I often cruise the gun forums to see what people are interested in and talking about. One topic that comes up rather often is appendix carry; the carrying of a gun in the front of the body, just to the right or left of center. If you listen to all the chatter, you may be persuaded to believe that appendix carry is new. In reality, the carry position has been around for many years and was very popular in the Old West, as is evidenced by pictures from the era, not to mention that gunslingers in the movies have been stuffing their firearms in the front of their waistband for as long as there have been movies.
When I started carrying a gun—a few decades ago—I often carried a Ruger SP101 in a leather sheath with a belt clip fastened to the front of my pants. For concealment, I just let my shirt drape over the gun. The holster leather was soft and pliable, but there was no reinforcement to keep the holster open for reholstering, and the spring belt clip meant that the holster and gun could be easily detached in a gun grab—the set up was garbage, but I was young and naive. I still have the holster to this day, not for carry use, but for demonstration of what not to use.
Thinking back, I have no idea why I stopped carrying that way. Perhaps, it was because I finally smartened up and bought a real holster. After all, the manufacturers that I knew of at the time were offering standard fare—strong side hip, cross draw, and shoulder holsters with no mention of appendix carry. Back then, there was not the myriad of production and custom holster makers that we have today, not to mention researching them on the internet was not even a dream in those days.
My first introduction to the tangible tactical benefits of appendix carry was when I attended a half-day seminar by SouthNarc. Having 17 years of experience in law enforcement, he prefers to keep his real name private, as he is currently working under cover for a Southern U.S. Sheriff’s agency.
SouthNarc’s close quarters tactics are on the cutting edge of fight training. Notice that I said “fight” training. SouthNarc does not teach shooting, he teaches fighting, with the firearm being just one tool in the battle. One of his most astute observations about appendix carry in relation to fighting is that it does not require any rearward articulation of the arm to draw, so it works well in ground fighting or when you are up against a wall.
Spending lots of time in cars doing “buys”, he also appreciates appendix carry for its ease and speed in drawing while seated. Doing a lot of under cover work, appendix carry freed him from worry about being “bump frisked” whether it was intentional or not. Being of slim build, SouthNarc shies away from larger weapons for appendix carry, preferring instead a J-frame revolver or Glock 26.
Incidentally, I took a close quarter shooting class from Gabe Suarez of Suarez International a few months later and found that he too expounds the benefits of appendix carry. He has also written quite a bit about its advantages. His observations were quite similar to SouthNarc’s, as Gabe’s testing has also shown appendix carry to be easier and faster than hip carry to deploy when in a car—due to the fact that you don’t have to reach around yourself while seated and are less likely to get caught up in the seatbelt. Gabe also agrees with the advantage of preventing a bump frisk.
As additional considerations, Gabe rightly states that drawing with your support hand is far easier with appendix carry compared to hip carry, which is especially poignant for people like myself who carry a bit more weight upfront and have a hard time reaching the support hand around. Appendix carry also makes it is easier to defend against a gun grab, since the gun is in front and close to the body’s center. Lastly, Gabe’s shooting tests have realized a .2- to .3-second gain in speed while drawing from the appendix position compared to hip carry. That may not sound like a lot of time savings, but it could give you the decisive edge in a gunfight and time is life.
Holster Selection for Appendix Carry
I would like to tell that you I was on a noble educational venture when I tried appendix carry for myself, but the fact of the matter is that a shoulder injury forced my hand. Not being able to reach behind my back where I normally carry an in-the-waist-band holster, nor even able to reach my side at the 3 o’clock position, I realized that it was the perfect opportunity to test out appendix carry.
With my shoulder injury being rather sudden, I didn’t have time to plan ahead and order a holster for my new method of carry and needed make a selection from my “box o’ holsters.” Knowing that a holster with a forward cant like I normally wear won’t work since it puts the gun at a wrong angle, I started with a Nancy Special by Mitch Rosen Extraordinary Gunleather. Fitted for a J-Frame revolver, the holster was designed for women. It rides slightly high with a slight rear rake. Notwithstanding the gender misappropriation, I found that the angle of the gun and level of comfort to be a perfect combination.
Wanting to try carrying a larger gun, I also experimented with various holsters for my preferred carry gun, the Springfield Armory XD40. Having a 4-inch barrel and full-size grip made it a challenge, but I found that a straight-drop or rear-canted holster worked. The holsters that I had on hand, while they worked, seemed to stick out a bit too much, as they were not really designed for concealment. I ended up running into Rusty Sherrick who was displaying his leather wares at the National Tactical Invitational. I described my situation and problem and asked him to custom build a concealment belt holster with a rearward rake. The project ended up being simpler than I expected as we started with one of his current production designs, the “Tom Givens Speed Draw,” and simply reversed the cant. Originally designed by my friend Tom Givens from RangeMaster in Memphis, Tennessee, the holster keeps the gun close to the body and a cut out, located three quarters of the way down the ejection port, allows for a quick presentation. As with all of Rusty’s holsters, the Speed Draw is made from horsehide for durability. The fit of the holster was perfect—just enough grab to retain the gun, yet easy to draw. I found that the design fit the bill exactly, as it concealed my gun well and was comfortable in all positions including seated.
Concealing the J-Frame in appendix carry was easy as the gun is quite small. The larger XD in Rusty Sherrick’s holster carried well but printed slightly. If you knew what you were looking for, you could make out the top of the grip, but as about 6 months of everyday carry proved, nobody noticed a thing.
Interested in checking out an IWB design, I called Gabe Suarez and asked him to send me one of the Ehud appendix carry holsters that he offers so I could see how that design would fare. Manufactured by Dale Fricke Holsters, the Ehud is a Kydex holster designed for tuckable, IWB carry. While I personally found it uncomfortable, it was probably my center bulge that made it so. I asked a few friends to give it a try and all of them found it quite comfortable. The Ehud holster is a very concealable design due to its IWB configuration that keeps the gun tight to the body.
The comfort of appendix carry is very user subjective as it is very dependant on body shape and size—even more so than other carry positions. The longer the user’s rise (distance between the belt and crotch) the more comfortable appendix carry is when seated. A slim waist also aids in comfort and helps reduce the gun from printing.
These suggestions are not to say that they are the only holster options available. Depending on your body composition, many straight drop or cross draw holsters will work. As I found in my experimentation, my personal preference is to use one with a cant, as I find that it presses less against my leg when sitting compared to a straight drop. As with all holsters, try before you buy or ensure they are returnable if you are not satisfied.
The Appendix Carry Draw
Drawing from the appendix position is like drawing from the hip except that the gun needs to be turned sideways and upward toward the target once it clears the holster. Also, I suggest not bending over to place your weight forward until the gun in removed from the holster as it may impede the draw.
The first action in the draw stroke is a combination of four actions that should happen simultaneously:
- Shift your legs into a combat position by moving your strong-side leg rearward (or support-side leg forward) into a slightly open stance.
- Place your support hand against your chest to keep it from straying out in front of the gun.
- Clear the concealment garment.
- Obtain a proper grip on the pistol. A caution on gripping the garment: Be sure to get a firm grip on the cloth. If you practice using only a light grip, it may get fouled under the stress of a real-life encounter.
Next, lift the gun straight up out of the holster. Once it has cleared the holster, re-orientate the muzzle upwards and towards the target. Slide the gun up along your chest and meet your support hand, keeping the gun pointed at the target. Obtain a two-handed grip and extend towards the target.
Keeping the gun close to your body during all phases of the draw will allow you to clear close objects such as tables and steering wheels. Another benefit of this technique is that you can fire throughout the draw process once the muzzle is orientated towards the target. No need to wait for full extension!
Appendix Carry – Concealment Garments
The same concealment garments that work for other carry positions will work for appendix carry except for an open vest—the front of the concealment garment needs to remain closed to cover the gun. You can use a two-handed draw with the support hand clearing the concealment garment while the gun hand draws, or a one-handed draw in which the gun hand clears the concealment garment before gripping the gun. I prefer the latter as I like to keep my support hand free to block incoming attacks, strike my opponent, or control other people.
Having tried button-down shirts, pullover shirts, t-shirts, and sweatshirts, I found that a button-down shirt with the bottom buttons converted to Velcro worked best for me. My preference is because not all cloth is equally stretchable, and I sometimes found that my garment bound up while I tried to clear it.
Converting buttons to Velcro is quite simple. Remove the buttons from the right side of the shirt and sew Velcro to both sides. To keep the appearance of the shirt natural, sew the buttons on the outside of the left side of the shirt. Once the top buttons are buttoned and the bottom is fastened with the Velcro the shirt will look completely normal, yet it will allow instant and unfettered access to your gun.
With its carry and tactical advantages, appendix carry is certainly worth a look. As with all new techniques, training and practice is required. Start your training with an empty gun and perform plenty of dryfire practice. Once you gain confidence, increase your speed. When you transition to live ammo, start again slowly and build up speed as your skills progress.
Do you prefer appendix carry? If not, what is your favorite carry position and why? Share your answers in the comment section.
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