Which Concealed Carry Position Should I Use?

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Note: What kind of HOLSTER do you use? The best carry position in the world won’t matter if your holster is wrong! Read the USCCA FREE Gun Holster Guide to find out more.

If you want to start an all-out brawl on social media, talk about appendix inside-the-waistband (AIWB) carry.

Many feel that carrying AIWB will inevitably result in a catastrophe involving important appendages … while others, including myself, swear by it.

So, how do you know which concealed carry position is REALLY right for you? The first step to finding that answer is exploring your options…

Option 1: Outside the Waistband (OWB)

A revolver with wooden grips encased in a black leather Outside the Waistband (OWB) holster. The carrier is wearing a black belt, gray dress pants and a white dress shirt.

Outside-the-waistband holster

OWB is often the realm of open carriers, but not always.

Carrying this way is usually done on your strong side (at your hip) so that your gun falls directly under your hand when it comes time to draw.

If you’re thinking open carry doesn’t have practical uses, think again. For example, I am currently open carrying my Glock 48 in a Galco Gunleather Tacslide Belt Holster.

I’m open carrying because I am writing today and not going out, and thus it’s more comfortable and sensible for me. It also makes sense for manual labor, manning a firing line at the range and during hunts.

However, you don’t necessarily have to open carry with OWB.

Concealing OWB is as simple as selecting a good cover garment. A loose sweatshirt easily conceals my Glock 48, and an oversized T-shirt gets the job done as well.

If possible, try to avoid wearing one of those “shoot me first” vests. These tactical-looking 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.

OWB Holster Selection

When you’re carrying OWB, you should 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). This helps with ease of draw, defense, concealment and comfort. 

A black leather Galco brand Combat Master holster

A Galco brand Combat Master Belt holster

The RIGHT holster for your body type will:

  • Help with ease of draw.
  • Hold your gun in a secure, defensible position.
  • Offer adequate clothing concealment.
  • Be comfortable.

The WRONG holster for your body type will:

  • Cause your gun to protrude through or past clothing.
  • Slip or shift on your body.
  • Hold your gun loosely and insecurely.

A personal favorite OWB holster is the Galco Gunleather Combat Master Belt Holster. It’s a pancake-style holster with a butt-forward cant, two belt loops and an open muzzle. This pancake style is suitable for strong-side OWB carry.

Option 2: Inside the Waistband (IWB)

Close-up of a man's right hand gripping a green and black semi-automatic pistol that has been concealed in an inside-the-waistband (IWB) holster. The only visible portion of the holster is a black metal clip where it attaches to the man's black leather belt.

Inside-the-waistband holster.

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.

Overall, carrying your gun inside of your pants rather than outside of them is a concealment no-brainer. However, you may need to adjust your wardrobe to accommodate sticking an object in your waistband.

This applies especially to women, whose clothing is typically more form-fitting.

A properly fitted IWB holster holds your handgun in a way that is comfortable and won’t print (i.e. it won’t be evident through your clothing). These holsters carry your gun a bit higher on your body than OWB designs.

A two-tone Springfield Armory semi-automatic pistol concealed in a Crossbreed brand IWB holster. The stocks ride high above the wearer's black leather belt and a gray plaid shirt has been pulled away to reveal the gun.

IWB holsters typically cause your gun to ride higher on your waistband.

As always, your IWB holster must provide good retention and fully protect the trigger guard. Don’t slack off and get a soft, shapeless holster that attaches to your pants with a cheap clip (or has no clip at all). Your holster should be made of 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.

Option 3: Appendix Inside the Waistband (AIWB) 

A compact Glock pistol tucked into an AIWB holster at the front of a man's jeans. A hand is lifting a neon green shirt to expose the grips of the gun as well as the man's hairy navel.

Appendix inside-the-waistband holster

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 adoration from gun carriers; there is no middle ground.

The reality is that carry methods are unique to the individual. Aside from comfort and concealability, skill set does matter. AIWB puts your gun in a spot more in line with the angle of your hands and allows for rapid presentation, but carrying this way requires the right holster, practice AND attention to detail.

A favorite AIWB holster of mine is the PHLster Glock Classic Holster. “The Keeper,” by Keepers Concealment, is another option for those who are considering AIWB.

Remember, for AIWB carry, both ride height and gun cant need to be just right for maximum comfort and practicality.

Overall, it’s the opinion of many that AIWB carry offers a lot of advantages, while the supposed dangers are either overblown, wrongly understood or can be mitigated.

Consider the table below for a quick reference on the pros and cons of these top three concealed carry methods:

Carry Type  OWB IWB AIWB

Faster Draw Access

X

Ease of Access

X

Greater Comfort

X

Ease of Reholstering

X

X

Protected From Gun Grabs

Superior Natural Concealment

X

Requires NO Clothing Modification (Sizing)

X

X

Easily Concealed With Clothing

X

Gun Positioned Away From Major Organs/Etc.

X

 

Note: Considering becoming a concealed carry permit holder? Don’t forget about your holster!
Find out which one is right for you HERE: FREE Gun Holster Guide 

Other Concealed Carry Methods

There are, of course, a wide variety of other methods for concealed carry, including:

  • Small-of-the-back carry
  • Cross-draw
  • Pocket carry
  • Ankle holsters
  • Bra holsters
  • Belly bands
  • Corset holsters

Whichever method and holster you choose, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Can I draw quickly and safely, without endangering myself or someone near me?
  • Is my gun defendable in a hand-to-hand scenario?
  • Is my gun concealable?
  • Are my holster and belt good quality?
  • Could I do it better if I carried differently?
A young brunette woman with long hair and a long-sleeved olive drab shirt holds a black concealed carry pistol close to her sternum in a position called "high compressed ready." The shooter is wearing eye and ear protection at an outdoor gun range.

Regardless of holster type, practice is essential.

Ultimately, all carry methods require diligence. Far too many gun owners don’t practice presenting from their holsters, let alone with their concealed carry holsters. Being a responsible gun owner involves regular training. 

If you expect the pieces to magically fall into place when it comes time to draw your firearm, you will be surprised — and possibly fatally disappointed.

Finally, take concealed carrying seriously. Do your research and understand that you might have to go through a lot of holsters before you find the right one. A gun left in a safe doesn’t help you at all. Your safety is YOUR responsibility.

Shopping for a gun holster? Find out which style is right for YOU! Click for your FREE holster guide: Claim Your FREE Gun Holster Guide 

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