Figuring out how to carry a concealed sidearm can be every bit as thought-provoking as is trying to decide on which pistol to carry. Here we’ll be exploring a myriad of different carry methods from the popular to the unusual, along with some potential pro’s and con’s related to each.
*Inside the Waistband (IWB)
Whenever a pistol is tucked inside of the waistband it is considered an IWB carry. This can be at any position around your body and can offer a lot of versatility as far as positioning goes, plus it does a pretty good job of keeping your firearm hidden, but they can be a little slow to draw from. IWB holsters often have clips to hook onto a belt for added security. ‘Paddle’ holsters are one option for IWB carry.
Any holster which connects directly to a belt without getting tucked inside of the waistband. As with an IWB the holster can be positioned anywhere around the body, however this type of holster is not as easy to conceal as an IWB and thus is much better for an open carry situation. Belt holsters tend to be much more accessible than IWB holsters.
*Small of Back (SoB)
This is when a firearm is carried in the center of the back along the waistline. While this method can be comfortable for walking around there are clear disadvantages with sitting down, bending forward, or leaning back. This method of carry also comes with a potential risk for personal injury as the firearm is nested directly against the lower spine.
This is a specific location for an IWB carry where the sidearm is located almost directly in front of you. While this provides for a very quick draw this position can also become uncomfortable for sitting. By far the biggest concern with an appendix carry is accidental discharge, as the muzzle is frequently being held directly over the owner’s own body.
*Shoulder Holster, or Under the Arm
These holsters are more complicated than IWB or belt holsters and require another layer of clothing in order to conceal the pistol nested beneath your non-dominant arm. Shoulder holsters can more easily support larger pistols and often help balance out the additional weight placed upon you by offering spare magazine holders beneath the opposite arm. Besides the added complexity one concern with shoulder holsters is keeping track of where the muzzle of your firearm is pointing, even if you aren’t drawing it. Some shoulder holsters position the pistol horizontally, meaning the barrel is always pointing directly behind you.
This type of carry involves a waist pack or fanny pack, allowing for a more comfortable on-body carry. Unlike an off body carry these packs are always secured to you in some fashion. Because of this they can be both very comfortable to wear but much more difficult to draw from. Some of these holsters may also run the risk of seeming out of place upon a person as some of the packs can get to be fairly large and bulky on their own.
Very small pistols can be concealed right inside of a pants pocket, though you will still want a holster for carrying this way. With cargo pants or baggier shorts with deep pockets this type of carry can make a pistol almost completely disappear. The drawback is that it can be more difficult to draw and there is a concern of the pistol getting snagged along the way. ‘Sticky’ holsters are one option for pocket carry.
*Belly Band Carry
Some holsters are nothing more than a pocket sewn into a large elastic band which can be worn anywhere around your middle. These types of holsters allow you to position the firearm wherever works best for you, though they may not be as easy to draw quickly from.
These shirts have hidden holsters sewn right into them for smaller sized pistols, usually positioning them beneath the non-dominant arm similar to a shoulder holster. Because they are much more flexible than many holsters there may be a greater risk of the firearm getting snagged on the fabric while drawing. Also being more of a shirt than a holster these require regular washing.
*Off Body Carry
This includes carrying in a purse or backpack. These can sometimes make a sidearm much easier to reach and, being off of your body, makes for a much more comfortable carry option. The downsides are that it is much more easy to be separated from your firearm and that your draw is not likely to be consistent as whatever happens to be holding your firearm is able to freely move about. For instance, if carrying in a backpack it might not always be resting on the same shoulder.
These types of holsters only work with very small pistols, concealed either by a pant leg or something like a cowboy boot. Because of their placement and size limitation they can be quite effective for concealment, however a possible concern is that this type of carry places extra weight upon one leg and may cause discomfort over longer periods of time.
Not to be confused with holsters which ride on the outside of the pants, a concealed thigh holster is just like the ankle holster but positioned higher upon the leg. Similarly, thigh holsters work best with smaller pistols.
One for the ladies, these holsters connect directly to the bra and allow for a small pistol to be carried in front. This arrangement can be very effective for concealment, however care must be exercised in regards to where the muzzle is pointed.
*Lower Abdomen Holsters (Crotch Carry)
These holsters are similar to an appendix carry but position the firearm slightly lower upon the body, often with a dual pocket design which allows you to carry an extra magazine or two as well. They do provide strong concealment at the cost of a much more awkward and time-consuming draw and work best with smaller sized pistols.
*Belt Buckles, Holster Grips, & Lanyards
For the sake of being thorough it is possible for some very, very tiny pistols to be carried in more unique fashions. These includes belt buckles which double as holsters, pistol grips which can be folded forward much like a pocket knife, and tiny holsters which can be carried in a lanyard fashion. These types are generally only found on super tiny .22 revolvers. While better than nothing they are far from being practical.