I know appendix carry enjoys increasing popularity among a lot of people including a good number of younger shooters. It also seems to be the choice of many keyboard commandos who want to be just like their heroes in the gun community. To say nothing of the folks who think they can buy skills in a bubble-pack on aisle three of their local Cabela’s or Academy Sports.
I’m no fan of appendix carry (sometimes called AIWB – appendix inside the waistband) for one reason: it’s unsafe. If you screw up your holstering, there’s a good chance you’ll die.
I’ll repeat that for those who speed-read past it the first time: if you mess up while holstering with appendix carry, you will be in serious trouble. At best, you’ll probably blow apart your reproductive parts. Just about as likely, you’re going poke one or more holes in your femoral artery. At that point, you’ll have the rest of your life to regret your carry method…which won’t be very long.
Granted, appendix carry offers good concealment and fast presentation. With a good rig and the right body type it can be every bit as comfortable as other carry options. But it won’t work with all body types.
If your skills are minimal or marginal, AIWB is a disaster waiting to happen. If you’re an appendix carry devotee, you can’t practice until you get it right. You better be practicing until you can’t get it wrong.
So you’re an appendix carry aficionado and you say that you’re confident in your reholstering skills, eh? Stuff happens, even to the best of us. Here’s an example of what can happen to even those with extensive training and experience.
A few years ago, a training school here in Illinois had an instructor development class. These instructors — all highly experienced trainers and shooters — had excellent gun handling skills. At the end of the day, they “gunned up” for a trip to a more gun-friendly state for dinner.
As they did their thing preparing to go out for some grub, one of the instructors discharged her firearm as she holstered into her AIWB rig. As I recall, she was talking with another person when her gun fired.
“Ah, [bleep]! I shot myself,” she yelled. The state-of-the-art hollow-point entered her leg at about the crease at the hip and traveled downward.
These instructors knew more than just how to poke holes in paper. As a group, they had very good first aid training. Indeed some were former military and they had at least one tourniquet on her in less than half a minute.
EMTs responded quickly from a nearby station and got her to an ER most riki-tik, pumping fluids into her during the ambulance ride. She went right into surgery and then spent a week or more in intensive care, having ruptured her femoral in three places. She was extremely lucky to have survived.
My question to any appendix carrier (or anyone thinking about trying it): do you think you’re going to have some medically trained friends nearby to put a CAT tourniquet on you if you screw up your re-holstering? What if you’re out in the sticks at a range by yourself with spotty cellular service and little or no help available?
“I’m cautious and skilled. I’m not worried about an accidental or negligent discharge,” you say.
Maybe you just met Mongo the Mauler in a dark alley and he wanted to do some thoracic surgery on you with his half-rusty Case knife after you declined to surrender your wallet in a timely enough manner. You just applied some ballistic therapy to end the attack.
Do you really think you’re going to be able to flawlessly execute a reholster as you’re shaking like a leaf thanks to that adrenaline dump?
Maybe you’ll actually be able to stay cool as a cucumber. Are you willing to bet your life on it? It would be a shame to survive a violent criminal attack only to do yourself in with an accident upon reholstering.
I’ve heard AIWB practitioners explain away some of these risks. “Well, I take the holster out of my pants to reholster every time.” Sure you do. “Just put the gun down somewhere instead of reholstering after a defensive gun use.” Not a bad plan, but what if you need it again quickly? “It’s safer than other carry methods.” Keep telling yourself that.
If I make a mistake holstering in my “late afternoon” carry position, at worst I get a new scar across my butt, but I’m not going to die of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. I’ve seriously considered AIWB carry because of its speed and utility, but I just can’t get over the high cost of a mistake. My life’s worth more than that. Ditto for yours.
I’ve donned my asbestos suit as I expect a few flaming arrows for taking on a topic that a lot of people consider a sacred cow. Let’s hear it.
[This post was originally published in 2016.]