Tyler Kee writes to RF and me:

What gives guys? Both of you carry OWB. How do you keep things tucked away and hidden from view?

Let me in on the secret.

Okay.

The first handgun that I ever carried concealed was a CZ-75 that my friend let me borrow for a night. I had just applied for and received my Pennsylvania License to Carry Firearms that morning without ever having fired more than eight rounds from a handgun and receiving no training whatsoever, and I wanted to take my new license for a spin. So Nick let me borrow his CZ-75 and IWB holster and off to Wal Mart we went.

Walking around with a loaded handgun for the first time is an interesting experience. Even though it was the dead of winter and I had on a Soviet greatcoat for warmth, I was constantly thinking that people were noticing that bulge in my waistline. That constant fear of being singled out and identified as carrying a firearm was the biggest thing on my mind, so much so that I left without the box of Pop Tarts I had gone in to get (I was in college, cut me some slack on the food choice).

After that experience I decided that the deeper I can conceal my gun the happier I will be, and that IWB carry was comfortable enough to work while providing the proper ease of access and level of concealment.

The first handgun I purchased was a SIG SAUER P226, a monster of a handgun that was once accurately described as a boat anchor. I wanted something primarily for competition shooting and wasn’t thinking about concealment or comfort at all when I bought it. But naturally since I already had the permit I wanted to carry the P226 as well. I purchased an IWB holster with a thumb break snap from Cocnealco, stuffed it in my pants and carried like that for months. During that time I learned a few things about carrying IWB.

The first thing I learned is that carrying a handgun around inside your pants is generally uncomfortable. You have to remember that you’re adding an inch or two to your waistband when you pop a gun in there, so any pants you have now that are close fitting will be even tighter and your belts need to be able to go a notch looser or else you risk cutting off some blood supply to your legs. I fixed that issue by losing some weight, but for the lankier variety of humans that might not be possible.

Speaking of comfort, there’s nothing quite as uncomfortable as trying to drive a car with the muzzle of a SIG P226 digging into your leg and some hard gun leather rubbing against your skin. With an OWB holster you might be able to preposition the gun, but when carrying IWB you’re more or less stuck with the position you started the day.

The second thing I learned is that normal people don’t really go around and actively look at people’s waistbands to check to see if they have a gun. I do, but the average American doesn’t. I was shopping at a Target in Virginia one day and passed a guy with a Ruger SP101 open carrying through the store and had to point it out to my (ex) girlfriend when we passed him for the third time. She hadn’t noticed, and neither had anyone else. He just strode around confidently and no one seemed to notice.

But the most important thing I learned is that drawing from and holstering to a leather IWB holster is downright impossible to do quickly for me. The thumb snap wasn’t the issue — getting all of the clothing out of the way was.

When I got my hands on the Wilson Combat 1911 I started carrying OWB (Outside the WaistBand). Not because I made a conscious change (at first), but because the holster that came with it was an OWB leather holster. I had never really spent much time carrying concealed with an OWB holster, so I started carrying only when wearing heavy coats. And then light coats. And then sweatshirts. And then loose dress shirts. And now I’m down to t-shirts.

What I realized is that in this age of cell phones and pagers and blackberries, whenever someone sees something in black leather attached to your belt the first though is “tech” and not “gun.” And while I still try to keep myself from printing in public as much as possible, I’m comforted by the knowledge that even if a little of the holster protrudes from the bottom of my shirt the chance of someone seeing and the police being called are pretty darn slim.

Having done both, OWB carry makes a lot more sense to me than IWB carry. You can reposition your holster if needed to make it more comfortable to carry, you can draw a lot faster than typical IWB holsters and you don’t usually need to go fishing around in your pants to holster your gun.

The only downside is that it’s a lot harder to carry firearms with longer barrels if you’re carrying OWB. That’s where IWB shines and the only situation where I would prefer it — concealing longer barreled firearms. For every other situation OWB seems like the better option for me, especially with my snubby 1911. Comfort is why I started but speed is why I keep doing it.

If you have a topic you want to see covered in a future “Ask Foghorn” segment, email guntruth@me.com.

To browse previous Ask Foghorn segments visit http://www.thetruthaboutguns.com/category/askfoghorn/.

Recommended For You

62 Responses to Ask Foghorn: Making the Switch from IWB to OWB Concealed Carry

  1. “I had just applied for and received my Pennsylvania License to Carry Firearms that morning without ever having fired more than eight rounds from a handgun and receiving no training whatsoever”
    I actually think some training or classroom should be required. PA, like a lot of states, just makes sure you aren’t wanted for anything. It’s the main reason other states don’t reciprocate with PA CCW.

    When I drive I generally take the gun off and place it where it is accessible but hidden, for me that is the pocket near the center console or the door pocket. Not all cars have this feature though.

    I am actually one of the fanny pack carriers and while plenty deride that choice I think it’s harder to pull a fanny pack off me than retrieve a tool from a waistband holster. The holster I have does not look like a gun holster yet opens very easily.

    • “I actually think some training or classroom should be required.”
      —–
      Um, I’ve never seen a version of the 2nd amendment that included the word “training”.

      • You are most correct. That topic has been and will continue to be debated for a long time to come. I cannot help but think that when the Constitution was written firearms was common place and knowledge was passed form generation to generation. Today it is common for someone with no experience to decide to purchase and/or carry a firearm. Nothing wrong with that decision. We all hope that person will take the responsibility as seriously as the right. Some may not and that is a bad reflection on gun owners and CCW holders. Training should be part of it. Maybe not mandatory but highly encouraged. How about a discount for attending a class from someone connected to a dealer. Safety, handling, cleaning and applicable laws are great topics. Just my 2 cents.

        • Read some history, training to arms was part and parcel of the founders’ design. Put whatever spin on it you want, but the first phrase of the 2nd A shouldn’t just be written out as inconvenient.

        • GS650G’s post included the word “required”. The justification clause makes no reference to citizens being required to serve in a militia, it merely attempts to justify the right. Do not read too much into it. Here’s what a modern-day writing of the 2nd might look like:

          “The right of the people to own and carry weapons shall not be infringed, because it may at some point be necessary for them to defend the homeland.”

        • I would be glad to read more history. Do you suggest something specific? A google search provided subjects related to tactics and training given to formed militias. Not firearms training for the common man.

        • Keepandbeararms.com has a great wealth of knowledge concerning the militia and self defense available for reading.

      • You’re assuming everyone knows the law concerning the use of deadly force and handling firearms.
        Or you could at least acknowledge we are all served better by educating gun owners.
        The legal landscape is far more complicated today as it relates to firearm use and while you see training as another form of asking for permission others see it as trying to make sure we have fewer knuckleheads carrying.
        How about we exempt veterans from any training requirement and just have them sign off that they understand what a castle doctrine is?

        • Don’t get me worng; training is vital, and the wise gun owner seeks out proper training in the care and feeding of his/her firearms. That being said, I do not believe that training can be required prior to exercising a right. Four hours of classroom instruction prior to the exercise of free speech? Do I need to attend a few law classes before I can tell the cops to come back with a warrant? I understand that “we are all served better by educating gun owners.” The issue is that a right is a right, and the fact that we allow the state the power to impose a training requirement on permits to carry flies in the face of that.

          [/soapbox]

    • My father taught me the fundamentals of shooting when I was a child far better than any instructor would have been able to. He didn’t issue certificates after, though.

      ANY requirement like training can be twisted until it’s as effective as banning guns themselves. Look at the current state Chicago is in–the rules are set up so it’s almost impossible to have a gun there, still. But it’s technically legal so they’re good to go!

  2. I carry a Walther PPQ OWB, and it’s easily concealed under a jacket or even beneath a shirt on hotter days. It might still print a bit if I move certain ways, but never enough that it’s ever been an issue.

  3. Nick covered a lot of ground with that one, so I’ll just say this about that: a rapid one-handed draw is ideal. The chances are great that you’ll need that other hand in a DGU (Defensive Gun Use) for something. For me, Outside the Waistband (OWB) is the way to go for speed AND access.

    Also, I just can’t get on with Inside the Waistband (IWB). It chafes and annoys me (205, 5’11”). I can never get a good initial grip—which ain’t gonna get much better in a DGU. So I carry a Glock 30SF in a Galco speed holster using the mother of all gun belts.

    Outside the house, I wear an OWB holster over a T shirt, under an unzipped sweater or coat (zipped when necessary, and yes I practice unzipping my coat/sweater and drawing). If it’s hotter ‘n hell, I go with an oversized T or thin dress shirt over the holster.

    If the occasion is clothing restrictive (e.g., a piano recital), I pocket carry a snubbie.

    Inside the house (home carry), I tuck in my shirt under the Galco. If the doorbell rings and I don’t want the visitor to see I’m packing (liberal neighbors), I untuck and cover.

    My ideal preference would be open carry. Now THAT’S comfortable—at least physically.

      • I’m about to get my Remora, and a practical consideration came to mind: using a public restroom. I’ve got my “tactics” figured out with holsters that clip on, but I’m not sure what to do with the Remora in that situation. Suggestions?

        • if you are taking a leak, and unzip, not a problem, it holds up. If you are sitting down for a longer expderience, you just have to make sure you hold on to it as you loosen your belt and lower your pants. It can rest inside your pants/underwear. Not an issue, just like if you had an OWB holster with a clip

  4. If IWB carry is uncomfortable then it’s likely you need a different holster.

    One of the counter-intuitive things about IWB is that you would think that the most comfortable place to carry would be around your kidneys or towards the small of your back. In fact, that’s the most uncomfortable place to carry, because most chairs/seats (especially in cars) are designed to fill this space.

    After a couple of unsatisfactory years trying to figure out how to carry with my Galco IWB, I finally hit on the solution: Hipbone carry (i.e. 3 o’clock, or 9 o’cloc for you leftists.) Again, it’s counter-intuitive, you would think that a gun on your hipbone would be uncomfortable as hell but as long as your pants are loose fitting enough to accomodate it, it’s surprisingly comfortable to the point where you almost forget it’s there.

    Not only is 3 o’clock carry comfortable with the little Galco, my gun (Glock 23) pretty much disappears under a medium length sweatshirt.

    • +1 Just tried a Crossbreed IWB that a friend has. VERY comfortable at the 3 o’clock position. I have one of those holsters on order now.

      • I’ll second the Crossbreed holster for IWB carry – it’s the most comfortable thing since sliced bread. I honestly forget it’s there most of the time.

        I just can’t deal with the clothing choices required for OWB carry, especially since I live in one of the warmest parts of the US. IWB carry has been extremely comfortable for me and works with darn near everything.

        When clothing that won’t conceal a lump at the hip is required, a SmartCarry holster is what I use. The belt always rides up, but it’s reasonably comfortable and basically impossible to detect.

        • Third on the Crossbreed at 3 o’clock with my .40 XD(M) 3.8.

          It’s not a compact, sadly, and it would be if I had it to do over again because sometimes the butt prints just a little, but that’s not the holster’s fault, it’s the owner’s.

        • Fourth for Crossbreed at 3. Nice thing is the same holster fits both my SR9C and my Glock 23 so I can carry to match my socks.

        • Fifth on the Crossbreed SuperTuck. Glock 20 at 3 and two mags at 9 and the only thing remotely uncomfortable is my pants being a touch tight. Which is odd, I don’t seem to remember having that problem before the holiday season 🙂

        • Keep going with the Crossbreed Supertuck recommendations. I love mine with my sub-compact. I will say that with a full sized gun I can see the case for a normal belt holster.

          I have a friend that is a police officer and he and I were talking about concealed carry. We went for a ride on our Harleys one summer day. Off duty he carries a full sized 1911 in a belt holster with a baggy T-shirt. Like the author, I also watched for people’s reactions and I didn’t see anyone all day that seemed to take notice.

        • Having Carried for over 20 years,, everything from a Beretta 92 to a Kel-Tec P3AT , using IWB and OWB… Crossbreed is the Holster to go with … I recently puchased one for my XD(m) 3.8 .45 and it is more comfortable than my Don Hume holster that I carry my Smith snubbie in… You can’t go wrong with the Crossbreed!

    • For now I’m very comfortable with IWB. I actually like how tight it keeps the gun to my body. I haven’t really looked very hard, but most of the OWB style holsters look like they would keep the pistol off the body a bit more than I’d like.

      I have a hybrid holster as well (not a SuperTuck, but similar). For me, the 3:30, just behind the hipbone is perfect. The gun just settles in there, and I can wear it all day long.

      I started carrying an XDm 4.5, but found it to be slightly awkward. The barrel would push up slightly when I sat down and the grip would sometimes print when I leaned forward. Getting the XDm Compact solved both those problems. The shorter barrel won’t push up when I sit, and the shorter grip never prints.

    • I agree. When I started carrying my 1911, I used an IWB holster with hipbone carry. The angle between grip and frame fitted against my lower rib just nicely, without digging in. It was comfortable while driving, while seated, and any other position. I usually wore a sweater, a jacket, or a long T-shirt to cover it.

      Currently I’ve switched to a fanny pack. It doesn’t seem to draw any attention, and when I pull a cell phone or PDA out of it, people assume that those are the things I wear the pack for. Drawing is just about as fast as with an IWB holster, and can be done one-handed if I need my “off” had for something else. However, it doesn’t work well under a raincoat or a long winter coat. I’m trying to figure out an alternative for bad weather. Even an IWB doesn’t work well under a raincoat or heavy coat.

  5. I like OWB more than IWB but I use both depending on season. OWB is typically a Blackhawk leather small of the back holster at the 4 o’clock position. IWB is a Blackhawk leather holster with a slight fwd cant carried at the 3:30 to 4 o’clock position. It took a lot of trial and error before I found what worked for me.

  6. There is no circumstance under which you can lawfully lend a handgun for an evening or night of carry, not even to a family member or LEO. Rental at a supervised licensed target range has a different applicable law. I’d delete that bit of the the description. Yes, a pistol can be lent for firing under your direct and continuous supervision, but nothing more.

    • I think you have handguns confused with NFA items. My buddy can’t loan me his suppressor to take home with me, but he can give me all the guns he wants (and I sure wish he would).

    • Depends on the state. In some states the permit is tied to a specific user and a specific weapon (I think it’s NY that requires a “permit” for each specific weapon a person wants to carry.)

      However, in most shall-issue jurisdictions that’s not the case – the license to carry is like a driver’s license, it allows you to carry any firearm that you can legally possess and carry within the restrictions of the law. Ownership is not an issue.

    • I think you missed something, Ropingdown. There’s one law in PA that has to do with transfers, which *appears* to forbid lending, as well. But there’s another law that specifically covers loans:

      18 Pa.C.S. § 6115: Loans on, or lending or giving firearms prohibited
      (a) Offense defined.–No person shall make any loan secured by mortgage, deposit or pledge of a firearm, nor, except as provided in subsection (b), shall any person lend or give a firearm to another or otherwise deliver a firearm contrary to the provisions of this subchapter.
      (b) Exception.–
      (1) Subsection (a) shall not apply if any of the following apply:
      (i) The person who receives the firearm is licensed to carry a firearm under section 6109 (relating to licenses).
      (ii) The person who receives the firearm is exempt from licensing.

      I’m not a lawyer, but it looks to me like it’s ok to lend someone a firearm if he has a LTCF. I was surprised, too.

      • I’m short of time, but I’ll look for a citation tonight. I owe you that. Can’t do it now. It is the ATF’s interpretatiion of a lending as a transfer. I could be wrong.

      • Thanks for the gentle correction, NR. It is entirely possible I applied a licensed dealer rule to Leghorn’s friend. Too much coffee and too much commenting in the middle of work. I’ll look things up tonight, with the assumption that you’re right and that the ATF bit doesn’t apply. Oh, and I’ve used a Galco Jak-Slide for years with no complaints. OWB but inside the belt. And Leghorn, if you show that beautiful gun again, I’ll have to buy one. Stop.

    • He must live in NY like myself, it’s almost Illegal to look at a handgun without a permit. It is illegal to touch one, but a handgun can be on more then one permit.

    • What State are you in??? I have loaned friends (new hunters) rifles/shotguns to hunt with many times so long as they are over 18/21 for handguns it’s not an issue in any of the States i’ve ever lived in… but I am a Southern Man and we tend to have alot less restrictive laws concerning firearms. I chuckle everytime a transplant from the North asks where they need to go to register their firearm..

  7. +1 on the OWB. Not only is it way more comfortable, and much easier for draw/reholstering, wearing sport vests (like this one, from REI: http://www.rei.com/product/817198/rei-windbrake-thermal-fleece-vest-mens) quite adequately covers my Springfield EMP in its Galco Stinger holster, and also gives me a few more convenient pockets for the other stuff I find myself carrying (multiple cell phones, wallet, etc.)If I’m in a situation where I must be wearing a tucked shirt without an outer covering garment, well, that’s why I also have a pocket pistol.

  8. IWB with a Sig P229 at about 4 o’clock. I forget the holster brand, but it was not a big one, just what the local shop carried. Adding a kevlar-reinforced rigger belt helped comfort and draw/holster control a good deal. I usually wear a light jacket, hooded sweatshirt, or Carhartt workshirt, so I could probably OWB carry pretty easily, but I find IWB pretty accessible and comfortable. Clearly from reading comments, your mileage may vary.

    For warm weather carry, I have a tactical diaper bag, which carries diapers, wipes, juice, plastic bags, hand sanitizer, a water bottle, and a 9mm with extra mag with room to spare. If I don’t have the kids, I can pack my netbook and still have room for the Sig. No one looks twice.

    • Heh. “Tactical diaper bag.” Have to remember that, seeing as how I have something similar (Maxpedition Fatboy).

  9. I sincerely hope that by now the author has taken some training courses and practices regularly. If not, when confronted with a Condition Red situation he will default to the lowest level of training/competence.

  10. I carry a Colt Commander IWB. At 6′ 1″ 260 the IWB carry would poke, chaffe & in summer the sidearm would be soaked in sweat. I bought a holster from N8 Tactical. It is leather and doesn’t allow any part of the sidearm to come in contact with skin. I wear my 9-10 hours a day and there are times I forget I have it on me, even sitting in the car. In summer there is no sweating thru the holster. It also seems to minimize imprinting. It is one of the most unique holsters I have come across. Took about a week of carrying it for it to break in. Now I have one for each of my CCW.

  11. I recently started carrying OWB using a gun pouch, which slides on my belt

    http://www.activeprogear.com/gunpouch.html

    it’s definitely not hip, so the youngsters (read: my boys) won’t even consider it but for us older folks who are at the stage in our lives where we don’t really give a crap about stuff like fashion anymore, this thing works it just looks like the millions of other things that people have hanging from their belts these days…

  12. Usually, a S&W 642 in the strongside pants pocket meets my CC needs. Otherwise, I’ve tried numerous holsters and systems–both IWB and OWB–with mostly dismal results.

    For IWB, the best I’ve found is the Remora with the reinforced mouth. It can be worn in any position from appendix to small-of-the-back, strongside to crossdraw and at any angle. It’s also more comfortable than any of the others I’ve used, including the Crossbreed, various leather and Kydex IWB models.

    For OWB, my physique limits applications. I’ve tried those beautiful boned and fitted OWB holsters and they make it appear I have a large caliber tumor growing on my already ample waistline. I also live in a warm climate where jacketless, lightweight clothing is worn most of the year. I’ve settled on Rob Leahy’s Simply Rugged pancake holsters. They flatten out the gun against my side without a visible lump. I can carry a full-sized SIG P220 comfortably, securely and concealed this way. The Simply Rugged pancake holsters aren’t particularly pretty and they’re not fitted to the gun but they function perfectly.

  13. The IWB crossbreed@ 4 o’clock CZ75D Compact. At 5’9″ 160 lb. I sit comfortably in carseat and restaurant chairs. But y’know what? I’m gonna check out OWB when this
    Hot Texas coast summer abates.

  14. I’m a little late on this thread, but I OWB carry a Sig P226 Enhanced Elite with a Garrett Silent Thunder STX 2.0 and have NO problem with concealment, even with a Polo Shirt. 6′ 4″, 220#, so that could be a consideration. Last holster I will buy for the 226. Holster designed primarily for 4 O’clock carry (which for me I hate), but I carry at 2 O’clock and set to slight rearward cant – still pulls in tight enough to contour to my torso. When I wore a Blackhawk Serpa holster, my wife told me it looked like i had a small loaf of bread under my shirt. I have 2 Crossbreed IWB holsters (Sig P229 and 232) and just don’t like the way they feel – beautiful holsters, very well made, just don’t like IWB.

  15. PA may be different than Florida,, where CONCEALED permit means concealed, not partially concealed. Bottom couple inches showing below hem of shirt is NOT concealed and can be called into question (a couple of cases have made newspapers- ONE little old lady telling Mall Security I saw a man with a GUN- you will find yourself with more intention than desired.. ‘Breach of Peace’,, Disturbing the Peace,,, or some charge will be levied. IF that entails a possible jail sentence of ONE year or longer,, may lose that Permit or even owning guns. Check statutes to be sure.

    As a Certified Instructor there’s a 10 page document drawn up by leading attorney of gun rights and Florida Statutes that’s given to students. Concealed, buy a smaller gun are advise given, among other things. First is AVOID, second Avoid AS LONG AS it can be done SAFELY for yourself or others you’re protecting. Third when carrying CONCEALED, it’s not like IPSC match drawing from speed holster- you are MORE THAN two (2) seconds before you can fire that first round so being alert and aware (Condition Yellow on Cooper’s scale) to hopefully Avoid the situation or Worse Case being prepared to keep that two second or longer window from being any longer than needed.
    davzway

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *