So for the last few weeks I’ve been talking about what doesn’t work. Most of that has been from personal experience (with the exception of the shoulder holster). The good news is that, through all of that trial and error, I have found a few options that have yielded more success. Please note, everyone’s experience and context are different. These are not guaranteed to solve all your problems. This is just what has worked for me personally. My intention is not to convert you to my way of thinking, but merely to document my experiences, so you can draw the most educated conclusion possible.
With that said, the carry methods that I’ve found most successful are:
Appendix Inside the Waistband:
This is by far my preferred method of carry. I’ve been carrying appendix since 2012, with all manner of holsters and across a 70 lbs weight-span. I’m not going to get too in depth as to the benefits and considerations, there’s plenty of info out there from a whole host of sources. Now if you google appendix holsters, or really most IWB holsters for that matter, everything from the belt-attachment point up is exposed. Well that poses some challenges. My appendix carry is typically one of two configurations:
- 1) A Keeper’s Concealment Keeper, with a vest as my cover garment. I actually picked up this little trick from Spencer directly when I took his AIBW Skillsets class back in 2017. (grab a broom, I’ll be dropping a few names in this one). As soon as he suggested the vest, I literally face-palmed and couldn’t believe I hadn’t thought of it before! Here’s the overview of [A]IWB carry w/ a vest:
- It’s definitely the most consistent. The gun is in the same place as when I’m in more casual clothes, and even in the same holster. Not much changes
- The In-Fight Weapon Access (IFWA) is about as good as it can get. You really need to take ECQC or a similar force on force class to really appreciate this.
- You’re at a pretty low risk of accidental exposure (as long as you’re aware of the hemline of your vest in relation to the beltline of your trousers)
- Your risk of printing is low to moderate. This will depend on your build, the type of holster and gun, and a bunch of other things. With the right combo, you can get everything to all but disappear.
- You need to be attentive to the draw, since vests fit relatively close to the body and don’t stretch like shirt material, so you can get bound up if you try and pull out vs. up.
For some of you, vests just aren’t an option. They’re either just not you, or for some reason it’s not viable. For those times I still stick with AIWB, but I opt for a tuckable holster instead. Now I can already hear the critics “but you said that tuck struts/loops were too obvious!” Why yes, yes I did. That’s because most of the tuckable attachment points aren’t sufficiently discreet…Most, but not all. Enter the Discreet Carry Concepts clips, specifically their MOD5.1 Behind the Belt variant (link). These allow you to take your favorite holster, and make it all but disappear under a tucked in shirt. So let’s explore:
- 2. Tuckable AIWB Carry. My preferred/current is a KSG Armory Sidekick with the aforementioned DCC Clips. I’ve also modded mine with the Dark Star Gear Darkwing and Muzzle Pad. There are other wedges/claws out there, but those are some of the most effective ones I’ve found, and I’ve tried most of ‘em. The considerations for this are:
- All of the same benefits of the AIWB w/ vest mentioned above
- Drawstroke can actually be a touch easier, since there’s less tension on the fabric of your shirt (more room) than there generally is with a vest.
- The risk of accidental exposure is virtually nonexistent
- Low to moderate risk of printing, although more so than with the vest, since the fabric of the shirt is much thinner.
- Can be a bit more challenging to draw one-handed, so this requires separate, dedicated practice if you generally carry w/ an untucked shirt.
Now, there are instances where these methods are still not sufficiently discreet for whatever the circumstances are. This is where we start to get into the area of deep concealment. I categorize deep concealment. For me, Deep Concealment is anything where the grip isn’t exposed (once whatever cover garments have been cleared. There’s all manner of options. Here are the ones I’ve played with thus far:
Basically, all of these work the same way. The carry system has its own belt that you put around your hips, and then simply put your pants on overtop. I personally don’t have any experience with the Runcibleworks YP, but Greg Ellifrtiz saw one come through his class and liked it, so I strongly suggest you check it out. The articulated design, and hard-shell holster definitely makes it more appealing than the setups I’m currently running, which is the DTOM Possum Pouch:
- The position and accessing the firearm are very similar to belt carry, so the consistency is a huge advantage.
- The risk of accidental exposure is virtually 0. Most if not all of the gun is riding below the beltline (generally)
- With most of the guns suited to this method (j-frames, Glock 43, Shield, etc) the risk of printing is also very low, unless you’re wearing extremely fitted pants
- IFWA is a pretty serious challenge. Both hands will likely be required. This is not something you’ll be able to get at in the midst of a grapple, so your overall situational awareness will need to be higher. To steal a quote from Chuck Pressberg (who I’m fairly certain reappropriated it from someone else that I just can’t recall right now) “there are guns for getting into trouble, and guns for getting out of trouble”. Guns carried like this are definitely the “getting out of trouble” category. Think “Escape & Evasion” not “Direct Action”.
- Retention can be an issue with the fabric pouches. I have heard of people screwing hard-bodied holsters into the pouch, which isn’t a bad idea, although it adds to the bulk.
The last option is pocket carry. Now I’ve been critical of this method as well, mostly because a lot of the guns that are marketed as “pocket guns” kinda aren’t unless you’re in baggy jeans, 5.11 pants, or work wear. None of those are particularly flattering or stylish. If they are how you generally dress, other more favorable methods of carry are likely possible (IWB).
I will say that, in order for pocket carry to work, it really needs to be an LCP-sized pistol. At least for me. From the P&S Podcast on Mouse Guns (where they refer to pocket guns as “a loud knife”), and a subsequent conversation with The Tactical Professor himself (Claude Werner) over lunch at Tac Con 2019, I finally found the most workable pocket gun solution for me: The Kel-Tec P32. *immediately loses ⅓ of followers*
The reasoning is pretty simple: The ballistics of sub-9mm calibers is all less than ideal, and the recoil of the 32 is friendlier than 380 in the light package. Since shot placement is key, shooting the ability to shoot more effectively trumps bullet size. And since it’s less popular, it doesn’t sell out the way 380 does. When it comes to the thinner fabrics of dress slacks & suit pants, the bulk and volume of a j-frame or single stack 9 just isn’t viable. This is a niche gun, in instances where your threat level is exceptionally low, but you don’t’ want to go unarmed. A “Rule 1” gun, to borrow a term from Caleb Giddings (Rule 1 of a Gunfight: Have a gun).
There are certainly a couple of drawbacks to pocket carry, and I’m not going to recommend it for the new shooter. But it does offer some distinct benefits that I think are worth considering:
- Arguably faster access, since there’s no cover garment to defeat. Now, you’re not going to have a “full firing grip” on the gun necessarily, because it can be difficult to withdraw a closed fist from your pocket. I’ll be testing this on the timer to see if I’m right.
- Only works with very small guns. I’ve only ever been able to get it to work with sub 9mm autos (380, 32, 25, 22)
- Like with the Possum Pouch, your basically not getting this out in the midst of the scuffle. The advantage here is that, unlike with most other methods, you’re able to casually and discreetly already have the gun in hand, shortcutting the draw.
- Low risk of accidental exposure, as long as your pockets aren’t too shallow. With j-frames, I’ve had the grip peek out of the pocket, even with small boot-grips.
- Moderate risk of printing, depending on the cut of pants & type of holster used. This is where the MDTS Pocket Shield really shines. Yes, you’ll still see that there’s something in that pocket, but it will in no way look like a gun.
I’m going to do an individual write-up on the pocket/mouse gun because I think it’s a grossly misunderstood concept. Again, this is a very narrow niche solution, and not recommended for the novice, regular carry, or responding to violence.
Above all else, these are purely my findings. I can in no way guarantee they’ll work for you. I just figured that it was worth sharing my findings after years of trial and error.
My intention is to show you that it is in fact possible to carry an “acceptable” firearm under most circumstances. In the situations where you can’t, or would benefit from something more discreet, a lot of the suggestions that are made are coming from people that have only a peripheral understanding of our “operational environment” (tactical buzzwords!)
In the next article in the series, I’ll be touching on some special considerations that you may not be aware of if you haven’t ever actually shot/fought in a suit before.
If you’re not already following Greg Ellifritz over at Active Response Training, you really should be. His “Free Books” series and Weekly Knowledge Dumps alone are worth it. Plus he’s an all around good dude.
Same goes for The Tactical Professor Claude Werner. He challenges a lot of the common thinking within the shooting ecosystem (a term I just picked up from Mickey over at Carry Trainer), and also has a great compilation of data.
Even if you’re not sold on the whole appendix carry thing, I do strongly suggest that you seek out Spencer Keepers. His 1-day Handgun Essentials class is quite the eye opener. His AIWB skillsets class is quite enlightening as well, and will really equip you to make the best decisions on your carry gear.