Which Concealed Carry Position Should I Use?

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If you want to start an all-out brawl on social media, talk about appendix inside-the-waistband (AIWB) carry. Many gun owners feel carrying AIWB will inevitably result in a catastrophe involving important appendages. I have news for you: I’ve been carrying AIWB for well over a decade and remain unscathed. Even when I first started carrying with less-than-optimal holsters, I stayed safe. So, how do you know which concealed carry position is best for you?

Outside the Waistband (OWB)

OWB is often the realm of open carriers (OC), but not always. Carrying this way is usually done on your strong side, at your hip, so that the gun falls directly under your hand when it comes time to draw. If you’re thinking OC means you’re waving a flag in a rally, it doesn’t. For example, today I am open carrying my Glock 48 in a Galco Gunleather Tacslide Belt Holster. Because I am writing and not going out, it’s more comfortable and quite sensible to carry OWB openly. It also performs well while working on ranches, manning the firing line at the range and during hunts. However, you do not have to OC with OWB.

Concealing OWB is as simple as selecting a good cover garment. A loose sweatshirt easily conceals my Glock 48. An oversized T-shirt gets the job done as well. Try to avoid wearing what some refer to as a “shoot me first” vest. Tactical-appearing vests like those used for IDPA are recognizable thanks to the many pockets. If you want to wear a vest away from the range, invest in some plain fleece designs. The Gray Man is a concept you should seriously consider for many reasons, some of which you’ll read in an upcoming issue of Concealed Carry Magazine.

A black Remington R1 10mm Hunter semi-automatic pistol carried strong-side OWB in a black Galco Gunleather Corvus Belt Holster by someone wearing a black elt, blue denim jeans and a royal blue T-shirt.

A Remington R1 10mm Hunter carried strong-side OWB in a Galco Gunleather Corvus Belt Holster.

When carrying OWB, take care to select a holster that fits snugly to your hip. Also, rather than placing your holster directly over the edge of your hip — the 3 o’clock position — put it farther back, between 3 o’clock and 4 o’clock. The closer you get to 5 o’clock and 6 o’clock, the harder it gets to draw or defend your firearm. Placing the gun slightly behind your hip will be more comfortable, offer greater concealability with a cover garment and improve your ability to protect your weapon if someone tries to grab it.

If you choose the wrong holster for your body type, the grip could protrude, making it difficult to conceal with a cover garment. Your holster should stay in place on your gun belt, with no slipping or shifting when you draw. It must retain your firearm securely and should have two belt loops, not just one. A favorite OWB holster of mine is the Galco Gunleather Combat Master Belt Holster, a pancake-style holster with a butt-forward cant, two belt loops and an open muzzle. I like it so much that I’ve amassed a mountain of them made for different personal and review guns. The pancake style is suitable for strong-side OWB carry.

Pros of OWB Cons of OWB
Faster draw thanks to quicker access to the gun Harder to conceal
Greater comfort Leaves your firearm visible if you don’t wear a cover garment
The ability to carry with your existing wardrobe Gives a criminal better access to grab it
Ease of reholstering  

Inside the Waistband (IWB)

Carrying IWB offers practically limitless variations. For brevity’s sake, we’re going to discuss IWB in general, without getting into exact carry locations on your body. IWB is ideal for concealed carry because well, it’s concealed. Carrying your gun inside your pants rather than outside them is a concealment no-brainer. You may need to adjust your wardrobe, however, to accommodate sticking an object in your waistband. This applies especially to women because our pants are made to be more form-fitting. Having the room to add a few inches can be impossible without sizing up.

A properly fitted IWB holster holds your handgun in a way that won’t print — it won’t be evident through your clothing — and is comfortable. These holsters carry your gun a bit higher on your body than OWB designs. As always, your IWB holster must also provide good retention and fully protect the trigger guard.

A black Glock 48 semi-automatic pistol in a black hybrid Kydex/leather Crossbreed SuperTuck IWB Holster with black belt clips embossed with the Crossbreed signature cross symbols.

A Glock 48 in a Crossbreed SuperTuck IWB Holster.

A few words of advice: Just because your holster is inside your waistband rather than outside does not mean you can slack off and use a soft, shapeless holster with a cheap clip (or no clip) attached to your pants. Your holster should be made of good quality, stiff material such as Kydex or well-designed leather, molded to your gun’s specific model and attached to your belt by secure loops or metal clips. The mouth of the holster must be stiff enough to stay open when you draw so you can reholster safely; using your support-side hand to pry open a holster mouth means you’re muzzling yourself in order to reholster.

Pros of IWB Cons of IWB
Superior concealment May require you to size up your pants to fit the holster and gun
Ability to wear a T-shirt untucked (or even tucked in with certain holster designs) Less comfortable than OWB
Easier to defend against gun grabs Slightly slower draw time than with OWB (practice can change that)

Appendix Inside the Waistband (AIWB)

Carrying AIWB means you’ve holstered your gun in front of your hip bone at approximately the 1 o’clock position. This pelvically placed method seems to draw either outright horror or love; there is no middle ground. Its early popularity can be credited to the late instructor Todd Green and today is suggested by seasoned shooters such as Spencer Keepers of Keepers Concealment and John Correia of Active Self Protection. Others, such as Firearms Academy of Seattle owner Marty Hayes, have forbidden it in their classes.

Reality is that carry methods are unique to the individual. And aside from comfort and concealability, skill set does matter. Carrying AIWB requires the right holster, practice and attention to details. AIWB puts your gun in a spot more in line with the angle of your hands and allows for rapid presentation.

A black Glock 19 semi-auto pistol resting on its side with its muzzle peeking out of a PHLster Glock Classic Holster made for AIWB carry.

A Glock 19 in a PHLster Glock Classic Holster made for AIWB carry.

Although I have carried a variety of handguns AIWB in countless holsters, a favorite of mine is the PHLster Glock Classic Holster. It is designed with a raised teardrop-shaped area resting against your body to change the angle of the gun. It’s made from Kydex, molded to the model for solid retention and adjustable for ride height and grip. Ride height and cant need to be just right for successful AIWB carry. Keepers Concealment’s holster, The Keeper, is another option for those who are AIWB curious.

Pros of AIWB Cons of AIWB
Stellar concealment The muzzle of the gun may be in line with your femoral artery (just one reason why the correct holster is vital)
Quicker draw Might be uncomfortable
More comfortable than other positions for many shooters  

 

John Correia said it best: “You carry your handgun in a manner that works best for your situation. That said, I believe [that] AIWB carry offers a lot of advantages and [that] the supposed dangers are either overblown, wrongly understood or can be ameliorated. It is easier to conceal and faster to get to your handgun in a fight if you need it.”

Other On-Body Concealed Carry Methods

There are other methods for concealed carry, including small-of-the-back carry, cross-draw, pocket carry and ankle holsters. Then there are bra holsters, belly bands and corset holsters. Bottom line, whatever holster and method you choose, ask yourself the following questions: Can I draw my firearm quickly and safely — without muzzling my own body or someone standing near me? Is it defendable in a hand-to-hand scenario? Is it concealable? Are my holster and belt good quality? Could I do it better if I carried differently?

It’s also worth mentioning that it’s a misconception that only AIWB requires diligence. All carry methods require diligence, adherence to the four golden rules of gun safety and practice. Far too many gun owners do not practice from their holsters at all, let alone with their concealed carry holsters. Being a responsible gun owner involves training. If you expect the pieces to magically fall into place when it comes time to draw your firearm, you will be disappointed — possibly fatally disappointed.

You might believe the additional seconds required to draw from certain holsters do not matter, but they do. The time it takes you to fumble for your firearm could cost you your life. Take carry seriously. Do your research and understand you’re going to go through a lot of holsters before you find the right one. A gun left in a safe does you no good. No one is coming to save you; your safety is your responsibility.

Carry your gun.

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