Carrying a concealed handgun means finding the carry position that best suits your preference, your body type, your clothing, and your lifestyle. While preference and lifestyle are important, I’ll suggest that practicality should in some large measure rule the day.
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For many men, the appendix-carry inside the waistband (AIWB) position offers the most concealability, most convenience, easiest access, and fastest deployment of any concealed-carry position. Along with the increasing availability of excellent AIWB holster options, these surely are important reasons why appendix carry has gained in popularity in recent years.
Despite these advantages, the AIWB carry position is not without its problems and negative potential. Some people find AIWB carry to be uncomfortable, especially if they spend most of the day sitting. Also, because of where it points the muzzle of your firearm, safety concerns are brought to the forefront. So this method and position of carry is not for everyone, but let’s take a closer look at appendix carry and the issues involved with employing it.
I’m referencing men here, specifically, because AIWB not as appropriate for women due to common women’s clothing conventions. This is not to say women should not choose this carry position; it’s just that women may find it less suitable than other methods of carry.
Concealability, Accessibility, and Defensibility
The appendix position, at 12 o’clock or 12:30 is about the most easily concealable carry position for men of slight to medium build. Unlike other inside-the-waistband positions, a gun in front doesn’t print when you sit or when you bend over or when you reach upward. Men of more robust build will likely find AIWB to be less desirable and perhaps favor a 3 o’clock to 5 o’clock position because the appendix position’s concealability relies heavily on your shirt falling straight down from your chest.
For those who find the position appropriately concealable, AIWB carry offers the easiest and fastest access to your gun of any carry position. The draw stroke keeps your arms and hands in front of your body, without any reaching around or twisting of your torso for access. Your hands naturally rest toward your front anyway, so whether you draw from a “resting” position or a natural defensive posture, your hands need not travel far or in an awkward direction to access your gun.
This last point is important for more physical situations where both physical defense and firearm retention are required. It’s just plain easier and more natural to use your hands and arms in defense toward the front than to the side. So defending your face and front torso and your holstered firearm from someone trying to get to it are easiest when they’re all on the same side of your body.
As an aside, if you’ve never thought about retention issues or defending your holstered gun from someone, take a close-quarters handgun course sometime. Very enlightening and humbling!
Among the advantages to appendix carry is the convenience offered by the easy-on, easy-off nature of the position and of most good holsters for it. Good AIWB holsters have a single belt clip so donning or removing the holster should take no more than two seconds.
Having an easy on and off holster can come in handy when you’re, say, using a public bathroom or trying on clothes in a store dressing room. You can quickly and easily remove your gun, holster and all, and place on a stable surface to keep it from being visible under stall walls or dressing room doors—all while it’s still safely protected in your holster. Removing your holstered gun before undressing also helps mitigate the chances your gun falls clattering onto the floor.
When driving a car or truck, AIWB provides a tremendous advantage to carrying on your side or back hip. With your gun in front of you, there’s nothing to get in your way should you be required to bring your gun to bear in defense while seated. Just be sure to pull your shirt and jacket out to lay on top of the seatbelt instead of being trapped under it. This way you can draw as normal should the need arise.
Not everyone finds appendix carry comfortable. In my trials with AIWB I have found that comfort has more to do with the holster than anything else. Even though a small, single-stack pistol is more comfortable to carry there than a large double-stack, the holster is the primary arbiter of comfort. A compact or subcompact is more comfortable to appendix carry than a full-sized handgun, for obvious barrel-length reasons.
There are plenty of uncomfortable AIWB holsters and plenty of comfortable ones. There are convenient AIWB holsters and inconvenient ones. I’ve experienced all kinds and I’ve settled on just a couple. The best, I believe, is the INCOG Eclipse holster. It’s the only one I wear on a regular basis. The close second is the Raven Concealment Eidolon. The Eidolon has the best concealment, but it’s also not so comfortable and a bit technical to secure in place. The INCOG Eclipse is highly concealable, easy to don and remove, and the most comfortable holster I’ve ever worn. Your mileage may vary.
When you’re standing and/or walking, just about any good AIWB holster will be comfortable. Carrying while sitting is perhaps the true test of any AIWB holster. And it’s not just the holster, but the alignment and position that factor into the equation. I find it’s helpful to pull your belt/pants up slightly as you sit, to raise the holster into a more comfortable position.
Some Requirements and Suggestions:
Wear an extra-stiff belt.
With a hybrid-style holster at 3-5 o’clock position, you may get away with a semi-stiff belt, but carrying in the appendix position requires you wear an extra-stiff belt. The center-front part of your torso lacks surface bones and is softer than the back part of your torso. Therefore, your belt will have to do more work to keep your gun-laden holster properly aligned and from tilting outward.
Use a Kydex holster that completely covers the trigger guard.
Use ONLY a Kydex holster for AIWB carry. For all of their benefits in the eyes of some, leather holsters lack the proper integrity for appendix carry. Moreover, leather tends to be too bulky for this position, compromising concealability.
Take care re-holstering.
There is no defensive scenario that requires fast re-holstering or looking away while doing so. Always look your gun into your holster, and do so slowly while being absolutely sure your shirt or other items are not in the way. With your gun pointed at your genitals or femoral artery, the last thing you need is for something to snag the trigger as it goes into the holster.
Since AIWB carry points the muzzle at your groin area, I recommend that only experienced firearm handlers and those who train regularly from concealment opt for appendix carry. I’ll go so far as to opine that appendix carry requires that you train regularly with both dry fire and live fire, drawing from and re-holstering to concealment. Only with hundreds or thousands of repetitions will you develop sure, safe habits. “Knowing” gun safety is useless; gun safety must be a much-practiced, impossible-to-break habit.
The primary reason for my recommendation here is that if by chance you shoot yourself in the femoral artery while re-holstering, you will not likely survive it. Even if you were to do so while standing in the emergency room of a hospital, with a wound from that angle it is unlikely you could be saved. There is simply no room for error when drawing from and re-holstering to the appendix position.
If you’re an experienced and habitually safe gun handler of slim to medium build, I highly recommend appendix carry for you. If you try it, I suspect you’ll find it to be the most concealable, most convenient, easiest to access, easiest to protect, and fastest to deploy position for concealed carry. Just be sure to train regularly and often for the live-fire draw and return process.