A few articles ago I talked about the gear involved in concealed carrying a handgun. Whether it’s a belt, holster or other additional gear, it’s an all encompassing system that shouldn’t be scrimped on. Once you’ve settled on a brand of holster, you should look into where exactly you’ll be carrying it on the body or off the body. There’s pro’s and con’s to each, which is what we’ll be exploring in this article together. Every person’s body is built differently just as everyone's comfort level in carrying. A bit of caution should be used with experts who uses absolutes.
Inside or Outside the Waistband?
Before I get into where on or off the body a handgun can be carried, you should ask yourself should I have my holster outside or inside the waistband (OWB)? This may be an obvious answer for those who already concealed carry. For those just getting into the concept of carrying a pistol concealed, it may not be as black and white. Just as the term implies, outside the waistband means the holster sits exposed outside of the waistband of the pants. Some would say the benefits would be quicker access and comfortability. Usually the only way to conceal this would be a cover garment such as a sweatshirt, button up or oversized t-shirt. The obvious downside to this is when warmer weather approaches, unless you live in a state that allows open carry you’re stuck wearing the cover garment or you could be hemmed up with a brandishing charge. Even with an oversized t-shirt, you still have a high probability of “printing” your handgun. This term basically translates to having your clothes imprint your pistol due to form fitting clothing or a holster that doesn’t hug the body tight enough. If this is the only way you can comfortably carry due to your body type or health reasons, all the more power to you. Just know the downsides with this style carry and plan accordingly.
Inside the waistband (IWB) is the most common method of concealed carrying a pistol in 2017. From the concealability factor to the ability to carry a much larger framed gun, inside the waistband carry truly shines above the rest. By placing the holster in between your body and the inside of your pants, it hugs tighter to your waistline therefore creating less printing and less clothing you need to wear over your gun. The downside to IWB carry is some will say it’s less comfortable. This does hold true if you either don’t wear an undershirt or have a pistol with excessive amount of “stippling” on the grip. This is a term used to describe a method utilized to make the grip of your handgun rougher and texturized. Regardless of how you choose to carry, understand the pros/cons to each and how to maximize your ability to carry a quality pistol you can fight with.
This method is the most popular amidst the concealed carrying crowd. There is variable window of distance along the hipline that the user can place their holster in order to make it comfortable for their body shape as well as to be diligent that they are in fact not printing. If your bellybutton is considered 12 o’clock, strong side carry can be anywhere from 3-5 o’clock (right handed). Anything forward of that would be considered appendix carry and anything past that would be considered small of the back (SOB) carry which I’ll go into in a bit. For most body types, between 4:00-4:30 (right handed) is the sweet spot for the majority of folks to have the holster sit comfortably as well as have limited printing. Those that first start concealed carrying usually go to strong side first as it mimics how they would carry their OWB holster out at the range or in training classes. The downside is those with smaller framed bodies have a more difficult time finding that aforementioned sweet spot and will end up printing fairly bad. Thankfully there is another option, appendix carry.
If there would theoretically be a red-headed stepchild method of concealed carrying it would without a doubt be appendix carry. It by far has the most controversy surrounding it, yet this is the only method that the majority of professional firearm educators use. Appendix carry is nothing new and has been used for many years by undercover law enforcement officers to thugs and mafia assassins. The idea is to place the handgun between your 11-1 o’clock, depending on if you’re right or left handed. By placing it forward of your hips it not only conceals better, offers better retention and overall faster access if having to deploy it from under cover garments. Humans by nature are stronger with our arms forward of our hip line. Therefore, having our defensive tools staged there will make it that much easier for us to access if having to do so under duress. I am biased with this position as I have been carrying in this location consistently for over 5 years with zero issues whatsoever. The only con that comes to mind is those with a lack of understanding this precarious position. Most will state that, “I don’t want to have a gun pointed at my junk.” Technically speaking it is pointed at your femoral and other vitally important organs, yet I cannot begin to tell you how many times in my years of teaching that individuals have unintentionally flagged themselves while drawing from a traditional strongside holster. Regardless of placement, it comes down to having the proper training to have a safe a viable method of drawing your pistol.
Small of the Back
I’ll make these next few methods short and sweet as I know zero reputable educators who promote these methods of carry. Small of the back carry is when the user carries at the 6 o’clock. For the uninformed this would seem like a great place to carry. Concealed and easy to access (in theory). Realistically, SOB carry offers virtually zero retention on the gun, can lead to serious spinal damage if the carrier is assaulted and falls down, has a drawstroke that is cumbersome as well as easily leads to one flagging themselves and is impossible to get to if grounded or seated. It’s an archaic method, that unfortunately is still around due to mass amounts of misinformation.
Shoulder Holsters & Off Body/Pocket/Ankle Carry
These four I lull into one group as I personally haven’t used them much in the past, nor again do I see reputable educators suggest them as a primary method of carrying. Unless your Magnum P.I., a Russian hitman or do heavy vehicle work as an executive protection agent I don’t see much utilization of a shoulder holster. The drawstroke is awkward, you have to wear a cover garment and depending on the style you may be unintentionally flagging the person behind you on the draw/re-holster.
Off body carry is usually reserved for females who can’t carry on their waistline due to their body shape or clothing. The most obvious downside is having 100% control over your purse or backpack at all times. Another is your assailant being able to push/pull you around while you are attempting to access your pistol. Although, if this is your only method of carrying practice, practice and practice some more.
Pocket and ankle carry are primarily utilized as a location for one's backup gun (BUG), in layman's terms a secondary gun to carry on you. Usually BUG’s are reserved for law enforcement and security officers who are put into harm's way. Now being a civilian myself and an educator in the industry, me carry a BUG is straight overkill. Regardless, BUG’s are primarily either snub-nosed revolvers or sub-compact, single stack 9mm/.380 caliber. Again, if this is the only way you can carry, practice and know the inherent downsides.
When it’s all said and done, intellectually understand the pros/cons of the placement on your body you choose as well as the method of concealment. You are the one to determine which ones work for you, so choose wisely and do your research. Above all else, get to a quality class with a reputable educator in the realm of concealed carry and put your holster to the test. In the next installment, I’ll go over effective verbalization to utilize with an encounter of an unknown individual on the street.