I ran an informal online survey about concealed carry of firearms to gather information for this article. I asked about favorite holstering positions, pros and cons for each position, how often the person carried concealed, and more. After reading the responses from almost 100 men and women I came to one very obvious conclusion.
There is no general consensus on anything when it comes to carrying concealed.
Everyone has (or will discover) their own “best practices” for what works for them. What one person sees as a pro, someone else sees as a con. What fits one gun doesn’t fit another, especially if it’s been modified at all, including common mods like adding crimson sights. For that matter, your theoretically-preferred carry position may not be available for your preferred firearm.
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So let’s talk just in general about some of the most popular carry positions.
Most Popular Concealed Carry Positions
Inside the Waistband (IWB) – Better conceals the handgun, but can be less comfortable. Some people adjust the size pants they buy in order to accommodate their concealed handgun.
Outside the Waistband (OWB) – Harder to avoid printing, but more comfortable to wear.
Hip – This is the most popular and traditional position to carry a handgun. For men. Hip holsters tend to be “by males, for males” in design. Men are more likely to be able to effectively conceal a weapon in this position. Drawing is quick and natural. You can carry strong side or cross draw.
Appendix -A popular on body carry position for women. While safety is important in all carry positions, an accidental discharge while holster in this position will result in shooting yourself in an, ahem, vital area. On the plus side, drawing and firing tends to be quicker because you do not have to reach behind your hip line.
Kidney – The second most popular carry position for men. A concern is the tendency to sweep your body as you draw.
Center of Back – Many people like this position for comfort while standing but there are quite a few downsides to carrying this way. Sitting is very uncomfortable. There is also concern about injury to the spine and lack of access to the firearm if you are knocked down on your back.
Under the Arm – Many women like this carry position as pointy hips, shorter torsos, and fashion often get in the way of waist carrying in any position. Cross drawing from a shoulder holster is more technical. This position can be achieved by using a shoulder holster or a shirt with a built in pocket.
Pocket – Not compatible with most women’s fashions, even for “pocket pistols.” Most commonly worn by men wearing more loosely fitting pants. One benefit is that you can have your hand on your firearm without those around you knowing, unlike putting your hand on your hip holster.
Bra Holster – Many women swear by a bra holster such as the Flashbang. (Read a review here.) Properly worn and adjusted, the handgun is completely concealed. There is a steep learning curve to draw and fire from a bra holster, but once you figure it out, it can become a favorite.
Purse or Bag – Also called “off body carry” this is the way many women carry their handguns. You should look for one with a lock. Men or women can also carry in fanny packs, organizers, or briefcases. The firearm is completely concealed and, with some wardrobe choices, might be the only practical way to have a firearm close by. The downside is that bags can be stolen, forgotten, or left behind, and drawing can be very slow, especially when it is locked.
Thigh – Worn by women in skirts or dresses. (Or by men in kilts, I suppose!) Completely concealed and definitely sexy, but somewhat difficult to access and draw.
Ankle – Usually this is the “back up gun” position and not a place to carry your primary defensive weapon. Can be ideal for someone who is seated most of the time (professional drivers, for instance). Easier to draw from a kneeling position or if you are knocked on the ground. Difficult to get to when just standing still or in a standing confrontation. It can also affect your gait, or how you walk, making it easier for those “in the know” to guess that you are ankle carrying.
Here is the bottom line about carry positions: Explore a lot of options! Go to a local gun store and ask to try on some of the holsters. Ask friends and family to try on their holsters. As my survey showed, opinions are all over the map, and what works perfectly for one person might be the worst option for another. The only way you’ll know what works for you is to experiment.
Practice, practice, practice
Remember, concealed carrying a firearm is about far more than simply having a weapon on your body. You absolutely MUST practice drawing and firing from your chosen carry position. Practice drawing at home with an unloaded and cleared weapon, or a blue gun.
Basically, a “blue” gun is a detailed blue rubber replica of a real gun. If you tend to go to “gun free zones” like school on a regular basis and are afraid you’ll forget and carry there (felony conviction, anyone?) OR if you have a small child and need to be beyond certain they can’t access it when you carry, this can be a good option to practice the simple act of carrying.
When you are comfortable with your ability to safely and quickly draw the firearm, go to the range and practice both drawing and firing with a loaded weapon. (Be sure to ask the rules at your range. Some ranges do not allow drawing and firing.)
When you practice drawing, you may find that the holster you chose as the most comfortable turns out not to be practicable for you. I prefer, for comfort and lowest printing on my body, to kidney carry. But try as I might, I can’t yet get a smooth and quick draw from that position. While there are times I still choose to carry that way, the better carry position for me is appendix. It is the best mix of smooth draw and low printing, even though it is a bit less comfortable for me overall.
If you want an amazing amount of detailed information on this subject, download a free copy of Gun Digest’s 84-page ebook excerpt “Concealed Carry Methods – Concealed Carry Holsters and Clothing.” It is chock full of detailed information, tips and photos that can help you make the best choice for you.
My Favorite Holsters
Fobus OWB Compact Paddle Holster – This doesn’t conceal my Springfield XD9 on my hip, but does for my husband.
Outbags Holster – I carry my Ruger SR22 on my belt or in my purse with this.
Appendix Carry – If your belly button is “12 o’clock” appendix carry for a right-handed person is located at between 1 and 2 o’clock. Left-handed appendix carry is located between 10 and 11 o’clock.
Cross Draw – Carrying your handgun on the opposite side of the body from the drawing hand.
Hip Carry – Traditionally carried at the 3:30 to 4 o’clock position for right handers and 8 o’clock to 8:30 position for left handers.
Kidney Carry – Right-handed kidney concealed carry is located between 4 and 5 o’clock. Left-handed kidney carry is located between 7 and 8 o’clock.
Printing – A handgun is printing when it is visible underneath the clothing being used to conceal it. Check your state regulations, some have laws that prohibit printing.
Strong Side Draw – Carrying your handgun on the same side as your drawing hand.
Muzzle Sweep – Unintentionally pointing your handgun at yourself or someone else.
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