Picking A Carry Position
Hey all you cool cats and kittens! Recently I was asked to do a guest article for LOX… I started writing it and finally asked, “Hey, this is going to be long. Want to turn it into a mini series?” And I got the green light! So, to get started, let me introduce myself.
My names Michael and I’m a hobbyist when it comes to firearms. I got into them around the end of 2015 and bought my very first handgun, a CZ 75B, in 2016. After that purchase I realized how much more there was to know about defensive firearms, carrying a firearm for defensive purposes, and more. That’s when I decided to start TacCat; a personal blog where I logged my own experiences with firearms as a novice, and worked my way up.
Basically, a way for me, and in turn you, to learn from my own embarrassment. So far though I’ve only taken a couple of impromptu courses, but now that I’ve settled on the platform that will be changing once I get all of the modifications I’ve deemed necessary done.
Alright boys and girls! For this final portion of the concealed carry guide, we'll be talking about carry positions! Figuring out the carry position that's going to work best for you is going to take some time and it's not without its own hurdles. The biggest hurdle being acclimation. What do I mean by that?
Well, look at it like this. When you first hop into a vehicle you've never driven before, you're going to think that the brake pedal requires too much or too little travel. You also might think that the accelerator is a little touchy and requires a delicate touch to evenly accelerate. After a few days of driving that car, those things don't change, but you aren't noticing them as much as you did in the beginning. You've now acclimated to the car and you aren't complaining about it anymore.
That principle goes for throwing a firearm and holster into your attire layout. It doesn't matter where, but somewhere on your body you're going to be adding almost a pound (if not more) of weight, at minimum an inch of width, and then all of the other additional dimensions. These are things that are going to irritate you and they may irritate you for up to a month, especially as you learn all the finer adjustments that need to be made while carrying the gun.
As with the holsters, I'll be primarily going over carry positions that are discreetly hidden, so nothing that's riding on the belt openly.
Appendix Carry (AIWB)
Appendix carry is the first position I'm going to hit on. It's my preferred carry method, but it's also the carry position that I was adamantly, vehemently against doing for the longest time. I thought it was stupid, I thought it was dangerous, and I thought it offered no benefit. Now that it's been over a year of me carrying appendix... my tune has changed drastically.
For starters, appendix carry is counter intuitive. You would think, like any other carry position, that a smaller gun would be easier to conceal. You would also think that a shorter barrel would be more comfortable since it's not competing as much with your, well... for guys, their Gentleman's Sausage /end Jeremy Clarkson voice/, or for girls, their Womanly Sausage.
I have discovered, through trial and error, that there's guns that are too small for AIWB, and there aren't any guns that are too large for AIWB. For instance, I carried a Walther PPS M2 for the better part of a year in a Legacy Firearms Hyperion holster. The holster was quality, it had smooth edges, nothing in terms of excess material, etc. But the shortness of the slide would take a nose dive into my groin every time I sat down and every other step, especially uphill (I did experience this with both the mag caddy attached and unattached). Throwing on a neoprene wedge was a quick and helpful solution, but the pain from sitting would come around when I'd drive for extended periods of time still.
When I opted for something bigger, especially something with a longer barrel/slide, appendix became more comfortable. Due to the length the gun isn't able to move around below the belt line as much as it is with a shorter barrel. Even something as big as a CZ SP-01 is more comfortable than the PPS M2 is to carry appendix.
Pictured above is me with a CZ P-07 w/Streamlight TLR-7 inside of a Tier 1 Concealed Axis Slim. Definitely tightened the belt after the picture was taken, but even with it being loose it's very easy to hide something that size.
A point of interest is the "keel effect" that happens with guns that have a larger height ratio than they do a length ratio. Basically, you have more surface area above the belt line than you do below it, add in the natural movement of your stomach, and it can feel like the gun wants to flip, or keel out. So if you're wanting to carry something like the Glock 19x/G45, or the CZ P-07 where the the slide isn't as long, you're going to want a counterweight such as a large weapon light, or a longer holster. For this reason, the Glock 43x can be problematic for some people to carry appendix.
Appendix carry does take the longest to acclimate to in my opinion. It took me about 30 full days of carrying AIWB (8-12 hours on) to get the hang of it. It often requires very small adjustments when you go to sit and it's better to wear your pants a little higher up. All around, even with the longer acclimation and learning time, appendix carry has been the best for me in terms of being able to conceal firearms, and concealing them comfortably.
Now before you start talking about whether or not this method of carry is safe, watch this video, please:
Small Of Back (SOB) Carry
A lot of people carry Small Of Back for a slew of reasons. For beginners this position is the easiest to carry in, and it's the most comfortable to carry in; especially if you don't upsize your pants. That ease of carry though comes with a list of consequences however: 1. Sciatica: Sciatica happens when there's pressure being applied to the sciatic nerve. This can cause individuals to feel extreme lower back pain, leg pain, and more. Carrying a firearm SOB puts it right on, or close enough to, the sciatic nerve to cause sciatica. This is something that I experienced very, very early on when carrying in this position and it's the top reason why I never went back to it.
2. Slow draw time. I have seen a great many people who I respected claim that their draw time from an SOB holster was just as fast as strong hand, or as appendix carry. The few that actually accepted the challenge were disappointed in themselves for not reaching the speed in which they thought they had achieved prior. The draw time gets even worse when there's more cover garments covering the firearm, which is something you can see in the video below (Warning: Graphic Content)
3. Being Unaware. I don't know about you, but I rarely know if the back of my shirt has ridden up. Whether it's because I was sitting, I raised my arm to get something off the shelf, or because of the wind. Because of that, most people don't realize when their firearm has gone from being concealed, to being openly visible. I can't tell you how many times I've seen a person's firearm (that I think was supposed to be concealed) visible because their shirt rode up. Without failure I'll see them multiple times throughout my trip and each time their gun is visible.
Adding into this, if you don't sit in booths are restaurants, your firearm is going to stick out like a sore thumb while you're sitting down. Needless to say, you aren't as cognizant of what's going on with your firearm when it's behind you, versus when it's in front of or beside you.
4. It's absolutely impossible to draw from an SOB holster while you're seated in your vehicle. Before you mention that you use a magnet holster; your gun should stay on your body while you're out and about with the exception of going into prohibited areas. In which case the firearm should be going into portable safe that's attached to your vehicle somehow. Excessive administrative handling of a firearm increases the chances of a negligent discharge. Constantly taking it out of, and putting it back into, a holster while seated (especially a holster behind your back) greatly increases the chances of a negligent discharge via debris (such as your shirt) getting stuck in the holster as the gun gets pushed in.
All around, SOB is the absolute worst carry position on the waistline in my opinion. It's all downsides, with very minimal benefits.
Strong hand carry covers a few different positions on the waistline. Typically from 2:30 to the 4:30 position (opposite for left handed carriers) is what people call Strong Hand carry. 11-1 o-clock is appendix carry and anything between 4:30 and 7:30 is considered Small of Back territory. This is the carry position that people normally gravitate towards because it feels "more natural" when you're starting off.
Strong hand does make it more difficult to carry firearms with a longer grip than SoB of AIWB carry do, and to do so typically requires the holster to have what's called "cant" adjustability to it. Basically angling the firearm to where the grip blends in better with the contours of the body. Even with the cant, many people do have to switch towards wearing looser fitting clothes to cover up the bulge that the firearm can create; more so if it's directly on the hip at the 3:00 position.
The only major disadvantage that wasn't from a comfort standpoint that I found with Strong Hand carry was that it was extremely difficult to get to my firearm when I was in a vehicle with the seatbelt on. From a comfort stand point, I found it really difficult to get by with carrying a weapon light of any kind.
Pocket carry is an interesting topic to talk about as there's a lot of limiting factors that can come into play. The primary ones being the size of your pocket's opening, the depth of your pocket, and the angle of your pocket. For obvious reasons, you should avoid carrying a firearm in your back pocket entirely.
Whereas I'm not the biggest proponent for pocket carry, I understand that it's something a lot of people do out of convenience. So, name of the game with putting a rocket in your pocket is to ensure three things:
- There's never anything else in the pocket that your firearm is in. Items in this pocket increase the chances of a negligent discharge, even when you're using a proper pocket holster that offers adequate protection of the trigger guard.
- The holster always stays in your pocket and doesn't stay attached to the gun. The very last thing you want is to be aiming your firearm at an assailant, only to have to take the holster off when they're coming at you.
- The gun cannot snag on the interior or exterior of the pocket at all on draw. Snagging offers its own obvious dangers, such as fingering around in non-visible area with the trigger potentially being exposed.
An important realization is that all pockets aren't the same, neither are all pocket holsters, or, well, firearms. A combination that might work for your favorite pair of cargo shorts/pants, might not work at all with your jeans. You might also find that the holster/firearm are too loose in the pant style you prefer.
Out of all the carry methods that are on, or around the waistband, pocket carry is possibly finickiest for the above reasons, unless you can guarantee yourself that all of your pockets will always be the same style and same size. If you can't... you would probably be better off going with appendix of strong hand carry.
Alternative Carry Options
There is a slew of alternative carry methods on the market. From belly bands, to shoulder bags, to fanny packs (or as I like to call them, gunny packs). For general use, I'm not a fan of alternative carry methods, however, I understand that they can have a time and place to be useful. Such as going out on a hike where you don't want a firearm visible, but you also don't want one inside of your waistline.
To be honest, this is an area of concealed carry that I have the least (by least, I mean next to none) experience with. But, here's a couple of options that I'm wanting to try out in the coming future!
This system takes the belly band to the next level... but it's pricey. Essentially it's two different layers with velcro attached to the interior. The idea is, you can velcro-up a holster, mag carrier, back-up gun holster, etc, and slip it into the Clutch system. This allows an individual to have a very low profile carry option that doesn't require to adjust how they're dressing; this system seems to be very beneficial for those that live in very warm climates where extremely light clothing is a necessity for day to day living.
The Belerian Hip Pack does require you to get a holster as it doesn't have one built into it (which is preferable in my opinion). The idea behind using something like the Cannae Belerian Hip Pack is to move everything out of your pockets and to free up your waistline. This is the kind of bag that I would use to go on hikes where I might be doing some climbing, or for when I'm going to the gym and really can't have a firearm on my person.
The benefit of the Belerian Pack is that it can be used for a multitude of things. It can carry a a SmartShake shaker bottle with you, a few water bottles, some medical equipment, and more. It's not just a piece of gear that's sole purpose is to help you carry defensive equipment.
I hope these last few articles have helped you out on your journey with carrying a firearm concealed. There's definitely a lot out there to learn, as well as a lot to avoid. I want to thank LOX for hosting these articles as it's been a great time getting to write them for them! Now that you've finished up reading this, go ahead, buy some pomade or beard oil, and use the code CAT10 for 10% off your order.
Thanks to TacCat for writing this very informative article in this series on Responsible Concealed Carry!
Stay Sharp. Stay Savage.®