A couple weeks ago, we kicked off the Concealed Carry in the Car series with What to Do with Your EDC in Your Vehicle. Now let’s chat about the seatbelt situation. In this post, I’ll be sharing some things to take into consideration, and what I do with my seatbelt and why while carrying appendix. Hopefully this will help you determine your own approach to the seatbelt situation while concealed carrying.
There seems to be two differing opinions on this topic and it’s a huge point of contention in the concealed carry community, especially for those who carry in the appendix position: to wear your seatbelt normally and not do anything different with the seatbelt to accommodate your concealed carry setup; or to tuck your seatbelt behind your firearm.
When determining what to do with your seatbelt while concealed carrying, remember this: we are far more likely to get into a car accident than have to use our firearm in a self defense situation. Wearing a seatbelt properly drastically increases the chances of survival in a serious accident. So, when we are in the car, shouldn’t we be prioritizing wearing a seatbelt properly to avoid serious injury or death? The answer is obvious to me, but let’s dig in a little bit more.
How Seatbelts Work
The lap belt is designed to be worn with the lap belt low across your lap. The lap belt’s effectiveness relies on it coming into contact with your hips, the strongest part of the body. In an accident, the lap belt spreads the force from the crash across your hips, which helps to prevent extensive injuries. If the lap belt is worn too high and does not come into contact with your hips, not only does it drastically reduce the effectiveness of the lap belt but it can also cause serious internal injuries.
The shoulder strap is designed to be worn diagonally across your chest and over one shoulder. When worn properly, it also helps spread out the force from the crash, in conjunction with the lap belt. Most importantly, it helps to keep your head and upper body away from the dashboard, steering wheel, and deploying airbags. If the shoulder strap is touching your neck, underneath your armpit, or behind your back, it will not be able to work effectively and can cause you greater injury.
How NOT to Wear a Seatbelt While Carrying Appendix
Let’s chat about one of those opinions I mentioned above: tucking the lap belt behind the firearm. The are a few major disadvantages to this approach.
First and foremost, tucking your lap belt behind your firearm likely means that you are not able to wear your lap belt low across your lap. The lap belt must be worn low across your hips to be effective! Wearing your seatbelt behind your firearm likely means that your seatbelt will be running across your abdomen. This can cause serious internal injuries in an accident.
Another issue with tucking your seatbelt behind your firearm is that it can prevent you from being able to quickly exit your vehicle as we talked about in the previous post. When unbuckling, your seatbelt can get caught up on your firearm, and may even end up unholstering it. That is definitely a situation you will want to avoid.
Here are a few examples in the photos. In the first picture, I have my seatbelt tucked behind my firearm. The lap belt is not in contact with my hips at all, and is instead resting at my belly button. I attempted to quickly unbuckle to exit the vehicle and almost every time the seatbelt got caught on either the firearm or my spare mag.
Lastly, tucking your seatbelt behind your firearm makes it difficult to keep your firearm concealed. We’ll talk more about concealed vs. non-concealed in the car in the next post of this series.
Due to these factors, I wholeheartedly disagree with tucking your seatbelt behind your firearm in the car and would highly recommend that you change your approach if this is something that you do.
How to Wear Your Seatbelt While Carrying Appendix
Simply put, there is no need to make any changes to your seatbelt while concealed carrying. When I get in my car, I put my seatbelt on the same way every time, regardless of whether or not I’m carrying. The lap belt is low across my hips and the shoulder strap is diagonal across my chest and over one shoulder. Easy peasy!
In the photo below, I’ve tucked my shirt behind my firearm so you can see how my seatbelt is positioned. The lap belt is worn properly, low across my lap and in contact with my hips.
Some argue that wearing your seatbelt over your concealed carry setup can cause injury in an accident by the lap belt pressing your firearm into your abdomen. While this may be the case, remember that a properly worn lap belt will work with your hips to spread out the impact. If the lap belt is in contact with your hips, there is only so far that is can press your concealed carry setup into your abdomen. The injuries you would sustain from not wearing your seatbelt properly are likely to be far greater than an injury sustained by your seatbelt pressing your firearm into your abdomen.
With my body type, the rise of my pants, and holsters I use, wearing my seatbelt properly means that the lap belt is just below my concealed carry setup, and therefore the situation mentioned in the previous paragraph is not even in the realm of possibility. Although it’s typically not necessary for me, you can make some adjustments to make sure your seatbelt stays below your setup if you are concerned about your seatbelt being over your firearm. It is better for the lap belt to be lower across your lap than it is for it to be higher on your abdomen.
Wearing your seatbelt normally while concealed carrying also means that you will be able to keep your firearm concealed, and there will not be anything obstructing you from quickly removing your seatbelt and getting out of the car.
How to Draw from Concealment When Wearing a Seatbelt Properly
Another argument for tucking the seatbelt behind the firearm is in regards to being able to easily access the firearm if needed and that wearing a seatbelt properly will impede your ability to draw. Frankly, I think this is a load of BS. You can easily draw from concealment while wearing your seatbelt properly. Like any other situation, it takes practice. Your draw practice should NOT only be from a standing position. You must consider all of the scenarios you find yourself in throughout the day and you must practice for those scenarios. When practicing your draw in your vehicle, make sure to do so with a clear firearm (remove all ammo from the firearm and from the vicinity where you are practicing) and do so in an area that is discrete and will not cause alarm to anyone passing by.
Sit in your car. Buckle your seatbelt. It can be helpful to pull your shirt out from underneath the lap belt so that you can easily clear your garment when drawing. When you do clear your garment, pull it up high and pin it to your chest with your support hand. This will pull the shoulder strap out of the way so that you can effectively draw without interference. From there, the rest of your draw should be as it normally is.
Keep in mind that your vehicle is a relatively confined space and there will be things in your direct vicinity that may not be there in your normal draw/dry fire practice, such as a steering wheel, dashboard, and car doors and windows. Practice how to maneuver in this environment!
To wrap things up, prioritize wearing your seatbelt properly when concealed carrying in the car (and anytime you are in the car)! This will give you the best chance to avoid serious injury or death in an accident, will enable you to quickly exit your vehicle, and will enable you to keep your concealed carry setup concealed. Stay tuned for the next post in the Concealed Carry in the Car series regarding concealment specifically.
*The information in this post if my own personal philosophy and should not be misconstrued as legal or scientific advice. Do your own research, find an approach that works for you, and use your best judgement.*