Virtually anyone that has spent any time carrying a handgun will have the ubiquitous box of holsters in the closet, having tried any number of designs and found them wanting in some way or another. In this post, I’m going to discuss some of what I’ve learned about holsters and concealed carry methods over the past 18 years.
Before we discuss holsters, however, we need to discuss the foundation of your concealed carry system…
Whether stylish or tactical, leather or nylon, a good gun belt is absolutely essential for carrying a gun in a holster on the waistline. Don’t be surprised if a quality gun belt actually costs more than the holster you choose, and don’t scrimp on the expense either! Essentially, a proper gun belt differs from ordinary belts in that it is more rigid and possibly even reinforced with stiffening material. The belt has to support the weight of a loaded handgun without sagging or digging into your hips. Gun belts come in all widths and sizes from numerous manufacturers, including several custom options. Choose a good one, it is a vital component of your concealed carry system.
Holsters intended for concealed carry generally are made of either leather or a thermoplastic polymer such as Kydex, or oftentimes a combination thereof. There are outside the waistband (OWB) or inside the waistband (IWB) models to choose from. There are also a variety of other options such as pocket holsters and belly bands that allow for discreet carry. I will not discuss the latter options here since the deep concealment that they afford also generally involves significantly detrimental compromises on speed and ease of access.
The traditional place on the waistline to carry a gun has been strong side, on or behind the hip. While there is nothing inherently wrong with that, I am going to advocate a somewhat more controversial option known as appendix carry. I first learned of appendix carry from Gabe Suarez’s writings and videos. Since then, I’ve discovered it to be an increasingly popular method in use with many professionals that covertly carry a pistol. Appendix carry refers to carrying the handgun in front of the hip, near the midline of the body. Generally holsters intended for this style of carry are going to be inside the waistband models, although I am aware of at least one OWB choice. One major caveat of appendix carry is that it usually doesn’t work well for those that carry around excess body weight. If you fall into that category, then use this as motivation to lose weight and get fit to fight!
I would like to address what I perceive to be some distinct advantages of appendix carry. One thing that very few people will contest is that it offers an extremely fast draw. This is due primarily to economy of motion. That same economy of motion also means that you telegraph your movements to others far less when drawing from an appendix holster than from a strong side hip holster. In appendix carry, the pistol remains easily accessible to either hand whether you are standing, sitting in a restaurant booth, driving your car, or lying on your back in a mortal fight for your life. Appendix carry is also ideal when moving through crowded areas where you are at risk of bumping into people. Similarly, in intimate social situations, anyone that is going to be feeling near your crotch probably knows you well enough to know that you carry a gun! One other advantage that I have appreciated is being able to carry a backpack while retaining the ability to easily draw my gun. In point of fact, look no further than undercover narcotic officers to understand the concealment advantages of appendix carry where “being made” can be a fatal mistake.
As to holsters, admittedly, it works best with an untucked shirt, although tuckable appendix holsters are available. There are holsters that use soft belt loops, single or double belt clips, or even minimalist holsters secured to the belt with a loop of Paracord. Some people are able to carry a spare magazine on the opposite side of the belt buckle in a mirror location, although I personally find that to be too much. Instead, I prefer a fixed blade in that position. Some even carry two pistols appendix with one on each side in mirror image setups! I myself like to carry a spare magazine in a spare magazine pouch behind the hip on my support side with a small flashlight and a folding knife in my front pockets. As with any belt holster, wearing slightly oversize shirts in darker colors or with patterns helps to minimize printing.
There are detractors who will argue that appendix carry is unsafe, citing concerns over negligent discharges and the dangers of holstering. I would counter with the argument that a proper holster that covers the trigger guard will ensure safe carry of the gun without fear of a negligent discharge, and that deliberate holstering will prevent an inadvertent trigger press. As a civilian, if it is safe for you to holster, it’s probably also safe for you to quickly glance down at your holster as you reinsert the pistol. Obviously, if you feel resistance when holstering, stop!
Others will complain that appendix carry is uncomfortable. Rather than regurgitating Clint Smith’s admonition that a pistol should be comforting rather than comfortable, I will simply say that a proper holster and belt combined with slight positional tweaks should yield a comfortable AND comforting solution for all day and everyday carry.
Invariably, you will have to experiment with a few different holster designs and carry positions to find what works for you, but I remain committed to the concept of appendix carry as the ideal method for the armed citizen.
There is one final note regarding concealed carry… If you carry a pistol concealed, then you should be practicing and training while drawing from concealment. Many well-known instructors even offer classes specifically geared towards concealed carry. Take a class and exclusively draw from concealment to see just how well your system works, regardless of what it may be… Your life may truly depend on it one day!