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In Defense of the Belly Gun



Where are all the smart remarks about overcompensating now?

The term “belly gun” used to just mean “short-barreled revolver.”

Initially coined simply to describe any short-barreled self-defense gun that wasn’t designed for accuracy at a distance—basically, “belly-to-belly”—the term “belly gun” is now used to denote short-barreled semi-autos as well. These days, as newer guns designed for CCW are getting more and more accuracy at distances beyond 7 yards, “belly gun” has become a rather dismissive term. But should it be? Here are three reasons the “belly gun” still has a place inside our gun safes—and our waistbands.

Most Defensive Shootings Happen at Very Close Range

The most obvious reason why the belly gun is still useful for self-defense is simple: The vast majority of defensive shootings takes place at 7 or fewer yards. To the uninitiated, 21 feet may sound like a generous distance, but it isn’t. Studies have shown that an attacker can draw a weapon and close that distance in 3 seconds. And given that most of us are reluctant to use deadly force, even in self-defense, the most likely scenario is that the defender won’t be able to use all 3 of those seconds to draw their own firearm. So—and again, this is only a statistical probability and not an absolute prescription—most defenders aren’t going to need to use a longer-range gun.

Less Range, More Awareness

Condition Yellow. Get it? Get it?

We’ve talked in this space about the importance of situational awareness. The thing about situational awareness is that it’s basically a series of little mental “tricks” that you play on yourself until the practice of remaining relaxed but alert is second nature. That’s a lot of work and emotional effort, at least on the “front end” of the process. The temptation to tell oneself that it’s not necessary to stay alert because your firearm can get you out of trouble is perfectly natural—but to be resisted. Having a gun that you already know won’t be much good to you past a certain distance can be quite helpful in learning to resist that temptation.

It Removes an Ethical Dilemma

Like this, only not quite as douchey.

Finally, having a belly gun as your daily carry can resolve an ethical dilemma that CCW citizens hopefully never have to face: whether or not to use your defensive gun to help a stranger. It’s sad and awful, but as we described in more detail in the linked article, our natural human urge to help a fellow human being in distress can land us in legal hot water. However, if you already know that the gun that you have cannot reach out to a distance, the question is moot. You don’t have to worry about whether you should intervene with lethal force, because you can’t.

Personally, I will always want as much accuracy as I can get per ounce of carry gun. But I’ll never mind a bit if someone calls it a belly gun—that’s the kind of critique I can easily stomach.



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