Firearms Food for Thought: Ankle Holsters

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When you’re carrying a gun for self-defense there are many factors to take into consideration, and rapid presentation is one of the most important things. After all, if you can’t get to your gun quickly odds are good you will not be the one walking away from the fight. It’s an issue heavily influenced by what gun you carry, which is a choice having to do not only with caliber but size: frame, double stack or single stack, barrel length, the list goes on. Your method of carry does depend on what gun you carry. And of the many available methods for concealed carry ankle holsters just might be the most contentious.

There are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to ankle holsters. Is it your main carry or secondary? Is it the only option available for concealment at the time for one reason or another? Most importantly, though, is just how fast you can draw from it. Placement may be everything, but positioning is also important. The issue of caliber comes into play with ankle holsters as well because your average ankle holster only holds smaller caliber pistols.

What do you think? Are ankle holsters a viable option for self-defense use? If so, should they be used as a primary carry or for backup only?


katie.ainsworth

Katie is an avid shooter, hunter, military journalist, and Southern girl. She studied Biology and veterinary medicine in college and worked in emergency veterinary medicine for more than a decade prior to becoming a full-time writer. In addition, she has years of experience as a handler in K9 SAR. Firearms are her passion whether at the range or on a spot-and-stalk after a big buck. She’s a staff writer at The Firearm Blog and writes about firearms, the military, and politics for a number of major publications both online and in print. Shoot her a message at ainsworth.kat@usa.com


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  • Nicks87

    Ankle holsters are kind of meh, I’ve never found one that I like and I never really got comfortable with one leg feeling heavier than the other. I also prefer to carry a full size pistol over a sub-compact so I’ve always just ignored the whole concept altogether. Plus, drawing from one opens up a whole bag of worms as well.

    • Navy Davy

      Carry spare mags on the other ankle so you’re balanced.

  • claymore
    • iksnilol

      For a primary, but maybe not a bad place for a secondary or tertiary gun?

      • claymore

        Yep for a second not a problem because if you need it you will really need it.

  • AndyHasky

    Only way I can carry on my body at work, typical dress is tucked Polo, jeans and cowboy boots (I just put the holster around the boots). Not ideal but it allows me to carry 100% of the time. gun is a shield in a deasntis (i think?) brand holster. Never had a problem with discomfort, even when wearing tennis shoes and ankle height socks.

  • MaddieF

    Ankle holsters absolutely have a purpose for a BUG gun. For myself, having a 27″ waist and not a purse carrier, it is the only way I am able to carry a secondary firearm. With a full size, duty pistol on my strong side hip, I cannot fit even a sub compact anywhere else, safely and accessibly. It is at its best for accessibility when seated in a vehicle, where reaching the right hip can be hindered by a seatbelt. Like any method of carry, it requires some getting used to. I decided a long time ago, if a LEO can do it, a legally armed citizen can too. With female CPL holders on the rise as well as increasingly DUMB carry systems, being able to show (“walk-the-walk

    • Nicks87

      What about a 5.11 concealed carry under shirt?

      • MaddieF

        Ok, I appriciate what 5:11

        • Nicks87

          5.11 is the name brand but they are made by a few different companies.

      • NoNamesOnTheNet

        That works… If you’re willing to spend a couple hundred buying a few shirts (in both colors).

        • zippiest

          Agree. I have a couple shirts. They’re pretty awesome, but they’re really only good for small print guns. Larger prints, like a G27 for example, an ankle and shirt holster aren’t all that great.

        • Nicks87

          You’re right these shirts are probably not for everyday carry but like I said, I’m just trying to offer alternatives and it’s always good to have a few options when it comes to concealed carry or even open carry if you choose to do that.

          • NoNamesOnTheNet

            Personally, I like the idea of them for EDC but the price point is just way off. But last I saw they were almost $90 for what essentially a T-Shirt.

            I’ve heard people wearing shoulder rigs under thier shirts to get kind of the same effect.

        • Navy Davy

          Tough to access when under a real shirt/jacket/coat. Slowest possible draw.

  • Pete M

    They are ok as long as you aware of all their many limitations.

    Driving/riding in a car or sitting down at table and they can actually useful.

    • TVOrZ6dw

      Ankle carry works well for me, and to your point- As long as you are aware of the limitations.

    • TheNotoriousIUD

      I just put the gun on the table next to my salad.

      • Tassiebush

        Salad? What is this thing called salad which you speak of?

        • Giolli Joker

          The grass that the cow wasn’t able to finish before being butchered into your steak… the two usually come together.

  • retfed

    I carried a backup in an ankle holster for years, until a knee injury prevented it. Pros: If you are standing and walking, most people will not notice it. You don’t need to wear a cover garment all the time. It’s especially good if you do a lot of driving. (Just be sure to pull your cuff down over the gun when you get out of your vehicle.)
    Cons: It’s too far away for fast access. You can’t draw from it unless you’re standing still. If you have a safe avenue of retreat (or pursuit, if you’re a LEO), you either have to stop and draw or stay unarmed for the duration of your run. The gun (and I carried Airweight J-frames) will cause the holster to move forward and backward on your ankle while you move, even if you’re just walking normally. The heavier the gun, the more the motion. If you sit somewhere where your legs are not hidden by a desk or a dashboard, your cuff will rise enough to expose your weapon. I’ve seen this happen roughly a million times, once to a Federal agent in District Court. (The Marshals were not happy.) Also, the weight of the gun will cause it to slide down your leg, because of the way your ankle is tapered. The best ankle holster I ever found was the old Milwaukee Legster, which had an extension and a cuff that went around the leg just under the knee, where the leg taper is your friend and not your enemy. Naturally, they’re not made anymore.
    In my opinion, the cons outweigh the pros for general use. But I have to say that I know people who love them for backup carry.

  • Darren Hruska

    I guess you could, if you want. Granted, as other’s have mentioned, it’s probably better for a backup gun. Even then, I’d probably rather reverse-holster a backup on my hip, and if there’d be anything on my ankle, it’d probably be a blade. I’m no expert on this concealed carry stuff, however.

  • stephen

    As a backup to my backup, sure. Other than that, not for me.

  • Tim U

    Ankle carry works for a good backup where you may be seated for extended periods of time, such as driving, riding a bus, etc.

    I just don’t see it as value for a primary carry method when there’s plenty of excellent options much closer to your hands.

    • zippiest

      Completely agree. If your gun isn’t easily accessible, you may as well not carry one at all… Chavez are, if you need it, you’ll be dead before you get it.

  • Paul White

    only time I’d use one is long drives; I’ve got fairly long arms and can reach my ankle pretty easily and quickly, more so than my pocket (with the seatbelt in the way).

  • Joel

    I tried a couple of different types for my S&W Shield .380 and was never comfortable with it. Regardless of which pants I wore I was conscious of a bulge where the gun was. Unless bell bottoms come back I don’t see myself using one of these.

  • TheNotoriousIUD

    Not for me, would probably get annoying and sweaty on my ankle.

  • Just the facts

    I carried a Charter Arms Bulldog Pug in an Uncle Mike’s ankle holster with a strap that fastened above the calf as a backup for 24 years while on patrol. During that lengthy period I more than got used to the inconveniences: hitting the gun against the rocker panel getting into the car, the unbalanced feeling while walking (and particularly while running) and it catching your pant leg. Rather quickly it became second nature not to bang it against the car and to adjust the pant leg before it rode up over the gun. I wouldn’t wear one without the calf strap as the ankle strap sometimes came undone but the calf strap never did. If you accept their limitations they are a viable way to carry.

    • DwnRange

      one word here on ankle holster: “Renegade”

    • Gunner4guy

      I used a .38 snub in that gap between the front and rear panels on the vest on the left side but I had a Colt .25 ACP tucked in a boot on the left, a Buck™ knife in the right(at that time our issue M66 Smith was all we had, no 870, no CAR15…nothing) You got used to it. Later when the uniform(and the agency) changed I went to a G19 on the ankle. Wrong move-too heavy, too bulky and it printed. So, the snubby went into an ankle holster WITH the calf strap. MUCH better. Especially when I went to a hammerless snubby so nothing caught on the pant leg. Backup or tertiary piece–yes, primary–only when there’s no other way. A Colt 6.35 in a pocket doesn’t weigh much and may be even better. Gotta check your options.

  • Jim Drickamer

    Here again, context is king. Instead of asking, “Are ankle holsters good or bad?” let’s ask, “You are in the driver’s seat of a vehicle with your seatbelt on. In what kind of holster would you prefer to carry a handgun?” Or, “You are a cop on a walking beat. In what kind of holster would you prefer to carry a handgun?” Different scenarios, different situations, different solutions.

  • Genejoulik

    what I is that I front kick people and keep the sole of my foot on thier chest and reach for my gun and fire it still in the holster

  • Bob

    I used to dabble in Parkour, and even though I don’t do much now, I dislike anything that may cause problems with random jumping and climbing. In other words, I have little intention of wearing something like an ankle holster that will probably be exposed or get caught on something should I take it into my head to hop over a railing. I value my mobility, and want my options open even for just spur of the moment BS that has nothing to do with self defense. This doesn’t make my holster choice easy, let me tell you. I figure I am going to have to start asking my own to get what I want.

  • Don Ward

    One of my good friends ankle holster carries – presumably because of his job situation – since that is the way he feels he can carry 100 percent of the time. There are limitations to doing this but in his case, these are offset by having the gun with him at all times.

    Unfortunately, there is a tendency to min-max in the firearms world, especially now that everyone is a trained, snake-eating, tacticool Airborne Special Forces Seal. As such, if a certain way of doing things isn’t The Best, it must be The Worst.

    When it comes to most real life situations for the majority of civilians, it doesn’t really matter where you carry the weapon so long as you have it. What is more important is being aware of your surroundings and being able to recognize a potential threat before it materializes and avoiding said threat. Sometimes all it takes is just making direct eye contact and presenting yourself as someone that you don’t want to effing mess with.

    And if you recognize that you are in a hairy situation or are somehow in the wrong part of town, you should have time to be able to unholster your ankle carry weapon and then slip it into a coat pocket or whatever and have it ready.

  • Don Ward

    Rereading this article, literally almost every single thing Katie said is incorrect.

    “After all, if you can’t get to your gun quickly odds are good you will not be the one walking away from the fight.”

    Nope. If you are in a fight, you should already have recognized the threat and have your weapon in hand. If you have not done this, you made a mistake and thinking you can Quick Draw McGraw your way out of a tactical mistake can ensure that you won’t walk away from the fight.

    “which is a choice having to do not only with caliber but size: frame, double stack or single stack, barrel length, the list goes on.”

    Or, you know, there are these things called revolvers.

    “There are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to ankle holsters. Is it your main carry or secondary?”

    This has nothing to do with the question of whether you should carry in an ankle holster. 99.99999999 percent of the time, you are just fine carrying in an ankle holster as your primary and only weapon for the times you need to pick up toilet paper at Costco.

    ” Most importantly, though, is just how fast you can draw from it.”

    Nope. Most important is having a weapon with you. Second most important is keeping your head on a swivel at all times and recognizing potential threats before they occur. Third most important is having the gun already out before said threat occurs.

    “The issue of caliber comes into play with ankle holsters as well because your average ankle holster only holds smaller caliber pistols.”

    Or, you know, there are these things called revolvers which can hold fully capable combat loads like .38 Special +P, .327 Magnum and .357 Magnum, all of which are perfectly capable of stopping any threat in the lower 48 States (outside of a bison charging you).

    “What do you think?”

    *Maniacal laughter.*

    • Tassiebush

      I don’t think it’s always possible to see threats till the last moment. Not at a level where you’d get a chance to change the location of the gun anyway. Most criminals are making an effort to catch people off guard.

  • Badwolf

    Don’t be a dem. More options are good. Just coz it’s not for you doesn’t mean it’s not for everyone.

    I prefer iwb myself for same reasons mentioned by others, fast access etc. But my friend can’t because his love handles get in the way (his words). So he carries off body in a man bag. After hours & hours of practice, he can draw it out pretty fast. Ankle holster could be another possible option.

    You do what works for you, as long as you obey the safety rules and of course you train and train.

  • Bill

    I haven’t adapted to them over 30 years of trying, but I think they have a real value for BUGs, particularly if a fight goes to the ground, which it shouldn’t, but often does.

  • Ptm368

    A friend told me once “If you use an ankle holster, and you’re not either very lucky, or very skilled… You’re gonna die looking at your shoes”… They work, but be extra cautious…

  • Dickie

    Ankle carry is fine if your purpose for carrying is as a last ditch effort in a scenario or only for the active shooter scenario where u have extra time. If you plan on being a hero and stopping petty crimes like a robbery of someone else then dont do it. But if my lifes not in danger i wouldnt draw to save the store registers money. Only guna have to deal with legal consequences.

  • tarnishedcopper

    I wore out two of the Milwaukee Legsters! They were the best! I have found nothing else even close to the security and comfort those provided. What a shame they are no longer around. I had been searching for them as well. Worked plain clothes for years and even the chief thought I didn’t carry a gun. Dealt with fingerprinting and taking mugshots. No one even suspected I had a gun. Had one guy ask me what I was going to do if he run since I wasn’t carrying a gun. My little S&W model 60 rode fine in the Legster!

  • Robert Martin

    Friends, Ever hear the ultralite backpacker’s maxim that 1 pound on the feet equals 10 pounds on the hip? I also know that jogging even a mile with the 2.5 Ankle weights caused my knees to swell and ache—not that many folks will run with an ankle holster. I do question the effect that 2 pounds on one ankle may have on the spine over time. The solution is simple—if you’re going to wear an ankle holster wear 2! If you live in some Godawful state that limits how many concealed weapons that you can carry—a custom knife and/or spare magazine carriers custom made to very closely approximate the gun-bearing ankle holster could be used.
    Second, many years ago I used to carry a boot knife in a thumbreak sheath handle DOWN. I did not have to shuck the pant leg back but instead reached INSIDE. I’ve never seen an Ankle Holster made this way.
    …..RVM45

    • retfed

      I actually had an upside-down ankle holster for a J-frame, that I bought off a Federal agent. I got rid of it for the same reason he did; I didn’t like having a gun pointed at me all the time. Upside-down may be great for a knife sheath, but for an ankle holster, no thanks.