Carrying a personal defense firearm in the appendix position, in front of the hip bones, is a popular carry position. It has allowed me to comfortably carry and conceal a relatively large gun, and it’s how I carry a gun every day. There are, however, a few downsides to appendix carry, though they are fortunately relatively simple to address.
A clarification first – by “appendix carry” or “AIWB”, I’m referring to holsters that hold the barrel of the gun vertically, and present the gun for a straight-up draw. Traditionally, this carry position is on the shooter’s strong side, with the slide just to the shooting hand’s side of the belly button. The slide may sometimes be on the other side of the body’s centerline, with the grip over the belly button instead, but the vertical draw is generally maintained. This isn’t cross-draw.
One of the common complaints about AIWB is that the muzzle end digs in to the thigh or other body parts when seated. Aside from the obvious fix of choosing a gun with a shorter barrel, a small foam wedge or gel heel insert on the holster can help with comfort. As a woman, I also generally avoid hip-huggers for more comfort and concealment in AIWB. “Mom jeans” aren’t necessary, but an inch or two of rise can make a big difference.
The other big concern is safety, and it’s definitely a valid one. I won’t argue that the gun might potentially point at some pretty sensitive and important body bits, not the least of which is the femoral artery. These concerns can be alleviated, quite successfully I think, by both equipment and training.
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First, the holster. Safe modern holsters generally have two characteristics: they protect the trigger, and they retain the gun. I’ll add to that a preference that they present the gun consistently, to prevent fumbling on the draw, and that they make it possible to reholster without making it difficult to avoid pointing your gun where you don’t want it to point.
As for the gun itself, I’m not a fan of carrying with an empty chamber but there are a few other options available that might make you more comfortable with AIWB carry. You can choose to carry a gun with a manual safety, although you must remember to click the safety off after drawing and you’ll need to be aware that the mechanical safety itself can break. You can also choose a hammer-fired double action gun that you can reholster with your thumb over the hammer so you can feel if the trigger is being pressed. That’s the general idea behind the “The Gadget”, which serves the same function in Glocks.
Gear is only one part of the safety equation – training is the other, and arguably the more important. By learning and practicing proper draw and reholster technique, you can minimize the dangers that come from where the gun may momentarily point when not protected by its holster.
The key to drawing from the appendix position is to come straight up, then rotate the gun out as you extend your arms. As always, your finger must be off the trigger until your sights are on target and you have made the decision to shoot. Be careful not to pull the grip out and away from your body when you start the draw, because that can cause you to point the muzzle at your own stomach.
What a safe appendix carry re-holster looks like