While there’s nothing new about the appendix carry position for sidearm carry, it has recently surged in popularity, and there are now several holsters offered that are designed to excel in this application.
What Exactly Is Appendix Carry?
Classic IWB (Inside the Waist Band) carry is usually somewhat to the rear of the carry-side hip. Using clock face notation, with 12:00 being at the navel and 3:00 being the far side of the right hip, right-handed carry is usually between 3:30 and 6:00, easy to reach a bit back for, an easy draw and good concealment under a jacket.
Appendix carry puts the gun in front, between 12:00 and 2:30, easy to reach and more natural than reaching to the rear. In timed trials, skilled shooters were able to present from appendix carry quicker than from rear carry, with speeds of 1 second to make the first accurate shot not uncommon.
Another advantage is concealment. It is easier to conceal a mid- to full-size pistol in the appendix position than it is to the rear, particularly if well-fitting clothing is being worn. This is not so much an issue with smaller firearms, but anyone wanting to carry a full-sized pistol would do well to consider the appendix carry.
With the pistol in front of you, it’s easy to visually check the concealment, and a visual check is easy.
A Few Good Appendix Carry Holsters
This no-frills polymer holster holds the pistol securely at 0 degrees of cant in either the appendix position or at 3:00 for side carry. The clip holds it in place securely, even without a belt.
This leather/Kydex holster can be carried strong-side or on the other side appendix position for cross-draw. The Kydex pocket is attached to a leather base for comfort, and the single clip holds it securely in place.
This belly band is made of stretch neoprene to fit anyone up to a size 44″ waist, and is excellent at staying where it’s placed. It works well in the appendix position, and the surgical-grade elastic holster will fit almost any pistol, up to a 1911. The pocket-sized pistols may sit a little deep in the holster and be harder to draw.
There is a magazine pocket and a pistol retention strap. If you prefer a quicker draw and the holster seems to retain well without the strap, simply cut it off. Available for right and left handed shooters.
This Kydex holster has Cordura cloth backing for comfort, carries a spare magazine, and uses Galloway’s Ulti-clip for the best anchor to your clothing.
This remarkably popular 5″ tall belly band is made of Mil-Spec elastic and has weapon carry pockets in 4 positions: left and right appendix and kidney. It has 2 magazine pouches and easy-grab tabs on the holster pockets for easy re-holstering.
This Kydex holster covers the trigger guard and the backside of your pistol to protect it from sweat. It has adjustable cant, either 0 or 15 degrees, and can be used for appendix, hip, side, or back carry. The retention is adjustable, and it has a polymer clip that will fit belts up to 1-3/4″ wide.
This two-clip Kydex holster boasts exceptional comfort and the ability to use it with your shirt tucked in. It features a built-in magazine pouch, center ventilation for comfort, and a lifetime warranty.
This leather holster is available for many different guns, and the belt loop is adjustable to any cant that you like. It also features adjustable retention, not typical of leather holsters.
The belt loop does protrude a bit, but that can be fixed at home. Just get the loop wet and clamp it between two pieces of wood for 24 hours, and it will lie flat. Leather holsters need some break-in to fit well, and this can be accelerated by putting your pistol into a crew sock and forcing it into the holster for a day. Remove the sock and re-insert the pistol, then adjust the retention to suit you.
This suede holster fits most medium-frame pistols, and the material is comfortable with no tendency to ride up. The clip is strong enough to grip your pants behind your belt for extra concealability. The gun rides low, with only the grip appearing above your belt line. Relentless Tactical supplies a lifetime warranty with this holster.
This leather/thermoplastic hybrid has 2 strong clips that are adjustable for 9 different height and cant configurations. The black suede liner helps hold it in place comfortably, and the clips are strong enough to use without a belt.
This single-clip leather holster is sized for most compact-frame 9mm pistols, and is set to 0 degrees of cant for appendix carry. Being bullhide, there’s a break-in period of a week or so, unless you accelerate that. The minimalist design and single clip make it versatile, while leather softens edges and offers comfort. Relentless Tactical backs its performance with a lifetime warranty.
There Is a Disadvantage
One of the more common objections to the appendix carry position is phrased something like “I’d rather not spend my day with a pistol pointed at my manly parts”. We can all understand why the idea would be unnerving, but it’s not entirely accurate.
A pistol being drawn or re-holstered in the appendix position may not be pointed at the genitals at all; it’s more likely to be pointed at the femoral artery, instead. Yes, this is even worse.
Do not gloss this over: if there is an accidental discharge as you are drawing or re-holstering your firearm in the appendix position, there is a chance that you will sustain a serious wound to your genitals or a very important artery. This idea deserves serious consideration.
There are two ways to reduce the risk of accidental discharge while reholstering in the appendix (or any) position. The first is to carry a weapon with a manual safety, and engage it before holstering your weapon. This doesn’t help the people who carry a Glock or other pistol without a manual safety, though.
The other method is sometimes called the hard break. When you are done firing, take a deep breath, and make a conscious effort to switch from ‘fire, fire, fire’ mode into ‘I don’t want to be so casual that I shoot myself’ mode. Using appendix carry, it’s important to think about safety and caution when you re-holster your weapon.
As Todd Green of Pistol-Training.com says, “Reholstering takes on a whole new level of seriousness with AIWB carry. While there are a number of tweaks to your technique that can help minimize the risk, the most important point to remember is that you have essentially zero margin of error so going slowly trumps looking cool.”
Several AIWB carriers give up on looking cool entirely and remove the holster before re-holstering, then put the holstered weapon back in place.
Features To Look For In Appendix Carry Holsters
With that said, while almost any IWB holster can be used in the appendix position, one specifically designed for it will likely be an improvement. A holster that nudges the muzzle away from the body and draws the grip in closer to the body will help conceal it and make it more comfortable to wear.
Some people prefer metal clips, thinking that plastic clips are more prone to failure. I’ve never had a failure with a plastic clip, and dislike the sharp edges and excessive muscle of the metal clips. You should do exactly as I do, and suit yourself in this regard. If you prefer metal clips, that’s what you should look for.
Especially if you are considering the habit of re-holstering with the holster away from your body and then replacing the holstered pistol back into position, a holster that is easy to mount and dismount is an advantage. Starting the day wrestling with a holster to get it into position is not going to improve anyone’s day.
Considering the holstered target area, a holster that fully covers the trigger guard area is very strongly recommended.
After you’ve selected an appendix carry holster, don’t just start carrying with it. Wear it around the house for a while with an empty firearm, getting a feel for it and some practice on the draw and re-holster. The more practice you put into it, the smoother and quicker it will be if you ever need it in a non-practice situation.