Earlier this week I received an email:
From: BravoBelt Team
Sent: Monday, October 4, 2021 5:59 AM
Subject: LOVE YOUR ARTICLE!
I was searching around and came across with your article: A step in the right direction. I love the content! My name is Oliver and I’m on the Outreach Team for @BravoBelt. We recently released an updated BravoBelt holster that I think your readers would appreciate.
Let me know if you would like one to review and I will drop one in the mail for you.
Digital Operations Manager
The BravoBelt Team
After looking at their website I was skeptical, but at 3:00 AM the next day I agreed to review their holster. I was skeptical for three reasons:
- The opening for the gun is elastic and collapses when the gun is removed which probably makes it difficult to reholster one handed and without looking at the holster.
- The snapped strap over the top of the gun will slow the draw.
- The spare magazine are shown on the same side of body as the gun. This will slow your reloads. And for the left handed shooter it’s going to take some real contortions to reach your reload.
From their website (see more pictures on Amazon):
I received the holster two days after agreeing to review it.
The first thing I noticed when I opened the package was the smell. The smell of neoprene was almost overpowering. Thankful the smell faded after a couple days in the open air.
I was pleased to observe the magazine holster was different from what was pictured. The magazine holster was a separate pouch which fastened with Velcro to almost wherever you want it. I was easily able to position it on my left side exactly where I wanted it.
The holster is extremely comfortable. It was almost soothing!
This is where I run out of nice things to say about the holster. My other concerns were mostly realized.
The elastic opening immediately collapsed when the gun was drawn. I could wiggle the gun back into the holster with one just one hand but I really needed to look at it as I was doing it. There are various scenarios in defensive handgun usage where this can be important. In the General Defensive Handgun class from Insights Training one of the critical features of a holster was that it be relatively easy to holster your gun, sight unseen, with one hand. This holster fails that test.
The same sort of story can be told about putting a magazine into the holster on the other side. If you do a reload with a partially empty magazine and want to put the used magazine in the holster you need to use another hand (holding the gun? Nope.), get your eyes on the holster, or fumble one handed for a bit. I’m not liking these scenario in a defensive encounter.
The strap over the back of the gun is required for secure carry. The gun moves around too much without it.
I practiced drawing for several minutes and I was able to get into a “groove” that was faster than I expected. It was more complicated than a typical draw with the snap needing to be released, then flipped over the back of the gun, and then the hand going down again to get under the strap. The elastic helped some. The strap would do a lot of the flipping on it’s own but I still needed to time things right and make sure my hand was under the strap when I gripped the gun.
I could comfortably and repeatedly get off my first shot in 2.25 S from concealment from underneath a unbuttoned flannel shirt. Not too bad, I thought. I could not get it down to 2.0 S. As I sped up the strap and/or my t-shirt would inevitably get between my hand and the grip of the gun.
I put my Kramer IWB #2 holster back on and tested my draw speed. 1.5 S was repeatable. Hmmm… 1.5 S to 2.25 S is a 50% increase in draw time. Is a 0.75 seconds critical? One could make the case that it could sometimes mean the difference between life and death. It’s probably not super critical in the big picture. I think I would worry more about the increase in complexity in a time of stress causing a tangled clothing draw of 5.0 S instead of the 2.25 S draw under controlled conditions.
I asked Barb to model the holster for pictures and she readily agreed. Pictures are with the holster unconcealed for demonstration purposes. Wearing it over a t-shirt and under my flannel shirt made little difference in functionality than as shown below:
Notice the pouch for your cellphone in the picture above? That worked well for me.
The Velcro attached spare magazine holster had the advantage of being adjustable to exactly the right spot regardless of your waist size.
She was not happy with it. If it was low enough to easily draw then it was just below the widest portion of her hips. This made it more difficult to conceal, risked having it slide down, and made walking and bending over uncomfortable. I had her raise it up to where it was above the top the widest area of her hips. Then the draw was difficult because she was running out of range of motion to be able to lift her gun high enough to clear the holster:
The fit on me was a little better. I could position the height of the holster such that the gun didn’t poke me when walking or bending over and I could complete the draw even though I was reaching the end of my range of motion.
The price for this holster is $27.77 to $29.95 (depending on waist size) on Amazon. That is a great price for a functional holster. But this holster has functional deficiencies for defensive carry. That said, because of the extreme comfort it might be that someone is more likely to carry than not carry. And the first rule of gun safety is to have a gun.
All of your observations about such holsters a true. That being said these types of holsters are generally for DEEP concealment where a proper holster may not be sufficiently obscure. Under such situations one generally has to accept trade offs.
If the choice is carrying this way or not at all then this is still a viable method. And with practice (using an unloaded weapon) the negatives can be minimized to an extent.
A couple suggestions to address the problems you encountered.
Consider running that strap over the back of the slide. I would think that popping the strap would leave the backstrap uncovered, although it’s possible that the elastic might cause it to bounce back and land there. If you grab the gun first, and then pop it, that would address that, providing you can get it loose after gripping.
I would be looking at sewing or otherwise tightening up the pouch around the gun so it might not require the use of the strap at all. I have a few belly bands, and generally, the gun stays put, but have had it squeeze out once or twice. This seems to be dependent on how deep I position the band, and if auto or revolver. With snubbies, it’s all or nothing. Once the cylinder starts to protrude above the edge of the elastic, it’s just a matter of time (short) before it pops out. Normally, these are worn under a shirt that is tucked in, so a quick trip to a restroom or other private area is needed to get it back in place.
The better ones have a pocket that is angled for a better draw, and to be less likely to print the bottom of the grip. I’m not sure if I tried using them appendix style, that was not a normal thing 25-30 years ago, when they first became a market idea. A more secure version seemed to be the dual appendix pouch type.
The drawbacks of these band types are the bulkyness, that they are heat traps, and slow to access.
Advantages would be having a universal holster for those who don’t have any gear, and being able to handle most normal handguns for those people. Useful for a SHTF situation, perhaps.
For the most part, they are good if wearing clothing without strong waistbands or belt capacity. Frankly, in that situation I just use a shoulder rig, but most people wouldn’t have that option on hand.
Early designs tended to be bulky, although not quite as bad as that neoprene belt, but later versions really paid attention to slimming them as much as possible. The better/later ones have a leather backing for the gun pouch area, for comfort and sticktion. The were even available in LH versions, and had crossdraw pockets.
They can be useful, and are usually inexpensive. Generally, the more bulky it is, the less likely it will be to be used.
Looking at the pictures and some of the words, I can’t help but come up with a one sentence summary: “this is junk”. Maybe I’m overly negative, but that’s my reaction.