Since taking Spencer Keepers' excellent AIWB Skills course earlier this year, I've carried AIWB. I did this for a few reasons:
- The number of KR Training students carrying AIWB continues to increase. I want to have a strong skill foundation and enough experience carrying in this mode to provide guidance and answer students' questions.
- Every mode of concealed carry involves trade-offs. I wanted a personal understanding of what day-to-day and in-fight trade-offs AIWB implies.
- The muscles behind my hip (underneath where I have carried for years) were constantly tight, almost regardless of how much I stretched them. I suspected that a different mode of carry might help me work out some of that tightness. (It has.)
The following advantages and disadvantages of AIWB with respect to strong-side hip carry are not in priority order, and they aren't of equal importance. That is, counting bullet points isn't sufficient to make a judgment or decision. Many are subjective, and you may find them just as useful a review about the comfort of a pair of shoes written by a complete stranger.
- easier concealment under minimal clothing; for hot weather carry, a slightly baggy shirt (i.e., not "schmedium") is enough (I was able to make AIWB work in situations where I would have previously resorted to pocket carry.)
- faster time to first shot (~1.25 sec vs ~1.50 on hip) from concealment for me
- better retention in the clinch and on the ground, both in the holster and immediately after the gun leaves the holster (because both hands can easily reach the pistol and an opponent's grasping hands)
- easier support-hand-only draw, reload
- easier strong-hand-only reload
- easier draw-stroke when seated, in shoulder-to-shoulder seating, and supine
- For me, it's easier to carry a reload; in fact I've found that a reload carried opposite the pistol evens out the curve of my belt and pulls the gun in a little more snug.
- It's much easier to pick things up off the ground in public without printing or exposing the pistol.
- It's easier to see inside the holster before re-holstering.
- There's no printing problem when outdoors, facing away from the wind (vs. strong-side hip carry).
- With friends or family who hug you or pat you on the back, it's very unlikely they'll touch your stomach or belt-line, 'cause that's a little too familiar.
- It's easier to prevent accidental "bump frisking" in crowds and lines.
- It's difficult to bend over and tie my shoes; it's easier for me to tie my gun-side shoe with my foot up on my opposite knee. This wouldn't be a problem if I could just remember to put my shoes on before the gun, but I'd still probably pocket-carry if I was going shoe-shopping.
- It's tough to bend forward and release the parking brake on my truck. I just had to get used to a slightly different motion, and it's still uncomfortable.
- A continuously adjustable belt is necessary for me with AIWB, where it's only a "plus" with strong-side hip carry.
- My belt buckle has to move off to 2-3 o'clock on my waist, which makes dressing, undressing, and dropping my pants to sit on the toilet slightly more complicated.
- In a restroom with stalls that have a gap near the floor, I'd gotten good at dropping my pants to just below my knees and pushing my knees apart to support my belt and gun off the floor, just behind my knee; this is more complicated and difficult for me with the gun farther forward.
- I haven't made AIWB work with formal clothing (i.e., suit and tie). I can only carry AIWB with an un-tucked shirt that covers the front of my belt-line.
- Clearing a closed-front shirt that doesn't stretch is a little more complex than a stretchy shirt (t-shirt or polo shirt).
- It's more difficult to carry a second folding knife near my centerline, which I'd been doing since I first took InSights Defensive Folding Knife course in 2010.
- The AIWB draw-stroke doesn't include my preferred retention position. More variation means it's slightly more complex to learn and teach.
- Surreptitious draw-stroke opportunities change (e.g., can't just blade body) -- this isn't inherently bad, but requires re-learning/re-training.
- more difficult draw-stroke when prone
- re-holstering requires care, concentration, and practice because the consequences of a mistake are much more likely to be lethal
- there are fewer good AIWB holsters available, and good concealment seems to be more holster-sensitive -- I had to add a foam "wedge" to the back of my PHLster Classic holster (thank you, Spencer Keepers!) to tuck the back of the slide into my body
- there are fewer good IWB magazine carriers available; I ended up making my own (it's not fantastic)
- a little more difficult to prevent printing when outdoors, facing into the wind (vs. strong-side hip carry)
- when I feel like I'm printing, I slump over at the shoulders, which isn't great posture (vs. strong-side hip carry, where I'd tend to stand up straighter)
- On longer hikes (4+ miles), especially when really sweaty, the bottom portion of my AIWB holster irritates the skin just inboard of my hip crease (not the open end or edge, the flat inside of my custom foam wedge). I haven't noticed this when doing yard work, only when walking.