Carrying Concealed: Inside & Outside-the-waistband

There are a lot of different firearms designed for concealed carry. Yet without a method of actually carrying them, the firearm just sits in a drawer or box, never used for its intended purpose.


Clever people have devised a myriad of ways to carry a gun.  Each style of carry has benefits and drawbacks. Your circumstances, gun and style of dress all have an influence on what works for you.

Two of the most popular ways of carrying a concealed firearm are generally classified as outside-the-waistband and inside-the-waistband.

OWB – OWB, or outside-the-waistband, is one of the more common ways of carrying a handgun. The gun is carried on the waistline of the body and requires some type of cover garment to conceal the gun and holster. The cover garment can be an untucked shirt or jacket.


A variety of positions are available when carrying OWB. One of the most popular is the strong side carry where the gun is carried on the strong hip in the three o’clock position. Many people will move the gun slightly off the hip and to the rear, which can allow the gun to pull in tighter against the body and conceal better.

These positions offer comfort for carrying the pistol, especially for long periods of time. Many times training classes are set up with the assumption that the students will be drawing from this position.

Another version of OWB carry is the cross draw. A cross draw holster is carried on the reaction, or weak, side of the body (the non-gun hand side.) The gun’s butt is pointing forward, and the carrier reaches across the front of his or her body to grab the pistol.


Some people consider the cross draw to be slow. Others suggest this style could be dangerous as the grip end of the gun is facing your attacker. However, this style of carry is great for people seated in an automobile. For long road trips or even local couriers, this could be a good option.

Carrying a pistol in the small of the back is a somewhat popular form of OWB.  Some people really like this method of carry, but it does put a hard metal object at the base of your spine. At the very least, this can be uncomfortable for sitting. Should you ever fall on your back (ever walk on black ice?), your pistol could cause serious injury to your nervous system.

IWB – Inside-the-waistband, or IWB, is a style of carry where the gun’s holster rides between the body and pant. A cover garment is still needed, but the lower portion of the gun will not be exposed if the garment rides up at all.

IWB is frequently considered superior to OWB from the perspective of concealment, but with the drawback of being less comfortable since the gun is held tight and directly against the body.  Comfort can often be increased by finding a good holster and by wearing pants one size up from your normal size.

Typically, the gun is carried on the strong side just behind the hip.  However, a subset of IWB carry is the appendix carry. This is where the gun is carried on the strong side of the body, between the midline and hip.


Appendix carry is considered more comfortable that behind the hip IWB to many people. Some people feel it is faster to draw from the appendix position as well.  However, a drawback is the gun’s position is more likely to cause serious injury if a negligent discharge happens.

When sitting, the muzzle of the gun carried in an appendix holster may press uncomfortably into the thigh. Guns with short barrels have an advantage here.

Another variation on the IWB carry is accomplished using a tuckable holsters.  These holsters are designed so that the wearer can tuck a shirt in on top of the gun and holster, concealing them from view without the need of additional cover garments.  These holsters can work very well, but work best with smaller guns.

“Wait,” you might be saying.  “There are other methods of carrying!” You would be absolutely correct. I’ll explore some of those next week. In the meantime, feel free to share your own preferred carry methods and what holsters you’ve had good luck with in the comments below.  Everyone benefits when you share your experiences.

Note:  Thanks to Galco Gunleather for the photos showing OWB and IWB style holsters.

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