In the world of self-defense, there exists a mob of proverbial pitchfork-wielding gun owners who feel appendix inside-the-waistband (AIWB) carry will get you killed in the streets (that or you’ll shoot off an important body part). Those against AIWB are convinced that all of us who carry AIWB are only one squat or twist away from perforating our femoral arteries. Maybe it’s time we discuss the realities of AIWB.
If you’re carrying AIWB, your gun is holstered inside the pants in the space between your belly button and hip bone. Right or left placement depends on the shooter’s dominant side. The late instructor Todd Louis Green truly brought this carry method to greater visibility and popularity while working to educate gun owners on its proper execution and training. Today, most people associate Spencer Keepers, owner and founder of Keepers Concealment, with AIWB carry. Keepers designs and manufactures holsters meant for AIWB carry and teaches an AIWB skills class in several states across the country.
Marty Hayes, owner and founder of the Firearms Academy of Seattle (FAS) in Onalaska, Washington, is on the opposite side of this debate. Marty not only dislikes AIWB but also doesn’t allow it in FAS classes. When asked about it, he cites decades of protocols and safety measures to explain his dislike and adds he feels strong-side hip carry is the safest and most effective carry method. Marty points out carrying AIWB violates one of the golden rules of gun safety: Do not point your gun at anything you are not willing to destroy. And really, he isn’t wrong. Your groin and thighs are not something you want destroyed.
So, who is right? Can you safely carry AIWB?
AIWB Holsters for Carrying a Firearm
If you intend to carry this way, you absolutely need the right holster. That’s true of carry in general. But when it comes to AIWB, it isn’t just about concealment and comfort. It’s also about specific design details. Holsters made by manufacturers such as Keepers Concealment and PHLster include a raised area, or a wedge, designed to push the muzzle of the gun away from vital parts. For example, Keepers’ original holster, The Keeper, utilizes foam wedges to accomplish the necessary changes of angle. The PHLster line is known for its unique teardrop-shaped wedge that’s molded right into the Kydex. Whatever model you choose, make sure you’re getting a holster designed specifically for AIWB carry.
Belts for AIWB Concealed Carry
Yes, your belt is important. If you’ve been trying to carry in any position without a belt or with a cheap nylon or thin leather belt, you’ve probably been having trouble. A good gun belt is strong enough to support your firearm holster and spare mag holster without sagging. Your holster should be held firmly in position with no slipping, sliding or shifting.
One good option is the CrossBreed Classic Gun Belt. It’s made from top-grain leather and has a woven nylon webbing liner for superior stiffness and to stop the belt from stretching. CrossBreed offers its belt in either 1.5-inch or 1.25-inch widths and lists it as available in pant sizes up to 66, although there are limitations in color in larger sizes.
Galco Gunleather makes some stellar belts as well. The EDC Belt is made using SCUBA web construction and is created specifically for daily use. It has a hook-and-loop adjustable billet strap and quick-release cobra-style buckle and is 1.5 inches wide. Galco also makes the CB3 Concealable Contour Belt, designed to look like a dress belt.
There are myriad gun-belt options on the market. You have no excuse not to wear a proper belt.
Guns for AIWB Carry
Let’s take a brief detour and discuss gun size. There are a lot of people in the gun world who believe they can only conceal the tiniest of guns. The reality is that you can conceal just about any handgun. Even a petite woman can successfully carry a full-sized handgun AIWB. Don’t believe me? Check out Melody Lauer of Limatunes and her many carry successes. Get it done with the correct belt and holster … and the willingness to make some concessions to the way you dress. Women, for example, are more likely to need to go up a pant size to accommodate AIWB.
Appendix Inside-the-Waistband Training
Everything comes down to training. Should a newbie throw his or her gun into a waistband AIWB and hope for the best? Probably not. Then again, someone new to guns should pursue training regardless. Learning safe gun-handling skills and then moving on to holster work is a must for any gun owner. There are a lot of classes out there in which you can practice drawing from AIWB. And remember, there is no trophy for reholstering speed. Do it slowly and deliberately. There is no rush.
You Can Do It. Yes, You…
When done correctly, AIWB is perfectly safe. It also speeds up draw time and allows for superior concealment when compared to methods such as strong-side IWB. No, it isn’t for everyone, but it also is not as high-risk as it is sometimes made to appear. Your firearm is a tool, and it requires training. Are you AIWB-curious? Give it a try. You might like it.
About Kat Ainsworth
Kat Ainsworth is a firearms enthusiast with 15 years of concealed carry experience and more than 20 years of hunting knowledge. She has an eclectic background of K9 Search-and-Rescue and emergency veterinary medicine. Kat currently works as an outdoors freelance writer, covering anything from ballistics to self-defense to hunting. She enjoys the nomadic side of her writing and gun-related lifestyle, but calls central Wisconsin home.