Here’s A Rundown On What’s Happening Now
By Massad Ayoob
Photos By Gail Pepin
Concealed carry trends change over the years. Back in the 19th century it was common for men to stuff a small pistol into a boot top. Fortunately, such a method has pretty much gone away. I don’t see nearly as many shoulder holsters and particularly crossdraw holsters as I did in my younger days.
If the old trends are cooling, what’s hot today? Let’s look at a few current ones.
Appendix inside-waistband (AIWB) carry is very much an “in” thing today. Probably no one did more to popularize it than the late, great Todd Louis Green. A lot of the top people teaching combatives—hand-to-hand combat combined with guns and knives—favor AIWB, notably Craig “Southnarc” Douglas, the master instructor at ShivWorks. At the front of the body, a snatch for your gun by your opponent is easier to defend against, and since our hands are usually close to the front centerline of the body, AIWB draw can be very fast.
However, there are instructors—from Marty Hayes at Firearms Academy of Seattle to Larry Vickers—who have banned these holsters from their classes. The gun muzzle tends to cover the private parts and the femoral artery. Less than a month before writing this column, a fellow in Chicago died when his pistol discharged AIWB, and he wasn’t the first.
A lot of what is going to work for the individual will depend on body shape. Buff, athletic Mike Mesomorph is ideally “shaped” for appendix carry. His gun will hide in the natural drape of clothing fabric coming down from his chest. The pistol may bulge more protuberantly on skinny Eddie Ectomorph, who may also find it digs more uncomfortably into his body. The fat rolls around Billie Endomorph’s middle may cause more discomfort than cushioning, and slow his access to the pistol as well.
Comfort and concealment have combined to make hybrid IWB holsters extremely popular. This Black Mamba
from Concealment Solutions holds Mas’ G17 Gen4 complete with TLR-1 light.
If you’re thinking of carrying AIWB, it would be worth your time to take a class from someone intimately familiar with the practice who can share the subtleties with you. Spencer Keepers—who makes some of the best such holsters—also offers the best AIWB-specific class I’ve seen.
The hybrids have a large pad of leather or synthetic between a Kydex or plastic holster shell and your body. Worn inside the waistband, these shield tender skin from sharp metal (and rust-prone metal from sweaty skin) and conceal very well. You do pay a couple of prices, though. One is in the area of draw speed. Your fingers have to dig between the pistol grip on your torso side and the holster backing material. When the holster gets worn, particularly if rolls of fatty tissue are pushing outward on it, it can become difficult to the point of risk to get the handgun back into the scabbard 1-handed by feel. You’ll see these practitioners pointing the muzzle toward themselves as they probe with the front of the gun to get it into the mouth of the holster. It’ll give ya cold chills just to watch!
Yet, for a great many people, the hybrid holster is the best balance between concealability and all-day comfort while keeping them armed and ready to defend themselves and their loved ones.
Appendix carry is growing in popularity. This is a GLOCK 19 (above) with Trijicon HD sights in a
Vedder Kydex IWB holster. Pocket carry is currently huge. But use a proper pocket holster! This
S&W 340 M&P .357 Magnum (below) is coming out of a Bill Rogers-designed Safariland holster.
It wears Crimson Trace LaserGrips.
We are seeing a heckuva lot more pocket carry today. There are two good reasons for this. One is in the area of men’s fashion. Dockers-type dress slacks with loose, pleated legs and relatively capacious pockets, for example, and “mom jeans.” The other is today’s availability of tiny .380 autos comparable in size to some of yesteryear’s .25 autos. Not to mention 9mm’s smaller than some of yesterday’s .380’s! And let’s not leave revolvers out of the pocket gun equation. Many folks today carry snubnose .38 J-Frame-size in their side trouser pockets.
The big difference in today’s pocket carry vs. yesteryear’s is today everyone but the idiots use pocket holsters! Virtually every time some dummy shoots himself in the leg with a gun in his pocket, the triggerguard area was unprotected by a pocket holster.
Occasionally when you analyze those accidents, you find something else was in the pocket to snag the trigger. Smart gun owners know the gun pocket should be dedicated solely to the gun and its holster. Nothing else should be in there.
One advantage of pocket carry is your hand can be in the pocket and already holding the gun—with no one else being the wiser—when you are in an “iffy” situation. My old friend David Kenik, the author of Armed Response carries a gun in one side pocket for exactly such situations. He also has a small handgun strapped to his ankle for best access when he’s seated behind a steering wheel, and a serious fighting pistol on his strong-side hip. When asked why he carries three guns, he has a memorable answer:
“Four,” he replies, “would be ostentatious.”
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