Here are 5 concealed carry positions to keep your firearm at hand and you comfortable in the process.
What Are The Concealed Carry Positions:
That handgun you have for personal protection is worthless if it’s not on your person. In order to use it to save your life you have to have it with you. Unfortunately, there’s no good way to carry a handgun; the best and most comfortable way is in your hand, but we cannot walk around with a gun in our hand all the time. So, we look to various carry methods and holster styles to help us “pack iron,” as they used to say. Though, in today’s world, that saying might need to be altered to “packing plastic.”
There are essentially five techniques for carrying a defensive handgun in a holster, and there’s a specific holster style best suited to each technique. As a concealed carrier, you must decide which system best suits your lifestyle and body type. It needs to be as comfortable as possible, but each carry style has pros and cons—beyond comfort—that must be considered. Even though you might find a particular style comfy, it might not be the best choice for the way you live.
I reached out to Galco Gunleather and asked for five of their best-selling concealment holsters for the Sig Sauer P365, one for each of the most popular concealed carry positions. Here’s a look at those holsters along with some things that need to be considered with each carry mode.
Outside the Waistband (OWB) Carry
Most will agree the OWB carry is the most accessible and comfortable method of carry. All you really need to make it happen is a belt. However, OWB carry is the most difficult to conceal and requires a serious belt for optimum security and holster stability. With ultra-compact guns, you might manage concealment with an extra-long untucked shirt, or a similarly long vest or jacket, but it’ll require vigilance on your part to keep the gun hidden at all times.
Most who carry OWB do so on their strong side. If 12 o’clock is your belt buckle, something between 3 and 4 o’clock is the most common holster position. However, some also carry in the cross-draw position, which puts the holster somewhere between 9 and 11 o’clock. For those who spend a great deal of time in a vehicle, cross-draw can be a comfortable alternative. However, with cross-draw, a holster with some reward cant is preferred.
There are hundreds of styles of OWB holsters, but most of them resemble something like the Galco Stinger ($69). This is a fitted holster that’ll securely hold the gun in place during normal activity. Due to the compactness of the P365, this style holster makes the gun a bit easier to conceal than a larger handgun like a Glock 17 or Colt 1911. Of all the carry styles, OWB offers the easiest access to your handgun. Ideally, choose a holster like the Stinger that’s form fitted and holds the handgun securely. Otherwise, consider a holster with a thumb retention strap.
Inside the Waistband (IWB) Carry
Inside the waistband carry is likely the most popular concealed carry position. In most cases, a belt is required, but it doesn’t have to be as substantial as a belt worn for OWB carry. What IWB carry does necessitate is a pant size that’s about a half to a full size larger than normal because the holster and gun must fit between your body and your waistband; dress pants with an elastic waistband or jeans with a bit of stretch are ideal. Access is almost as easy as OWB carry, and concealment can often be accomplished with an untucked shirt—even a T-shirt—vest or jacket.
Just as with OWB carry, there are many different styles of IWB holsters. A style that has become very common is represented by the Galco KingTuk Classic ($79), where a form-fitted holster is attached to a leather pad fitted with belt keepers. Many carriers find this design comfortable because the pad spreads the body/holster contact over a larger area. The primary downside to IWB carry is that many of the IWB holsters are difficult to put on or take off. In some cases, the process might require you to halfway undress. And, as with OWB and appendix carry, going to the restroom for a sit-down visit requires some problem solving.
IWB Appendix Carry
Carrying a handgun in the appendix position—in the front of your waist just left or right of your belly button—has become very popular. Mostly exercised with those who have a trim physique, it offers very fast access and easy concealment with an untucked shirt. However, it can be damn near impossible to draw a handgun from appendix carry if you’re bent over, and bending over or crouching is synonymous with fighting. If you happen to get knocked down and find someone over top of you and beating on you, you might find it near impossible to draw your handgun.
Appendix carry holsters are also IWB holsters, and a good appendix holster like the Galco Scout 3.0 ($89) is small and trim so that it’ll induce the least amount of bulk inside your pants. Most have a clip or single snap to facilitate on and off, and many can also be used strong side or weak side as a traditional IWB holster.
For more information on the best concealed carry holster check out:
- What Is The Best Concealed Carry Holster?
- Shoulder Holster: 8 Pro Up-Top Carry Options
- 5 Things You Must Know About A Concealed Carry Holster
- Buckling Up The Basics Of Gun Belts
- Concealed Carry 101: Holsters for Women
- 7 Pocket Holster Options For Easy Everyday Carry
- Pros And Cons Of The Appendix Carry Holster
Compact guns can be carried in ankle holsters, and modern ankle holsters are very secure. However, if you spend most of your day on your feet or if you have a very active lifestyle, ankle carry can become cumbersome. It also obviously requires long pants. On the other hand, if your day is mostly spent seated or in a vehicle, ankle carry may not be a bad idea. Traditionally, it has been the method of preferred carry for a backup or second gun. Lots of police officers carry a backup gun in this manner. When I worked the street, I carried a Glock 22 in a duty holster and a Glock 27 on my ankle. The 27 would work with my duty magazines, which made it even more practical.
Best Starter Kit for Concealed Carry:
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A high-quality ankle holster like the Galco Ankle Glove ($130) will have a retention strap. This keeps the gun secure should you become engaged in a robust physical activity. Velcro is the primary method of securing an ankle holster to your leg, but your ankle size needs to be taken into consideration. As a cop, I wore an ankle holster, but I have skinny ankles. To make it work, I always wore boots with by patrol uniform. This provided more bulk to better secure the holster; if you have trim and skinny ankles or like to wear skinny jeans, an ankle holster isn’t for you.
Of all the holster styles out there, don’t skimp when it comes to an ankle holster. You can get by OK with lesser-quality OWB and IWB holsters, but with an ankle holster, spend the money. Additionally, for trips to the porcelain throne, ankle and shoulder holsters present the least problems.
Shoulder Holster Carry
Popularized by the 1980s Miami Vice television series, shoulder holsters may be one of the most overlooked carry methods. Obviously, they require a cover garment/jacket for concealment, but they provide ease of access from almost any position. If you’re a suit and tie kind of guy, they make sense, just keep in mind that with a shoulder holster you must keep your jacket on to maintain concealment regardless of how warm or uncomfortable you may get.
Non-custom shoulder holsters can cost between $50 and $250. They’re also offered with the handgun supported horizontally or vertically. Horizontal carry offers easier access, and vertical carry seems to work best for large handguns. The best of the bunch will have a thumb retention device to hold the handgun securely and clips to attach the holster to your belt for added rigidity. Most also come with either a single or double magazine pouch. This offers a great way to carry extra ammunition and kind of balances the weight.
And weight is a consideration. It takes some time to get used to wearing a shoulder holster, especially when filled with a 30-plus ounce handgun. The Galco Classic Lite Shoulder Holster for the SIG P365 retails for $120 and would be considered middle of the road with regard to quality and expense.
Other Concealed Carry Positions
There are other less-than-traditional carry methods. Fanny packs can be an alternative, and the new Fastrax Pac Waistpack ($89-$99) from Galco is one of the best options. A distinct advantage they offer is that they’re easy to put on or take off. Pocket carry can be employed with ultra-compact handguns, and in reality, it’s not a bad technique. But you won’t do it successfully with trim-fitting jeans, and it’s not as accessible as holster carry; you could get into a situation where you’re unable to get your hand into your pocket to get your gun out. If you’re going to pocket carry, consider a pocket holster to help conceal the gun and keep it properly positioned inside your pocket.
And finally, there’s off-body carry like with a purse or a holster that’s attached to your car. Purse carry is very popular for women, and while it has its detractors—if someone steals your purse, they steal your gun—it’s a solid option for women without altering their style of dress to carry more traditionally. And, a variety of holster manufacturers like Galco also offer purses specifically designed for handgun carry. If you’re going to carry in a purse, select one configured for that job—don’t just shove your pistol in any old handbag.
As for vehicle holsters, they’re a great way to make handgun access easier while you’re riding in your car; with some vehicles, it can be difficult to access a gun carried in one of the five carry methods mentioned. However, leaving a handgun in a vehicle isn’t a great idea due to theft concerns. Vehicle holsters are best utilized as a way to keep your handgun accessible while you’re in your car. When you get out of your car, you should transition the handgun to your desired on-body carry method.
Finding the Right Answer
Many interested in concealed carry, select the gun before the holster or carry method. This often results in a situation where the carrier finds that the gun selected is difficult or uncomfortable to keep on all day. Ideally, the process should start with you deciding where and how you want to carry the gun, and then you can begin looking at holsters and guns that allow that to be done in the most comfortable manner. Remember, if you’re not carrying your handgun it cannot save you.
And finally, it should go without saying that you need to practice drawing/presenting your handgun from whatever concealed carry position you decide upon. It’s highly unlikely you’ll ever have to face down an adversary at high noon at 20 steps iconized by Western movies. But if you do need to induce a handgun into a fight it is highly likely that you’ll need to do it in a hurry. Find a handgun, holster and carry method that fits your lifestyle, that’s comfortable and that permits quick and easy access.
Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the EDC 2020 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.