Some time ago, I ditched one-piece, Kydex “sidecar” style holsters. Sidecar style holsters have an integrated magazine pouch design. I came to this decision not because they are unsafe but because I found that the design hindered concealment for some people (like me). I'll explain.
Conversation About AIWB Comfort and Concealment Issues:
I recently had a conversation with a student who explained that it was difficult for him to conceal his Glock 19 handgun in the appendix inside the waistband (AIWB) position. AIWB carry positions the gun inside the waistband centerline (12 o'clock) or slightly to the strong side (1'oclock).
He told me that he had to wear a baggy shirt and still felt like his gun was printing (visible to others). We frequently make printing a bigger deal than what it actually is. But of course, sometimes the concern is legitimate.
Most of the time, I hear people complain that their body composition is the cause of their concealment issues. Skinny people say they could hide a larger gun if they were bigger. Big people say if only they were slimmer, they could conceal a gun better. While this can be AN issue, it usually isn't THE issue with concealment and comfort.
Challenges of Concealment:
Concealment issues, within reason, aren't always even an issue with the size of the gun.
Factors affecting concealment and comfort have more to do with the combination of the holster, belt, and clothing more than anything else.
And, of course, where you carry the gun is a factor. Appendix position, being the best for concealment and comfort when done correctly, is the position I am addressing in this post.
Okay, all that is to say, if you're like the person who reached out to me about difficulty concealing a Glock 19, maybe this will help you.
What is Your EDC:
He asked what I carry as my every day carry EDC gun. I told him I carry an Archon Type B or a Glock 19 in the AIWB position. He was shocked because I was concealing the Type B, which is slightly larger than the G19, and was doing so in a relatively snug-fitting t-shirt.
He used an all-Kydex, “sidecar” style holster from a reputable company and a reinforced, nylon webbing gun belt. Sure enough, the spare magazine and area around the rear sight poked out a bit beneath his t-shirt. He also felt a lot of pressure across his abdomen, to the point if he ate food or drank a lot of water, it made him uncomfortable.
Belt and Tightness:
Loosening the belt reduced the pressure but caused more concealment issues for him.
So he had a good belt, had it sinched down to an appropriate tightness, yet something else was causing the issue.
The ride height or amount of gun that sits above the beltline seemed appropriate. Lower ride-hight will conceal better but may cause discomfort if the holster is digging into the thigh. On the other hand, riding the holster too high makes it more difficult to conceal because more length is below the belt, which forces the grip out and away from the body.
His holster adjustment was reasonable, allowing him to grip the gun without the holster digging into his thigh.
I prefer a holster with a wedge device for AIWB carry. The wedge dramatically helps in concealment and comfort. The wedge attaches to the body-side of the holster. It gets thicker as it gets closer to the muzzle end of the gun. This design causes the grip to tilt into the body and the muzzle away from the body. In addition, wedges can eliminate hot spots because they spread pressure over a larger surface area.
His holster did not have a built-in wedge.
If you are interested in adding a wedge to your AIWB holster, several companies sell foam wedges with an adhesive back. I use these from Tier One Concealment.
Wing or Claw:
His holster had a claw or wing device on it. These devices create a twisting force by pushing on the backside of the belt, which drives the gun's grip closer against the body. They are fantastic and work exceptionally well.
This brings me to the point for which I find an issue with this type of sidecar holster. The Kydex magazine holster directly opposes the forces produced from the claw on the opposite side. How much these forces oppose each other is dependant on some factors. The span of distance from claw to opposite end of the holster impacts how much the forces are at odds.
Additionally, a wide holster (from magazine holster to claw) affects a person with narrower hips or smaller waistline circumference more than a wider person. Suppose you think of the forces exerted on the holster and take a look at my crude diagram. All this may start to make sense.
Finally a single-piece, Kydex holster does not bend or twist to the contours of the individual user's body. So you end up with a tight belt squeezing an unforgiving block of Kydex against your stomach.
The person has since tried the Phlster Pro-Series AIWB holster. He couldn't wait to tell me how he carried and conceal his G19 comfortably with the same clothes he wore before.
So is there a solution?
Sure. You can opt for a stand-alone magazine holster like the Neo Mag. Second, you could go with a sidecar holster with a flexible material between the magazine and gun holster, allowing it to flex. Finally, you could check out something completely different like the Phlster Flex, a flexible material that connects a Kydex holster to a separate magazine pouch. Or maybe you forgo a spare magazine for an EDC trauma kit.
Still, you may find the one-piece design works well in terms of comfort and concealment. In that case, keep rolling with what works for you. Just don't ditch AIWB because of some concealment or comfort issues.