Written by Greg Ellifritz
– Editor’s note. I’ve received a whole bunch of questions from students and readers wanting to learn about about appendix carry recently. Everyone wants to know what rig I use to carry my CCW pistol. I wrote this article a couple years ago and am re-printing it today to answer all those questions. In the intervening years since I’ve written this, I’ve tried a bunch of new AIWB designs. Many of them are excellent (look for a review of my favorites coming soon). But I find myself sticking with the Keeper (or it’s newer “Keeper Lite” incarnation). Spencer still makes the most comfortable and concealable AIWB rigs on the market. I carry one every day.
I recently met Spencer Keepers at the Paul Gomez Memorial Training Event. Spencer is an Oklahoma-based firearms instructor and custom holster maker. We were both pressed into service to serve as range safety officers for Chris Fry’s extremely full one- handed shooting class.
After the class, Spencer and I got to talking about holsters. At the time I was carrying my gun in a Safariland ALS belt holster. He asked me if I ever carried in the “appendix” position (in front of the strong side hip bone). I confided to him that I carried there most of the time, but I switched to a belt holster whenever I was likely to have to draw the gun dozens of times a day to shoot demonstrations while teaching.
I had lots of appendix inside the waistband (AIWB) holsters, but I didn’t like the additional time and care it took to reholster when using them. When teaching a class, I didn’t want the students experiencing downtime while I took the utmost care not to blow a hole in my privates!
Spencer showed me the holster he was carrying. It was his own design, one he calls “The Keeper”. To be honest, when I first saw it I thought it looked a little clunky. I’m glad I didn’t let my initial impressions skew my judgment. As Spencer explained all of its design features, I realized that he may have come up with the best AIWB holster ever made.
His design isn’t a standard inside the waistband holster that has been slightly modified like most AIWB holsters currently on the market. Spencer designed this one from the ground up to be the ultimate AIWB carrying method. To start, the holster is made of hand molded kydex. The kydex is thick enough to retain the gun, but not too thick that it is bulky. The holster retention is adjustable with a screw and washers to custom fit each user’s demanded balance of gun retention and ease of access.
The belt attachment is also kydex. It is angled specifically to tilt the butt of the gun into the body for better concealment. It is also adjustable for both ride height and cant. I find those two variables will make or break an AIWB holster in terms of carrying comfort. One other ingenious design feature is that the belt loop is covered with Velcro to attach to the loose end of the ever-popular Wilderness Tactical or Blackhawk belts.
The entire back side of the holster is also covered in Velcro. That allows the attachment of optional padded foam wedges. Spencer includes different sized wedges with each holster. The wedge serves two purposes. The primary purpose is to cantilever the gun butt into the body to prevent the gun from printing through light clothing. Conversely, the wedge can be placed to angle the gun but away from the body for a faster draw.
The wedges also can be placed to cushion the muzzle area. Many people new to AIWB find that the muzzle of their gun pokes them in the thigh or groin when they sit down. With the muzzle covered by a foam wedge, I find it much more comfortable than many other holsters. The wedges may look a bit strange, but they serve their purpose and work extremely well. They are infinitely and quickly adjustable to better suit each user’s needs.
Spencer’s fine workmanship and explanation convinced me that I had to try one. I placed my order and received a “Keeper” holster for my Glock 19 about a month ago. I’ve been wearing it every waking moment off duty since then and have taught one weekend class at TDI using it. I’ve only had it for a month, but I’ve run it hard. I’m very impressed.
As I stated earlier, I’ve always been hesitant to use my AIWB holsters when I teach. That all changed with this design. The holster is mounted so securely to the belt that it simply doesn’t move. The mouth of the holster doesn’t collapse and even “funnels” the gun into place. The gun locks in with an authoritative snap. I feel every bit as safe drawing from this holster as I do with a traditional belt holster. I’ve tried almost every AIWB holster made and none feel as safe and secure as this one.
There’s a fine line between designing a holster for concealment and for ease of access. The Keeper straddles this line perfectly. The gun butt can be placed EXACTLY where each user wants it. The holster conceals very well. The foam wedges really help keep the gun from printing.
Other companies have made holsters more concealable by offsetting the belt loops to either side so that they aren’t directly over the bulk of the holster. I’ve always found that design to be less stable. The Keeper’s belt attachment is directly over the holster body. It loses a slight bit of concealment this way, but the increased security and stability more than make up for any downsides. According to Spencer, the majority of people who have purchased his holster have a more rotund body and they can conceal the pistol easily. He says that exceptionally lean people might see the belt loop print a little more, but that problem can be solved by tightening the belt or wearing a slightly looser shirt.
Spencer makes the holster for the following firearms models:
9mm, .357, and .40 Glocks
9mm S&W M&Ps
HK P30 and P30L
Sig 229 (no rail)
5″ 1911s (with rail)
Each holster costs $150 plus $8 shipping. Additional custom modifications (like split belt loops or a cutout for an RMR) cost $25 more. Spencer’s current lead time is two to four months.
That’s a long wait and a lot of money for a piece of gear, but I think it’s worth both. This holster is a masterpiece. Every one is hand built custom to the user’s specifications.
It says a lot to me that the Keeper is the holster Spencer makes. He is patenting the design and has done the research to make everything work perfectly. There has been more thought put into this holster than any other design I’ve ever seen. It has my unqualified endorsement. If you carry a gun in the appendix position, you owe it to yourself to check it out.
If you would like to order a Keeper holster or would like more information check out the Keepers Concealment website.