I really wanted to entitle this article either “Why You Should Use Appendix Carry” or “Why You Should Never Appendix Carry.” It’s not going to be that easy. Back in February, I promised I would try out appendix inside the waistband (AIWB) carry (or just plain “appendix carry”) and report back my findings. I had hoped to have this done much quicker but the bottom line is holster orders took weeks longer to arrive than expected. Regardless – here are the results of my exploration into the appendix carry. Right up front I’m going to tell you this is a long one. I got it below 2,000 words but I think the words that remain are important. This isn’t a topic I wanted to short.
I used the following holster and gun combinations (listed in order):
- Grandfather Oak Hidden Companion with a Springfield Armory XD9-SC
- Old Faithful Belly Tuck with a Sig Sauer P220 Compact SAS Gen2
- GCode INCOG IWB with a Springfield XDS .45 ACP
Each of these holsters has been extensively reviewed at the links above so I’d like to focus on Appendix Carry as opposed to holster A. vs. holster B. here.
It’s come up that, in order to do a true test, I should’ve tried three different holsters on one gun, effectively having the gun as the “control.” Again, I wasn’t trying to find the best holster (or, for that matter, the best gun) to carry AIWB. I was trying to get a broad experience carrying multiple configurations at the appendix.
So, without further ado…
Appendix Carry Is Very Concealed
“Traditional” IWB, and by that I mean at or slightly behind the strong side hip, prints. It just does. Even the smallest gun’s grip will print through a t-shirt or light sweater or jacket when you bend over. Carrying at the appendix puts the “printing” part of the gun (the grip) parallel with where your body naturally bends as opposed to perpendicular. Think about it: Your body bends left to right when you bend at the waist. Thus, it makes sense to orient the part of the gun that prints along or with what I’ll call herein the “bend line” (in this case, your waist) as opposed to against the bend line as it is when you wear it on your hip. It’s that simple.
But there’s another factor at play here which is that I think that we’re used to seeing people carry guns on their hips so we look for them there. We’re not really looking for a gun or the print of a gun at or near someone’s navel. Now, cops, on the other hand, are likely trained to look at the navel area because, at least in Boyz in Da Hood, that’s where the gang-bangers carry them. I’d be interested to hear if that theory is correct.
However, appendix carry doesn’t guarantee that you won’t print. Certainly ride height, clothing, and size of the gun matter and results very. All things being equal, though, carrying at the appendix will likely print less.
Much faster, actually. Like, half a second faster to first shot with very little training. I’m going to do some more timed shot drills, but the preliminary results are compelling to say the least.
Your reach is less, the gun is closer to your centerline, and, once you clear the holster, it’s generally a straight line up your torso onto the target. Everything feels very tight. Also, it’s much easier to clear or move your concealment garment since you’re not reaching around your body with your off hand to life your shirt or jacket. Both hands drop roughly to the belt buckle area and go to work.
It would be really difficult to disarm someone who’s carrying at the appendix. I have both hands able to defend the gun and it’s in front of me. You’re not going to be able to approach me from behind and have access to the gun as you would in a traditional IWB position, such as the 4:30 or 5:00. The gun’s in front of you so you can see it at all times.
It’s Really Uncomfortable
Most people complain about comfort when they put an IWB concealment rig on for the first time. My standard response is “it’s not supposed to be comfortable, it’s supposed to be comforting.” My rapier wit aside, putting a loaded (read: heavy) gun and a big piece of leather or kydex inside your pants takes some getting used to. Usually by the time the holster gets broken in, you don’t even realize it’s there anymore.
So, I’m not talking about that kind of discomfort this time.
Imagine sitting down and jamming a 1/2″ metal rod right into your femoral artery. Whenever you adjust your seating position, the rod digs in just a bit more. Don’t even think about putting on your shoes after you don the holster.
Moreover, this isn’t the kind of discomfort that you get used to, like when you first started carrying IWB. It’s always really uncomfortable when you’re seated. Not so bad standing up, unless the muzzle contacts the (now) tender femoral area of your upper inner thigh when you walk, which, over the course of a long day of carrying does became an issue which each of the three setups I used.
It’s a much more intrusive type of discomfort – it’s not the kind you can ignore until it goes away. It’s the “I would do anything to get this gun off right now” kind of discomfort.
My advice: take inventory of how much sitting/driving you do. If it’s over 30%, be very careful in how much money you spend on an appendix holster.
The Grandfather Oak, having a single interface point with the belt, did allow for cant adjustment more readily than the others, making finding a [more] comfortable position easier. When you’re driving or by yourself that’s fine, but sitting in public and trying to adjust the barrel of a gun more towards your groin looks like you’re really digging at your privates. Also, I’m a big believer in touching the gun as little as possible once it’s holstered. Moving it, shifting it, sliding it, etc. just adds potential to have an accident, such as the gun falling out of the holster. Not saying it’s common, but it is a risk.
The “Gun Pointed at My Junk” Argument
I’ve seen this argument over and over again and, in all honesty, it was, once upon a time, a sticking point for me. The thought of pointing a loaded, chambered pistol at my groin and all the important parts contained in that region in order to holster it gave me pause.
But the reality is this: I’ve been carrying a concealed gun for more than a decade. Before that I carried loaded M-16’s and M-4’s on active duty. Never once did I have a negligent discharge. Out of the 100’s of thousands of times I’ve manipulated a loaded firearm, I’ve never even had a close call. [Knocking on wood]. But it’s not “luck” – it’s obsessive trigger and muzzle discipline. I’m not going to lose that just because I rotate the holster 35° around my body counter-clockwise. I’m still going to make sure my finger is off the trigger and holster slowly and carefully.
If the above doesn’t describe you then you shouldn’t be carrying a gun in public anyway. The moment you develop a cavalier attitude towards firearms is the moment right before said firearms ruin your life.
Guns just don’t go off. They require input from a human being. Or, if you believe the Darwin Awards, snakes or dogs.
Once the gun is in your holster, unless you’re constantly fidgeting with it, it should be a nonissue.
However, there is that pesky reholstering function. You’ve just come from, ostensibly, firing the gun, perhaps in a stressful, timed fire exercise or even a true self defense situation. You’re going to be keyed up. It’s important, no matter where you’re carrying, to install a mental “break” before you holster. Read that again. If you’re reholstering, the drill is over or the threat is gone. You’re not thinking about shooting anymore.
Stop. (Your finger should be off the trigger. If it’s not, now’s a good time to make it so.)
Think about what you’re doing.
Only then are you in a mental state to holster your firearm. Again – this isn’t specific to appendix carry. You should be doing this whenever you reholster. Speed matters on the draw. Not when you’re reholstering. If you’re taking training from someone who disagrees, find a new instructor. I’m not right all the time but I’m right about this.
The benefit you get from appendix carry is, unless you’re super fat, you can actually visually inspect the holster and the opening of the holster to ensure it’s clear of debris and ready for you to insert the gun. You don’t get this if the gun is beyond 3:00 (9:00 for lefties) and even then it’s tough. Only when you’re 100% ready do you carefully and slowly insert the firearm into the holster, feeling carefully for any resistance. Never should you jam a gun into a holster. No one has been able to describe to me why that would be necessary. If someone, I’ll happily modify this post. Hell, I’ll put on a whole new post talking about how dumb I am and how smart the other person is.
Some points to think about:
- Use a rigid holster – kydex or reinforced leather. You want it to stay open when you draw so you’re not squeezing it back in on the reholster.
- This would be a good application for a DA/SA gun, like the Sig (or Beretta, or H&K, etc). You can keep your thumb on the hammer as your reholster and you’ll feel the hammer start to retract if the trigger snags and begins to get pulled.
- Practice with an unloaded gun. Go ahead and rack the slide (if you don’t have a hammer) and reholster 100, 200, hell 1000 times. Reholstering is cheap. If, when you’re done, you pull the trigger (Remember, the gun should be unloaded) and the gun doesn’t dry fire, you did something wrong. Start over.
Man, I just can’t make a call on this one. There are definite pros and cons. Really it’s up to you to decide if it’s something you want to undertake.
I think it goes like this: If you’re serious about concealed carry and self defense and have a few years of experience under your belt doing it and not just doing it occasionally, give it a shot. If you do time drills and lots of holstering/reholstering when you go to the range, it’s probably for you. If you’re that serious, the discomfort is probably something you’re willing to deal with.
If you’re new to concealed carry and traditional IWB carry is uncomfortable to you to the point that some days, you’d rather not bother carrying, I’d recommend taking a pass until your situation changes. If a gun isn’t comfortable to carry, you’ll just find reasons not to carry it.
I’m going to use both. There are days when I’ll be up and about all day and the appendix carry won’t bother me or I’ll be on the road and can find that nice, zen position. Days behind a desk? Back to strong side. At least for now. My parting shot here is this: if I’m going to carry in more than one position, I need to train both positions.
My 2¢. What do you think? Let me know in the comments below.