I tend to go with proven handguns and equipment I’ve used for many years. This includes the strong-side belt scabbard, which should be the default carry unless there are other concerns, including but not limited to concealment, body type and daily routine.
Better concealment necessitates a move to an inside-the-waistband holster with a draping garment, such as an untucked shirt. Problem is, when the user is seated or driving, the strong-side holster doesn’t allow that user to draw easily (and the IWB holster is hopeless if carried properly behind the hip). Under such a circumstance, the crossdraw holster might be the best bet. Not every body type allows the crossdraw though, and reaching across the body isn’t exactly the most natural motion.
Recently, I’ve been exploring appendix carry. Since the appendix holster rides in the front, it would seem to work as well as a crossdraw to provide access when seated or driving, but since it rides inside the pants, it might replace the traditional IWB as well.
On the Rise
Appendix carry is currently riding a wave of popularity, in no small part because the draw is as natural as reaching for the navel, and the holster does not print when the user bends (as a more traditional IWB might).
A decade ago, few purpose-designed appendix-carry holsters were available, but today the demand is such that quite a few makers have offered their inside-the-waistband holsters with an “A” prefix and marketed them as appendix holsters. This isn’t necessarily the best way to handle such matters, as the holster should be specifically built for the appendix draw — and some are not. The draw is different, and the angle is very important, particularly with relation to gun size when you get above the snub-nosed revolver or small auto. Yes, the appendix rig is worn inside the waistband, but there are demands on the appendix holster that must be understood.
With an inside-the-waistband holster properly worn behind the hip and to the rear, the muzzle must be angled to the rear to work.
Similar to with the crossdraw, the angle must be matched to the drawstroke. Just as you can’t just take a strong-side holster and wear it as a crossdraw, the same goes for an appendix holster. If you take a traditional IWB and move it to the front of the beltline, the draw angle will be mostly, if not entirely, wrong.
The AIWB holster must have a very specific tilt in order to work with the average shooter’s body and draw. With the strong-side holster, a neutral draw works, as does a slight tilt, muzzle to the rear. With an inside-the-waistband holster properly worn behind the hip and to the rear, the muzzle must be angled to the rear to work. With the AIWB holster, the muzzle is forward-tilted, which is unique among holsters, save for a few specialized competition units. With an IWB holster, we have a nice hollow over the kidney to cradle and conceal a handgun. Most of us, whether endomorph or mesomorph body type, will have a slight bulge at the front of the body.
Appendix carry has been practiced by many for years, and it is a type of casual carry most often affected by criminals. (I’ve never seen a criminal wearing a holster.) When properly executed by the law-abiding though, appendix carry involves a holster worn forward of the hip on the strong side and to the right of the midline, technically making it a strong-side draw.
The appendix carry offers a sharp, fast draw. I find the appendix draw faster than a crossdraw, and it is also a more natural draw. After all, when most folks are standing or relaxed, their hands will fall naturally toward their waists or their outside pockets, within easy reach of their appendix holsters.
The AIWB holster seems easily defended and does not present the gun butt toward the adversary.
Another advantage is that concealment isn’t as difficult as with the crossdraw. The long covering garment needed to conceal a crossdraw or strong-side holster isn’t needed with the AIWB, and the draw is even easier than with the traditional IWB. The hands simply tug the covering garment up, and the strong-side hand draws the pistol. Doing so is more difficult with the IWB, when the covering garment must be raised by either the reaction-side hand or some combination of both.
A side issue is the ability to protect the handgun from a gun grabber. The strong-side holster isn’t difficult to protect, and the inside-the-waistband holster worn in the small of the back is perhaps more difficult if the attack originates from the rear. While some say the crossdraw offers the gun butt to the adversary, I feel that the crossdraw is a defensible holster when the wearer understands how to drop the weak-side arm and defend the gun. The AIWB holster seems easily defended and does not present the gun butt toward the adversary.
Appendix carry and the AIWB holster are beginning to look good on many counts, but that’s not to say there aren’t some downsides.
The most common demerit of appendix carry is that the muzzle is pointed toward anatomy. A crossdraw holster never points the muzzle at the body. IWB holsters seldom do either (as long as the draw is executed properly and the holster is properly worn).
Most accidental discharge incidents occur when holstering or drawing a handgun. The answer is to always exercise strict muzzle and trigger discipline and to never allow the trigger to become entangled in clothing, the holster or any part of either. If you cannot accept that the muzzle is pointed toward the body when holstered — if that gives you a real case of the heebie jeebies or other nervous frets — then the AIWB holster and appendix carry are simply not for you.
An advantage the crossdraw holster holds over the appendix is that a larger handgun may be carried in a “high-ride” model and still be concealed under a covering garment. The AIWB holster is best with relatively short handguns, such as the Glock 19, Glock 43, Honor Defense Honor Guard or a revolver with a 2- to 3-inch barrel; a Government Model 1911 or a Beretta 92 may be too large. By the same token, a standard IWB with a larger handgun will work for some of us; for others, the longer barrel will pinch when we sit.
Even with the average belt line, a problem called “rollout” may occur. Rollout strikes when the holster and the gun butt move outward from the body.
The Appendix draw isn’t well-suited for those with a middle-aged bulge spilling over the belt line. The holster and handgun would be tilted over dangerously. The only way to overcome this body-size and holster-carry-mode conflict is to wear the trousers high over the waist bulge. Even with the average belt line, a problem called “rollout” may occur. Rollout strikes when the holster and the gun butt move outward from the body.
The solution? Ingenious: JM Custom Kydex developed a wedge that prevents rollout through a wing that extends from the holster. Units from Keepers Concealment use a wedge that may be glued to the holster to accomplish the same thing. These features are specific to appendix holsters and make a difference in comfortable and effective deployment.
I’ve yet to disavow my long-standing allegiance to the crossdraw. Far from it. However, I have adopted the appendix draw for some situations. When I am hiking, I may carry a strong-side holster because it is an easy draw, and the holster rides comfortably. When I need concealed carry, I will adopt a strong-side IWB holster. When I am driving for long periods or seated, then the crossdraw is a great choice. Those times when I couldn’t conceal a crossdraw holster while driving or seated were once a problem. In this situation, the appendix holster is a first-rate choice.
The appendix draw may, in time, replace the IWB above the right-back pocket in my arsenal. I have used the IWB for so long that this is a major change, but the appendix carry is a real eye-opener.
JM Custom Kydex: JMCustomKydex.com
Keepers Concealment: KeepersConcealment.com