Appendix Inside the Waistband (AIWB) carry has been a steadily growing trend in the concealed carry world for several years now. It’s been derided by some as a fad, but it doesn’t look like we can expect appendix carry to go anywhere for a long time. The biggest problem with AIWB right now is the staggering amount of misinformation being spread about the topic, even from some respected industry experts who normally give reliable advice. I’m personally a big fan of AIWB, and even though I don’t think it’s for everybody, if you’re serious about concealed carry, you should take a few minutes to understand the pros and cons, and how appendix carry can be done safely. I’ve done my best to condense the basics of AIWB into one quick video…
The Basics of Appendix Carry
Full transcript below:
Pretty much every day for about the last six years, I’ve carried a handgun on my belt right here at the 1 o’clock position, also called Appendix Inside the Waistband carry or AIWB. There’s been a lot of controversy about this method of concealed carry, and that’s because it’s been really misunderstood both by its critics and by a lot of the people who choose to carry this way.
Appendix carry is nothing new. It’s actually been around for centuries, but it’s gained popularity in recent years which I believe has a lot to do with the influence of the firearms instructor Todd Green. Todd actually passed away last month after a long fight with cancer. And unfortunately, I never actually to meet Todd in person or take any of his classes before stopped teaching, but even so, he’s the one guy who probably more than anybody else has had the most influence on my development as a shooter. And not just the way I carry a gun, but my whole approach to thinking about self-defense general. And that’s because Todd shared a lot of his thoughts on his blog at pistol-training.com and the forum he started, pistol-forum.com.
So I first gave appendix carry a serious try after reading about it on Todd’s blog several years ago and since then I’ve had a lot of opportunity to experiment with different techniques and gear and I’ve also been able to pick up some tips here and there from other instructors who carry appendix. So there’s a lot more to this than I can share in one video, but I want to give you a quick overview of appendix carry, and maybe confront some of the more common criticisms.
But first I want to talk about why anyone would want to carry a gun this way. There are a lot of advantages to appendix carry. The one you hear most often is that it has the potential to allow for a very quick draw stroke from concealment. This is especially true if you’re sitting down or in an awkward position or in very tight quarters where you can’t move around much. The gun is just easier and quicker to access than a gun behind your hip. It’s also easier to protect the gun if someone were to try to make a grab for it, and it’s easier to surreptitiously access the gun without drawing a lot of attention to yourself if you need to do that.
A lot of people find appendix carry to be uncomfortable, and I can’t really argue with that, but that’s by no means a universal experience. I actually think it’s more comfortable because I don’t have a gun pressing against my hip bone all day — I can tolerate for a lot longer compared to any other kind of belt carry.
But for me, the most compelling reason to switch to appendix carry was just ease of concealment. With behind the hip carry, I just could not find a way to conceal a gun unless it was very small or I was wearing a jacket or really baggy clothing. But with appendix carry, if I’ve got the right holster, I can carry a gun of just about any size and I don’t have to wear a XXL poncho to cover it up. That’s not to say I always want to deal with the weight of a full size pistol but with appendix carry, I can be a lot more flexible with the size of gun that I’m carrying.
Usually, when somebody says they’ve tried appendix carry and then they immediately decide they don’t like it, it’s because they’re using the wrong kind of holster. That’s almost guaranteed to not work. You have to use a holster that is specifically designed for appendix carry. And I don’t mean just an inside the waistband holster with a neutral cant. You’ve got to get a holster with some really specific design features like pushing the muzzle away from the body and getting the grip tucked in toward the body. Those features are really important for comfort and concealment.
If you’re looking for some specific suggestions, I would say skip all the cheap stuff and go straight for the really good custom holster makers. It’ll actually end up being cheaper in the long run. So try Keepers Concealment or JM Custom Kydex. They both make some excellent appendix carry holsters. You could also try Custom Carry Concepts or Dark Star Gear or Raven Concealment — there really are a lot of good options these days. Just make sure you do your homework first and whatever holster you try comes from a holster maker who understands what has to go into a good appendix carry design.
The other big criticism of appendix carry is that it’s inherently unsafe because there’s no way to re-holster the gun without pointing it at yourself. Well, that’s only true if you do it wrong. Concealed carry in general — no matter how you’re carrying — is inherently dangerous if its done incorrectly. For instance, I know we’ve all seen this guy before: somebody pointing a gun right at his side while he’s trying to get the muzzle to go into his behind the hip holster. I see that at the range all the time, but I never hear anybody say that we gotta get rid of this behind the hip carry because it’s inherently dangerous. No, what we say instead is, “that guy is doing it wrong, somebody needs to show him how to re-holster properly so he doesn’t hurt himself.”
Well, it’s the same thing with appendix carry. There are a few things we can do to make sure we re-holster the gun safely.
So what I like to do when I’m done shooting is first, I bring the gun back to a high ready I then I just pause for just a split second. Sometimes this is called a “hard break”. I’m going to make sure my finger is off the trigger. I’m going to make sure, if I’ve got a double action gun, that I’m decocked and I’ll put my thumb on the hammer. And if I’ve got a safety, I’ll make sure that’s flipped on at this point also.
And now I’m going to move my cover garment and then I’m going to lean back just a little bit and tilt my hips forward a little bit. And I’m going to slowly and very intentionally look the gun into the holster, making sure there are no obstructions in the way. And as soon as the muzzle clears the mouth of the holster, I’ll tilt it outward just a little bit and… slowly into the holster. All of that takes about two seconds and at no point was the muzzle ever covering any part of my body.
I don’t think you’re any more likely to shoot yourself with appendix carry than any other kind of holster. But it’s got the perception of being less safe because, if you do make a mistake it’s going to involve your… gentleman area or maybe your femoral artery, and be fatal really quickly. And that’s why having a very intentional reholstering technique is so important.
If the idea of appendix carry makes you nervous, then don’t do it. I have never tried to convince anybody to carry appendix and I never will. It’s not for everybody and it’s definitely not for more casual gun owners. But if you do want to give it a try, just make sure you use a good holster and don’t get in a hurry when you’re reholstering.
Spencer Keepers of Keepers Concealment is now teaching an excellent one-day class on AIWB Skills. Be sure to check out the training calendar on his website to find out if there’s one near you!
33 thoughts on “Appendix Carry (AIWB) Basics: Keep it Secret. Keep it Safe.”
I started a iwb in the mid 90s with a j-frame smith and a galco rig they don’t make any more (still have it and carry it occasionally just to be nastalgic). I tried other methods and developed siatic nerve problems from carrying at 4 o’clock. They told me to buy a better holster, well a couple of hundred dollars later and I’m back to aiwb again to stay. These days it’s a xds in a stealth gear awib rig. Still have friends saying I’m gonna shoot my ding ding off though. Thanks for the article.
I’ve tried to carry in front so to speak. I have two problems, both sitting down. #1 if it’s anything bigger than 3″ the barrel rubs the junk and I have to move once in awhile to get things feeling right again. #2 my jacket always opens just above my waist when sitting down and that allows someone in front of me to see. After many years I’ve gone back to a belt Galico leather holster.
I like the idea of appendix carry, but I have a gut in the way… it complicates things a bit.
Is there some secret that Im missing or am I just out of luck?
I think the secret is a good holster. I know many… men of girth who carry AIWB successfully. I can’t tell you the specifics of how they’ve managed to get it to work for them, but carrying around a few extra pounds does not necessarily exclude the possibility of appendix carry. Spencer Keepers, owner of Keepers Concealment knows more about AIWB carry than just about anybody, and he is not a slim guy. You can contact him through his website, or contact the folks at any of the other holster companies I mentioned, and they will be able to give you some more specific advice about choosing a holster to fit your body type.
I have a gut and carry AIWB, the holster is the secret. I carry a left-hand MOB holster with a lot of cant. Gun butt under the belt. Works for me. Any way I stand or sit. Sig 938, XDs 45, Sig 232. Kahr P380. Ruger SP101. EVEN a Ruger 45 colt w/3-3/4″ barrel. 45colt with an overshirt
Who makes the AIWB holster for your K frame? I’ve been looking everywhere but can’t find one in kydex.
JM Custom Kydex made that one.
Although I’m not sure why you would need a K-frame if you have unlimited access to Hanzo swords.
Thanks, I will check them out. K frame is easier to conceal!
Thanks for the kind words!!!
Chris. I have several AIWB skills classes this year. Try and make one!!
You got it, man. I was in your AIWB session at the Tac Conference — excellent stuff. I highly recommend the class to anyone interested in AIWB.
I have been carrying appendix for several years and my main two guns are a Glock 23 and a Smith and Wesson M&P shield 9mm. The later is smaller than the former, so it depends on what I am wearing that day. I can carry for hours and may need to readjust the gun, but can go all day long. Great place to carry and conceal.
OK lets start form the beginning. I’m a fat guy. Would love to do AIWB but if I did the first time I bent over the gun would shoot out of my waistband faster than a bullet. Because of this I began to carry in the waistband in the back. I can easily access my firearm and when my hands are behind my back the aggressor cannot see me drawing my piece. As far as comfort and concealability I don’t even notice its there, even when I’m driving. I don’t know if there is a proper name for this carry but lets call it ITBC “in the butt crack”
If you’re talking about carrying in the center of your back, that’s generally called “small of the back carry”. It generally does not allow for a particularly quick draw stroke, but more importantly, it puts you at great risk of a serious spinal injury. If you were to fall on your back (whether during a fight or some other mishap), carrying a solid chunk of steel next to your spine could very well land you in a wheel chair. I’m not saying AIWB is your only alternative, but just be careful with that one.
Dude look at my website. I’m a fatty. And I love AIWB. Even teach how to do it!!!
(Site is refranced above).
Great comments and thanks for acknowledging Todd Green: a true brother of the gun and a no-nonsense instructor and writer. The world is a lesser place for his passing. Todd also introduced me to the H&K P30, which IMHO is a great AIWB carry pistol (its works and as a hammer gun attenuates the fears … real or imagined … of carrying a striker-fired weapon pointed at one’s femoral artery). Godspeed!
I would love to give the P30 a try, but I just can’t do the paddle mag release. It’s not bad in itself, but the fact that it’s different from every other gun I own is a big problem. I ran into issues with that when I carried a Walther PPS for a couple of years.
Thanks for the instructive video. I carry with a belt ‘pancake’ holster [leather] made by DeSantis. I wear them with my SIG’s. They work great for me.
Great video. I’m a dedicated AIWB fan and carrier. Depending on what I’m doing or wearing, I can carry everything from a Sig M11-A1 down to a Sig 290RS. I generally favor Remora or Sticky holsters, or CrossBreed’s modular belly band, since I’m not restricted to the limits of a belted holster and can easily adjust them for fit and comfort. I’d probably not carry a full size gun like a 226 or CZ75, but small to mid-size frame guns seem to work best for comfort and concealment.
So, which AIWB do you use?
Depends on the gun. I really like the Keeper from Keepers Concealment, but he only supports a very limited number of models. For other large and compact size guns, I like the AIWB “George” from JM Custom Kydex. For sub-compact, single stack pistols and snubby revolvers, holster choice isn’t quite as critical, and I’ve used a variety of holsters from different companies.
I was also taught that when we are startled, our natural instinct is to bring our hands and arms to the front & center of our torso to protect our most vital areas. Having our concealed firearm right there means less time to draw & fire our weapons. And, dude, “gentleman area”? Really? Women carry appendix too and our ‘female area’ is equally present. Good article other than the sexist oversight.
I would take the startle reflex stuff with a grain of salt — there is research that our physical reactions to stress and surprise vary drastically with each individual. That said, many people have related that appendix carry feels more “natural” from the standpoint of reaching for and protecting the gun, which is likely related to the reasons you mentioned.
Also, your ladyparts are on the inside. Our parts are on the outside, and more vulnerable to damage in case of a mishap, which makes a lot of dudes uneasy. I know of many females who carry AIWB and none of them have mentioned the same apprehension.
Any plans on reviewing that PX4? I’m guessing the one in the video is the compact they recently released.
It’s not the new Compact Carry model, if that’s what you’re thinking… as far as I know, that one hasn’t quite been released yet. But yes, I’ll be doing a review of the PX4 Compact sometime in the near future.
I would highly recommend you practice your AIWB draw using your gun hand to clear the garment. In the video, you’re using your off-hand to clear the garment. In a real-life confrontation, your off-hand could be in a defensive position in front of you. I practice clearing my garment with both hands, but only use my off-hand to clear the garment when I’m shooing for “best time”. I call this my “competitive” AIWB draw. Since I primarily carry my handgun for self-defense, I mostly practice/rely on my “tactical” AIWB draw – clearing my garment with my gun hand. Train as you’ll fight.
I think it’s important to practice both. I primarily practice using the off-hand just as I primarily practice shooting with both hands. The majority of civilian self-defense shootings do not occur at contact distance, so there’s a better than average chance your off hand will be available if the gun is needed. That said, I also practice drawing and firing with the strong hand only and weak hand only.
Chris, I love your articles/blogs and videos. I most likely missed it but did you switch from your M&P9c to the Px4 Compact recently? If so, why? (Just very curious.) Thanks!
I’ll be talking about that in detail next week.
As a new c.c. advocate I had a lot of unanswered questions at the license class on this subject. I qualified with a canik 9mm but had 30 years exp with a browning Hipower 9mm. so started out trying to conceal that size weapon. and went through a lot of holsters with little success. I could open my own store.Early on realized that AISWB WAS BEST C0NCEALMENT and was the way to go. I went with a clock 26 magazine extensions extra long for pinkie , I have large hands and added other grip accessories.found my grove. a kydek itwb holster with. belt clip. made just for the 26 by blade-tech. mouth stays open and there is a little snick when you bottom out your weapon very reasonable cost. then saw Chris’s video. and am on my way. Might add you have to work out you own wardrobe sizes and style shirt tail out ad right size paints and good belt. Im using a military style buckel and web can make it as snug as it needs to be no holes.inch larger size in waist. shirt tails shortened so they dont hang on your butt when clearing. doing the walk back practice with the 3x 5cards with a red stickey dot in the center 3 shots in 5 seconds
Good video instruction! I carry my G19 1:00
appendix using a trigger guard holster- the Zach by Dale Fricke. It
snap fits securely over the trigger guard and the holster is attached to
my belt with a nylon cord. With it there is zero bulk and extremely
comfortable and safe. in the draw stroke the trigger guard does not snap
off until the gun clears your pants. Also, when re-holstering, it is a two hand system snapping on the trigger guard, then re-positioning your gun back inside the waistband, thus a safer, more purposefully focused action.
Have Redline Concealment DCR 2.0 custom appendix holster, best Kydex holster have own to date.Practice often as you can with your gear and firearms.