AIWB: Not for Everyone

14-May-10 – 12:00 by ToddG

As any regular reader of pistol-training.com knows, I’m a big fan of AIWB (Appendix Inside the Waistband) carry. I’ve helped develop a number of AIWB holsters. Every Aim Fast, Hit Fast class has been taught using an AIWB holster.

But AIWB is not for everyone. From what I’m seeing at ranges around the country, this mode of carry is slowly becoming the cool, chic, look-at-me-I’m-different flavor of the month. And to be honest, that is not necessarily a good thing. Because — and it’s frightening that some folks haven’t thought this through — if you make a mistake while drawing or holstering from AIWB it will be a serious accident. If you’re lucky, you’ll only shoot yourself in the genitalia. If you’re not so lucky, you’ll put a bullet in your femoral artery and bleed out before anyone can save you.

Think of all the stories you’ve read online in which someone shot himself in the foot, leg, thigh, or buttock while drawing or holstering. Now imagine if those stories all involved someone getting a self-induced lightning fast ballistic vasectomy, instead.

Does this mean pistol-training.com has suddenly gone anti-AIWB? Not at all. But if you’re going to carry this way, there are some things you need to consider:

  • That whole keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target thing is really, really important. Learn it, love it, live it.
  • Be careful, methodical, and slow when putting your pistol back in the holster. Folks who try to reholster as fast as they draw are far more likely to have an accident than those who don’t. A great concept to have in your head: be reluctant to put your gun back in the holster. Every time I see someone racing back to the holster with an AIWB, I cringe.
  • It’s not a sin to look at what you’re doing as you try to holster your gun. It may not be ideal, but it beats having an accidental discharge down the front of your pants.
  • Use a holster specifically designed for AIWB and built by someone who understands the specific needs (and dangers) of AIWB carry.
  • As soon as the muzzle is in the holster, twist your wrist so that the butt of the gun is turned in towards your body. This will usually help angle the barrel away from your body at least a little bit.
  • Guns with manual safeties and/or exposed hammers are safer. Pout all you want, but physically blocking the gun from discharging as you holster it is a huge safety benefit.
  • While it’s important for any carry method, make sure there are no hanging tabs, zippers, or ties on your concealment garment that could snake their way into your trigger guard as you draw or holster.
  • As you’re drawing or holstering the gun, if something feels wrong or you feel unusual resistance, stop! Look. Verify you have a safe and clear path.

Finally, before committing to the AIWB lifestyle, do yourself a favor and try it with an empty gun for a week while you’re hanging around the house. Do an hour or two of dry fire drawing and holstering the gun in different positions, in various lighting conditions, and with different concealment garments. I drew and reholstered my pistol eleventy-billion times dry fire before loading it up and carrying it this way.

If you follow all of this advice and still blow your testicles off or put a round through a major artery, sucks to be you. You were warned.

Train hard & stay safe! ToddG

  1. 47 Responses to “AIWB: Not for Everyone”

  2. After multiple inguinal hernia surgeries I’m perfect for AIWB carry. Stainless steel, kevlar and Gortex mesh layers throughout my groin. I’m freakin bullet proof.

    By Rob E on May 14, 2010

  3. I like it just because it takes the pressure off my back. After wearing a police duty belt all week for 40+ hours for 10 yrs…lets just say the ole back ain’t what she used to be.

    By Dan P on May 14, 2010

  4. Over the past 6 months I’ve become a big fan of AIWB. I used to be a leather IWB guy (Kramer #3’s) but since switching to appendix carry I prefer a good kydex IWB holster (currently a Dale Fricke Archangel).
    The kydex seems to funnel the pistol back in when you are re-holstering.
    I’m also a lot more comfortable appendix carrying my H&K P2000 LEM than I was my Glock 19 because I can hold my thumb over the hammer with the P2000.
    Now if I could just find a good appendix magazine carrier I’d be set.

    By Jody H on May 14, 2010

  5. “Now if I could just find a good appendix magazine carrier I’d be set.”

    By Jody H on May 14, 2010

    Sooner than you might think…

    By SLG on May 14, 2010

  6. Showing off an iPad 3G with your HK45, Todd? :)

    By commandar on May 14, 2010

  7. “Be careful, methodical, and slow when putting your pistol back in the holster…It’s not a sin to look at what you’re doing as you try to holster your gun.”

    Unless you’re in the business of arresting people at gunpoint, I’ve always figured that if there’s a good reason why you shouldn’t take some time and devote some attention to holstering your weapon properly and safely, then there must be an equally good reason why you shouldn’t be putting the thing away in the first place.

    By Paul on May 14, 2010

  8. Todd – Great Post. Very needed. Curious what brought this warning about. Thanks!

    By Stephen on May 14, 2010

  9. Great article dude, #’s 1-3 should be nightly homework material for any cc class.

    Paul,
    Your comment is 100% on point, even if you are in the business of arresting people at gunpoint. This ancient mantra that your committing suicide if you flash your eyes to your holster is just silly. If the suspect is dangerous you should be gun up until you have some help, once you’re the hands on guy, getting the gun in the holster and securing it is vital. I’ve seen more than one cop gun miss a holster and clatter to the deck on a rushed return to the holster. How distracting is that?

    By RichV on May 14, 2010

  10. Exposed hammer is a must for me as a carry gun. I have full confidence in my gun handling but anything could go wrong will go wrong, eventually. Exposed hammer gives me a second chance.

    A fast draw is absolutely necessary to survive in a gunfight. A fast re-holster may get you killed, with your own gun.

    By BigBore on May 14, 2010

  11. I agree that there is a chance someone might need to holster his gun quickly “in real life,” as it were. The odds of this go up for certain professions. Nonetheless, having to do something out of practical necessity does not magically make all the potential bad consequences go away. Regardless, reholstering at top speed on the practice range is anathema.

    Stephen –Motivation was, no surprise, a dude at the range who thinks he’s too good to take lessons from any of the 20 or so guys offering basic training on the bulletin board at the range, but who nonetheless looks like he’s trying to jam his Glock down the front of his pants with as much force and speed as humanly possible… over and over again.

    By ToddG on May 15, 2010

  12. If Todd’s explaination of the potential hazards of AIWB and essential steps to mitigate risk don’t give you pause to carry in this fashion, I’d add an additional technique item for consideration:

    Reholstering AIWB is a task requiring 100% of your attention. Todd alluded to it – if you are pissed for pulling that last shot at the target and are still thinking about it while you are reholstering, you’re not focused on the most critical task at hand – not killing yourself by an ND when the weapon is deliberately pointed in a vital area. Every time I’m reholstering, as the muzzle enters the holster, I’m thinking, “Don’t kill yourself.”

    I carried AIWB with a 1911 for about a year and a half before transitioning to the M&P9 (no thumb safety). If you have the extra safeties, by all means, use them, however the first safety is that stuff that sits behind your eyes.

    Cheers,
    Pk

    By Pk on May 15, 2010

  13. Cool and Chic to Appendix carry? I don’t know about that. It’s not like a gun is a fashion accessory. Besides, the only people I know that can get away with it are the guys with very large omentums and that isn’t exactly considered Chic.

    By gregory on May 15, 2010

  14. “Besides, the only people I know that can get away with it are the guys with very large omentums and that isn’t exactly considered Chic.”
    I’m 6’2″ 180# with a 33″ waist and no gut at all, I carry a H&K P2000 AIWB under just a T-shirt with no problems.
    A quality appendix specific holster and a quality gun belt and you can hide all kinds of goodies.

    By Jody H on May 15, 2010

  15. gregory, I have a 30″ waist and have no problem carrying a full size gun AIWB. A quality, purpose -built appendix holster is much more important than body type. Dudes with large omentums (I had to look that up) generally have less options with AIWB carry than skinny guys. For example, I carry very close to 12 o’clock, but a guy with a buddha belly generally can’t because the pistol will get pushed outward by the extra padding at his 12 o’clock.

    By joshs on May 15, 2010

  16. Excellent post. A refreshing dose of reality.

    By Greg Bell on May 15, 2010

  17. ToddG: “Use a holster specifically designed for AIWB…”

    In short – what are the main differencies between good AIWB and IWB holster (the simple one with 1 clip/loop)?
    A different cant is the first that comes to my mind, I’m wondering for the rest…
    Thanx.

    By yarco on May 17, 2010

  18. A good AIWB should have vertical cant, be slightly higher riding and usually has a taller reinforced sweat guard that wraps around the rear sight a little more than a standard IWB.
    I also prefer split belt loops to allow more placement options on pants with different belt loop spacing.
    IMO and experience

    By Jody H on May 17, 2010

  19. yarco — The criteria I’ve provided to the companies expressing interest in developing a true AIWB-dedicated design include:

    * no cant
    * specific ride height (high enough to get a full grip on the gun in the holster, but no higher)
    * design that pulls the butt of the gun in towards the body
    * rigid mouth that will not collapse when the gun is out of the holster

    By ToddG on May 17, 2010

  20. Todd – “The criteria I’ve provided to the companies expressing interest in developing a true AIWB-dedicated design include:”

    What companies are those? Are any on the market yet?

    By Stephen on May 17, 2010

  21. Stephen — Custom Carry Concepts’ Looper (which has since been superseded by the even better Shaggy) and Garrity’s In-Victus are both on the market. We’ve also had one prototype so far from Five Shot Leather and I expect that will lead to a production AIWB before the year’s out.

    By ToddG on May 17, 2010

  22. Aren’t you the outfit that had the student injury from reholstering?

    In light of that experience why would you promote appendix carry where the muzzle covers one’s body, especially if seated or on the ground?

    By Shootin' Buddy on May 18, 2010

  23. Gee, you’re right, Buddy. Guns are scary and dangerous–someone could get hurt! We really shouldn’t be carrying them at all!

    The self-inflicted GSW was not due to an unsafe method of carry or irresponsible instruction. The student shot himself because he had his finger on the trigger when he wasn’t supposed to. Todd clearly lays out in this post both the neccesity and steps for not putting a bullet in your groin using AIWB. Look at that–number one is keep your finger off of the trigger when it doesn’t belong there!

    If you want to learn about carrying and fighting with a pistol, this is a great place to be. Take your unthinking and anecdotal criticisms someplace else.

    By LT on May 18, 2010

  24. So, you are the outfit that had the guy shoot himself reholstering?

    Given that fact, would not the damage had been far greater with appendix carry?

    I guess my question is, given the inherent dangers associated with appendix carry, why tempt fate?

    By Shootin' Buddy on May 18, 2010

  25. LT — Thanks, dude!

    Shootin Buddy — I’ll assume you meant in relation to this specific incident and that you’re not suggesting it was the first and only self-inflicted GSW seen in a training class.

    I’m curious if you read the actual post, above. It’s full of explanations about the dangers of AIWB and the laundry list of additional steps that need to be undertaken before choosing to employ that method of carrying concealed. In particular, you may consider reading to the end of the post, where I write: If you follow all of this advice and still blow your testicles off or put a round through a major artery, sucks to be you. You were warned.

    If instead I’m misunderstanding your tone and you’re sincerely asking, “Hey Todd, what makes AIWB so great that it’s worth the trade-off?” then I apologize. I’ll list a few of them here:
    * faster draw
    * more surreptitious draw
    * easier to draw from a seated position or when on your back
    * better concealment
    * less likely to bump against things when sitting, walking, in a crowd, etc.
    * easier to defend against a gun grab

    As LT points out, guns are inherently dangerous. Any IWB holster involves the pistol being pointed at your body to some extent. Many OWB holsters do, too. But with AIWB, a mistake means an almost guaranteed serious injury while other holster may or may not result in serious injury. If the additional chance that a mistake will result in that injury outweighs the benefits for a particular person, that person shouldn’t choose AIWB. Perhaps the title of this post should have been AIWB: Not for Everyone. Oh, wait… 8)

    By ToddG on May 18, 2010

  26. Thanks, Todd. Good post.

    By LT on May 18, 2010

  27. One more thing, Buddy, then I’m done. It is not “fate” that will determine whether or not I add an extra hole in my body where it doesn’t belong. In my opinion, anyone with that attitude has no business carrying a gun.

    By LT on May 18, 2010

  28. In fairness, I know that Shootin’ Buddy is, in fact, the shootin’ buddy of someone I respect. So benefit of the doubt goes to him, here. Seriously, who among us didn’t go “OMG WTF No Way!” the first time we saw someone AIWB?

    By ToddG on May 18, 2010

  29. I for the life of me cant figure out how anyone carries not straight off the hip (9 or 3)!! Towards the back and you cant sit down or even lean over at the waist and this AIWB it either stabs in my leg or crushes the goods. GLAD you guys can do it.

    OH, Bersa UC9, 160lbs, 5’6″

    By Tony S. on May 18, 2010

  30. All I can say is that I remain shocked and this method is not for me.

    I guess I better get used to the Charge of the 300. I see the dust cloud and hear the hooves–it’s going to get bumpy.

    By Shootin' Buddy on May 18, 2010

  31. “easier to draw from a seated position” – ToddG

    Okay, that one is really puzzling to me. I’ve been looking at photos of people, and I don’t see how you are supposed to be able to sit down with a gun sitting there.

    By Laughingdog on May 18, 2010

  32. “AIWB: Not for Everyone”

    “… this method is not for me.”

    I’m glad you figured it out, Everyone.

    By Mike B on May 18, 2010

  33. SB — The 300 didn’t charge. The 600 charged. 8) But in all seriousness, no worries if AIWB isn’t for you. It’s not a test of manhood, just a way to carry. As Mike B pointed out quite well, the whole point of the original post was to agree with you… it’s not for everyone.

    Laughingdog — It’s all about proper holster design and placement. The vast majority of holsters on the market that are used for AIWB (including many that are advertised as specifically for AIWB) just plain suck. They were designed for snubby revolvers and the makers just tell you that anything bigger “doesn’t work in the appendix.” But after spending about two years carrying a full size M&P9, P30, and/or HK45 in an AIWB holster I’m pretty sure it’s possible.

    By ToddG on May 18, 2010

  34. Personally, I prefer a slight cant backwards (sometimes even making the front strap parallel to the belt line) for a good AIWB holster.

    However, combining that with the right height has made it difficult to find a proper holster. Garrity’s Changelling IWB is the only one I know that enables one to figure out the proper cant; it does require a longer gun to work well in my experience.

    By Terry on May 18, 2010

  35. I for the life of me cant figure out how anyone carries not straight off the hip (9 or 3)!! Towards the back and you cant sit down…

    FWIW, I just spent 5 1/2 hrs nonstop behind the wheel of a sports car with wrap-around buckets and a 5″ 1911 at about 4:30.

    (…and yet I can’t sit down with the same pistol AIWB; different strokes for different folks.)

    By Tam on May 18, 2010

  36. “SB — The 300 didn’t charge. The 600 charged.”

    No, the 300 are charging now. And even though I may cringe and howl, I shall see how many more casualties and what kind transpire as each of the 300 seek to distinguish themselves in the marketplace.

    By Shootin' Buddy on May 18, 2010

  37. I’ve seen GSWs from duty gear to IWBs to race holsters. Not once was it holster design. Every time it was human error. Carrying a gun, for any reason is dangerous, as is using one. Its a personal choice as to which way a person does it, after doing their own risk/benefit analysis. The tone and content phrasing of buddies posts would qualify as trolling on most online discussion groups. But I’ll defer to Todd’s knowledge and opinion in this care.

    By Rob E on May 18, 2010

  38. Bah. Blackberry spellcheck. I meant case not care.

    By Rob E on May 18, 2010

  39. Bruce Nelson – the originator of the Summer Special – wrote about what he called the forward-of-hip position in a magazine article [Pistolero, June, 1980], giving EXACTLY the same advantages you list.

    Nelson raked the muzzle slightly to the rear rather than forward, to keep the muzzle clear of the body.

    [When Cooper wrote about Nelson, he mistakenly implied Nelson carried forward-rake.]

    By cm smith on May 18, 2010

  40. All this talk of the potential for blowing one’s groin off has caused me to reconsider owning a gun. I believe what’s needed in this country is a strict set of laws which protect the public from damaging the pubic. Thank Shootin’ Buddy, you’ve helped me see the light.

    By Stephen on May 19, 2010

  41. Kellogg Custom Leather built me a variation of their Megan Magnum specifically for AIWB carry. Works like a champ with a muzzle-forward rake.

    I carry a bobtail Commander 1911 and index my thumb against the bottom of the thumb safety for continuous tactile feedback that the gun is on safe while drawing and reholstering. The technique holds up in force-on-force training, which is about as tough a test as I can arrange.

    They now offer a Mike Magnum with a similar cant. If a horizontal shoulder holster doesn’t violate Rule 2, neither do these.

    By hecate on May 20, 2010

  42. Apparently AIWB was not for this guy, http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2011994648_accident31m.html, but he was probably carrying Mexican.

    By joshs on Jun 7, 2010

  43. Gangster style with a holster has a neat new name. I saw Travis Haley perform some drills with this style of carry at a Magpul Dynamics class I attended. I didn’t think he had a holster on lol. If you like it run it. Just remember your body likes to do weird things to you when under extreme stress. There for I personally don’t drink this Kool Aid.

    By Mikeone on Jun 17, 2010

  44. Todd – how does the Shaggy compare with Invictus as to concealment and comfort? I’ve been carrying and training with AIWB for 4+ yrs, and as I’m sure you’ve gone through, still looking for that “great” AIWB holster. I’m planning to order one of them (currently using Comptac Minotaur and Raven ACR – both of which have good/bad points). Thanks, Byrren

    By Bycyclist on Jul 4, 2010

  45. Hmmm, maybe I’ll just order both if the Garrity is going to take quite a bit longer…

    By Bycyclist on Jul 4, 2010

  46. I’m sitting at a cafe in Glacier National Park wih a buddy who carries a full size railed 1911. He has both a Shaggy and an In-Victus for his gun. He prefers the Shaggy, while I use he In-Victus. He finds his more comfortable, whereas for the HK45 I find the In-Victus more comfortable.

    There are differences in dimensions and design between the two that will probably make choosing the ideal one something you can only do after trying both.

    I think you’d be hard pressed to find someone who dislikes either. Given the delivery time from Garrity right now, your plan to get a Shaggy while waiting on an In-Victus seems like a good one. And if you find the Shaggy works perfectly, you can always forego the In-Victus.

    By ToddG on Jul 4, 2010

  47. one more question (I’m on list for both mfgs now) – how stable are you finding these single clip designs?

    I previously tried out other single clip designs only to find significant stability issues, where the holster would start pivoting around, no matter how tight my gunbelt was. I’m really hoping these two mfg. have that sorted out.

    By Bycyclist on Jul 6, 2010

  48. I have been a strong side leather guy forever. When I was first introduced to AIWB I ruled it out a mode of carry because;

    1. I was mistakenly led to believe it was only capable of carrying small frame weapons such as J-frame Smiths, Walther PPK, Seecamp, etc used by deep cover operatives in scenarios where concealment was paramount.
    2. I could see someone blowing their balls off pretty easily.

    Fast forward about 15 years; I started to notice people I know to be more knowledgeable than I using an AIWB holster to pack mid-size and even full-size pistols. I wondered why there seamed to be such an increase in popularity in this style of carry, so I started to give it a second look. I discovered;

    1. AIWB is, in fact, capable of better concealment than strong side carry not less, even with a larger pistol. AIWB prints a lot less or not at all when bending over or reaching.
    2. AIWB is faster to draw
    3. With a properly designed holster AIWB was not uncomfortable as I thought it would be.
    4. It is much less telegraphic to draw and therefore more easily to covertly do so.
    5. It is far easier to draw from a seated position, especially with a seat belt that blocks the strong side.
    6. AIWB is more easily defendable against a pistol snatch.

    All in all I came to realize and accept that AIWB is a superior mode of CCW, but as the title of this thread suggests, it is not for everyone. It clearly violates rule #2 of the cardinal firearm safety rules. Perhaps this is the exception to that rule, only the individual can decide for themselves. If you are not comfortable with that, do not carry this way. They are a lot of folks out there that own and carry firearms that are not serious students/practitioners, they should refrain from AIWB carry or rededicate themselves.

    Firearms are designed to kill, pure and simple, therefore are inherently dangerous, AIWB pushes that bar. Todd, I think you did a fantastic job stating the perils of this up and coming popular mode of carry. Thank you, you’ve done us all a great service.

    By titsonritz on Jul 25, 2010

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