Todd Green, the guy over at pistol-training.com and pistol-forum.com, has probably done more than anyone to popularize AIWB carry. He freely admits that it is not for everyone. On his forum he has a sticky post on AIWB that covers many of the issues of this increasingly popular mode of carry. It’s well worth the read; the key point, that he repeats several times, is this: if you fuck up you will die. Because while an ND when re-holstering into a hip holster may possibly graze the femoral artery, it’s not totally likely to (not that you can’t otherwise seriously injure yourself). But an ND when re-holstering into an AIWB holster sends the bullet into the artery-rich environment of your lower abdomen…and some other important (and painful) things that reside there. There’s no need to go over ground that Todd already has, but herein an observation about why AIWB may or may not work for you.
It’s faster to draw from, or can be faster once you re-program yourself. But in order to achieve that speed you need to carry the gun such that the front strap of the grip is enough above your belt that you can get a master grip on the gun as soon as you make contact with it. This position is shown below with the excellent “The George” holster from JM Custom Kydex (which is shown in the high ride position – you can see the loop holes for the low ride alternative position in the pic). The downside of carrying your handgun this high is that it leaves less of a lever beneath the belt to keep the gun in place and to prevent the ammo-weighted, top-heavy stock of the gun from flopping out away from your body. If your belly isn’t completely flat, as it is on the model, your belly overhang also adds leverage that pushes the gun’s butt out and away from the body.
I prefer to carry AIWB with the front strap just about on the belt line. The photo below is me with an M&P in an excellent phlster Access holster, set up for a lower carry (the Access is height-adjustable if you want to carry higher). In this position I sacrifice some speed for concealment and security (that is, no flopping), but that’s the compromise I must make given my body type (Because Carly Simon was, indeed, singing about me, my gut was sucked in for this picture, at a time that I was 10 pounds heavier than I am now).
The lesson here is that you need to determine just how important improved draw times are for you in terms of moving to AIWB, and that, like any other mode of carry, you will probably have to experiment with several holsters before you find the one that’s just right for you.
UPDATE – Just chatted with Tony Mayer, the owner of JM Custom. He adds: I recommend adding length to the holster for anything under a 4″ barreled pistol; it keeps it from “rolling out” and let’s you get it above the belt enough for a good grip. Tony has an “extra tuck” option on his AIWB holsters that does just that, and a comments section on his order form that he actually reads! Lotta of the best shooters out there use JM stuff – I’m just getting turned on to it even though I ain’t in that club. I have to say that his canted AIWB mag pouches, which I have used (pictured below) are fantastic.
Finally: I’ll hit this point often and hard: if you carry a gun for self-defense, you have to know the law. Invest the money you’d spend on shaving a tenth of a second off your splits with Andrew Branca’s book or seminars — it’ll pay far greater dividends. Visit this link to learn more, and use the discount code “streetstandards” for a 10% discount.