Often times I will get a number of questions about a certain type of carry style. Whether it’s carrying in a pocket or a shoulder holster, there will always be pros and cons to each method of carrying a concealed firearm. Every rating is based on my personal experiences as well as a number of colleagues that all collectively came down to this list. It’s perfectly acceptable to disagree with the rating and I would love to have a discussion in the comments at the end of the article. Let’s dive deeper into the carry positions ranked best to worst.
1. IWB/AIWB Carry
One of the most common methods of carry in the community is the Inside The Waistband or Appendix Inside The Waistband. There will be plenty of controversies around which method of inside the waistband carry is the better choice but for this article, I decided to lump them together. In terms of support and variety of options, carrying in an IWB holster has one of the highest choices for options as well as accessories. Whether it’s foam spacers, secondary claws or belt clips, there are plenty of ways to create your perfect carry holster. Another great option about IWB holsters is the consistency of carrying in the same position day in and day out.
Whether it’s upfront in an appendix side or riding on your strong side hip, there’s typically no movement after initially putting it on. I will typically use my pants belt loop as a reference point which makes it extremely easy to train a consistent draw out of the holster every time. The biggest advantage someone can have in a self-defense situation is having a consistent draw and getting the firearm on target as fast as possible. For most individuals, carrying in an IWB holster is the easiest way for a consistent draw but there are other carry options that make it easy to draw quickly with little effort. The IWB group of holsters in my opinion is the jack of all trades that does both concealment and consistency when carrying every day.
2. OWB Carry
In past articles when I talk about various types of carry methods, I always get a few guys talking about Outside The Waistband carry, and for good reason. One of the biggest benefits of carrying in an OWB holster is the overall comfort of this holster style. In the colder months of Michigan, I don’t think you can beat the overall comfort and stability of carrying in an outside the waistband holster. There’s nothing riding inside your pants and in terms of carrying a larger gun comfortably, it cannot be beaten. The major issue with carrying an outside the waistband holster is concealability.
In the summer months, it’s extremely difficult to properly conceal when carrying with just a simple T-shirt and shorts. Some of you will argue it’s completely fine to just pull a shirt over the holster and go on your day. For me though, I think it’s better to be completely concealed when walking around in public. The key to concealed carry is keeping a low profile and having the element of surprise which you ultimately lose if there’s a giant bump on your dominant side. It’s better to play it safe and consider an alternative carry method for summertime.
3. Pocket Carry
Pocket Carry has a special place in my heart since it was my first carry method. I am a bigger guy so I was always hesitant to try out IWB carry since I thought it would be uncomfortable. For the first couple years of carrying concealed, I decided pocket carry was the best route for my lifestyle. Pocket carrying is one of the easiest ways to carry a firearm hassle-free. All it takes is putting a small firearm in a pocket holster and sliding it into your pants. That’s literally all it takes when you go with this carry method but it definitely has some disadvantages.
One of the biggest issues with pocket carry is the size constraints pocket carry puts on your carry firearm. Typically you will be limited to a single stack or one of the small double stack micro guns on the market. During my time as a pocket carrier, Glock 26 was the largest handgun I could typically have in my pocket that keeps it comfortable for any amount of time. Besides the size constraints, it can be rather tricky drawing your handgun from concealment depending on your pants pocket design. Some will be larger while others can be cut differently and its not always easy to pull your firearm from. Its probably the simplest carry method but the size constraints really limit its potential.
4. Shoulder Holsters
I will admit, I carried my stainless 1911 for a full year and over that year period I learned a lot of things. Carrying with a shoulder holster is oftentimes similar to an OWB holster. With one or two cover garments, carrying in a shoulder holster can be a comfortable option for packing a larger firearm daily. With the addition of a cover garment, shoulder holsters can be a very effective option.
Warm weather is the hardest part of carrying in a shoulder holster all year long. It is especially tough to comfortably carry during the hot summer months. Not only do you have the weight of the handgun and spare magazines on your shoulders, but it requires an adequate cover garment. Combine that with the possibility of developing back issues from carrying weight on your shoulders it can be a rather uncomfortable way to carry in hot weather. I will admit it’s a great choice if you drive long distances fairly often since it’s easily accessible while sitting down.
5. Small of Back/Ankle Carry
The final and toughest ways to carry a firearm would be a tie between small of the back carry as well as carrying in an ankle holster. Small of the back carrying offers a comfortable way to carry for larger guys while staying out of the way. The biggest issue with this style of carrying is the lack of concealment as you move around. Whether it’s bending over to pick something up in public or sitting down, it’s fairly common to expose your firearm when you’re in a less than ideal position. There have been a number of police officers who fell on the ground landing on their firearm in a struggle which ultimately left some of these officers with back injuries.
Ankle holsters are probably the least effective method of carrying a primary carry gun. It’s one of the furthest places to conceal a firearm on your body which means your draw time is incredibly slower than other options. Having to quickly bend over grab your gun from your ankle holster and then stand back up in a quick succession is tough, to say the least. Carrying a backup gun in an ankle holster like a number of police officers do every day, is a better option but for a primary carry, there are a number of options that do a better job.
There will always be certain situations where one carry method is more effective than others but as a general overlook, I feel confident in this list. I’m really curious what you guys think when it comes to rating different carry methods. Did your carry method made the list and do you agree where it is on the list? Let me know in the comments below. If you have questions about concealing firearms or just have a firearms-related question feel free to shoot me a message on Instagram @fridgeoperator. Stay safe out there.