July 28, 2016
By Keith Wood
There are as many ways to carry a handgun as there are body types and all have their strengths and weaknesses. Over the past few years, Appendix Inside the Waistband (AIWB) or appendix carry has enjoyed a massive surge in popularity.
Those who have adopted appendix carry as their preferred method can be almost cult-like in its defense, while many (who often haven't tried it) quickly dismiss it as dangerous or uncomfortable. Let's explore the positives and negatives of appendix carry, with an eye toward debunking some of the many myths that surround it.
For starters, we will explore what is meant by appendix carry. Appendix carry appears to be one of the oldest methods of carrying a handgun that exists. Paintings of European warriors, New World explorers, pirates and aristocrats often depict one or more flintlock or even wheellock pistols carried inside a belt at the waistband.
Later, even when handguns became more compact and holsters more advanced, many figures of the American frontier chose to carry their revolvers at their appendix as well, either shoved into the waistband or held by a sash or belt. Our forefathers probably didn't view firearms safety the way we do, and no, those guys weren't doing it with Glocks, but I'll take the safety features of a modern handgun over those of a 19th century percussion revolver any day of the week.
The concept is pretty simple: Keep the handgun at the front of the body where the hands spend most of their time. Appendix carry's advantages are many: a fast, intuitive, and uncomplicated draw from nearly any body position; the ability to conceal a fairly large handgun without "printing;" excellent retention of the handgun and, for some, comfort.
How effective is it? I'll offer one tangible anecdote: Due to the extreme time constraints, only one shooter in the decades-long history of Rogers Shooting School has shot a perfect score using a concealed handgun on the course's extremely challenging test. That shooter drew from concealment using an appendix holster.
Does it have its drawbacks? Of course. Every method does. Just as it can be very comfortable for some individuals, it can be downright painful for others. My buddy Darren LaSorte absolutely hates appendix carry due to the discomfort that it causes him. When he shared that experience in a web article, the appendix faithful got out their torches and pitchforks.
Depending on what kind of activity an individual is engaged in, AIWB carry can cause somewhat restricted movement. Specifically, it can make it difficult for many to bend forward when carrying, as the handgun impacts the abdomen. The size and specific position of the handgun (not to mention the size of the abdomen) can be key factors here.
From my perspective, the biggest drawback with appendix carry is that it doesn't lend itself to as many concealment options as traditional inside-the-waistband carry from a clothing standpoint.
The most common criticism of appendix carry is a pretty simple one, and exactly what kept me away from it for a long time: People are very uncomfortable with the thought of a handgun's muzzle pointing at their groin or thigh. I'm pretty confident that a bullet to the femoral artery would be a very, very bad thing.
We won't even go into the potential fertility consequences of an appendix carry discharge. The very concept of appendix carry seems to fly in the face of one of the fundamentals of gun safety: Never point a gun at anything that you aren't willing to destroy.
The problem is that it's nearly impossible to obey that rule if you're going to carry a gun. Bend at the waist with a traditional belt holster, and your muzzle is pointing at the guy in line behind you at the grocery store. A horizontal shoulder holster? That thing is pointing at everyone. A gun in a purse? Forget it.
In the context of carrying a gun in the everyday world, that rule might be better stated as: Never point an unholstered gun at anything that you're not willing to destroy.
A quality holster shields the triggerguard of a handgun with rigid material and prevents the handgun from firing. I have personally used two different AIWB holsters with my Glock 43, and both securely encase the triggerguard in kydex to my satisfaction.
The real risk with appendix carry, or any type of carry for that matter, takes place when the shooter draws or reholsters the handgun. Proper technique requires that the finger not enter the triggerguard during the draw until the muzzle is pointed downrange (another one of the absolutes of gun safety), and violation of this rule is what causes people to shoot themselves.
Anecdotally, I know of more than one individual who has been injured while drawing from a traditional hip or IWB holster, and none that have done so while using an AIWB rig. I'll stipulate the injury would likely be far more catastrophic if done at the 12 o'clock position than behind the hip, but the key is good training and practice rather than how the gun is carried.
When reholstering, the biggest danger is clothing (drawstrings are the worst offenders ) getting inside the triggerguard and causing the handgun to fire when it is pushed downward and into the holster. Re-holstering is an administrative task that should never be rushed. There's no excuse for a negligent discharge under those circumstances.
I have been a behind-the-hips, inside-the-waistband guy since my first CCW permit came in the mail in 1998. Increasingly, my friends became vocal about the positives of appendix carry, and my resistance to it began to fade. A recent article required me to try out several different holster designs, and I couldn't help but notice how well appendix carry seemed to work for my body type and clothing choices.
A few months ago, I began carrying a Glock 43 in a Blade-Tech Klipt AIWB holster and was almost instantly hooked. With an untucked polo shirt or t-shirt, I can slip the holster into my waistband and be armed in seconds — no fiddling with belt loops or reaching around my hip to ensure that the gun is secured. It's a grab-and-go setup. The gun carries comfortably, conceals very well and my draw stroke is every bit as fast as it was before.
Perhaps the greatest advantage of this setup is that the gun is easily accessible when seated in a vehicle, which is where many of us spend the bulk of our time outside the home or office. Honestly, the only time that I don't like the setup is when I bend over to tie my shoes.
I'm constantly looking for better and more comfortable ways to carry, so I wanted to try another AIWB option. In the past, I've found holsters with leather backing to be the most comfortable, so I acquired a Crossbreed Appendix Carry Holster.
The rig uses a molded kydex holster shell attached to a leather backing to hold the pistol securely and comfortably. A spring steel clip secures the holster to your waistband. Though larger than the Blade-Tech, this holster is a bit more comfortable and far easier to use if you're going to tuck your shirt in over the handgun.
Retention is something you don't hear much about, but it can be a crucially important feature in a holster. One of the things that many gun owners seem to forget is that a gunfight is still a fight. Despite some fantasy that you may have in your head about the way a defense shooting might occur, the fact is that it might very well involve a physical struggle that escalates into a life-or-death encounter.
Not only does this highlight the utility of non-lethal tools, physical fitness and combative skills, it means that we need to worry about weapon retention. How would you like to get shot with your own handgun? Not only does appendix carry allow you to quickly access your firearm when you're on your back, it also places your handgun in a position where you have the greatest strength to maintain control of it.
Imagine being in struggle with 3 strong men, all of whom are trying to take your gun away from you. Would you rather have your gun behind your hip or at your abdomen? Try it with a dummy training gun, and I think you'll agree that having the gun up front where you can protect it is a good thing.
Appendix carry may seem extreme at first glance but, when you break it down, it makes a great deal of sense. Keeping your handgun where you can easily access it, defend it and maintain control of it are key advantages of AIWB carry.
As with any method, training and practice are key. With a well-constructed holster designed for AIWB use, appendix carry has a lot going for it. Try it, and you may change your mind.
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