365 Fobus holster only weighs 2.3 ounces. They are available from Amazon.com today for $21. They are an open top holster and have no retention device so they are a level zero retention but are molded for each model and have a snug fit. Comfort is excellent, conceal ability is good under clothing and they don’t contribute to extra sweat.
I like my outside the waistband holster to sit on the outside of my hip, just slightly behind the hip bone. If you worry about printing or the handle sticking out as I sometimes do going into a store or crowded public place, there is a sweet spot just in front of your hip where the pistol handle now lays under your ribs. It is not the full on appendix carry. If you have a paddle holster you can just slide it forward into this more concealable spot in a second coming out of the store I can slide it back to my hip position. Tough to do with a belt loop holster if you have a pesky loop in the way.
For an inside the waistband (IWB) holster I also took along a Sticky brand neoprene holster. The inside of the holster is smooth and the outside is slightly tacky and grips the skin and pants to retain the holster during the draw.
The Sticky holsters come in various sizes and may fit several pistols of similar size (check their size charts to insure proper fit). The holster I have weighs only 1.1 ounces and is available on Amazon.com for $30. It is an open top holster which squeezes shut by waistband/belt pressure after the pistol is withdrawn. This is a slight negative- you can’t re-holster your gun without taking the holster out of your pants (or pocket). On the other side of things, we used to say “Take ’em out fast. You can always put ’em away slow.”
They are also an open top holster and have no retention device so they are a level zero retention. Belt/waistband keeps retention pressure on the pistol and you can seat it higher or lower to your own build or preference. The holster can move around when you sit down. Comfort is very good due to the soft neoprene construction. Conceal ability is good under clothing, but being a rubber-based product, they don’t breathe and do contribute to extra sweat but the gun is well protected from sweat.
I took along the tiniest holster device I own, a Versacarry “holster” and if you are not familiar with them, they are a piece of flat plastic with a Delrin rod. The rod (which does not shave flakes) is inserted in the muzzle and a belt clip secures the item to a waistband. The item also has a half circle of plastic that protects the trigger guard from the pants side-but not the body side. They advertise as minimum bulk and they meet that claim.
They come in various lengths and calibers and the small 9mm Versacarry I had along weighs 1.4 ounces-not much more than an ink pen. Amazon offers them for $24. I carried them in my travel bags for years in case I needed to change from an outside the waist holster to a deeper concealment under casual clothes.
The Versacarry option is better than just sticking your naked pistol in your waistband. It does retain the gun where you put it and as stated has some trigger guard protection. It is a level zero for retention, and is the least comfortable of the holsters I tried out on the trip. The “holster” does not cover any of your gun or it’s uncomfortable edges. I have been glad to have them along on other trips for a couple of hours-but don’t choose them for long periods. Since the gun is fully exposed on your skin side it is exposed to sweat. Drawing the gun is easy, but again, to re-holster you must take the item out of your pants and slide the Delrin rod back inside the muzzle of your loaded gun before re-seating the entire unit in your waistline. Hazardous? Observe all of the firearms safety rules-and primarily do not cover the muzzle with your hand or have your finger on the trigger while re-seating.
The final hot weather holster I tried out for the first time was one of the neoprene belly band holsters you are seeing all over the internet this summer. Rolled up the band weighs 5.3 ounces and features an elastic holster pocket and another elastic pocket in front of the holster suitable for a spare magazine, knife or credit cards.
Cheap/nonfunctional hook and slide clasp displayed.
I got my version off the web from non-gun site for about $28. I now see there are many versions of belly bands being offered in the $20-$30 range on Amazon and other websites.
My immediate issue with the belly band is mine came with a retention strap that has a tiny metal clip which slips into a metal slide on the side of the holster part. Strapped down over the pistol grip, it keeps the gun pretty secure. However, for the life of me I cannot figure any way to unhook that strap in any sort of rapid draw. It is just poorly designed. You have to push the clip down to get it unhooked and the clip was often covered by my pants/belt waistband. I finally gave up and just secured the strap at an angle along the front of the slide back to the hook at an angle-not over the grip, or omitted the strap all together. I will probably just cut it off.
With the strap on the gun, it was not going anywhere-including the draw. These designers/makers from Chy-na obviously don’t know anything about a retention strap or thumb break. I could even make due with a pull tab, snap or velcro, instead of an upside down hook made of cheap metal. With the strap off the gun it was less secure of course, and sitting down I found an uncomfortable feeling dropping into a low car seat when the gun could squeeze up a bit inside the elastic and threaten to pop out. Not ideal.
Having a mag pocket in front of the holster is also contrary to my practiced way to carry a reload. Looking at other belly bands on the market I now see you can get belts with better features like a working retention strap and an off-side mag pouch. Don’t trust the advertising quick draw videos-look closely at the features before committing to a belly band.
The it is a zero-level retention and was surprisingly comfortable to wear for long periods-until it started feeling like Spanx or a girdle! Maybe it is less than zero retention- the gun is held in place only by an elastic mesh which can and will wear out and even while brand new the pistol can squeeze or bump up in the mesh.
The wide belt molds to your body, and I have seen them effectively in use by people who already have too much inside their waistband…if you get my drift. If you don’t have a hollow under your ribs-you might have a lee space under your love handles/beer keg and your waistband covered by a loose shirt.
The neoprene was quite soft and I wore it mostly above the belt line and the pistol could be held on the hip, slightly in front of the hip or in appendix position and was very concealable. I have seen other people call their belts something to be worn only as long as tolerable- they can be rough on the skin and certainly contribute to sweat collection like a sauna belt. It was not intolerable in the desert, but am certain it would be a sweaty mess in Georgia or New Orleans in the summer time.
On the plus side, I know a certain Federal agency who use belly band holsters for maximum conceal ability with great success. Overall, I rated the belly band holster as “OK- if you don’t have anything better” and if I had it do over again, I would have researched the retention strap and mag pocket features better and possibly gotten a better unit. I won’t be buying another.