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  1. #1

    AIWB (Appendix Carry)

    (from a series originally begun at firearmstrainingandtactics.com)

    Because it has become a topic of discussion -- both intelligent and otherwise -- lately, with your indulgence and at the suggestion of one of the FT&T owners, it seemed a thread devoted to AIWB was called for.

    My personal journey with AIWB began, you could say, many years ago. A friend, whose name is Chris, was serving in a SOF role in Afganistan and was home on leave when we decided to hit the range. He was carrying a Glock 19 in an appendix holster and, like any right-thinking adult male, my immediate reaction was: you are the stupidest person I've ever met, and when you blow your dick off, I will be laughing too hard to render aid.

    Chris, who had been carrying that way for many years both at home and overseas, extolled its many virtues. I, who had been using my penis recreationally for even longer, could not come to terms with the concept.

    Fast forward a few years. Chris is home again, now working for an OGA, and still carrying aiwb. Through his influence, a mutual friend -- Ernest Langdon -- decides to try it and has a CCC Looper made for himself with a straight cant. Ernest begins carrying that way daily and repeatedly tells me how much he prefers it. Simultaneously, another close friend -- who was on a full-time federal tactical team with both domestic and overseas operational responsibilities -- also goes back to aiwb carry, which he used for years when he was with NYPD.

    Giving in to peer pressure I tried aiwb. At first, it was something I only did with an empty gun around the house to get a feel for the technique as well as to convince myself that I could do it safely consistently. I was lucky enough to have a number of aiwb holsters land on my doorstep and began to compare them to figure out what characteristics seemed to spell the difference between a truly great aiwb and also-rans.

    At the same time, I was able to talk to and train with a number of people who had a lot of experience with aiwb carry. I also started to integrate my techniques into an aiwb mode, or develop new ones that were more appropriate for aiwb.

    Now that I have been carrying this way for about three years, I am convinced it is the best solution for me, for a wide range of reasons:

    • Concealability
    • Comfort
    • Security
    • Speed

    I'll discuss each of those in more detail in later posts.

    Of course, the major negative to aiwb is that if you fuck up, you will die. Most people understand this on an innate level, but it cannot be overstated. While you may just blow your testicles off, you are far more likely to shoot yourself in the femoral and bleed out before anyone can help you.

    Say again: if you fuck up, you will die.

    Reholstering takes on a whole new level of seriousness with aiwb carry. While there are a number of tweaks to your technique that can help minimize the risk, the most important point to remember is that you have essentially zero margin of error so going slowly trumps looking cool. I've had students in class who were told to slow down their aiwb reholstering or they'd be kicked out of class.

    Or as one student put it: "Every time I holster my gun, I tell myself don't kill yourself first."

    Carrying aiwb isn't for everyone. There is absolutely nothing wrong with someone who is uncomfortable with carrying this way. It is not a badge of honor or an indication of skill. It doesn't make you cool. Chicks don't dig it. It's simply an option with benefits and costs, like any other carry method.
    Last edited by ToddG; 02-26-2011 at 06:02 PM.

  2. #2
    A Very Brief Historical Perspective

    With the uptick in popularity of aiwb lately, there is a perception that it's relatively new. Nothing could be further from the truth.

    The ubiquitous Milt Sparks Summer Special, first developed by Bruce Nelson while he was working undercover, was originally an appendix holster (for a Colt Commander). That's right, the granddaddy of IWB was an appendix rig. AIWB was used extensively -- with and without a holster -- by many plainclothes and UC law enforcement officers for a very long time.

    Its popularity waned with competition, particularly in IDPA where holster position was dictated as being behind the right-left centerline of the body, and in IPSC/USPSA where concealment was completely abandoned. (It's worth noting that many USPSA competitors still wear their guns forward of the hip)

    Among certain crowds, though, the aiwb concept never lost favor... mostly among people who operate in non-permissive environments.

    While there's a perception that aiwb's popularity spurt happened recently, there are threads at places such as Total Protection Interactive going back more than five years discussing it in detail. Those threads credit people going back years further.

    If there has been a major change in recent times, it's the resurgence of interest from holster makers who now offer far more practical, concealable, and comfortable aiwb holsters... in particular, they offer aiwb holsters that work with the kind of larger (G19 and bigger) ccw guns that are popular among the internet forum crowd.

  3. #3

    While safety is obviously an important part of everything we do with firearms, the risk -- as Jay explained -- is different with aiwb because, stop me if you've heard this before, if you fuck up you die.

    The first step to safe aiwb carry, then, is a sober and honest self-assessment. Right off the bat, if the idea of carrying aiwb doesn't freak you out a bit, you're probably too cavalier. If you're the kind of person whose friends describe him as scatterbrained or accident prone, aiwb might not be for you. If being told "aiwb isn't for you" gets your hackles up and bruises your ego, AIWB IS PROBABLY NOT FOR YOU. Choosing to carry aiwb because it has many practical advantages is fine; choosing to do it because you think it's cool is just setting yourself up for a bloody accident.

    Next, you need to select a good holster. I'll discuss holster design and selection in more detail later, but the major factor in terms of safety is that the holster absolutely must remain rigid when the gun is drawn. You must be able to reholster the gun smoothly without having to wiggle the muzzle back and forth.

    Gun selection is also a factor. Simple reality: the easier a gun is to shoot, the easier it is to shoot accidentally. This is true regardless of holster position, actually. A gun with a manual safety, or a gun with a hammer you can ride and control while holstering, provides a mechanical means of limiting the odds of an accident. A gun without these features (or when those features aren't used) won't give you any warning until you hear the Big Noise.

    So you've got your holster and your gun. Next, my advice is to spend a week or so wearing the clear (empty, no bullets) gun, or a blue/red gun, in your aiwb around the house. Get the feel for drawing and most importantly reholstering the pistol in a safe manner. Assume that the first time you step outside with a live gun in your aiwb holster, you're going to get in a very stressful fight and then need to holster the gun in the dark while you're shaking from a massive adrenaline dump. If you don't feel comfortable doing that without hurting yourself, don't walk out the door with a live gun in your aiwb holster.

    Drawing: From a safety standpoint, the key points of drawing from aiwb are to keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target (you've probably heard that in other contexts than aiwb, right?) and get the muzzle pointing forward -- away from yourself -- as early as possible.

    Holstering: The major concern -- and rightfully so -- is putting the gun back in the holster without shooting yourself. Personally, I teach the following approach:

    1. Come to a hard break after the last shot is fired. A "hard break" is a complete cessation of movement of the pistol somewhere between full extension and the holster, muzzle in a safe direction. At the hard break, you positively, consciously verify that your trigger finger is outside the trigger guard and in whatever register position you choose. If you want to scan, this is a convenient place to do it. But if you're not going to scan, you still need to freeze the gun and be absolutely certain your trigger finger is clear. Some people literally say to themselves, "Don't shoot yourself" at this point... which isn't too bad an idea.
    2. Look along the path the gun is going to take back to the holster. Visually verify that there is nothing that will snag your trigger. In particular, be aware of zippers, pull ties, shirt flaps, retention straps, etc.
    3. As the pistol enters the holster mouth, push the grip of the gun in towards your gut so that the muzzle angles forward. This should provide the safest path in the event everything else goes wrong and the bad noise happens. (if your pistol has a safety you engage before holstering, do so; if you have a hammer-fired gun, ride the hammer with your thumb to block its movement in case the trigger gets snagged)
    4. Insert the gun into the holster slowly and with as little force as possible. If you feel any unusual resistance, stop, look, and assess.

    The shorthand version is: Break, Look, Angle.

    This isn't really a whole lot different than the way you would holster in any other position. However, because the risk of serious injury is greater in the event of a mistake, it's worth being very purposeful, conscious, and "reluctant" as some posters have said.

    I cannot stress this enough: if the above list of steps seems onerous, time consuming, or unnecessary to you, DO NOT CARRY AIWB. All of the perceived advantages in the world are not worth killing yourself over holster position.

  4. #4
    Was hoping this forum would be better than others, but when you have no clue to abbr. of even the title its a failure to beginner shooters.
    Randy P.

    About Me

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by randypollock View Post
    Was hoping this forum would be better than others, but when you have no clue to abbr. of even the title its a failure to beginner shooters.
    Fair point. Fixed the title!

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by ToddG View Post
    Fair point. Fixed the title!
    I wasn't trying to be a jerk...but I was very hopeful that this tech saavy looking forum would be different than many gun sites.

    I'm a techie who works in the industry and have started to have fun with guns from getting my CCW and shooting every other week, still miss my M-16 from the Air Force, but an AR is in my future...any way.

    It hasn't bee easy to overcome my fear, not of guns but the people who you have to deal with to get knowledge (or hardware)

    From my experience with Gun "web folks" I have a few biases that I am trying to get over.

    They are

    1. The smug old timers who hate everyone unless you were an ex special forces with at least three deep penetrating wounds as scars.

    2. The websites and forums from the mid 90s that have dancing gifs and discuss nothing but their hatred for plastic guns

    3. Websites and forums that can't help newbies (like me)...I'm in my early forties and to be honest the biggest issue of learning to shoot wasn't the money, or information on the web...it's the un friendly folks at the clubs or the range ... or the gun shop you go in and it goes quiet until you leave. One day all the "experts" are going to die or have to be spoon feed in a home.

    Then what?

    Ok, I've hijacked the thread sorry...I'll hush.

    (but I do feel better...going to the range most of the locals are gone now)
    Randy P.

    About Me

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    N. Georgia
    This thread is very helpful. Most of all I learned you can say FUCK on this forum without repercussions.

    I am already a fan of AIWB. Unfortunately, I'm too short and soft in the middle to fully utilize this method of carry.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    Columbus, GA
    Quote Originally Posted by ToddG View Post
    if you have a hammer-fired gun, ride the hammer with your thumb to block its movement in case the trigger gets snagged
    This is actually one of the main things that's kept me with hammer-fired guns so far. I like having that little bit of extra safety margin during administrative handling, even though I don't carry AIWB.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    Columbus, GA
    Quote Originally Posted by randypollock View Post
    From my experience with Gun "web folks" I have a few biases that I am trying to get over.
    Best thing you can do is ask when you have questions. I'm not involved with running things here, but given the way Todd's run PTC, the people helping him here, and the names I recognize from elsewhere, it's pretty safe to say people will try to help where possible.

  10. #10
    Folks, let's try to keep the discussion in this thread to AIWB carry methods, techniques, and issues.

    Randy was dead nuts right the initial post was vague (that's what I get for doing a cut-and-paste without thinking it through). But a discussion about gun shops and the online gun community probably belongs in the Romper Room section.




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