This is an article I didn’t think I would write! I felt like John’s article covered this topic very well.
However, I’ve been seeing a lot of chatter on the web about appendix inside-the-waistband carry (AIWB), particularly since Larry Vickers banned the use of this method of carry in his classes. Other well-known instructors, if not banning AIWB, have at least made some “adjustments” to how AIWB is handled in classes. A look at our blog statistics has revealed that John’s article on AIWB is getting a lot of looks, so clearly this is something in which people are currently interested.
Some of the chatter I’ve been reading revolves around Vickers not allowing people to carry how they carry in real life. “Banning a certain type of carry is like banning a certain kind of gun.” Yes, it is, and if there’s a certain firearm that Vickers doesn’t want you using in his classes, guess what: he can ban that, too! It’s his class, it’s his company, and it’s his rules. Don’t like it? Take your training dollars elsewhere.
I will posit right here that, unless you are taking a dedicated concealed-carry class–such as Mike Pannone’s Covert Carry class or the Concealed Carry Tactics class taught by Jeff Gonzales–the method you use to carry and draw your gun in a class really doesn’t matter much. A perusal of Vickers’ website reveals that he does not currently offer a dedicated concealed-carry class, only Basic Pistol, Pistol I, II, and III, and 1911-dedicated classes. In short, a student in these classes will be learning all the fundamentals of marksmanship and then build on those by increasing strings of fire, positional shooting, etc. None of these are “fast-draw” classes, and even if they were, you can do countless more repetitions of your draw from your preferred body location in the comfort of your living room, local range, etc.
In the Vickers “announcement” about his new policy, he did NOT say that he is against AIWB as a method of carry. He simply does not want people using that method in his classes. His reasoning is not that a negligent discharge is more likely when utilizing AIWB, just that the consequences are more serious when compared with 3 or 4 o’clock carry. Indeed, if you experience a negligent discharge when carrying on your side/hip, the round may hit your buttocks, leg, or even your foot. If you experience a negligent discharge with AIWB carry, you may hit your genitals or femoral artery. ANY negligent discharge that results in injury is a show-stopper for sure, but a hit in the groin area may be a life-ender.
He did mention that it’s more likely with a Glock or Smith and Wesson M&P, but that’s because a negligent discharge is slightly more likely with those guns IN GENERAL. Pistols with hammers are a bit safer when holstering since you can place your thumb on the back of the hammer. If something snags the trigger, you will feel the hammer trying to move back, and thus stop trying to force the pistol into the holster. Since Vickers no doubt sees MANY Glocks and M&Ps in his classes (very popular handguns), this is an issue.
My Own Thoughts on AIWB
Like John, my preferred method of carry is AIWB. One of the reasons that I like it is that I believe that a negligent discharge is actually slightly less likely than if I carried at 3 or 4 o’clock. Why? With the holster positioned to my front, I can simply look straight down and, since I lack a spare tire around my midriff, I can see right inside the holster. If anything is in the way, I can see it. Also, the holster is easily accessible with my “weak” hand, so I can also do a sweep of the holster with my left hand to ensure the holster is clear of obstructions (obviously, your strong hand should not yet be pointing the muzzle down toward the holster if you are performing such a sweep), which could be critical in darkness. Once the holster is clear, everything else is about using proper firearm-handling techniques (trigger finger outside the trigger guard in an index position on the frame, and I like to put my thumb behind the back of the slide—an old habit from using a hammer-fired gun, but also useful to make sure the slide of my Glock stays in battery when holstered). If you use poor technique, you will have a negligent discharge no matter where you carry your pistol.
By comparison, if I carry on my strong-side, I cannot see quite as easily inside the holster (especially if it’s worn behind my hip at around 4:30, a popular position for many). I also cannot easily use my weak hand to sweep the holster. Finally, things that get caught in holsters/trigger guards of pistols, in my experience, tend to be found on a person’s side. An example would be the drawstring of a raincoat/anorak, which are generally found on the sides of the garment and often include those little toggles that are all but guaranteed to find their way into your holster.
In the end, how you choose to carry your pistol is a very personal choice that depends a lot on body type, your flexibility/range of motion, and where/when you are most likely to employ your pistol (for example, someone who spends an excessive amount of time behind the wheel of a car may find a shoulder or cross-draw holster most useful). If an instructor demands a certain method of carry for a class, then your choices are: do what he or she says, or do not take the class. Those are the ONLY choices. You are taking the class to learn, NOT to try to educate the instructor on what you believe are the merits of a certain method of carry. If the instructor is a good one (like Larry Vickers), he already knows, and has made his determination of what is allowed in class based on probability and liability. So go in with an open mind, suck as much information out of the instructor’s brain as you can, and then carry in the method that works best for you.
February 2016 Addendum:
It is interesting to note that Paul Howe, who readers of this blog no doubt realize I hold in the highest esteem as an instructor, is now going in the opposite direction from Vickers. Per the CSAT February 2016 newsletter, carry at 4:00 and further back (basically, behind the hip carry) will no longer be permitted at CSAT. Paul said, “If you cannot see your holster, you are creating a dangerous situation.” I can’t argue with that.