Appendix Carry…Thousands of Thugs Can’t be Wrong!

Written by Greg Ellifritz

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“95% of criminals carry their guns on their strong side, mostly stuck in the front of their bodies, inside the waistband without a holster.

- From a US Secret Service Seminar on detecting concealed weapons

 

Why are all the thugs carrying pistols in their waistbands in front of the hip?  And why do most cops and CCW permit holders carry behind the hip?  Are there lessons to be learned from the bad guys?   As one of the few cops who actually carries his gun in the front “appendix” position, I say “yes”.

 

 

When I started out in law enforcement, my off duty carry gun was a .38 snubnose revolver.  Fresh out of the academy and not knowing much, I bought a thin, suede, inside the pants holster with a crappy spring steel clip and started carrying the gun everywhere I went.  With no one to tell me how and where to carry, I just stuck the gun and holster inside my waistband in the “appendix” position…strong side in front of my hip.  If the circumference of my waist was a clock with the belt buckle being 12-noon, I placed the gun somewhere between one and two o’clock.  Why?  Because that was where it was most comfortable!

 

 

As times changed, I learned more about guns and had some more disposable cash.  I upgraded to a semi auto pistol for my off duty carry gun and started carrying behind the hip.  In the mid 90’s no one made quality appendix style holsters for most semi autos and no one carried that way.  I just followed the herd and did the same thing as all the other people I saw.  I carried my gun behind my hip.

 

 

Everything was fine.  I carried a large variety of guns that way over the course of many years.  I never had any problems.  Then one day several years ago I competed in the “National Tactical Invitational”, a 2-day, invitation only shooting match that combines target shooting, IDPA style stages, building clearing tactics, and force on force scenarios.  For the force on force scenarios we had to use their guns (Smith and Wesson .38 revolvers loaded with paintball rounds).  Before competing, they patted me down to check me for “real” weapons and handed me a .38 snub and a flimsy inside the waistband holster.  Without even thinking, I stuck it in the front of my pants, appendix style, just like I used to do and entered the arena.

 

 

During the course of the 3-hour run of scenarios in their “town”, I found the appendix style to work very well.  I consistently outdrew my competitors and teammates from the seated position and even seemed to be faster than usual in the standing scenarios as well.  In one scenario, I even surprised a bad guy by concealing my draw with a large notebook I was forced to carry.  I knew trouble was eminent and I preemptively drew my gun, keeping my drawstroke and the gun hidden behind the notebook.  The bad guy had quite a surprise when he went for his gun and found himself looking down the barrel of my .38 before he could draw.  I was starting to like this appendix position better and better!  I knew I couldn’t have pulled off that move if I had carried my gun behind my hip.

 

 

Since that day at the NTI, I’ve been committed to exploring appendix style holster options and modes of carry.  Now, I carry my off-duty guns in front of the hip more than 90% of the time.  Here’s why:

 

 

Faster Drawstroke- A smooth and speedy draw depends on economy of motion.  There is simply much less motion associated with drawing from the front of the hip versus behind the hip.  Less motion equals a faster draw.  In addition, it is easier to clear cover garments with your off hand when carrying concealed.  The off hand doesn’t have to reach as far and your covering garments are removed with less chance of your gun getting caught in them.

 

 

Ability to conceal the draw- Everyone who has spent any time on the range has seen thousands of drawstrokes as people draw their guns from behind the hip.  They are familiar with that telltale moving of the elbow up and back.  It’s a very easy movement to detect.  When drawing from appendix, all of the movement is in the lower arm and hand.  The elbow doesn’t move!  That gives you the ability to preemptively draw the gun without your potential attacker knowing you are drawing.  All you need is something to conceal the gun behind.  A jacket, briefcase, or grocery sack all work well to hide the draw.

 

 

Better retention- Most in-holster firearms retention systems involve “locking down” on the gun with one or two hands to try to keep the gun in the holster when someone is trying to take it from you.  It is much easier to get two hands on the gun if it is in front of the hip.  Even if you are only using one hand to keep the gun in the holster (as you vigorously attack the criminal with your other one), you can push down harder and put more weight onto the gun if your hand is in front of your body, instead of on the side or back.

 

 

In addition, someone who is trying to “foul” your draw by controlling your weapon-bearing limb will find it much more difficult to stop your draw, especially if his techniques involve controlling the elbow.  With the elbow and hand close to the body there are fewer places your attacker can exploit to prevent you from drawing your firearm in close quarters.

 

 

More comfortable and a faster draw when seated- Many of us spend much of the day in a seated position.  It’s far more comfortable to have your gun in front rather than sitting on it or allowing it to bang up against chair arms.  You also won’t have to contort your body by leaning forward and twisting in order to draw your gun.  That means you can draw your gun quicker and with less effort.

 

 

Easier access with the non-dominant hand- In a gunfight, your gun-side hand or arm could be hit by a bullet and incapacitated before you draw your gun.  Have you ever tried to draw your gun from a holster with your non-dominant hand?  Unless you are really skinny and have the flexibility of Gumby, it will probably be very difficult for you.

 

 

Not so if you carry your gun in the appendix position.  You can either turn your palm outward and execute the “cavalry twist draw” or roll the gun over on your belt line.  Please practice both maneuvers with an unloaded gun several times before you try them on the range!

 

 

This easier access also means the gun is easier to draw (with either hand) if you are fighting on the ground.

 

 

Better concealment- This reason might be the most important for all you CCW permit carriers and off duty cops.  Think about the times your gun “prints” through your shirt when carrying behind the hip.  Your gun won’t print as much when you carry it in front.  If your chest is larger than your waist, your shirt will have a natural drape in front doesn’t happen in the back.  That means the shirt hangs looser at the beltline in front than in the rear.  The extra drape hides a gun well.  Check out the photos below where I am in social situations concealing guns carried in the appendix position under light t-shirts or even tank tops.

 

 

If you carry the gun behind the hip it also tends to print when you bend forward.  The opposite occurs when you carry the gun in front.  It only prints when you lean your upper body backwards.  Think about your daily activities.  I bet you spend more time bending forward than you do leaning back.  Most of the time, that means a gun in front will be better concealed.  Save your behind the hip holsters for your next limbo contest!

Concealment isn’t a problem. Here the author is concealing a Glock 19 in an appendix holster while wearing a tight tank top

The Downsides

 

Despite my fondness for it, carrying in the appendix position isn’t always the best option.  Comfort and concealabilty really depend on body type and your gun/holster combination.  Most folks find they can conceal small and mid sized guns more comfortably than the larger guns.  Full sized weapon tend to poke a lot of people in the thigh or groin in certain positions (especially sitting).  I find that I can carry my Glock 26 or 19 all day with no discomfort.  If I try to carry my Glock 21, I find it unbearable.  Your experiences will vary.

 

 

There is also a very real danger of killing yourself if you have an accidental discharge while drawing or holstering.  The majority of accidental discharges we see on the range occur when a student is drawing or holstering the gun.  When the holster is worn on or behind the hip in the traditional position, the discharge generally just creates a grazing gunshot wound to the buttocks or leg.  If a student discharges a weapon in the appendix position, the muzzle is pointed directly at the genitals and femoral artery!  People who carry guns this way need to be extra careful when drawing and reholstering!

 

Some Tips

 

Get a good belt and a holster that is expressly designed for appendix carry.  Many holster companies make holsters with an adjustable cant to make appendix carry more comfortable.  The canted holsters angle the butt of the gun toward the strong side making for a better draw (the wrist stays locked) and more comfort.  Some people do fine with the straight draw and some like the canted angles.  Try both and see what fits your body well.  I prefer my holster to be canted.

 

 

Don’t use crappy nylon or suede holsters with plastic or spring steel clips!  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people draw their gun with the holster still attached when using these!  If you spend $500 on a gun, why would you carry it in a $10 holster?  The only plastic clips I find that work well are made by Alessi.  I use their “Talon” holsters regularly.  Even though they are not canted, I find them very comfortable to carry in the appendix position.

 

 

Many other holster makers have quality holsters for appendix carry.  Check out a variety before making your decision.

 

Wear a dark colored shirt, preferably one with a pattern near the beltline.  The darker colors and patterns conceal the gun much better.

 

 

The only other tip I have for you is to drop some belly fat!  Seriously, bigger bellied folks don’t like this carry method.  It isn’t nearly as comfortable as some others.  Even people without huge “Twinkie tumors” will benefit from a thinner waistline.  More fat pushes the gun outward and makes it less concealable, so get some exercise and drop a couple pounds!

 

 

If you haven’t yet tried appendix carry, I would tell you to go for it.  It has a lot of advantages.  For once, the thugs got something right!

 

Some of the appendix holsters that I regularly use

 

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18 Comments For This Post I'd Love to Hear Yours!

  1. Dean Craig says:

    Hi Greg, great info. Thanks! When I started out in LE I was much like what you described (mine was a 44sp bulldog).

    Today I EDC a Glock 23 (for the last 15 years) in front of my hip. After trying many of the appendix holsters I see pictured above I found something that worked even better for me (so far, I am always open for other ideas). It’s a MIC by Glocktech http://www.glocktech.com/ – one of the nice things is that I can move it around as needed from 1 to 2 to 3 o’clock depending on my position.

    I am interested in your opinion on these types of holsters.

    • Greg Ellifritz says:

      I really like the comfort of those kind of holsters. I have one from Dale Fricke (forget the model) and it looks just like that one. It’s completely adjustable and the most comfortable AIWB I’ve found.

      The only downsides are

      1) If you have larger than normal waistbands or a smaller gun, it occasionally falls down your pants. I can use one of these with my Glock 19, but not my Glock 26.

      2) It won’t stay in place when you are fighting on the ground. I did some training with mine (unloaded) and quickly found out that the pistol fell out very easily when I was rolling.

      I really like the comfort, but I’m hesitant to carry them for those reasons.

    • Bill P says:

      Greg, I EDC a Sig 229 and carry appendix forward. While I have used the Comp-Tac 2 O’clock in recent years, I recently moved to the Raven Concealment ACR. The ACR is a more stable platform me, due to the two attachment points as opposed to the single clip found on the 2 o’clock.

      Thanks for the great work…

      • Greg Ellifritz says:

        I’ve been hearing good things about that holster. I’m going to have to give it a try!

  2. Lee says:

    Greg – Great article – I’d add that the front carry also gives the best access when seated in anything with a backrest (vehicle, restaurant booth, etc.), or when you’re in a relatively confined space, such as in a crowd – where it also provides arguably the best protection for the weapon itself. Your point about the ability to conceal the draw is particularly applicable in these environments. I find it extremely comfortable to front carry a Sig P220 Carry in a Crossbreed Supertuck Deluxe, with only a loose, not oversized, t-shirt. Again, great article!

  3. Chris Cope says:

    vol 9, issue3 April 2012 of concealed carry magazine (USCCA) the very back of the mag there is a pic of a belt,holster,and mag holder with RM stitched in the holster and mag holder with red thread. Who made them for you? I have searched for that style holster and have had no luck….. If you could forward that info I am sure they would have many sales from this thread only!
    Thanks, and keep up the good work

    Chris Cope jeepster2000@live.com

  4. Travis says:

    Hi Greg,
    Just got done reading this article and really enjoyed your views. Over the last 1-1.5 years I have become an appendix fan. I’ve experimented w/ several holsters (and firearms) as well, and wanted to let you know of a new one in case you haven’t come across it yet. It’s the Skeleton Holster by PHLster. Have been wearing it for my Sfld. XDS and am very happy w/ it. My favorite AIWB i’ve used. Will order one for my M&P compact soon. Price is excellent and turnaround time very good for custom kydex. I enjoy trying new kydex products from the small, individual makers and Jon at PHLster does great work. Would be interested to know how one would work for you.

    Have taken a few classes at TDI but haven’t trained w/ you yet. Maybe next year.
    Cheers!

  5. I’m fascinated by the information you present in this article. It’s very compelling to have better accessibility and better concealment you say the appendix carry offers. I just have one “dumb” question. As a mom of small kids, I’m constantly bending over to wipe noses or pick up groceries, not to mention lugging my kids around on my hip…do you find that bending over is excruciating with the appendix carry? How do you avoid constantly impaling yourself, or at the very least pinching yourself when you bend?

    Presently, I carry either IWB behind my strongside hip, or when I OC, I use a thigh holster. No question, I favor easier access, but still haven’t figured out how to integrate it into my concealed carry routine. While I would LOVE to OC all the time, I do get tired of being detained in the grocery store while I educate people (law enforcement) on my rights. Perhaps the appendix carry is my answer. I look forward to your feedback!

    • Greg Ellifritz says:

      You have to find a gun and holster combination that fits your body. I find that I have absolutely no problems with a gun the size of a Glock 26 or smaller. When it comes to my Glock 19 ( a lttle bigger), some holsters are comfortable and some aren’t. I find that having the holster slightly canted is more comfortable for me than having it straight up and down.

      I’ve been using the Raven Concealment Vanguard II holster with my Glock 19 lately and have found it to be the most comfortable appendix carry holsters I’ve used. It’s definitely not a holster for novices and has a couple drawbacks, but for me it works well. I have one of Spencer Keepers’ custom kydex holsters on order as well. Spebcer assures me that his design is the most comfortable yet. I can’t wait until I get it. I will write up an evaluation after I’ve given it some workouts.

      One thing that’s a must for you is good weapon retention. If you are bending over a lot, you’ll want a holster that is a little stiffer (no nylon or suede) and holds the gun tightly so that it doesn’t fall out.

    • Daniel says:

      I’m a dad with a little girl who loves to have dady carry her.

      So naturally, since she has me wrapped around her little finger, I carry her a lot on my hip. I’ve found that carrying on the weak side appendix IWB is best for me, and presents no issues with carrying her, bending, sitting etc.

      I carry it slightly canted with the grip pointed over the belt buckle. This gives it kind of a half crossdraw action that I like because while bringing my hand up from my side, it just naturally crosses right over the grip and makes drawing a natural, one action event.

  6. Winston Smith says:

    Dale Fricke’s AIWB holsters are the best. I carry full size Glocks every day with his kydex gear and won’t ever go back to behind the hip.

  7. thebronze says:

    Greg,

    I usually carry (G-19) IWB or OWB at 3 o’clock when it’s pants weather, but this summer, when it’s shorts/t-shirt weather, I took to carrying it AIWB in a cheapo Uncle Mikes clip holster. No one can tell I have it on. I really like it, although the holster itself isn’t optimal, I know.

    I’ll be trying out AIWB in a quality holster this winter.

    I recently bought a Gen 4 G-22 and it’s only a 1/2″ longer in the barrel and grip, so I may make it my EDC gun, instead of the 19.

    Great articles!

  8. Excellent article with many good points. Back in the day, as a CID Special Agent, I always carried behind the hip, at 4 O’clock, because it was best to conceal the handgun under a suit coat. Nowadays, I wear mostly knit T-shirts and routinely carry weak-side front, at 10:30 position, in a tuckable IWB holster. The Remora is about my favorite — no clip to betray its presence.

    I carry weak side because with shirt tucked in, it’s quickest to pull up the shirt with the off hand while drawing the weapon. The bulk of the gun is further back, allowing me to bend forward much easier, and it’s much closer to my off hand for an off-hand draw, should that become necessary. The gun (formerly a .40 Walther PPS, now a .45 Springfield XDS) just melts into my admittedly ample waist.

    In short, I concur with Greg on this one, but find the weak-side carry to be a bit more comfortable and just as fast.

    • Daniel says:

      I use the same method, have been for several years now with a mid sized/compact .45 IWB.

      I adopted it after studying what makes fast draw artists so quick.
      not that I want to be Doc Holliday, but because fast is efficient.

      I found that to be quick, you need the shortest, simplest, motion possible, with the fewest moving parts. You also want every single movement of your draw to be bringing your gun closer to your firing position, without any movements contridicting each other.

      You dont want to reach back, just to have to reach forward, to ready the weapon. with such movement, you are not only fighting yourself, but having to operate every joint from fingertip to shoulder blade just to draw!

      With weak side appendix draw, grip angled above belt buckle, whether sitting or standing, the draw is one single directional motion from relaxed to weapon ready. It’s almost as if you are simply lifting your hand, and in that natural motion, your fingers simply pluck the gun from its holster while the single move is in process.

      I found that by doing this, I was simply checking the smoothness of the draw, not trying to be fast at all, but I discovered it was much quicker just casually drawing this way than it was when I was trying my fastest draw the old way.

      It’s also more secure, since my hands are usually in front or beside me, and my eyes happen to be located in the front of my head too.

  9. Cotter Sayre says:

    Any carry position that has a loaded gun pointing at my genitals and femoral artery nixes it for me. Same with horizontal shoulder holsters that sweep everyone to my rear; inverted vertical shoulder holsters that point at my brachial artery; and cross-draw holsters that can sweep innocents when you draw.

    Then, to add to all of the negatives above, YOU ALSO CANNOT USE ANY OF THOSE HOLSTER POSITIONS WITH YOUR **CARRY GUN** IN USPSA COMPETITIONS (which is how I and many others get in their defensive pistol practice).

    Therefore, IMHO, anything other than a 4 or 5 O’clock carry position becomes dangerous and impractical.

    • Zach Adkins says:

      I understand your point on being uncomfortable with the firearm being pointed in an unsafe direction, but how often do you neglently discharge your firearm? I doubt it has happened, and with some care it won’t happen. In the beginning I advise carrying without a loaded chamber until you get more comfortable.

      On the USPSA negative, when is the last time you encountered any of the “stages” from a match? Yet again, highly unlikely. USPASA is a good training tool, one that I use myself. But, it is also a game, I’ve never seen anyone OC, or heard anyone discuss CC a race gun, not happening. USPSA is a game, if you only use a game as defensive training, you really need more defenseive training.

      Just because someone makes a rule saying you have to carry at 4 o’clock at their house, doesn’t mean it’s the best method. Do what works for you.

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