Appendix Carry – Cool or Not?

A Guide To Tradeoffs
; .

Does she or doesn’t she?

Yes, she does! Appendix carry arguably offers
the best on-body concealment for a handgun.

“There are no solutions, only tradeoffs.” —Thomas Sowell

I do not know all. I am a student. I have 26 years of focus in carrying a gun for a living. I have studied, tried, practiced and trained. I hope to give you some solid, thought-inducing advice here.


Hide Out

In my previous life I did not worry too much about being discovered as armed. I had a badge to go along with my pistol in a worst-case scenario. In actuality, no one ever pointed out I was carrying a pistol. I did not see the value in appendix carry in those days. A new job comes with new issues. My livelihood now depends on my ability to maintain an armed status without being found to possess a handgun. Tradeoffs.

Strong side carry is not much of an option even with a cover shirt. As I approached this new environment, I realized I had some big changes coming my way. I started to educate myself to the finer points and subtleties of an appendix rig. Since other folks will look to me for guidance, I dove into the study and the gear. I have amassed quite a collection of rigs for this type of carry. Am I going to tell you which one is the best at any point in this article? No. See the first line of this article if this confuses you.

If you are reading this, you are looking for either an article to confirm your favorite — or most loathed — method of carry. The idea behind Dr. Sowell’s comment is a function of economics. There isn’t enough of “whatever” to go around. Sometimes we need quick access to firearms and sometimes there’s a call for deep concealment.

As a uniformed police officer, access is paramount if the bad guy picks you out. In this moment speed can be critical. In plain clothes, you are willing to give up some ready access to your weapon to gain an element of surprise. In less permissive environments, concealment may be paramount. What trades are you willing to make?


These holsters both use foam wedges to reduce “printing” by pushing
out the bottom of the holster and keeping the pistol closer to the body.
These holsters are the JM Custom Kydex in Desert Tan and KSG Holsters in Black.

Getting Started

In this article we will consider “appendix carry” to be inside the waistband from navel to just before 3 or 9 o’clock and favoring the front. Several companies make very good holsters for this purpose and this is important as holster quality cannot be compromised. Materials used can run the gambit from fabrics to leather to Kydex. I bring up fabrics only to the use of products like Smart Carry or Thunderwear. Normally I do not recommend any holster that would collapse when the pistol is removed. These two might be the only exception to this rule but as such require even more care.

Leather and Kydex should be made specifically for the pistol you carry as one size does not fit all. The weapon should be held safely and securely in the holster by only the friction portion if there are no other security features. This can be tested by using a loaded magazine for weight but an un-chambered pistol in the holster upside down and giving a firm shake. If it falls out, it needs adjustment or replacement.

Safe carry in the appendix area is part technique — gun handling — and part good equipment. Gunsite uses a phrase to describe re-holstering as “slowly and reluctantly.” This phrase has many meanings but as it applies to the simple act of putting a pistol in a holster without adding a hole in our nether regions, it means be mindful of your gun handling so you safely execute a re-holster every single time.

You cannot afford to get in a hurry or get sloppy … especially with appendix carry. Seems like I am not a fan of appendix carry, doesn’t it? Far from it. I see the value in this particular trade off — at times.

The good news is I have not yet found a piece of junk that is unsafe or not useable. When I say this, yet has to be emphasized. I have the benefit of decades of service while armed, so I approached the quality of the appendix rigs by judging the quality of the strong side rigs that had worked well for me over time. Sort of a short cut.


A single clip or loop is much less noticeable under a cover garment than the double loops.


Appendix carry has many facets. In addition to the holster made specifically for your gun, holding it securely and covering the trigger guard, there are considerations and accessories to help get the most concealment, fastest access and safest carry possible given your particular needs. Appendix carry is an option for most any body type if you take the time to find your “sweet spot” or the best place on your waist based on your needs.

Most holsters in appendix mode will offer adjustability in height and cant or tilt. As the holster is higher in the waistband it will be more noticeable. If the cant causes the grip portion to poke out, then try another angle. Things get more involved from here — wedges and wings.

Wedges and wings are accessories developed because they help really conceal your pistol. Wings sit out on the holster body on the same side as the grip. They work by pressing against the waistband/belt to move the grip closer to your body. They usually come in different thicknesses so you can try them out. Wedges are meant to attach to the body of the holster between your pelvic region and the holster. They are either held in place by Velcro or glue or such.

The idea behind the wedge is to press the muzzle area of the holster away from the body, thereby moving the grip closer to the body. You can buy these pre-made or you can use some imagination and make your own using firm foam padding. I would suggest you use something closed cell so it can be cleaned a bit from time to time.

If you are driven by gear, appendix carry holster options can become your new favorite hobby. If you are not gear-driven then find a friend who is and encourage them to your benefit by allowing them to do the research and bring you the findings. This article is my attempt to be your gear buddy.

Robert Doak is a retired Lieutenant from the major metro police department in Tennessee. During his 26-year career, he served as an officer in patrol, a detective in the Intelligence Division and 22 years in SWAT. Currently, he is an instructor at Gunsite Academy in Paulden, Ariz. and Royal Range USA in Nashville, Tenn.

Gunsite Academy is the world’s oldest and largest firearms training facility. Originally known as the American Pistol Institute, Gunsite Academy offers firearms training to elite military personnel, law enforcement officers and free citizens of the U.S.

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