Inside the waistband or outside the waistband, aka IWB and OWB, are two styles of carry most of you are probably familiar with. For those of you new to the carrying world, we’re going to break it down. What are IWB and OWB carry, and is one better than the other? And then we’ll get into some of the other carry options and the pros and cons of each.
Are more people carrying concealed?
Gun sales have gone up and by a lot. And do you know what that means? It means there are probably more people carrying than ever before. Hopefully, this article can lend a hand to the newbies in the group, as that’s who this article is aimed at.
Disclaimer: There are a lot of different ways to carry. How you carry is up to you and your abilities. I will list some of the pros and cons that come with each method. We’re not trying to stir the pot over here, because this is definitely a debatable topic. This is more for informational purposes.
Please keep in mind: At the end of the day, no matter how you carry, training is your best friend. If you’re carrying but not practicing drawing and holstering, in the same manner you carry in, you should start.
IWB vs OWB
Alright, now that we’ve got all that out of the way, let’s talk about IWB vs OWB. I personally think this is one of those, what meets your needs the best kind of things. I wear OWB and IWB, depending on what I’m wearing. I personally like IWB better, as it conceals more easily (for me) and feels way more secure, although it can become uncomfortable for longterm wear.
Inside the Waistband, what’s commonly referred to as IWB, because who doesn’t like another good acronym? It’s pretty self-explanatory, but it means you wear your holster inside the waistband, instead of on the outside. It’s also easier to conceal and more secure than OWB.
- Easier to conceal
- More secure
- Typically more uncomfortable than OWB
Outside the Waistband, what’s commonly referred to as OWB, again self-explanatory, means you wear your holster outside the waistband, instead of on the inside. While this option might be more comfortable for some, it is less secure (meaning it’s easier for someone else to access) and can be harder to conceal. You definitely want to look into purchasing a retention holster if you’re carrying OWB because it makes it harder for someone else to get a hold of, especially if you’re in a tussle.
For my job (not this one – can you imagine a bunch of writers fighting for pistols? The winner gets to write the next article!) we literally fight each other with the intent of being able to access the other person’s weapon. The fight ends when the weapon leaves the holster.
In my last class, in a room of about 25 people, I was the only one who not only kept their pistol from their opponent, but I was able to get back and draw on them. I give credit to having a level III retention holster because the person I was fighting didn’t know how to get my pistol out of my holster.
It wasn’t that I was a better fighter, because I wasn’t. I’m typically the smallest person in the room when it comes to this style of training, so my size wasn’t in my favor either. My opponent definitely got their hands on my pistol, and they even broke the first level of retention. So, despite my less adequate fighting skills and stature, I was still able to maintain control of my weapon because of my retention holster.
- Typically more comfortable than IWB
- Easy to draw and holster with one hand
- Less secure than IWB
- Limits the type of clothing you can wear (if you’re carrying concealed)
What’s better, IWB or OWB carry?
The answer, it depends on what best fits your needs, abilities, and desired comfort level. If you need more concealment, depending on your body type, IWB might fit your needs best. If you just can’t stand the way IWB feels, you might be better off with OWB carry.
More Carry Options
This might be the most controversial carry there is. Instead of telling you do or don’t carry like this, please take the information we give you and make the decision on your own. You don’t need me to tell you what to do. Just know, you need to be confident in this carry. If you don’t feel comfortable, train until you do. If that doesn’t work, carry using a different method.
Here’s a video that outlines the concerns on this one and how to mitigate them.
- Depending on your physique, this can be a more comfortable option, especially if you stand more than you sit
- Easily concealable (for most), depending on physique and weapon/holster choice
- Easily accessible
- You can easily tell if you’re showing
- Again, physique plays a part, and for some, it makes this a super uncomfortable carry, especially for those who are sitting
- It’s pointing at your manhood (or womanhood…both would be a detrimental loss)
Hip Carry (Strong Side)
Personally, this is my carry method. It’s what I’m used to from the military, and I find it easy to access my weapon. This probably has to do with having years of training drawing and holstering from this position. Which is what you should be doing, no matter how you carry.
- Easy access for you-not so easy for others
- Can be difficult to draw with the weak hand
- Typically leaves an imprint *
*Let’s be honest, people aren’t near as observant as they should be. And if you’re carrying concealed, chances are, even with an imprint, it’s likely no one will notice—except cops and others who carry. I’m a smaller person who wears more form-fitting clothes and the only time anyone has said, “I can tell you’re carrying” was my brother, who knows I carry anyway.
Pocket carry works if you are in a situation where you can’t wear on the waist and it’s easy to conceal.
- Easily concealable with the right pocket holster
- Can draw quickly
- Difficult to draw when seated
- Very difficult to draw with the weak hand (unless you’re a contortionist)
This is one form of carry I have no experience with and I honestly don’t have the wardrobe that would make sense for this carry to even try it. None the less, here are some pros and cons for those of you who might.
- Easily concealable in a suit or jacket
- Easy to draw in a seated position
- You don’t have to worry about belt loops and waistbands
- It’s easier for someone else to grab
- Not much retention provided with this form of carry
- A multitude of shooting ranges do not authorize this form of carry, which will make it difficult to practice for some
- Drawing from a shoulder holster presents a greater opportunity to flag innocent bystanders
If you’re wearing clothes that don’t suit carrying in or around the waistband, ankle carry is an option. However, there are some major cons with this, including the reach to get there. Ankle carry is great for a backup firearm. Meaning, you have one on your hip, for example, AND the ankle. Just make sure you get some quality socks or high top boots because it can irritate the skin.
- Great for a backup carry pistol
- Easily accessed with strong and weak hand
- Easy to conceal
- Carry options are limited
- Can be uncomfortable (subjective)
- Harder to access
- Chances of drawing while moving are slim
So, there used to be a time where saying something like “bra carry” only applied to women. However, I’m pretty sure we’re not supposed to make that assumption anymore. So…if you’re wearing a bra and you’re a dude…umm, okay. Do you, I guess.
But for real, this one goes out to our women. Let’s face it, carrying as a woman creates a whole list of concerns and considerations. First, let’s talk about today’s fashion! How in the world are we supposed to carry concealed in clothes made for women? Everything is so form-fitting these days, it’s like you have to wear men’s clothes, not carry at all (not really an option if you ask me), or carry in some real awkward fashions. Unless of course, you’re cool letting the world know you’re carrying (I advise against this). Or you could use the bra carry option.
- Easy to conceal
- Can carry in more outfits
- Carry choices are significantly less
- Takes longer to draw compared to waistband carry
I’ve tried this option, and personally, it’s not for me. I wore a tank top under it, for comfort. But, between that, the fact that I had something around my stomach all day, and the pistol digging into my ribcage when I sat down, it just wasn’t my cup of tea. For some, this may work. For me, it did not, and that probably has a lot to do with my upper-half being on the shorter side of things.
- Easy to conceal compared to OWB
- Comfortable for long periods of time, standing or sitting (subjective)
- Easy to rotate the pistol to any position on the body
- Can take longer to draw compared to waistband carry
- Can create excessive sweating, which is uncomfortable and can lead to potential gun damage
Small of the Back (S.O.B)
Personally, I am not a fan of this carry method. Not only are you giving someone else a chance to get to your weapon easily, but sitting down in your car sucks.
- Can be easier to conceal compared to other methods
- Can be comfortable for most
- Can be harder to reach
- Easier for someone to take from you
- Can be uncomfortable when sitting
- Typically harder to reholster
Tucked (No Holster)
I know I said this was going to be an informational article and give you pros and cons and let you make your own choice, as the free-willing adult that you are. However, this one I have to draw the line at, although you can still make the choice to do it.
You’re not a “gangsta” or at least I hope not. And hopefully, you’re not looking to become one. This is dangerous and I’m not sure there are any pros to it from the aspect of a law-abiding citizen.
Yes, a gun is better than no gun, but not when you aren’t properly carrying it. Why, because you’re more dangerous to yourself and others because it can easily fall out or be taken from you. You should have your pistol secured unless you’re firing it. And this carry method is not that.
Side Note: No gun is better than a gun if you don’t know how to shoot it or operate it safely, because you’re presenting a greater risk to you and the rest of society by not knowing what you’re doing. This is why it’s imperative to practice a LOT!
Please, don’t do this! If you have to run, you’re screwed. If you get in a fight, you’re screwed. If you’re just casually walking through the store, maybe not screwed, but definitely constantly adjusting the pistol from falling into or out of your pants.
It’s not as cool as they make it in the movies, unless your definition of cool is reaching half your arm into your pants to retrieve your gun (not that one) while standing in line at the local McDonald’s.
Bag (handbag or briefcase styles)
There’s a lot of controversies that come with this option of carrying. Such as, it’s easy for a thief to get access to or you can set it down and forget it. However, it’s typically easier for our female carriers. If you’re one to be forgetful or set your bag down a lot, this probably isn’t a suitable option for you.
It’s also wise to purchase a bag meant for concealed carry. Just sliding it in your purse can present some unsafe conditions, which I wrote about in our Best Concealed Carry Purses article.
- Easier to conceal
- Very comfortable
- Easy to set down and forget
- Can be easily stolen
- Easy for others to access
Okay, first, do people actually still wear these? I ask because I’m pretty sure it’s still a thing. Didn’t some company, somewhere, change the name and market them to men. I can’t remember, but I had one gifted to me a while back. I’ve worn it once and the place I was at said no bags allowed—included the fanny pack. Oh well, maybe next time.
But for real, if you’re rocking one of these, PLEASE send us a photo in its most “tacticool” condition! (You won’t be compensated… just in need of a good laugh, preferably a laugh we can all share…which means updating this blog with new pictures for the rest of the readers to see. Just leave it in the comments below. Or send it to our FB page, and the fine folks in Social Media will get it to me. Tell them you’re responding to an article request).
- Kept out in front
- Easy to conceal
- Nothing to do with firearms, but it’s a great birth control method – according to a friend
- Takes longer to draw
- Requires two hands (can be done with one, but that makes your draw a little slower)
- Many ranges won’t let you practice drawing and then shooting from your fanny pack
Concealed vs Open Carry
Depending on what state you live in, this might not even be up for debate, as some states don’t authorize open carry.
I personally conceal carry everywhere but on my own property. I’m from an open carry state and I still choose to keep it concealed. Why, because it’s nobody else’s business along with some other reasons I’ll cover soon. Now, if you’re out hunting or something like that, open carry as your state allows it, but going to the local store, it might be best to keep it covered.
- No one knows you’re packing
- You get to avoid arguing with the Karens of the world
- Takes more practice, because you have to consider clothing, such as coats in the winter
- Takes longer to draw than with open carry
I am very against open carry in most cases, although I know there are plenty of fine folks out there who are okay with it no matter the environment. Personally, I don’t want the world to know I carry. This is because I don’t need the bad guy knowing he needs to take me out first. I also don’t need a Karen—can I still say that, or is that illegal too, now—freaking out and calling the cops because she thinks I’m endangering everyone. Because we all know that at any moment the gun could unholster itself and shoot everyone. It won’t, but I don’t really care to have that argument.
- Quick Draw
- You don’t have to worry about getting hung up on clothes
- The bad guys know you’re carrying, which means they might take you out first
- Someone might call the cops on you
As a reminder, because I already wrote it, practice, practice, practice! Really, I can’t say that enough. Practice like you play.
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