Carry permits are on the rise. New gun owners are taking classes, getting trained, and getting serious about their self defense plans and gear.
Along that road, many new shooters will run into a forum message, magazine article, or blog post about a method of carry known as appendix carry. In the last five years, appendix carry has grown in popularity with many mainstream instructors as well; but a lot of people still don’t know what it is, or more importantly, how to do it safely.
What is Appendix Carry Style for Carrying Concealed?
The classic method of inside the waistband carry usually positions the gun behind the strong side hip, or if you think of the waistline as a clock face, the gun and holster are usually somewhere around three-to-six o’clock on the body for a right-handed shooter. Appendix carry positions the gun forward of the strong side hip, somewhere around twelve to two o’clock on the body. When compared to traditional IWB carry, there are some distinct advantages to appendix carry, but it’s also not without certain drawbacks and dangers.
Usually when the subject of appendix carry is brought up, someone pipes up with a statement along the lines of, “I don’t want to point a gun at my gentleman parts!” However, the truth of the matter is that the barrel of the gun is usually pointing at your femoral artery, which is actually worse, when you think about it.
The first and most effective way to reduce the risk of appendix style carry is to carry a gun with a manual safety or a hammer.
Do not misunderstand me; carrying using appendix style comes with the danger that if you make a mistake and have a negligent discharge while holstering a loaded pistol, there is a better than zero chance that you’ll end up shooting yourself in a very important artery or yes, in your genitals. It’s an ugly reality, but it’s also the kind of terrifying reality that prevents sloppiness.
Todd Green of Pistol-Training.Com, a noted advocate of appendix carry, has this to say on the act of reholstering: “Reholstering takes on a whole new level of seriousness with AIWB carry. While there are a number of tweaks to your technique that can help minimize the risk, the most important point to remember is that you have essentially zero margin of error so going slowly trumps looking cool.”
By now you’re probably terrified of appendix style carry because like most people, you don’t want to shoot yourself in the genitals or femoral artery. That’s honestly the best place to start when considering appendix, because it imbues the shooter with a deep sense of respect for their weapons system and where it’s placed. But why would anyone willingly choose to holster their gun in that position if the risks are so great?
To start with, it’s a lot easier to conceal a firearm in the appendix position than it is carrying behind the hip. This is especially true if you like to wear clothes that fit, as both men and women’s shirts tend to be loose in the front, but tighter around the hips and back. After months of testing, carrying a full size handgun is a lot easier at the appendix position than carrying the same gun in a quality holster at the four o’clock position.
Another benefit of appendix style carry is the additional speed in the drawstroke. When using appendix carry, position the butt of the gun in front of your body, not behind it. For years, IPSC and USPSA shooters have realized the benefits of not having to reach behind their centerline to draw, and created race holsters that position the gun in front of the point of the hip. Appendix carry offers the benefits of speed with an increase in concealability.
Against a timer, draw times were generally 0.5 seconds faster to an A-zone hit at 10 yards using appendix carry versus traditional IWB carry with a closed-front cover garment. Top level shooters who use this method can routinely get first shot hits in around one second on IDPA targets.
With appendix style carry, holster selection is one of the most important aspects of the rig. Because everyone has a different body shape, a holster that fits Person A perfectly may not fit Person B at all, and vice versa. There are several good and fairly mainstream models of appendix holster on the market, including those from Comp-Tac, Blade-Tech, and several other smaller manufacturers. Although they’re valued for their quality holsters, countless one-off shops do very small runs of holsters. Find the right holster, and make sure it’s the right fit for you and for your gun.
Once you’ve selected a holster, don’t just throw it on and start carrying appendix style. Wear it around the house with an unloaded gun for a while to get used to it. You’ll quickly discover whether or not the holster you selected is truly appropriate for all-day carry. Dry fire with it. Get used to drawing, and more importantly get used to holstering in that position. This takes us back to the inherent risk of appendix carry, and the two best ways to reduce that risk.
The first and most effective way to reduce the risk of appendix carry is to carry a gun with a manual safety or a hammer. Manual safety guns such as the S&W M&P with thumb safety models are excellent choices because when holstering the safety goes on. Hammer fired guns like SIGs and Berettas are great as well; placing your strong thumb over the hammer during holstering will prevent it from moving if a shirt or zipper gets caught in the trigger guard.
But that doesn’t work if you carry a Glock, XD(M), or similar gun without a manual safety. In which case, there’s a technique that works for everyone: the hard break. When you’re done shooting and it’s time to holster the gun, before you go back in the holster you take a deep breath, shake yourself, do something to get your head out of shoot-shoot-shoot mode and into carefully-put-the-gun-in-the-holster mode. With appendix carry, it’s important to actually think about the act of holstering the gun.
There are advantages and drawbacks to appendix carry. A faster draw and ease in concealing full sized guns are big deals for a lot of people, many shooters will find appendix more comfortable especially when driving than traditional IWB. With those advantages come certain risks, and it’s up to you as the shooter to analyze those risks and determine if appendix carry is for you.
For more information on appendix carry:
[Caleb Giddings is a professional shooter and gunwriter who promises to never use “acceptable combat accuracy” or “minute of badguy” in an article. When not testing the latest in impractical competition gear, he’s probably chained to a desk writing for his blog, Gun Nuts Media. ]