Pictured above is my much-loved Glock 23 sitting in one of the more questionable pieces of holsterwear that’s available for it: the Uncle Mike’s Size 16 ankle holster. That’s right, an ankle holster designed for a wide-bodied, compact pistol…

I find myself at a strange place as far as weaponry goes these days. I’m open-minded enough to consider everything I come across at least somewhat objectively. And practical enough to imagine that I apply only the useful bits of information I find. Or…maybe not.

The picture above is the one holster I never actually needed to buy; the clerk who ordered it and sold it to me must have died laughing when I walked out of the store. After wearing it I nearly needed to see a chiropractor because a fully-loaded Glock 23 is a brick weighing down your ankle. I’m still not sure what I actually foresaw happening that would best allow me to meet a threat with an ankle piece.

But there’s an explanation for my absence of commonsense. I was thinking about the problem of drawing from a seated position. I was going to a university at the time with an overactive police force. Compounding the problem was this was just after the Case Western Reserve University shooting that happened in my neck of the woods. I wanted to carry the gun in deep concealment where I could still access it, however remotely, because I was not going to leave it at home.

But pulling a weapon from a sitting position takes a good bit of practice and hip holsters don’t usually lend themselves well to the task. Shoulder holsters usually require a jacket, vest or specialty shirt that tears open (I’ve seen them) to conceal and both can give away the presence of your heater in a weak moment. Wind blowing the jacket open is a nightmare for a shoulder rig and if you’re a thin guy your clothing may hang funny on your shootin’ iron and people will likely notice.

My idea, most likely, was that I’d be sitting at a desk and hit the floor first if the worst happened. I’d pull up my pant leg, undo the retention strap, pull my heater and shoot either prone or on one knee with partial cover. It sounds like it makes sense. And it evidently made sense when I spent $40 on the Uncle Mike’s rig, too. But it only took about ten minutes of actually wearing it the first time to realize what a mistake that actually was.

To start with, the holster is a multi-piece system. It has a secondary calf strap in addition to the ankle piece with the actual holster section attached. Then the thumb break retention straps themselves are closed with a snap but secured with velcro at the base to make the length adjustable (or easy to pull off accidentally). To keep something the size of a Glock 23 from flopping around, both straps have to be secured pretty tightly – roughly the strength of a blood pressure cuff pumped to the level where it feels like it’s crushing your leg.

And all of that keeps the gun stable for only about ten minutes. That, my friends, is where the fun begins. I wore this thing a total of four days and lemme tell ya, it hurt. Hurt as in Michael Moore sitting on your leg. The muzzle digs into your ankle like a Schnauzer burying his favorite bone.

On top of that, it’s hard to get even baggy pants to hang smoothly around a gun like the 23 that’s about as wide as the pants leg itself. I once had a defensive situation where I wanted access to the gun and nearly tripped and fell trying to get into position to actually draw it. That was when the light bulb finally went on.

Like most people, my primary method of moving around is usually accomplished in an upright position. So in all likelihood, I’d probably confront most threats that way – if not ducking or running for cover. Since that little epiphany, I’ve carried using primarily IWB holsters (Uncle Mike’s Size 5 IWB, usually) and had no trouble getting my hand to where it needs to be in case of trouble.

While IWB holsters can sometimes print, that can be mitigated somewhat by carrying with a lower riding holster, (if your body can accomodate that without jamming your keister, hip or tailbone) and wearing slightly longer shirts. For my money, if a carry method can’t be used while standing, a primary weapon shouldn’t be there.

I work with a lot of police officers. Drop leg thigh holsters are popular with the bike and K-9 units. Ergonomics for a long day of peddling or drawing from your strong side knee while controlling your dog is going to affect their carry choice as opposed to the standard hip method. Odds are they’ll need to be able to address threats from a non-standing – but non-sitting – position as well as upright. There is a situation for every holster as primary presentation method, with the exception of ankle in my experience, and since that was my goal at the time of using the Uncle Mike’s Size 16, I probably shouldn’t have taken that approach.

That’s not to discourage ankle carry completely, however. But, like any carry method, it requires a fair amount of practice drawing with the right piece. If you don’t do a significant amount of  sitting or have right clothes make for an easy draw, this style holster should be confined to backup weapons only.

The only scenario I can imagine that might tactically require an ankle holster is if you work in a job such as a check cashing service or similar situation behind bullet-resistant glass. If your first impulse is to dive under the desk, then you should easily be able to reach an ankle holster.

My ankle carry option now is a much smaller Kahr P9 in a Fobus ankle holster. With no retention strap, it’s a single, wraparound ankle band that stays in place well (like cement compared to the first holster) without making me limp. It’s simple to operate once you set the tension screw properly.

I’ve tried a few different weapons and rigs for the lower leg and this one just works best for me. Every time I strap in on my leg, though, I also have either a strong side pocket weapon or my EDC on my hip because ankle rigs alone just don’t cover my primary carry needs.  I address most issues from my waist level. So give your situation some careful thought ane make sure your particular rig covers the majority of threats you’re likely to face.

15 Responses to Self-Defense Tip: Gear Up for Your Most Likely Threat

    • To be very honest, if I had to suggest a method for someone picking a first firearm for concealed carry, I would say go to a store with friendly personnel and try on a holster then have them hand you guns to try on that fit in the holster that you feel best suits your needs. Figuring out the size of the weapon you need and what methods you’re actually willing to use to carry it is more important (and definitely more difficult) than picking the actual weapon itself. I own more guns than I do holsters. It’s easier to learn a gun that you’re intrigued by than a holster that isn’t going to fit your lifestyle.

      Bottom line remains that it doesn’t matter if you shoot one ragged hole at 50ft one handed if you can’t reasonably carry your weapon.

  1. Louis Awerbuck talked about one the one person he’d ever seen who could get a pistol out of an ankle holster fast. The guy had a tailor rip out the inside seam on his pants and replaced it with velcro. And he practiced a LOT. He could get to the gun almost as fast as with a concealed IWB.

    • What was his rig of choice for that maneuver? A Fobus, thumbreak or something else?

      And even so…that’s a heck of a stance. From standing he’d have to do a bow or take a fast knee. I get dizzy thinking about it…

  2. I have a Glock 26 that has become my primary carry and my favorite method of carry is on the ankle. I have the Galco Ankle holster and it works like a charm. There is sufficient padding so that it does not hurt while wearing it. What I like about it the most is that it gives me options. I also have a Crossbreed Super Tuck, and from time to time I will wear my G19 in the Super Tuck and my G26 on my ankle. As with any type of carry, you have to wear the right clothes. If you like straight leg jeans, then an ankle holster is not right for you. I prefer loose fit, and it works perfectly for me.

    I think the issue may have been more with the holster than with the size of the gun. The right holster can go a long way.

    • Well…I’m going to say you’re definitely right about the holster going a long way but…if you can imagine putting your G19 (same frame weapon as G23, you’re likely well aware) on your ankle fully loaded for a day comfortably then you’re a bit more imaginative than I am.

  3. Outstanding thoughts, LC Judas. FYI, I hate ankle carry with anything other than an Airweight snubby, and even the 15 oz. airweight becomes uncomfortable over time.

    • I was warned by gun store owners that my first weapon shouldn’t be ankle carry simply because it’s something that takes a bit of getting used to. Comfort will be the first thing you think about as you strap it on six times getting it to sit just right and the last thing you think about when you throw the rig across the room at the end of the day.

  4. Good article.

    Everything we do in regards to defense is a compromise. Guns, holsters, tactics and techniques all have advantages and disadvantages.

    My choice for ankle carry is a light weight J-Frame (compromise) with wooden grips so the pants slip easier. I prefer rubber grips, but they won’t let me clear the pants (compromise.)

    There is no one holster placement that is the best. You can’t reach your strong side gun if you are on the ground or against the wall pinned against your gun.

    The solution (compromise) is to carry multiple guns. Strong side, pocket and ankle are my choices. Why do I carry 3 guns? Because 4 would be ostentatious 🙂

    With ankle carry, support side leg is best for seated such as when you are driving. Strong side leg is best for ground fighting when someone is on top of you. Which compromise do you choose?

    What is vital is that we completely understand our options and their associated advantages and disadvantages and make an informed decision.

    • I couldn’t compromise as well as I wanted to at the time; the G23 was all I had. I got a crash course in compromising as a result, yes I did.

      I picked a G23 well aware it conceals better than the full-size G22. Yet I have colleagues and friends who complain about how hard it is to carry their full-size G17/21/22 concealed like they missed the fact that they bought the gun for extra ammunition it carries in a magazine. Instead of compromising with a couple rounds they compromise with wearing the gun at all or wearing coats when they’d rather not.

      The compromise is something people are NOT informed about. I spend a lot of time talking about the greatness of the snub-nosed .38 Special. People spend a lot of time with their replies talking down about effective range, stopping power, all the obvious tacticool arguments but a 5 shot Special in the pocket beats an AR-15 in the trunk hands down every day.

  5. Definitely a game of compromises. I carry an sr9c in exactly that ankle rig without the upper calf strap. It stays put; I tend bar with it frequently, as I did last Friday. Seven hours of spilling booze and I didn’t have to touch it. Do I like ankle carry? Nope, I think it’s slow and inconvenient… but when it’s the only option, it’s decidedly better than the alternative.

    • I truly don’t blame you. Armed is very important and…yeah, tending the bar you’re going to take the entire counter for cover and likely be a bit curled up when you land from your dive. For me the rig was a nightmare and we both can agree that sub compacts and snubbies have the market on typical lower leg rigs. I just feel like it was a mistake trying it and that a lot of people probably can’t handle a weapon that size on their ankles. I give you kudos for lugging something that size with that holster regularly.

  6. If you’re a wheelchair user like me an ankle holster is the way to go, as you’re going to be drawing from a seated position anyway. I use a Glock 36 in a Fobus mostly but also sometimes pack a small revolver in a Galco.

    One of the first things I learned when I got my CCW was how much you have to take the (loaded) gun in and out of the holster, like when you go into a bank or someplace that has the nogun sign up. The Fobus is much easier to do this safely, most of the others require quite a bit of futzing around, which I hate to do with something that has bullets in it.

    • Forgive me, your comment is well-appreciated but I totally overlooked the whole wheelchair carriage concept. You just taught me something.

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