By George T. Williams
There are two sides to every argument.
A recent argument for the advantages of the inside-the-waistband (IWB) Concealed Appendix Carry came across my virtual desk. The author did a good job making his case for carrying a concealed handgun inside the belt at the belly. There are several distinct advantages to carrying the weapon at the front of the waist rather than at the side or rear on the gun side. But, I won’t carry my concealed handgun in front of my waistband.
My problem with the Concealed Appendix Carry is the NRA’s Firearms Safety Rule #1: Don’t point a firearm at anything you aren’t willing to destroy or kill. Pointing your weapon at your nether region when you draw or holster your handgun is inviting tragedy. And everyone I’ve ever seen when holstering or drawing from the front waistband, including me, directs their muzzles at their important parts. So I don’t do it. Maybe you might want to reconsider your carry options.
Advantages of Concealed IWB Appendix Carry:
As explained in the article, with some modifications, the immediate advantages of the Appendix Carry are:
Greater protection of the weapon. Whether it’s in a crowd or a suspect attacking your weapon, there are biomechanical advantages to protecting your handgun if carried in the front waistband. In a crowd, you need not fear someone bumping into steel as is common when carried on your gun-side hip because people don’t normally collide at belly level face-to-face. If there is a disarm attempt, you are stronger pressing the weapon into your body in front of you than you will be if it is at your side. Additionally, your torso will fold forward during this effort, creating a mechanical block of both your hand(s) and your torso to removing the weapon.
- A more covert deployment. Because there is less tell-tale physical motion in drawing the weapon—the gun-shoulder rising and/or the gun-elbow floating out to the side—it may be far safer to draw in a situation where the larger motion required to draw the handgun from a gun-side carry is likely to provoke fire. Additionally, the non-gun hand’s effort to lift and clear the shirt is far less noticeable.
- Easier to deploy in a fight, either standing or on the ground. If deadly force is needed when locked up with the suspect, either on your feet or, especially if grappling, the Appendix Carry permits safer and quicker draws than traditional gun-side carry positions.
Note: In this single point, I disagree. Teaching defensive tactics for more than 30 years and Tactical Duty Knife classes since 2000 where officers are trained to draw weapons in deadly force situations during intense physical conflict, there is no real problem with drawing from a gun-side carry position (other than the suspect fouling the draw in some manner). However, drawing from an Appendix Carry can be problematic based on the context of the fight and the body position of the officer. If the officer’s torso is curled forward from effort or simply by positioning, then the Appendix Carry is a much more difficult draw for the same biomechanics that make it superior for weapon retention—the torso blocks the draw from the holster. Additionally, if the suspect fouls the draw as or after the weapon leaves the holster and the weapon is pressed against the officer’s belly, the officer is now a five- to eight-pound trigger press from being disemboweled (Rule #1).
- The Appendix Carry is faster than any other carry position. There is no question of its speed compared to other concealed carry positions. Because of its more central positioning, there is less travel time for both hands. The non-gun hand lifts the shirt on the midline and the gun hand moves naturally forward to the grip. It is much faster than gun-side carry where the non-gun hand must travel across the body to lift the shirt while the gun hand (and shoulder) must make larger, longer moves to first reach the handgun, then lift it far enough for the muzzle to clear the holster.
- The Appendix Carry is easier to conceal. Unless obese, the Appendix Carry is less likely to print through a shirt, especially if the shirt is untucked. It’s not even close to other waist carry options for concealment.
- There are both advantages and disadvantages of IWB appendix carry. The first problem is a violation of the first rule of gun safety.
Appendix Carry and the Possibility of Unintentional Discharges
The first firearms rule we all learn is to point the muzzle of a weapon in a safer direction. That means that no matter if it fires either intentionally or unintentionally, no one—including the shooter—will be inadvertently injured. I’ve learned this after a long life: having any firearm pointed at any part of me is not a good idea. Pointing it at a region of my body that is critical to survival is worse.
On the first day of 7th grade wood shop, our teacher, Mr. Burroughs, told us to look at each of the machines in the shop. He said each machine had an “automatic cut-off feature”: Any part of our body that machine touched, it cut off automatically. Having never matured beyond junior high school (so my loving wife tells me), I think of the muzzle of any weapon in the same fashion: Any part of my body or anyone else’s it points at, it shoots off.
The IWB Appendix Carry puts the muzzle to an area that contains your femoral triangle as well as your…parts. The femoral triangle is the area from your pubic bone (actually, inguinal line) down the inside front of the leg to approximately four inches below, and includes your femoral artery, vein, and nerve, as well as your great saphenous vein. A gunshot wound to this area is extremely dangerous and a very real threat to life. A contact wound to this area, where not only the bullet but the muzzle blast and gases enter into the wound, will likely blow this area apart (at least internally), creating an even greater survival challenge.
If an unintentional discharge occurs when holstering or drawing, it could result in a fatal wound. If that round happened to miss the vital femoral triangle, it still will likely hit and destroy some or all of the shooter’s reproductive organs. In either case, taking a self-inflicted round to the femoral region or to one’s package is not a good way to begin a gunfight—or end a day at the range or home or station.
Many Dismiss the Possibility of Their Having a UD
Dismissing the possibility of an unintentional discharge (UD) when pointing a firearm’s muzzle at your package or femoral triangle is disingenuous and arrogant. Every time a handgun is handled, there is a possibility of a UD especially when drawing and holstering. Discounting that, saying, “Just keep your finger off the trigger and it won’t go off,” is absolutely, 100 percent correct. It’s also prideful. And wishful thinking gets people killed. Arrogance, like alcohol and firearms, gets folks hurt.
Thinking that one is immune to UDs presupposes you will be perfect each and every time you handle a weapon. Perfection: that quality of being free from all flaws or imperfections; completely faultless. That means perfect awareness; perfect action; perfect control. No mistake. Ever. There’s a real hitch in that get-along thought: We aren’t perfect, we’re human beings. And that goes with our weapon handling. “It’ll never happen to me. I always keep my finger off the trigger,” is betting your life you are just that good—every time, no matter what is about to, is currently, or has just happened. That’s why the first rule is about keeping the muzzle in a safer direction and is the most important failsafe. If the weapon goes off unexpectedly/unintentionally, no one is injured.
I’ve watched experienced guys to include “operators” on the range—where everyone is supposed to be super safe—dig at their holsters with the muzzle of their weapons. And not just once, but repeatedly poke and prod around with the weapon angled into the gut until they can finally get the handgun holstered. One mistake and the contact shot would functionally eviscerate them. A contact shot to the femoral would likely be non-survivable. A contact shot to one’s package might make one hope it was non-survivable.
Fundamentally, the IWB Appendix Carry automatically points at parts when holstering (and while drawing). With guys I’ve brought this up to, they swear they never do that, that they actually suck in their gut and point the weapon forward as they holster. They even demo their belly-dancing moves accompanying their holstering. Yeah, that’s all good until they don’t, which is all the time except when they’re lying to themselves and explaining how they never do what I just saw them repeatedly do. Video can be a great learning tool and irrefutable proof.
I’ll continue to carry on the waistband at 4 to 5 o’clock (or carry a snubbie .357 in my pocket holster), knowing full well that I will be slower to draw, that it is more difficult to conceal, that it is harder to retain (which is why I always carry my Benchmade Model 810 on my non-gun hand side), and all of the other reasons given as to why the Appendix Carry is superior.
And while I’d like to believe that I am conscious and on top of my game each and every time I handle a weapon, I refuse to assume that I will be perfect and absolutely focused each time I handle a handgun, especially in those times when I am under threat and have other things to do. One of the very few benefits of being in my dotage is that my arrogance has taken a sufficient number of hits over the years. I’ve acted unthinkingly enough times that I understand there can be fierce consequences to being intentionally blind through pride. Instead of thinking, “It’ll never happen to me,” I think, “If things go wrong, what’s likely to happen?” After all, Murphy is a loyal friend who I’ve always tried to ditch, but he’s stuck by my side my whole life. Since I’ve adopted this less arrogant thinking, I believe I’ve been safer with my weapons. Now if only I could work on the other areas of my life where arrogance is blinding me to the fierce consequences of my unthinking actions. PM
George T. Williams is the Director of Training for Cutting Edge Training in Bellingham, Wash. He has been a Police Training Specialist for more than three decades, as well as an expert witness in federal and state courts nationwide and a widely published author for more than two decades. Mr. Williams develops and presents revolutionary concepts within integrated force training solutions through a problem-solving format, functionalizing police skills and tactical training. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.