You may have heard that holstering a gun in your waistband (also known as appendix carry, or AIWB) can be a bad idea. You may have been told that carrying OWB or holstering your gun in a strong-side position on your hip is the best way to enjoy fast and accurate access to your sidearm without compromising on safety.
The reality, however, is that the advantages of appendix carry are hard to deny, and its safety is actually comparable to strong-side carry. The key to appendix carry safety is the same as the key to safely handling your firearm at any time--responsible gun ownership.
What are the advantages of appendix carry?
Carrying a gun in an AIWB position gives you fast access to your handgun by placing it where your hand naturally rests. From almost any position (sitting, standing, bending over), you can easily utilize your handgun. For surprise or close-quarter encounters, this positioning provides a definite advantage over other forms of carry.
Add in the fact that the body is usually shaped so as to make it simple to conceal your handgun at the front under a loose shirt, and it is obvious why appendix carry has been the carry style of choice for many years (Even long before IWB holsters became popular).
What are the risks of appendix carry?
The biggest risk of appendix carry is the impact that a negligent discharge could have on the gun owner. Negligent discharges can happen in any carry position, but when they occur from appendix carry, they could impact a critical area of the body that includes the groin and the femoral artery. A negligent discharge from this position could easily be life threatening.
A secondary, but related, concern is where the gun points when holstered on in the waistband: Toward the groin area. This positioning would seem to violate one of the central rules of gun handling: Never point a gun at something you do not want to destroy.
For individuals who want to use appendix carry, the risk of injury during negligent discharge and the direction the gun points are often deterring factors. But, should it be? There are some reasons to think that appendix carry is really not that dangerous, particularly for responsible gun owners who take the time to mitigate the risk.
All gun handling carries risk.
You cannot eliminate risk, no matter how you carry your gun. Fatigue, hunger, your mood, your circumstances, and a thousand other details can impact how safe your gun handling is in any one moment.
You can just as easily have an accident with a strong-side carry, with an OWB carry, while practicing on the range, or in any other scenario.
With that in mind, the most important mitigating factor is not how you carry your gun. It is practicing responsible gun ownership.
In particular, it is important to (1 Choose your gun and holster wisely (2 Familiarize yourself with your gun, (3 Practice regularly with your gun and holster, (4 Implement reasonable safety practices and (5 Refrain from practicing with or using your gun when you are not clear headed.
All of these habits of good gun ownership are possible no matter how you carry your gun.
Risk mitigation is possible.
Let's look specifically at the two arguments against appendix carry: That the muzzle of the gun points toward the groin area, and that negligent discharges can have serious consequences.
When you utilize AWIB, the muzzle will be directed toward valuable parts of your body. However, the direction of the muzzle matters very little if the gun cannot actually discharge while it is holstered.
For example, an appendix carry holster that properly covers the trigger guard will make it virtually impossible to discharge the gun while it is holstered. In this case, the direction the gun points is moot. It is the smart choice of a high-quality holster that matters.
The same principle applies any time you are storing or carrying your gun. Avoiding a negative muzzle direction at all times is impossible. Instead, you should avoid pointing your gun at anything you do not want to destroy while actively handling your gun, and prevent its discharge when storing it.
Another way to mitigate the risk of the muzzle direction is to purchase a gun that is suited for appendix carry.
In particular, select a handgun (such a revolver) that does not immediately fire as soon as something (e.g. Your finger, a piece of clothing, a belt buckle) comes into contact with it. The longer and heavier the trigger, the safer the gun is to use in AIWB carry.
The right gun in combination with the right holster can make it virtually impossible to discharge your gun accidentally while it is holstered in your waistband.
When you ARE actively handling your gun in the appendix carry position (i.e. holstering and drawing your gun), you can take specific steps to mitigate the risk of negligent discharge. In particular, best practice calls for these safeguards when drawing and re-holstering your gun:
- - Keep your finger away from the trigger guard until you are pointing the gun at your target.
- - Practice holstering and drawing with an unloaded gun until you can do it quickly, comfortably, and accurately every time. Proper training is -key to handling your gun safely.
- - Practice using your gun in a variety of positions so you can do so safely no matter what situation you find yourself in.
- - Check your holster for clothing before you holster your gun.
- - Never rush re-holstering
- - Only use a holster designed specifically for appendix carry and for your gun.
- - Be aware of your physical and mental state. If, for example, you have just used your gun and are experiencing a rush of adrenaline, you may need to place your gun elsewhere until you are clear headed enough to safely re-holster it.
The important thing to note about these tips for drawing and re-holstering your gun safely is that they apply no matter how you carry your gun. Thoughtful, sensible gun ownership practices make gun carrying safer, not the position in which you carry your sidearm.
If the advantages of appendix carry appeal to you, give it a try. Just make sure to use the right gun, the right holster, and get the right training. These practical steps of responsible gun ownership will serve you well, no matter how you carry your gun.
Eve Flanigan is a defensive shooting and concealed carry instructor living in the American Southwest. Today she works full time as an instructor and writer in the gun industry. Flanigan loves helping new and old shooters alike to develop the skills needed to keep themselves and their loved ones safe.