Building A Better Belly Gun

Can you stomach a belly gun?

posted on September 8, 2022
belly guns

The Old West, as depicted on the silver screen and the pages of penny dreadful novels, was apparently rife with gunslingers who had removed the front sights on their hoglegs, ostensibly for the purpose of shaving some precious few fractions of a second off their quick-draw presentations.

This practice doesn’t seem to have been as common in real life. In fact, the only two Colts I have that date to that era have had their barrels shortened to the point their ejector-rod assemblies had to be removed—and new front sights silver-soldered in place to replace the factory one that had departed with the extra inches of barrel. Apparently, their owners didn’t think that being able to reload their sixguns without using a sundial for a shot timer was that big a deal, but being able to hit a target beyond arm’s length was.

Still, the fascination with a lack of sights on pocket or deep-concealment pieces persists in some corners of the firearm world. Way back in the day, Harrington & Richardson sold its tiny .25 ACP pocket pistol with no sights at all. Much more recently, so did Seecamp, with its lauded LWS32. 

The rationale with these pocket pistols is that they’re intended for “arm’s length” use and sights would only cause snagging on the draw. Yet, pistols from the Ruger LCP II to the Smith & Wesson Bodyguard 380 are in the same size class and offer usable but snag-free sights.

Similarly, a revolver manufacturer recently released a big-bore revolver with no front sight at all. “Excellent!” came the cries from some social media groups where fans of these guns lurk. “It’s a belly gun!”

A “belly gun,” in case you are not familiar with the term, is one for the sort of conflict where the antagonists is all up in the defender’s grille; practically belly to belly. Thing is, belly guns are only really good for belly fights. We don’t live in a world where advance notice of criminal attacks is delivered in the mail. “Day after tomorrow, you’re going to be approached by a strong-arm robber at the XYZ gas station at 3 p.m. He’ll pop into your field of view from 9 feet away on your right.” (If we did live in that world, I’d just stay away from that gas station on that day.)

With some practice, most people can be coached into fairly decent shooting—keeping them all inside the “eight-ring” of a B27 target out to 7 yards—with just coarse indexing. It doesn’t require Jerry Miculek skills; I knew a blind guy who could do it. And when I say “blind,” I don’t mean he couldn’t see so well without his glasses, I mean he was blind.

But not every private-citizen’s defensive-gun usage is an “eight-ring at 7 yards” sort of problem.

Trainer Tom Givens at Rangemaster has a database of defensive incidents his students have been involved in that’s more than 60 events long at this point. While the majority fit that classic “three rounds, 3 yards, 3 seconds” trope, the longest one involved a shot taken from a second-floor window to save a family member from a violent attack on the street below. The distance for that shot was beyond 20 yards. Wouldn’t that be a heck of a time to find yourself wishing you’d bought a front sight to go with your carry pistol?

Another, similar, situation where you might find yourself wishing for the ability to deliver an aimed shot is when you only have a limited portion of the attacker visible. Maybe they’re partially hidden behind some furniture or other concealment. Maybe there’s a family member or other innocent between you and the bad guy (or, heaven forbid, they’ve grabbed a loved one as a hostage). “Oops! Sorry. I brought the belly gun today” isn’t going to feel very good in that situation.

Finally, there’s the situation that popped up recently in the news. An active shooter in a public place was engaged by an armed guard and center-of-mass shots didn’t work because of body armor. While the vast, vast majority of shooters who are initially reported as wearing “body armor” turned out to be wearing just some kind of chest rig mag pouches or plate carrier without armor, even a chest rig full of steel AK magazines can take a lot of the steam out of a slow-moving pistol bullet. If I’m forced to engage someone in a situation like that, I’m assuming he has some kind of armor and going for the “upper A-zone.”

That’s a small target to hit while under unimaginable pressure. I’d sure hate to try it with no sights at all.


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