"How should I carry my gun?" I get this question nearly every time I’m instructing new shooters. While asking an instructor seems logical enough, the truth is they aren’t qualified to answer that question for anybody other than themselves. Odds are that the two of you have different routines, dress differently, and probably carry different guns. So if you are new to carrying a handgun weigh the pros and cons of at least these four options.
1. Inside the Waistband (IWB)
Inside the waistband is likely the most popular way to carry a gun. While technically anywhere on the inside of your pants is considered “inside the waistband,” when we see this in the gun community, it almost invariantly means at the 4 o'clock position (8 o'clock for you lefties). The pros of this are ease of concealability, and it offers itself to a relatively natural draw.
The cons of IWB aren't many, hence why it's so popular. One might argue that it's not very practical if you need to keep your shirt tucked in. True, J-hook style holster clips can get the job done…but if you don't have enough shirt to tuck in, it's going to be hard to hide the holster hardware. You'll also likely be “printing,” or showing the outline of your pistol. The other main downside is the difficulty to access the gun if you are sitting down, as when you are driving.
2. Outside the Waistband (OWB)
Outside the waistband is another carry position that lands pretty high up on the list. Folks that carry on the outside have the flexibility to put the gun in the most natural draw position possible, and aren't very limited in dress options. If you are considering OWB carry you want to ensure that your barrel doesn't poke below your shirt line, especially when sitting down. If it does, you may need to supplement your outfit with an outer garment like a jacket or a vest.
This brings us to the downside: marriage to that garment. If you plan on walking around a hot store later that day, that garment is going to need to stay on, so plan accordingly. Another potential issue with OWB is that if you carry at the 3 o'clock position your profile will widen at the hip.
Appendix carry is likely the most controversial method of concealing a handgun. I believe the reason it's loved as much as it is hated is that so many factors go into whether the user finds it comfortable or not. For those not familiar with the term, appendix carry is when you position an IWB holster just a few inches left or right of your pants button. Many find it comfortable unless:
You have a little extra "meat" that rests on top of the gun; or
Your pistol's barrel length is too long and pokes you when you sit; or
You have anatomy that is in line with the bore and this makes you uncomfortable.
Of course, this can be mitigated by the size of your carry gun. On the plus side, many people find this position the most comfortable, particularly when seated. Lastly, the shortest path from point A to point B is a straight line, so appendix carry may just speed your draw up because both the gun and your hands have less distance to travel to put your sights on target.
4. Small of Back (SOB)
Small of back carry seems to be one of the least popular carry positions. There are more cons than pros, that's for sure. Let's start with the positive: It's comfortable. Well, at least for someone who spends their day standing or seated leaning a bit forward (bicyclists in particular find this a convenient carry method). However, if you spend a large portion of your time driving, odds are you are going to feel it dig into your back.
The next con is draw speed…or lack thereof. That gun has a long way to go before you can get it on target. Last, that gun is pressed against your spine all day long. If you fall on it, the impact is going to transfer and you can find yourself with nerve damage. I strongly advise trying other carry methods before you settle on sticking your lifeline at 6 o'clock.
While these are four of the most common carry methods remember that we are only scratching the surface. We left out off-body carry, shoulder rigs, ankle holsters, and more. How you carry your gun is a very personal choice, so nobody can truly advise you on what's best. Here we feel the best approach is to present our opinions, support them with facts, and let you decide based on how you dress, what you carry and (of course) your body style. Take your time, try on a few holsters and decide what works best for you.