I had been against Appendix Carry for years. About two years ago, I sat down and researched, and then talked to a few instructors that are proponents. I changed my mind.
At the recent NRA Carry Guard Expo, there were a couple of really good seminars on Appendix Carry, so I decided to sit down and pass along some information that I had found in my previous research, and enhance it a bit with some information that I picked up from Jeff Gonzales and Matt Jacques in their seminars. As an FYI, I told both of them that I was going to out and out steal from them. They both smiled and said to go for it.
This is always a great place to start. There are many different manufacturers of holsters, and many of them have started to produce appendix holsters. The issue is that they didn’t all design something new, they just repurposed existing holsters. A good appendix carry holster will include the following features:
- Retention – Passive retention is important in appendix carry as well as any other carry holster. The gun needs to stay in the holster, even when you are very active. This will mean that the holster should either be kydex or a hybrid that uses kydex. If you can roll around on the ground without fear of the gun coming free, then you are on the right track.
- Neutral Cant – Since the gun is right in front of you, there is no need for an FBI cant or any other kind of cant. The gun should be straight up so that you will not have to bend your wrists when drawing it. Some people, especially smaller women, might find that using the holster as a cross draw can make all the difference.
- Protects Trigger – Like any other holster, an appendix holster needs to full cover the trigger and protect it from any potential accidental activation.
- Secure – This means that the holster needs to be secure to the body. It needs good straps/clips that will hold that holster to your belt and keep the gun in a very stable position. A good appendix holster should also control the vertical and horizontal play. That means that the holster should have features that will keep the gun close and tight to the body. You will see features like claws and bumps that help control the positioning to keep the gun tight and in place. For example, Spencer Keepers’ design includes a foam wedge, top/right, that helps push the grip/stock of the gun closer to the body. The same is true of JM Custom Kydex. I really like those two holsters. I also heard several recommendations for Raven Concealment Systems. The claw devices, like on the Raven Concealment Systems holster to the right, will help twist the holster to keep the grip/stock tucked in tight, too. Between the two features, you will get a much more secure holster that will also conceal your gun and minimize any printing.
- Proper Ride Height – The gun must be at the right height so that you can get a good strong firing grip on the gun as you draw it. Many of the holsters out there are adjustable. You need that good grip so that you can draw properly and bring your gun into action quicker and with more confidence and control.
I really like the INCOG holsters, and will be sticking with them until I get something with a better balance of comfort and functionality. I still laugh at the term, “Tactical Felt” when I think about it, but it really makes a big difference.
A good belt is vital. A good belt will be reinforced and will not sag like a plain leather belt will over time. There are many good belts out there, and some are leather, that are reinforced with cores that are rigid and will retain their shape. Features to consider:
- Reinforced – Yeah, I know that I already said it, but it is worth saying again. There are some good nylon and leather belts out there. They should last about forever.
- Buckle – The belt buckle must be strong and hold up over time. Something that you should look for is a belt, though, that has more sizing options. For example, my gun belt has holes in it for the buckle. However, based on where it hooks in, it might be too loose and the next hole might be too tight. There are some newer belts that have more variability.
- 1 1/2 Inch – The clips on most holsters are an inch and a half, but many belts are only an inch and a quarter. Make sure you get the right thickness.
Building Confidence and Comfort
Every holster feels strange and isn’t comfortable at first. Even my favorite IWB bugged me for a couple of days. Now, I can carry with it all day long, without any issue. Carry the gun while walking, sitting, bending down to pick up items from the floor, standing on your toes to put items on shelves, and even rolling around on the floor a little will make it clear that your gun is secure in place, and it will feel comfortable much sooner. Some good hints that will help you become more comfortable with carrying appendix will include:
Gradual Use – Use the holster around the house for a couple of hours. Extend the time over a week or so, and then start carrying with it longer and longer until you feel odd when you are not wearing it.
Open Carry – Yeah, I don’t recommend open carry very often, but when you are first starting to use the appendix holster, it is probably a good idea to tuck in your clothing and keep your gun outside concealment garments. This will eliminate the fear of getting tangled up in clothing while you are getting used to the holster.
Correct Gun Size – The size of the gun matters. Yes, I will say it clearly, size matters. Hopefully, you have a nice sized compact or sub-compact gun. The right ratio of barrel to magazine length is also important. The barrel should be longer than the grip/stock as it will feel more secure in the holster and will be more balanced.
Manual Safety – I can’t believe I am saying this, but having a manual safety will ease the fear that many people have with appendix carry. I do not like manual safeties, especially with striker fired guns, but it can help people be more accepting of appendix carry and give them the confidence to try it.
Trigger Discipline – Go back the first time you started learning to shoot and start cracking down on trigger discipline. The better you feel about your control of that trigger finger, the better you will feel about appendix carry.
Practice – I know, it is kind of a duh statement, but it is important that you practice putting the holster on, taking it off, and drawing from the holster. Dry practice is incredibly helpful in getting comfortable with the holster. As always, when engaged in dry practice, make sure there isn’t any live ammunition around. Inert rounds can be helpful for dry practice if you want to also practice malfunctions, but for just drawing from the holster and returning the gun to the holster (slowly and in a very controlled fashion) will help build confidence in the holster and your ability to use it.
Avoiding a Negligent Discharge (ND)
The biggest fear that all gun owners have is that they are afraid that their gun will go off. As we have proven, over and over, a gun will not go off unless you do something wrong, like pressing the trigger. The fear of an ND is elevated when carrying appendix because of the proximity of the femoral artery.
There are a few times when you are most likely to experience an ND:
- Dressing – When gearing up to start the day, there is an increased risk of the trigger catching on foreign objects. However, you can reduce that risk by putting the gun in the holster before you put on the holster. This will protect the trigger while gearing up.
- Drawing – During the draw, there is an increased risk of an ND as the trigger can be activated by the conceal garment or an errant trigger finger. Practice should help cut down that risk, considerably.
- Holstering – When dry practicing, you should get lots of experience holstering your gun. However, you might consider actually removing your holster, putting the gun back in the holster, and then putting the holster with the gun back in its position inside your waistband.
- Disarming – When removing your holster and gun at the end of the day, the safest method is to keep your gun in the holster and remove the holster and put your gun and holster away, together. There is no way that the trigger will be accidentally activated. Then, when you start the next morning, you put it all on at once with the gun being protected by the holster.