Running the Numbers on AIWB Carry.

So, I’ve lately been having some second thoughts about appendix carry.  Like most of my second thoughts, these were occasioned by a really crappy practice session.  Without going into too many details*, I had occasion to wonder whether this whole AIWB thing was really for me.

So, I decided to run some numbers.  This afternoon, I ran three drills using the same gun, once from the CCC Looper AIWB holster, then again from the CCC Quick Cover strong-side IWB holster.  The results were interesting.

The first drill was simple.  2 shots on a 6″ circle at 7 yards, from the holster, freestyle, repeat 10x.  Average first shot time from the strong-side holster was 1.71 seconds, with one miss.  With the AIWB, average first shot ran to 1.63 seconds with 2 misses.  Oddly, I managed to let my cover garment screw up my draw twice from the strong side, which didn’t help the time at all.

The second drill was intended to test reloading speed.  Draw, fire 1 shot, reload from slide lock, then fire 2 more shots.  Same target, same distance.  I ran this drill 5 times with each holster.  From the strong-side holster, I averaged a 2.03sec. reload.  From the AIWB, I was averaging 2.40sec., about half a second slower.  This is consistent with reports from other people who run AIWB with a closed-front cover garment.

The last drill was just to draw and fire two shots, strong hand only.  Again, I used the same 6″ target at 7 yards.  And again, the AIWB holster was a little slower, averaging 2.51 seconds for the first shot, vs. 2.06 seconds from the strong-side IWB.  Again, this tracks pretty well with what other AIWB shooters have reported.

More after the break.

So, some conclusions.  We’re gonna do this Consumers Review style, SS-IWB vs. AIWB:

Speed of Presentation: AIWB by a smidgen. My freestyle draw was about a tenth of a second faster from the AWIB holster.  Not a huge advantage, but there you go.  It’s probably worth noting that on two of my ten strong side draws, I grabbed a handful of shirt along with my gun.  Subtract those two draws from the average, and my strong side draw pulls even with my AIWB draw.  Worth thinking about.

Speed of Presentation Strong Hand Only: SS-IWB. It’s much easier to sweep an open-front cover garment with one hand, than it is to lift up an untucked shirt.  Strong side carry takes this one by a fairly large margin.

Speed of Presentation Weak Hand Only:  AIWB. I’ve only done very rudimentary live practice on the weak-hand draw; it’s just impossible to do safely on an indoor range.  But ever when practicing dry, it’s faster to access the gun weak-handed when it’s up in front.  That said, the difference isn’t as huge as you might expect.  Drawing WHO, you still have to access the gun, turn it in the holster, get a grip, and complete the draw.

Speed of Reload: SS-IWB. Yeah, yeah, I know, nobody ever won a gunfight by reloading quickly**.  Reloading from under an open-front cover garment is still quite a bit faster.

Concealment: AIWB by a little. What can I say?  AIWB gives you a much wider latitude in concealment garments.  That said, if you’re packing a little spare tire, AIWB carry can make you look like you’re wearing a colostomy bag.  Get a good holster.

Comfort: A wash. I don’t find either carry method to be particularly uncomfortable.  Like concealment, comfort is going to depend mostly on having a good holster.

Safety: SS-IWB by a lot. Just keep mulling over what a traumatic femoral blowout feels like (before you bleed out and die, that is.)

Intangables: We live and die by these.  The big one for me is that I don’t carry all that often.  I live in Maryland and work mostly in D.C., and I’m not a cop.  Maybe it makes more sense for me to run a holster similar to what I run in competition***.

So.  I’m leaning towards switching back to carrying in a conventional, strong-side IWB holster.  Does this mean that I think AIWB carry is no good?  Not at all, otherwise I wouldn’t have spent the better part of a year playing with it.  The intent of this test was not to evaluate the usefulness of AIWB carry, so much as to provide a framework for other shooters to make their own evaluations.  I hope that it worked.

* – No, I did not shoot myself.  Sheesh.

** – This is bullshit, of course.

*** – In most pistol games, AIWB is either out-and-out illegal, or contraindicated for gamey reasons…


3 thoughts on “Running the Numbers on AIWB Carry.

  1. great post. couple of ideas/ questions/ notes:

    Which carry method are you more likely to be spotted carrying?
    Which is more likely to have the concealing garment ride up revealing the pistol when moving, standing, seated, and bending over?
    Which is more comfortable sitting in a chair?
    Sitting in a car?
    Bending over?
    Which looks more normal for you to check and make sure the pistol is holstered tightly?
    Which is more likely to cause an accidental draw?
    Which accidental draw would you notice quicker?
    In which are you more comfortable carrying?
    In which will you carry more often?

    I will say that an AIWB draw may look less threatening/ more stealthy than SS IWB.

  2. A good comparison that unfortunately misses the exact same thing that a lot of shooters always do – in real life, violent crime does not always happen at a comfortable seven yard distance. So, what about when you have fallen to the ground and are wrestling with your attacker? Which carry style is better then? Or in a struggle in general?

    I do not mean to tell you which carry method you should use – in fact, the point about carrying on the same spot in competition and on the street is a very good one. I just wanted to draw your attention to what I feel is a rather important issue that a lot of shooters seem to utterly ignore.

  3. Tony –

    A fair point, and one that I did not include because I have no training in handgun retention, and very little in grappling/groundfighting. Hence, I have no good way to evaluate which carry method would be superior in the kind of situation you describe.

    I’m looking to take some ECQC training in 2011, and it’s quite possible that I’ll reevaluate my carry method afterwards.


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