When I say I abhor running, I mean I’d rather listen to my three children scream non-stop for a week than run a mile. But about eight weeks ago, my wife was visiting the chiropractor for an adjustment. And the doctor, who happens to be a close family friend, mentioned he had registered for a half marathon, knowing my wife was wanting to run one as well. Somehow, my name entered the conversation, and a wager was thrown out.
Knowing that I hate running, my good friend bet $100 I wouldn’t run the half-marathon. I’m not one to turn down $100, so I contemplated the idea. During that time I remembered the hours upon hours and miles upon miles I’d already spent running when I was a young athlete. These days, I tell people if they see me running, there’s a good chance they should be running too.
Holster Options for Carrying Concealed While Running
As someone that carries concealed often, I knew I would be carrying some extra weight around. Specifically, an 18.3-ounce Springfield Hellcat and 14 rounds of self-defense ammunition. My Hellcat is the lightest carry option I have. But I knew I would need to affix it to my body as tightly as possible to reduce bounce. For anyone who has run a few hundred yards, you know the problems that can stem from an object rubbing on your skin repeatedly. I also decided that whatever I got had to be cross-functional, allowing me to use it for other outdoor activities like hunting, hiking, fishing or going to the park with kids.
Having decided on my basic carry preferences I set out looking at various holsters. I like to research my options online first, then try to find what I liked locally. After three or four evenings of searching online I gravitated toward three choices: Chest packs, belly bands and waist packs.
I was interested in chest packs because of their concealability and seemingly innocuous presentation. Typically, runners training to go longer distances will carry some sort of hydration bladder, energy supplement, first-aid kit or phone carrier. So I felt this concealed carry holster wouldn’t draw unwanted attention. Aside from the ability to carry my gun, the pack would also accommodate any other EDC essentials I’d want to take with me.
Running Waist Pack:
Due to a waist pack’s ability to discreetly conceal a small handgun, I considered a runner’s waist pack as an option. These particular packs have a rectangular pocket with a zipper opening, bookended by two water canisters. I didn’t plan to fill the water canisters due to my preference to not carry something that would be sloshing around, but I thought leaving them empty would add an element of normality.
Knowing I wanted to keep the gun tight to my body, the belly band was an obvious option from the start. Primarily constructed from a single piece of elastic, belly bands commonly have extra pockets for magazines, knives, pepper spray, a phone or photo i.d./credit card. These are items I’d be inclined to carry when running or on an outing. Belly bands checked all three boxes for me.
Ultimately, I decided to test out a belly band and a waist pack for training and the eventual race. The belly band was my first choice because I thought it would feel the best and was the only option that checked all of the boxes. The waist pack, on the other hand, was my least favorite of the three selections because I don’t like carrying much weight on my waist. Due to current logistics issues, though, I was unable to procure the specific chest pack I had found and have enough time to condition my body to carrying it before race day.
Testing My Concealed Carry Holster Options
Zero to Three
As noted earlier, I started my training from scratch due to a strong distaste for running. So, knowing how unpleasant running would already be, I didn’t want to start out with what I thought would be the most uncomfortable carry style, and instead began with the Belly Band.
Belly Band Training
Before hitting the trail, I went through about 75 to 100 repetitions of drawing and dry-firing from the band to ensure I could do so efficiently and effectively. Once I got comfortable drawing from the band, I went to my local range to put some live-fire rounds downrange. The last 25 rounds were fired after running a mile and elevating my heart rate to make the training more realistic.
I calculated that I should start at three miles and increase my weekly mileage by two, eventually ending up at 11 miles of proven distance the week leading up to the race. So off I went, three miles each day the first week. I quickly learned a couple of lessons carrying with the belly band.
1) Cant the gun so that an aggressively stippled grip won’t contact skin! An alternative would be wearing an undershirt of some sort or using duct tape on a portion of the grip.
2) Carry at three o’clock or nine o’clock. The gun bounces a lot less when parallel with your line of travel. When positioned outside of three or nine o’clock, the gun tends to have a lot more vertical and horizontal travel.
3) A belly band is NOT waterproof. This means I’d either have to put in some treadmill time during inclement weather, wear a lightweight poncho or find another way to protect the gun from too much moisture exposure. I ended up getting lucky in terms of weather during training — only needing to break the poncho out twice.
3 Miles and Beyond
Week two meant it was time to up the mileage and try out the waist pack as a concealed carry holster. I’ll have to admit I wasn’t looking forward to either! Starting out at three miles was tough the first four days but was manageable by the end of the week and involved much less discomfort. Enter the waist pack.
Waist Pack Training
I went through the same training process with the runner’s waist pack as I had the belly band. The only difference being, instead of 75 to 100 dry-fire repetitions, I had gone up to more than 200 reps. Not having drawn from a zippered pocket before, I wanted to make sure I could fully open and clear the pack consistently.
My wife, who already had a waist pack, was generous enough to offer I use it. Though it’s fluorescent pink and attention-grabbing, I thought the pack was a common enough item to wear during a race that it wouldn’t indicate anything out of the ordinary.
About 2 miles into my run, I noticed slight discomfort as the gun had shifted inward and the grip was pressing against my body. I attempted to fix the issue the next day with a thin piece of cardboard cut it into an oval shape approximately 6 inches long and 3 inches wide. I scored the width of the cardboard 1 inch on each side of the center, allowing me to bend it in the shape of a flat-bottom hard-shell taco.
My Hellcat is 1 inch wide, so the cardboard was scored and folded perfectly to accommodate the width of the gun. Once the cardboard sleeve was finished, I tucked it into the zippered waist pack pocket and inserted the gun. I ran 5 miles that day to test out the setup. It worked perfectly.
In the following weeks, I alternated between the belly band and runner’s waist pack and did not experience additional issues beyond what I had addressed in the first few times wearing each. (The only caveat I’ll throw out is, depending on how much perspiration a runner produces, he or she may go through more than one piece of cardboard for the waist pack as it will get soggy and worn over time.)
A few weeks later race day, arrived and with it, worse weather conditions than I had experienced throughout my training. At 8 a.m., the weather in Eastern Iowa fluctuated between scattered showers and a heavy downpour, plus 17- to 20-mile-an-hour wind gusts.
Knowing the weather conditions were going to be miserable at best, I dressed in layers and decided on carrying with the belly band. I also packed two ponchos in case one got a tear in it somehow. Ultimately, my decision to go with the belly band came down to overall comfort and an ability to draw my gun more quickly without the possibility of interference by the waist pack’s zipper, knowing the cold weather would likely affect my dexterity.
An ‘Experienced’ Runner’s Conclusion
In the end, I felt confident and comfortable running with both the belly band and the runner’s waist pack. And since the belly band checks more boxes when it comes to my personal preferences, I would feel comfortable exclusively carrying in this style.
I also felt confident enough to make “homemade” adjustments to the belly band and waist pack in order to avoid sinking a lot of money into the process. These kinds of adjustments — like the cardboard “taco” sleeve — are only recommended if you can do so in a safe manner. I did not carry with one in the chamber while wearing the waist pack because I didn’t feel it was the safest option. Therefore, I had to compensate by training to draw, rack and fire.
If you’re forced to run … or are doing so for your own “enjoyment” … I would encourage you to try out these for yourself. Keep in mind these aren’t the only options out there and don’t be afraid to do your own research before making a decision. I did come across a number of other suitable concealed carry selections that would work depending on the user’s personal preferences.