IWB vs. OWB Carry: Which is Best?

IWB vs. OWB Carry: Which is Best?

Choosing the method you use to conceal your handgun depends on climate, handgun type, your body shape and other factors.

The great IWB vs. OWB carry debate may never be settled. But before we get into that, let’s look at all the different ways to carry concealed. There are essentially five different and generally acceptable methods. These include outside the waistband (OWB), inside the waistband (IWB), or via shoulder, ankle, or pocket carry. Of these five methods, OWB and IWB are the most common because the offer the best balance between comfort, concealability, an accessibility. Shoulder, ankle, or pocket carry are most often used for special circumstances.

For those new to concealed carry, they may wonder if IWB vs. OWB carry is the best option. To some extent this depends on you and your handgun. But, ideally, the decision between OWB and IWB should be made before a handgun is purchased. Thick handguns are less comfortable to carry in the IWB fashion and heavy handguns tend to tug excessively on the belt when carried OWB. OWB is generally more comfortable, but also harder to conceal. In a perfect world the handgun you choose would work well for both OWB and IWB carry because it will allow you to adapt to the situation.

Climate and Carry Method

For example, if you live in a temperate climate, and most do, you must navigate the clothing changes that come with the seasons. In the summer you will likely wear only an untucked shirt, but in the fall and spring you’ll use a vest or light jacket, and in the winter a heavy coat. This is where choosing/having a handgun comfortable for both carry methods makes sense. In the summer, the more concealable but less comfortable IWB method is the best option. The more comfortable OWB method works well in the winter. And a mix of both methods in the spring and fall makes sense. You must also consider concealment when you take off your jacket or coat.

With ether concealment method, it will be necessary that you have an outer garment – shirt, vest, jacket, or coat – that extends at least four inches below the visible handgun/holster. This drape will help hide the handgun during normal activities, like bending over in the supermarket or while sitting at a table in a restaurant. With IWB carry, this means four inches below the bottom of your belt. With OWB carry it means four inches below the bottom of the holster.

Appendix Carry

Appendix carry is a form of IWB carry and it offers good concealment and probably the fastest access, especially when an untucked shirt is what you’re using to hide the handgun. However, it is not the most comfortable way to carry a handgun if you spend a great deal of time seated, and if you end up bent over during an assault, the handgun is hard to access and draw. The method also makes some uncomfortable because when holstering, the handgun ends up being pointed at very important body parts. Maybe the most important consideration with appendix carry is your body type; the method does not work well if you are overweight.

Don’t Use Small of Back Carry

Small of the back (SOB) carry is a form of OWB. Most OWB holsters are designed to be worn on or slightly behind the hipbone. An SOB holster is worn in the small of the back. You sometimes see this on cop shows on television but rarely in real life. This is because while it might look and sound cool, it is uncomfortable when sitting in a chair with a back or in a car. And it is also not very safe when the handgun is being drawn because you end up pointing the handgun at yourself. Do not carry in the SOB method.

Get The Right Holster and Belt

Regardless of whether you choose the OWB or IWB carry method, or maybe intend to use both, the choice of a good holster is critical. It needs to securely hold the handgun in place, allow for a smooth draw, and it must be comfortable. As important as the holster is, the belt may be even more so. Any belt used for OWB or IWB carry should be stiff enough to support the holstered handgun and it should also provide small and easy adjustment. Holster companies make gun belts for a reason, they work better for carrying guns than dress belts do.

If you’re going to use the same belt for both OWB and IWB, it needs to have an extra inch and a half adjustment to the large size when you go from OWB to IWB. This is to make up for the handgun and holster that now will be riding on the inside of your belt. Something else to consider is your gut. A belt with minute adjustments allows you to tune the fit after a large meal. Regardless of the carry method/s you choose, comfort is critical because if you are not comfortable, you will not carry. And a handgun you’re not carrying cannot be used to protect you.

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