I HAVE ALWAYS WANTED to be one of those guys who carry a backup gun in addition to the primary gun I have holstered on my belt, but I found comfortably and effectively concealing a second gun to be a lot harder nut to crack than carrying the fi rst one. A friend of mine has joked, regarding the number of guns you should carry, “Keep adding guns until it begins interfering with your life, then delete one.” Unfortunately, when I did that, the answer came back: one.
There’s a reason the vast majority of people who carry a gun every day use a strong-side belt holster, it’s the most readily concealable and comfortable place to put the gun. Everywhere else can be a bit of a pain. I tried pocket holsters, knowing some people love them. In the front pants pocket, the holstered gun rubbing against the front of my thigh through the pocket cloth drove me nuts. I find shoulder holsters extremely uncomfortable. Crossdraw was comfortable, but not concealable. For a while I carried a Smith & Wesson J-frame in a right rear pants pocket inside a pocket holster. The gun was reasonably accessible, but not really comfortable. What I wanted to be using was an ankle rig, since once you rule out everything else it’s really the only place left to carry a second gun, but I could never find the right ankle holster or the right gun for it.
I wasn’t really expecting to find an ankle rig I could wear comfortably because I never had. Now I have.
The problem many people have with ankle carry is that we find it uncomfortable. In my experience, even though I have had ankle rigs built for me by some of the most acclaimed custom holster makers in the country, I have always found ankle holsters to be instruments of torture. Especially uncomfortable was the way the bottom of the band, which was invariably made of leather, dug into my ankle.
Galco Ankle Glove Holster
The Galco Ankle Glove finally led me to revisit this whole second gun/ankle holster concept. When I mentioned how difficult it was to find a comfortable ankle rig, numerous people recommended the Ankle Glove with comments like, “This is the most comfortable ankle holster I’ve ever worn,” and “It’s the only ankle rig I can wear comfortably.” Well, obviously I needed to be checking that out.
This is a very shrewd design. In contrast to most ankle rigs where the wraparound band is leather, the Ankle Glove uses soft, stretchy, breathable neoprene (i.e. spandex) with a Velcro closure. On the interior of that band, behind the holster itself is a pad of yellow sheepskin to prevent the gun from biting into the wearer’s flesh. Just looking at this thing, before I ever put it on, I could see how many people would call it the most comfortable ankle rig yet.
One friend who recommended the Ankle Glove to me said, “It’s so comfortable I can carry a Glock 19 concealed in one.” Well, you know I had to try that. Also, I thought it would be interesting to see what advantages, if any, the Glock 26’s shorter butt/height and shorter overall length might offer over the Glock 19 in ankle carry. Also I decided to throw into the mix Ruger’s new LCP .380. By the time I was done, this article had evolved into a test of ankle carry with three different auto pistols of progressively smaller size.
First up, the Glock 19: this is an extremely popular choice among those who carry a handgun concealed for self-defense. It’s also become, for all practical purposes, the official issue sidearm for contractors in the Sandbox. Friends of mine who’ve been there tell me that, almost literally, the first thing employers do when you get off the plane is hand you a Glock 19. There are a multitude of reasons for that. The Model 19 combines all the positive attributes of the basic Glock design (light weight, high firepower, nearly rustproof construction, light and consistent trigger pulls, extreme reliability, especially when dirty) with the Free World standard 9mm Parabellum chambering, in a package that’s small enough to be readily concealable, but still large enough to be easily controlled in a real fight.
The Model 26 is Glock’s smallest 9mm. Slightly over half an inch shorter in overall length (.56 inches if you want to get excruciating precise about it) and .83 inch shorter in height than the Glock 19, the Glock 26 is built around a truncated grip frame and short, double stack 10-round magazine (versus the Glock 19’s longer 15-rounder). My attitude toward the Glock 26 tends to be, “Neat gun, but why?” I honestly can’t envisage a situation where I could carry and conceal a Glock 26 where I couldn’t do the same thing with the slightly larger, higher capacity, more easily controlled Glock 19. However, that doesn’t change the fact that many people absolutely dote on this gun. I was very curious to find out what advantages, if any, the Glock 26’s short butt offered in ankle carry over the Glock 19. This just might be the application that could change my mind about the desirability or lack thereof, of the Glock 26.
Glock & Ankle Carry
Truly, I was hoping that either the Glock 19 or 26 would turn out to work really well in ankle carry. There is a great appeal to carrying a backup piece that will take the same magazines as your primary gun. This is one very nice thing about the Glock 9mm guns; the magazines for the larger guns will all work in the smaller guns. Thus a fulllength 17-round Glock 17/34/17L magazine will also fit and function in a Glock 19, while the Glock 26 will work with 17-rounders and the 15-rounders out of a Glock 19, all on top of its own shorty 10-rounders, as well.
Ruger’s new Lightweight Compact Pistol (LCP) .380 is very similar in design to the well-established Kel-Tec P3AT, but does seem to exhibit a somewhat higher standard of fit and finish. The LCP is built around a single stack six-round magazine, making it a seven-shot gun with one in the chamber. I’ve heard numerous people call the LCP “a hand-pounder” and complain bitterly about how hard it hits the web of their hand. Indeed, this is not the most pleasant gun I’ve ever fired. No great shock there, it is, after all, a 9.4-oz .380 (unloaded weight according to Ruger). Also the LCP’s butt is short enough it’s a two-finger grip proposition, which certainly does its bit to help explain the heavy recoil impulse. For me it’s not the web of my hand the LCP pounds, but the underside of my trigger finger that gets whacked hard with every shot.
Having said all that, I was still very impressed with the Ruger LCP .380. It seems to me a gun that does what it was meant to do very, very well. In my testing it was accurate enough for close-range self-defense, reliable with every ammo type I put through it, and so small, flat and lightweight there really aren’t a whole lot of excuses, from a comfort and concealment standpoint, to not carry it.
Gaclo Ankle Lite for Ruger LCP
Galco does not actually make the Ankle Glove, per se, for the Ruger LCP; instead they offer a version of the design called the Ankle Lite. The elastic band and Velcro closure system on the Ankle Lite is identical to the Ankle Glove, so really the only difference is the holster body, which instead of being made of smooth-out steer hide is made of center-cut steer hide.
Galco Ankle Glove Holster Material
When Bob Hansen at Galco said to me over the phone, “Center cut steer hide,” I said right back, “Suede.” Bob responded that center cut steer hide is not suede, it’s a far denser, stiffer material, and when I saw the Ankle Lite and the material of which the holster was made, I’d be impressed. Examining the Ankle Lite when the friendly UPS man delivered it a few days later, I found that the material of which the Ankle Lite’s holster portion is made would appear, at first glance, to be rough-out cowhide, but it’s both considerably thinner than a full thickness of cowhide and considerably stiffer than suede. Bob Hansen was right: I was impressed.
Testing the Galco Ankle Holster
The pants I wear most often are from SigTac. They look like what you’d get if you threw a pair of cargo pants and a pair of Dockers in a blender together. Cut is generous, the legs are baggy, and I didn’t foresee any trouble hiding an ankle gun. My first discovery was that the people telling me just how extremely comfortable is the Galco Ankle Glove were right. From a standpoint of comfort I had no problem carrying a Glock 19 in one of these things. The Ankle Glove’s sheepskin padding stopped the gun from digging into my calf or ankle, the wraparound elastic band was likewise comfortable. I can understand why people say, “This is the most comfortable ankle holster I’ve ever worn, the only ankle rig I can wear comfortably,” because frankly I found the same thing.
The big drawback here, unfortunately, was concealability. Through no fault of the ankle rig itself, just the bulk of the gun, the piece printed severely. It looked like I was trying to shoplift a box of Cheerios out of a supermarket under my pants leg. When I had mentioned, days before, over the phone to Bob Hansen that I’d been told Galco actually produced an Ankle Glove for the Glock 19, he said, “Yes, we do. And we sell a lot of them.” Hey, to each their own. My opinion: Glock 19, great gun. Not, however, a great gun for ankle carry.
Switching over to the Glock 26, I expected things to get considerably better, however they didn’t. The gun still printed very noticeably through the material of the pants leg. It was not the overall size of the gun, height and length-wise, that was the major problem here, but its width. Both the Glock 19 and 26 are thick guns, thus when carried in an ankle holster even the smaller Model 26 still sticks out to the side so much its outline presses hard into the pants cloth. I’m not saying there aren’t people in the world who could carry and conceal either a Glock 19 or a Glock 26 in an ankle holster. As Galco says, they sell a lot of these rigs. However, I do not appear to be one of those people. Short of wearing extremely baggy boot cut jeans–which maybe some people do–honestly I don’t see how all those folks buying ankle rigs for Models 19 and 26 make them work.
Last up was the Ruger LCP and the Galco Ankle Lite, and here’s where we hit a real winner. This gun is so small and flat that the cloth of my SigTac pants didn’t have to stretch at all to fit over it. Actually, looking at my pants leg covering the LCP in its Galco Ankle Lite, even I can’t visually detect it–and I know it’s there.
Conclusions on the Galco Ankle Holsters
To be brutally honest, I started the research set forth in this article out of a sense of almost idle curiosity about the Galco Ankle Glove/Ankle Lite. I wasn’t really expecting to find an ankle rig I could wear comfortably because I never had. Now I have. I began wearing the Ruger LCP/Galco Ankle Lite combo basically just to see if I could. What’s happened since then is that I strap it on every time I’m about to head out the door, in addition to the Glock 17 I carry in a belt rig because, well, it’s such a comfortable, concealable package I really can’t make a case for not carrying it. Once it’s on, unless I concentrate on feeling it, I literally can’t tell it’s there.
Finally I have found a gun/holster combination that allows me to carry a backup gun comfortably. It would be kind of cool if that second gun could be a Glock that feeds off the two spare magazines I carry for my primary gun, but I’ll take the seven-shot Ruger LCP in the Galco Ankle Glove because it works for me.