You know what makes me crazy? When people just repeat stuff they hear. Just because I do that too doesn’t make it any better.

One of those topics that gets passed around and judged with great vigor and enthusiasm is appendix carry. You’ve probably heard some comments, you know, like…

“Appendix carry is the greatest thing ever. It’s so fast I can draw my gun before I ever even knew I owned a gun.”

“Appendix carry is how Japanese samurai committed seppuku.”

Being a holster geek, I’ve been feeling inadequate, irresponsible, and even ashamed that I’ve not yet given appendix carry the good ol’ college try. I decided to give it a whirl for a while. I figured that at the end of my experiment I would either be dead or the most tactical middle-aged guy ever.

For my trial, I picked up a BLACKHAWK! A.R.C. IWB holster. This one is designed specifically for appendix carry. My good friend Chuck who runs the BLACKHAWK! Products Division swears by it, and he only lies to me on weekdays. Just kidding, Chuck! My model was for a Glock 19, but I only had a Glock 26 handy. No worries, the only difference is that the holster is a hair longer than the muzzle of the Glock 26, so it secured my Glock just fine.

The BLACKHAWK! A.R.C. appendix carry holster.
The BLACKHAWK! A.R.C. appendix carry holster.

I did some homework and got some great tips from friends, acquaintances, and the repository of truth, the internet. Some of what I learned was obviously credible considering the source, and some put the “erp” in “derp.” That’s okay—I’m a big believer in learning something from everyone I talk to. I can even learn things from Dianne Feinstein, only if its expert tips on how to be a hypocritical ninny.

After absorbing some knowledge, I got busy testing. I started with a couple of days trying all sorts of minor variations with an unloaded gun and forced myself to carry all day with complete disregard for any forthcoming pain levels.

Here’s what I learned.

1. I kinda get it

I might have a few extra pounds around the midsection, so I’d always assumed this method wouldn’t work very well for me. You know what they say about the word assume, right? It makes an ass out of “u” and “me.” Well, consider me piqued. Once I figured out a couple of the secrets, it was surprisingly comfortable, even though I’m not cut like an American Ninja Warrior.

2. Drawing is fast and concealment is excellent

Advocates of appendix carry swear that the draw is super fast compared to traditional hip-carry positions. Granted, I’ve only been studious about this for a little over a week, but I don’t see a big difference either way. The appendix position may be closer and require less arm movement depending on the natural resting position of your hand. If your natural arm position is hanging straight down, you raise it vertically for a traditional-position draw or raise it at an angle to reach an appendix gun. Make no mistake, the draw is smooth and natural, but it will be wise to ingrain proper muzzle control into your draw motion. I found that rotating the gun out from an appendix position immediately moved the muzzle forward and away from me. If you “pull” up and out, you can muzzle yourself during the beginning portion of the draw stroke.

What I did notice right off the bat was the concealment benefit. With hip carry, you have a protrusion sticking out from your body. With appendix carry, your body makes that a nonissue. You won’t bonk your gun when passing by a close person or object. If your waist is smaller than your chest, your shirt will also hang over the gun and cover it well. I think there’s a great retention benefit, too, as your gun is in an area that’s more under your direct control at all times.

3. The length of your muzzle matters

Before I tried appendix carry, I couldn’t get past the assumption that sitting would create a major problem. After all, you bend at the waist, so where would the vertically-aligned muzzle go? The secret (for me at least) was the high mount of the A.R.C. It holds the gun relatively higher relative to your belt line than a typical IWB or OWB setup. With a smaller gun, the muzzle is positioned above than the bend line in my hip. When I sat, there was minimal pressure on my leg. So, again, for me, the answer seemed to be to carry high and proud.

The high positioning kept the muzzle out of the way of my "bend line."
The high positioning kept the muzzle out of the way of my “bend line.”

4. It helps to move your appendix around

Where is your appendix? Or rather, where do you want it to be? You might be okay with having your appendix right up front in the 1 o’clock position. Depending on your geometry, you might find that 1 o’clock carry presents a problem with the gun grip and your side. If that’s the case, just relocate your appendix to the 2 o’clock position. It’s not a painful procedure, trust me. In that position, the grip eases off to your side as you sit down. The key is to experiment with different positions with your combination of gun and holster.

5. We can be hypocritical, too

Much of the ruckus over appendix carry is related to muzzling your own body. Taking a neutral position going into this thing, I observed that it’s not so cut and dry. Drawing from a standing position and using proper technique, you’re not muzzling yourself any more than with standard hip carry, if at all. Is it possible to shoot yourself in the front of the thigh? Yes. Do people shoot themselves in the leg using traditional hip holsters. Yes. Which brings me to the real point.

When people do evil things, and the media blames the gun, we immediately call foul and reply that it’s a behavior problem, not an object problem. I think the same argument could apply to appendix carry, couldn’t it? By getting all worked up about holsters and positions, we’re relying on objects to prevent behavioral problems. To me, that seems somewhat hypocritical.

Holsters and carry methods should not be magic safety talismans when gun safety is a procedural mindset. Is the answer to negligent discharges adding a pound to the trigger? No, the answer lies in adoption and reinforcement of a safety mindset. When someone shoots themselves in the leg using a standard hip holster, that’s a behavioral mindset problem, not a holster problem. Eternally engineering objects to overcome bad behavioral moves is not the answer. I suppose some engineer could rig up a series of braces and pulleys that create a roller coaster track on your body that prevents you from ever pointing a gun at yourself, right? It’s a silly example but illustrates the point that reliance on engineering can erode personal accountability from the process.

If you’re going to carry in the appendix position, it’s up to you to train to a proper carry procedure and draw stroke. Consider holstering your gun and then inserting the whole rig into position. Work on the correct draw to avoid muzzling yourself. It’s your gun, your holster, and your body, so take responsibility for developing safe procedures.

After all that, is appendix carry for me? I’m not sure. I’ve got decades of waist carry under my belt, excuse the pun, so it would take some serious retraining to shift. I have to admit, it worked better for me than I expected. You learn something new every day.

Tom McHale is the author of the Insanely Practical Guides book series that guides new and experienced shooters alike in a fun, approachable, and practical way. His books are available in print and eBook format on Amazon.

Images by Tom McHale

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14 thoughts on “5 Things I Learned After Trying Appendix Carry

  1. After carrying it this way with a high quality leather holster, I am not going to change my carry methods. I see people’s gun on their 4-5 o’clock “concealed” all the time, but after 2 years, my co-worker just realized that I was carrying a full-sized 1911 everyday after bumping into me accidentally.

  2. Appendix carry has always been controversial; I think this is because people keep getting shot by their own guns when attempting to re-holster. Just the other day a man was showing off his semi-auto pistol and upon re-holstering the trigger caught on the holster, or shirt, they are not sure which, and shot the man in his femoral artery. The man bled out in minutes and died before they could perform surgery.

    My personal opinion regarding appendix carry is that it makes me very uncomfortable; not because of the firearm or holster poking me, but because anytime a loaded and cocked firearm, even if it is mine, is pointed at my groin area I am very uncomfortable. You see at any time anything can go wrong. That is just the way life is. We can practice safety meticulously every day, but there always comes a time when we become lax and that is when accidents happen. So even though I am now past thinking about child bearing I still find myself quite attached to my body parts, especially that area.

    I will stick to hip carry in the 5 o’clock area I.W.B. That way if I have an accidental discharge it isn’t as likely to hit me but go straight into the ground. So realistically how often are you going to have to “Quick Draw” your weapon? Likely as not never so putting yourself at risk of shooting yourself accidentally just makes no sense to me. Just sayin’.

    1. Carrying Appendix does not situate the muzzle in that direction. I’ve carried appendix for over a year and it is always pointing at my inner thigh. Even when sitting, it isn’t pointing at my crotch. I keep hearing this and in my experience, it has never pointed at my “twig and berries!” Nano and G26

  3. Yupp, Tom, All those Federal Air Marshall’s have a point. I carry appendix and have for years. It does help to have a flat belly. As for the guy who carries the Desert Eagle and Redhawk, Man! you must live in a rough neighborhood.

  4. Thank you for the sitting picture. I wear my trousers pretty close to my natural waist and I still can’t sit comfortably even with my 3914 at the depth I’m used to. Maybe the secret is in the rigidity of the kydex making the gun stable with the barrel not much lower than the bottom of the belt.

  5. Someone please educate me. How are people shooting themselves during a holster pull? Are they pulling the gun out by the trigger? I dont touch the trigger until the gun is out and im ready to acquire a target. Is there some other reason guns are discharging during a holster pull?

    1. NDs generally happen when the individual it’s reholstering the pistol, not drawing it. Check out the story posted here inn Red Dot.

  6. I’ve carried my rugger 9mm on my appendix 1 o’clock side for 1 year and is not only easy to conseal but is also easy to access the gun I also try other way like the 4th and 5 o’clock, also 6 o’clock and 1 o’clock is the one I’m staying with .

  7. Having carried in several different positions over the years I can tell you the best position; it depends!!
    There is no best position and no worst position as it all depends on a variety of factors!!
    How deep of cover do you require?
    How careless are you with the draw and re-holster?
    How actually attentive are you to both your trigger finger and items surrounding the firearm??

    One thing I can absolutely state: all ADs are because someone was not paying attention!!!!

    Lots of people tell me they are being careful, are being attentive, etc… However, when I watch them, video them, it becomes very apparent not so much for several of them. Nothing, and I mean nothing will tell you more about your pluses and minuses than being taped while working with a weapon!

    When a person is very attentive about their draw, re-holster and all aspects of handling their weapon, there are not ADs.
    If a person has concern about where the muzzle might be pointing at certain times, then maybe they need to do some real training and learn just how the weapon works!
    I have never seen or had one jump up and shoot itself. I have never had much concern about where it points until I have my hand on the weapon. Then I have an ingrained drill, almost entirely muscle memory of how my hand it going to operate for that weapon! I have watched exactly what my movements are with a variety of draws, holstering and just plain moving with the weapon.
    I never forget it is a weapon that is inert until I give the power to discharge.

    The only reason to be concerned about shooting oneself is because you have not trained or practiced enough to know what you are doing, both without stress and with stress!

    AD’s don’t happen, they are a result of a foolish moment. The excuse of inattention is just that, a very lame excuse for poor handling of a very dangerous weapon!!!

    Personally I love cross draw for many occasions, as well as small of the back and the various hip carries. When I carry more than one handgun at a time, one is always cross draw. As for straight up appendix carry, it is very useful and just as safe as any other method of carry.
    The fear mongers all have the same problem, poor to very poor handling techniques! 🙂

  8. The only gun I’m comfortable carrying AIWB is my Chief Special or my Ruger LCR in 9mm. I’ve made a couple of horse hide and Kydex hybrid holsters that were designed to be worn AIWB, each of them was built using two clips. They were designed for the Glock 43 and the Shield.

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