By now you may have heard of the big Facebook flap regarding a newer training outfit and a video showing someone using an appendix (aiwb) holster in a manner most of us would consider unsafe. Rather than beat a dead horse, I’ll refer you to Caleb’s post over at Gun Nuts Media (including the followup with a response from the trainer).
Appendix carry is becoming more and more popular and in some circles it has evolved into “the cool way to carry” completely bereft of any understanding of its benefits and dangers. I love aiwb carry. It’s the way I carry a gun almost every single day and has been for years. I teach a dedicated appendix carry class. I write about aiwb all the time. I even own — no kidding — appendixcarry.com (which is a dead site at the moment, so don’t bother). But having said all that, I do not think of myself as an advocate of appendix carry. Why? Because the potential risk of aiwb is substantial and not something suited to every CCW holder and police academy graduate in the world.
There are a number of things you can do to make holstering a gun more safe when carrying aiwb. I’m not suggesting you absolutely must do every single one of these things. I don’t do them all myself, candidly. But as with anything, the more redundant safety steps you put into your protocol the less likely you are to have an accident. And accidents with an aiwb holster tend to be severe.
Holster reluctantly. While I know there are people who’ll argue otherwise, I remain firmly convinced that no one should ever holster a gun at an unsafe speed. If something was bad enough to make you want a gun in your hand, keep it there until you can take a full two seconds to holster. “But I have to handcuff the bad guy,” I hear all the time. If you think he is such an immediate threat that you cannot spend two seconds putting the gun away safely, maybe it’s the wrong time to holster up. Because no matter how bad he is, he’s probably not as bad as a self inflicted contact wound to the femoral artery region.
Hard break before holstering. This is one I actually insist on when teaching, and I’ve had more than a few students who came close to getting kicked out of class until they made it part of their process. A hard break is simply an intermediate pause between having the gun at full extension (shooting position) and going into the holster. If you scan with your finger off the trigger before holstering, you’re already doing a sort of hard break. Personally, I bring the gun into my ready position, consciously ask myself if my finger is off the trigger, and only then continue on to the holster. (credit to Tom Givens for driving this point home for me years ago)
Look before holstering. This one is so obvious it doesn’t need much discussion. Making sure there is nothing obstructing the holster that could inadvertently pull the trigger is a logical step no matter what kind of holster you’re using. I see students get shirt tails and other bits of clothing or gear between the gun and the holster all the time. Nonetheless, I’ll confess that this is a step I often skip even though I do teach it to students. If I were carrying a different type of gun, I’d include the look (and did for the first year & 70,000 rounds or so of carrying aiwb).
Touch before holstering. Not something I do or teach, but it has merit. Some people take a moment when clearing their garment to run the support hand across the holster mouth, checking for any obstruction.
Lean as you holster. If you lean backward slightly, pushing your hips forward, you’ll change the angle of the gun’s entry relative to your important anatomical parts. It won’t prevent the gun from going off accidentally, but it will send the unwanted projectile into the ground in front of you instead of into your lower extremities. The best description of it I’ve seen so far was by Yute on pistol-forum.com as reported last year.
Cant the muzzle as you holster. This is something I learned from Ernest Langdon. Essentially, as soon as the gun begins to enter the mouth of the holster, pull the grip into your body and angle the muzzle outward. The gun pushes the holster outward and away from your body so that an accidental discharge won’t strike your body.
Use an aiwb-safe gun. This one always annoys people because it jabs a spear into a sacred cow, but the simple reality is that some guns are safer when holstering than others. Most striker fired guns have no safety beyond your ability to be 100% perfect with your trigger finger every time, and even then — counter to the mantra many chant online — there have been instances of shirt tails, jacket tabs, etc. getting inside a trigger guard and causing a very loud noise. A gun with a positive manual safety (like a 1911) or a hammer fired gun that is holstered decocked (like an HK P30 or SIG P220-sereis) provides a second redundant safety factor. However, it’s important to remember that this is an additional safety factor, not an alternative one. Just because your gun has a safety doesn’t mean you can holster at warp speed without thinking. Again, please don’t comment “OMG u dont understand Glock u shouldnt own a gun.” I’m not saying it’s impossible to carry a striker fired gun safely in an appendix holster. It simply has less margin for error than hammer fired guns.
For what it’s worth, my personal step by step process when holstering my current carry gun (a 1911 with an ambidextrous safety) is:
- Come to a hard break at my ready position. Thumb goes under safety lever, activates safety, and then goes back on top of lever.
- Consciously verify — visually and by feel — that my finger is away from the trigger guard in a register position along the frame.
- Clear my cover garment with my support hand.
- Strong hand thumb moves from safety lever to hammer, blocking it in place (cocked) so if the trigger is somehow pulled I can trap the hammer and prevent a discharge.
- Trigger finger moves up from register position to block the ambi (right side) safety lever, preventing it from disengaging into the FIRE position accidentally.
- Lean back slightly.
- As gun begins to enter the holster, pull the grip into my stomach while angling the muzzle outward.
With a double action hammer fired gun, obviously I skip the steps for the thumb safety. Putting the thumb on the back of the hammer and pressing down with the thumb to holster the gun provides enough leverage to prevent the gun from discharging even if something gets inside the trigger guard usually (though I wouldn’t press my luck, pardon the pun). With a striker fired gun, since there is absolutely nothing in the process that protects me if something other than my finger weaves its way into the trigger guard, I add the “look at the holster” step. (and it’s certainly smart to do that no matter what gun you’re carrying; I’m not suggesting my behavior is a perfect example)
That whole process takes less than two seconds. But even if it took three, or four, or ten, it beats becoming famous as the guy who bled to death on the floor of the local range.
Appendix carry is great, unless it kills you. Counting on nothing but your personal infallibility to protect you as you ram a light- and short-trigger gun into your waistband as fast as possible seems like a bad idea to me.
Train hard & stay safe! ToddG