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Two months ago, My Life As a Concealed Carry Citizen changed forever. I’m now carrying in an appendix-in-waist-band (AIWB) position. At the risk of sounding evangelistic, AIWB carry in general and the Dale Fricke Archangel holster in particular have improved my ability to carry a gun in concealment and comfort. I’m now carrying a larger weapon, more regularly, for more of the day, more comfortably than ever before. I have found my preferred carry system . . .

I started carrying a gun regularly a year or so ago. Like the legions of concealed carry license holders before me, I’ve gone through many holsters trying to find that elusive combination of fit, comfort, convenience and concealment.

In the process I tried an AIWB position with a Blade-Tech Ultimate Concealment Holster. I didn’t like it. Not one bit. The B-TUCH dug into my flesh in many unpleasant ways and I felt it did not conceal well.

Fast forward a couple months. I decided to give AIWB another chance using the Dale Fricke Archangel holster—a rig specifically designed for this mode of carry.

The Archangel holster is well constructed with thick and durable Kydex. There are no sharp edges. I loved the pull the dot system; I could add or remove the holster without removing my belt. The two loop system is secure. The holster comes with three sets of loops for various belt sizes. The holster secures the gun nicely until it is drawn.

The retention is adjustable, but I never touched my adjustment screws. This is not a retention holster. When the gun is grabbed, the pistol will come out. However, activities short of actually grabbing the gun and pulling it out [see: below] didn’t dislodge the weapon from the holster. And the holster showed no appreciable wear after a couple months.

The complete lack of chafing and poking pain allowed me to focus on the benefits of AIWB carry:

-Less elbow and shoulder articulation required to reach the weapon.
-With the weapon in front of me, I know whose eyes are on the gun. I feel it is safer from a gun grab.
-In church or theaters where everyone is facing one way, I know no one is looking at the lump in my back and wondering if it is a gun.
-Draws faster than 4:30 carry without a doubt.
-Allows for easy drawing from a seated position or in a vehicle.
-Allows for a casual, slow, stealthy draw.  From behind, an assailant would possibly not even see you draw, and the motion of your shoulders would not give it away.
-I have heard it said it makes the gun easier to retain and access in a hand to hand situation, but I have not tested this myself.

I lead an active life. Equipped with the Dale Fricke Archangel AIWB Holster, I’ve contorted myself into about every possible position. I have rock climbed (OK clambered), hiked, ridden bikes, cleaned the house, chased the kids around a plastic play-land type obstacle course, worked on the car, etc. without incident. I have no concerns about its safety.

I wore the holster daily to work both seated and standing with minimal comfort issues. The barrel of the pistol rides in the crease of the leg/pelvis when seated. I wore it in the car with minimal discomfort. When driving, the lap portion of the seat belt goes across the  belt line in its usual position and across the barrel area of the gun.  The shoulder portion either goes across the butt of the gun, or above it. Access in a car is simply a matter of lifting the cover garment which also pulls up the seat belt.

That said, I have some concern about the gun pressing into my abdomen in case of an accident. I found a couple cases of persons carrying in this way who were in accidents and remained un-injured.  The fact is, I don’t know what would happen. I imagine one would be sore from a hunk of metal being pressed into the gut, but can’t imagine the pistol firing or that the damage would be any worse than a typical seat belt injury.

Initially I had my concerns about concealment because when I look straight down at my abdomen, I can certainly see the bulge:

In practice this has turned out to be a non-issue. No one notices the lump and or bulge. If they do, it looks like a phone or PDA. If I am concerned about printing, I can shield, the gun if I have anything in my hand: cup of coffee, clip board or the like. It is also a simple measure to keep one’s arm draped in front of the butt of the pistol. If I am standing around, I stand in a “Secret Service” type position with arms crossed. One hand can even be casually grasping the lower edge of the cover garment, ready to go in an instant while the other arm shields view of the weapon. I like that I can keep my elbow/forearm on the butt of the weapon in crowds.

In the course of this review, my usual carry Glock 19 went off line and needed some small parts replaced. While awaiting replacement, I swapped to my Glock 17. Lo and behold I found myself comfortably carrying the larger gun without much difficulty, and have done so for the last few weeks.

I have successfully concealed the gun in this position from my office staff, patients and hoplophobic wife. Hugs can occur—so long as I am offset a little to the right. The only time I was ever “made” was when one of the kids, whose head is about waist high, ran to sneak attack me with a hug and rang his bell on the chunk of metal on the waistband. God knows what he made of that . . .

AIWB carry has another, far more significant downside: the possibility of shooting oneself during a transition.

While shooting oneself always sucks, there are places where bullet wounds are eminently survivable (e.g., the buttocks). The femoral artery is not one of them. By the same token, you really need to pay attention when shooting one’s testicle or penis off is the best case scenario.

The solution is simple. Don’t. I’ve performed several thousand dry and live draws from from the Fricke Holster. I practiced many quick-as-you-can dry draws and re-holsters just to see if I would/could hit the trigger. It never happened, not once, not even close. It is not an issue, for the holster anyway. You are in charge of your finger.

[Note: I always recommend a slow, deliberate, sighted re-holstering. Fast re-holstering is useless and stupid. AIWB allows me to see the holster clearly without requiring me to turn around and trying to see a holster behind my back a bit.]

And one caveat: Dale Fricke Archangel AIWB Holster method of carry pretty much requires that one’s waist is smaller than one’s chest. If you have a gut you can pretty much forget it—which no doubt explains the lack of popularity for this carry style amongst OFWG’s. I am pretty skinny and chest challenged. I’m just barely pulling it off.

I paid for the holster with my own shekels. Unlike the rigs in the [usual] drawer full of failed holster options, this one’s a keeper.

RATINGS (out of five stars)

Comfort * * * *
All day comfort in many positions. This is as good as it gets for me.  Only going without a pistol is five stars.

Retention * * *
This is not a retention holster, but will hold the gun for almost any activity without losing it. Retention is adjustable from loose to tight via two screws.

Ease of Draw * * * *
Amazingly fast and easy draw. Full combat grip available prior to draw. No contortions required in AIWB position.

Concealability * * * *
Depends on your body type. Big bellies will have more difficulty concealing.

Overall * * * *
I love this method of carry and I love this holster and recommend them both. I can not see myself moving to another method of carry. The only thing lacking is the ability to tuck. Just take care not to shoot your nuts off.

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    • Yes. G26 works fine too. He has shorter holsters for G26 or G19 if you want one specific to the gun. They can also work with a longer gun, but the barrel will stick out.

      For AIWB it is nice to have a bit of barrel below the belt to pull the grip in.

  1. Not to sound like a “troll” but you lost all credibility when you stated that you had to send a Glock off for small parts replacement. Any grown man should be able to take care of that himself.

    • For a while a few months back, Glock was refusing to ship out extractors to deal with some issues. I think they are over this transition period now.

    • I certainly “can” change the oil in my car, but apartment dwelling and time constraints sometimes have me taking it in.

      The same can be said about lawn care or firearm maintenance.

      Division of labor is what makes this country so prosperous.

    • It’s “off line” as in: in my safe awaiting parts from Glock. Still.

      I don’t quite see how my Jedi skills at building a weapon have anything to do with a holster review.

  2. I seem to have lucked out of the dreaded holster drawer; I made the very wise choice to use the same model gun my brother does. This allowed me to go through HIS drawer of holsters, and buy duplicates of what works.

  3. Just a suggestion:

    For future holster reviews, it would be great if

    a) at least three different people with different body types would test it and then compile their findings into a review and
    b) for each tester, you can post height, weight, chest, and hip size and
    c) post the same set of photos for each tester as shown above plus two shots front/side or back/side from 10 feet away

    so that readers can get a much better understanding of how it would work for them.

    • The ability/comfort of carrying AIWB is such a personal thing that I think comparing one AIWB specific holster to another is quite difficult. Also, everyone in the 3 person sample would need to be relatively fit and trim (enough that AIWB is an option).

      I don’t know that we could collect such a sample. I know I’m out of contention!

  4. “-Allows for a casual, slow, stealthy draw. From behind, an assailant would possibly not even see you draw, and the motion of your shoulders would not give it away.”

    If your assailant is behind you how would you know that? And if you do, why would you not turn and face him/them? If I’m facing my assailant, it is certainly less obvious that I may have my hand on the gun if it’s in the 4 – 5 o’clock position vs. 1 o’clock.

    • How about when someone has the draw on you and is currently marching you into the freezer? How about when you are out to dinner, something is going down elsewhere in the restaurant, and you want to casually access your gun, but keep it under the table Han Solo style?

      I can think of times when I just don’t want to advertise that I am accessing a weapon, I think the reach back to behind the hop telegraphs things more than the AIWB position.

  5. I don’t have a beer belly, just a middle aged paunch, but that is enough to preclude an appendix carry. I found that the “sweet spot” on my belly (about 2 o’clock) that concealed the firearm ( a commander sized 1911) left the barrel sticking uncomfortably into my groin. I also like to keep the grip in tight, and I notice in your pics that the grip is pretty free floating and likely to print without screening of some kind, which kind of defeats the whole purpose of an IWB holster. If I go for another try at AIWB, I think it will have to be with one of those very short barrelled pistols.

    • Comfort is fine sitting. When bending over at waist, the grip of the gun tends to hit me in the ribs.

  6. Great holster…. Even with a little bit of a beer gut I carry at the 2 to 3 o’clock…. Conceals well with Glock 19 (not alot of print) in jeans, cargo pants or shorts. The DOT straps are the way to go. I use a 2″ thick leather belt with no slips. Easy draws, the only time I notice is driving the seatbelt sits high… Worth the money and covers almost every situation. The sweatguard will rub the gut without the pistol for places I can’t carry (I.E. Bank, Post Office, Fed Buildings, etc….) I would not use with a barrel more than 4.25″…

  7. I have Dale Fricke Archangel holsters for the Glock 17/19 size series, S&W 66 2.5″, and Colt Detective Special. They are great holsters and Dale is a great guy. His delivery time is tops in the industry in my experience, and his quality second to none. I find the AIWB style of carry to be the most concealable and comfortable manner of carry for me. A couple of additional benefits are that it doesn’t cause me back pain like 4 o’clock IWB does and it doesn’t rub the butt of the gun on the back of your car seat or chair, causing damage and noise. I find that the Detective Special is particularly comfortable and concealable in this method. I like to keep my thumb on the hammer as I reholster, ensuring that there is no way the gun will fire accidentally. One important safety tip, particularly with striker fired pistols such as Glocks: Be extremely careful not to allow clothing, buttons, draw strings or other loose material to get pushed into the holster around the trigger area while reholstering, as it can cause the weapon to fire accidentally. I get kind of paranoid about the whole femoral artery/private parts danger with Glocks, and have settled on using a SafTBlok device inserted behind the trigger when I’m carrying AIWB. I practice popping it out on the draw, and don’t find it to be a negative at all. It certainly adds a considerable amount of safety to administrative handling of the weapon when carrying AIWB, and it fits just fine in the Archangel holster.

  8. Ordered the holster on a Tuesday and received it on that Saturday. Can’t have much better service. The holster is very minimal and very comfortable. My Gen4 G26 feels right at home. Appendix carry definately works for me and is my preferred method of carry.

  9. I find AIWB extremely painful when I bend over to tie my shoes or just to sit. I’m done with it.

  10. If I were to buy a archangel aiwb holster for the Glock 19/23 will that work for the Glock 17/22 and Glock 26/27? In a sense 6 guns 1 holster.

  11. I have an Archangel as well and it is a fine holster. I would suggest getting the 19/23 size for both the compact and sub-compact Glocks. Keeps it more solid IMHO. I have a little bit of a gut left which I’ve been successfully loosing for the last year and a half. Waist started out at 40” and is now approaching 36”. IWBA carry can be a challenge for those whose guts are shall we say are “calorie enhanced”.

  12. Thanks for a great review. I guess think its great because I agree with everything you said.

    I’m 5′ 9″, 190 lbs. (should be 165-170) and I have two archangel’s. One for my 5″ 1911 and one for my 4 1/4″ M&P 9. I prefer the balance of the 5″ gun. It is my judgement that the extra length and weight of the barrel counterbalances the tendency of the grip, with the weight of the loaded magazine, to tip outward over the belt. (I use a 1 1/4″ double leather belt) I carry both my 4 1/4″ M&P 9 and my 4 1/2″ M&P 45 in the same holster and will soon order a 5″ holster for both of those guns in order to gain the leverage mentioned above. It does take a little “fiddling” to get the positioning comfortable but once achieved I don’t think the archangel can be beat. I can see that It might not work everyone but that can be further motivation to loose the weight.

    Keep your finger off the trigger until the sights are aligned on the target and you have decided to shoot!

  13. Excellent article
    I carry a hand gun 350 days a year. For OWB I exclusively use Dale Fricke’s holsters and love them.

    For IWB I have always carried a Milt Sparks summer special with a 1911 commander.
    After reading your review i may give Dale Fricke’s Archangel a try

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