Yes, Thousand of Thugs CAN Be Wrong (A Critical Look at Appendix Carry)

Posted at 7:42 am on May 05, 2014 by Stephen Wenger

About a year ago, a firearms instructor whose readership I assume is much greater than mine posted a blog entry entitled “Appendix Carry… Thousand of Thugs Can’t Be Wrong!” I took the time to read it, in part because back problems had earlier led me to move my revolvers from 4:30 and 7:30 on the belt to 1:30 and 10:30. (These face-of-the-clock designations are based on the assumption that your navel faces 12:00.)

I recall a 1991 conversation with a Filipino cop (whom I suspect still holds that country’s national record for drug dealers buried as the result of handgun “contests” with him). He queried me on why American cops prefer the so-called FBI position – typically between 3:30 and 4:30 for a right-hander – for plainclothes and off duty carry. Traditional Asian martial arts teach the carry of short-bladed weapons in what gunners call appendix or front-crossdraw positions – typically around 1:30 or 11:00 for a right-hander. A weapon sheathed in those positions is very easy to defend against a disarming attempt. An added factor for Filipino cops of the lower ranks is that many travel to and from work by bus and feel that FBI carry leaves them vulnerable to a disarming attempt from behind as they climb aboard a crowded bus.

I was trained with FBI carry and always found that it gave me a very efficient draw stroke. However, I appreciated that FBI carry and the holsters canted for that position are often poor matches for female physique – particularly with duty-size pistols – and that many women are more comfortable carrying up front, in the aforementioned appendix or front-crossdraw positions. When it came time for me to make the change, I was prepared as I had persuaded a holster maker (who prefers to remain anonymous) to design an inside-the-waistband (IWB) holster with a straight drop, allowing some of my female students discreet carry of short-barrel revolvers in the appendix position. As a result, I already had both right-and left-handed holsters available for such use.

Acutely aware of the need to reprogram my draw reflexes (right and left hands), I immediately noticed that, despite still having a flat belly, I cannot truly acquire a full firing grip while the guns are holstered. Fortuitously, the rounded contours of the revolvers and their grips provide a channel that allows my thumb to initiate the draw stroke, allowing the firing grip very shortly after the guns start moving out of their holsters. As I prefer to start any draw by moving to the protected-gun position alongside my rib cage, the initial rearward movement of the gun is confluent with my draw but I make no claim that drawing from the appendix position is faster than drawing from the FBI position. On the other hand, the guns are much easier to defend from a disarming attempt, particularly as I carry two on the belt and it usually take two hands for the effective defense of one gun.

Living where I do, I do not usually have to disarm for medical appointments and I have had one provider ask me if I did not feel uncomfortable with guns holstered with the muzzles indexed toward my groin. I pointed out to him that I carry double-action-only revolvers and that, short of something such as a blast of lightning igniting a primer, they are not going to fire while holstered. However…

Because my own training and subsequent teaching has involved drawing, firing and reholstering from a variety of seated and unconventional ground positions, I am very mindful of the risks of crossing my own iliac and femoral arteries while drawing and reholstering in a seated position. I don’t care take those risks with a pistol with a short-stroke trigger and no separate thumb safety (e.g., a Glock) and question the proliferation of instructors and holster makers who – perhaps unwittingly – seem to be encouraging people to take precisely those risks. A while back, I posted a comment in one such instructor’s blog, asking if he and the earlier posters of comments ever drew and reholstered from other than the standing position and expressing my concern. I got one reply that reholstering while seated was not a concern because most people reholster too hurriedly anyway (?). I have a longstanding issue with what I view as range mentality.

Consider this scenario: You are forced to a stop while driving and reasonably perceive sufficient threat to draw your handgun. The threat subsides momentarily, allowing you to drive away without firing a shot. What do you do with your gun? Try to steer and shift gears with gun in hand? Place it on the passenger seat, where it may go flying if you find that you’re being pursued and either make evasive turns at speed or sustain an impact from behind? Reholster hurriedly?

About those thousands of thugs who are teaching us the pros of appendix carry… Most scrupulously avoid the use of holsters as the presence of a holster serves as evidence that they have been carrying a firearm illegally. I have been scouring the internet for firearm-related news for years and have lost track of the number of incidents in which some of those thugs have shot themselves in the legs or more sensitive parts of the anatomy while carrying or stuffing a pistol into the waistband in the appendix position, with no holster to cover the trigger area.