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Dear Gun Industry Please Stop Carrying Backwards In Your Small of Back

Sorry Friends in the Industry but this way of carrying and drawing your gun is wrong:

What about the picture is wrong? Well there may or may not be a holster in that picture but the thing I'm focused on is the orientation of the firearm. Many CCWers carry in the “small of back” or traditional IWB 4 o'clock” positions and when you do you may have some confusion about how to orient the gun.

For the purpose of this article and it's pictures we are going to assume everyone is Right-Handed. You south paws will need to reverse everything I say.

What Are The Two Rear Carry Methods?

First let me define the two methods and then we will discuss Pros and Cons of each…

Palm Out / Four Fingers Draw Method

As you can see in the above picture, in the configuration the palm of the hand faces outward. In order to draw the CCWer inserts the 4 fingers of the hand between the gun and the body. For right handed people this requires buying a left handed holster for 4 to 6 o'clock carry.

Palm In / Thumb Draw Method

Small of Back Carry

Proper Draw for small of back carry

As you can see in the above picture, in this configuration the palm of the hand faces inward. In order to draw the CCWer inserts the thumb between the gun and the body. For right handed people this requires using a right handed holster for 4 to 6 o'clock carry.

Is There An Official Stance On This?

I've asked a lot of other professionals over the years if they have an opinion about “Palm in” or “Palm out” carry for small of back position and the answer has varied. Some look at it as personal preference and others feel more strongly about it as I do. Everyone however agrees that carrying the firearm one way or the other comes with some advantages and disadvantages.

No professional has ever endorsed the “Palm Out” carry as preferred or better but as far as I know however, I'm the first person to come out online as officially calling it WRONG. I did find a mention of the pros/cons on the N82 Tactical site and a video from White Hat Holsters YT channel suggesting Palm In as preferred but I'm going to get up on my soap box here.

I'm confident that if there are professionals out there who disagree they will identify themselves as such in the comments below.

So What Is the Big Problem With Palm Out Carry/Draw?

There are a lot of reasons why I feel Palm Out carry is wrong or significantly less desirable. Lets get started:

1: Strength of Body:

Have someone stand next to you on your strong side. Now put your hand in the back of your waistband in the palm out position. Have your partner put pressure against your elbow and see how easily you can “draw” your imaginary gun out. Now repeat the same experiment with palm in. You will find that when the wrist is twisted so as to have the THUMB between the gun and the body you will have much greater strength. How big of a deal is this in a draw? Probably not a big deal but on the off chance to have any resistance that you have to fight you would want to maximize your ability to overcome that resistance.

2: Safety of Muzzle Direction:

When you draw with your palm out you are forced at some point to turn the wrist in order to position the firearm on target. In that turning movement you are very likely to sweep the body with the muzzle of the gun. Not muzzling yourself is in fact difficult.

3: Speed:

When you carry palm in you will be able to get the gun on target faster because there is less total movement required to position the gun on target. In getting to the full extension faster you will also more naturally “pass through” a close quarter combative shooting position more naturally should you need to get shots on target before extending to target or in circumstances where you can not/should not extend fully to target.

4: Adjustment and Convenience of Holster:

Holster manufacturers consider all of these things in a design. Since they want you to be able to buy 1 holster and use it ANYWHERE on your torso they design a right handed holster to work for a right-handed person regardless of the position on the body. All manufacturers design them this way. If you carry palm out and end up having to buy a left-handed holster despite being right-handed then that holster will NOT work for you on the strong side or in the appendix or cross draw positions should you decide to carry in those positions one day.

In addition, in the small of the back configuration, it is all the more valuable to have a forward cant/angle in the holster. Holster manufacturers either make holsters with a forward cant or a straight vertical cant. If you use the Palm Out method you will have a very hard time finding a holster that comes in reverse cant which puts you at a disadvantage over those who use a Palm In draw and have a nice forward cant to work with.

5: Finger Trigger Discipline & Grip Acquisition:

If you draw your firearm by driving four fingers in between the body and the gun you have two significant drawbacks. First, it will be harder to maintain good trigger finger discipline. As you try to acquire a strong grip three fingers are trying to get under the grip of the gun and the trigger finger is smashed in a tight space. Indexing the finger properly is challenging and can be made even more challenging depending on the style of the holster and how much of a “sweat guard” it has above the trigger guard of the firearm. A palm in draw allows that the finger remain outside of the pant entirely and makes it easier to train the finger to align with the side of the frame of the firearm above the trigger guard.

Speaking of getting a grip on the gun, any good shooter knows how important an immediate and solid grip on the firearm is in the moment you draw from the holster. When you draw palm in only the thumb has to squeeze in between the gun and the body and it naturally goes EXACTLY where it is supposed to be in a solid grip. The trigger finger aligns on the outside and rests on the frame as discussed above. The other three fingers naturally find their spot on the outside of the grip and have to wrap around the front of the grip in a natural way. In Palm out configuration, those three fingers are stuck in between the body and the gun and can't wrap at all until the full grip of the gun clears the waistline and holster. Long story short you will get a more solid grip faster with a Palm In draw.

So If It Is So Horrible Why Is it So Popular?

Because it feels more natural. A Palm In draw requires more torque on the shoulder and wrist. Without being told otherwise a Palm In draw just feels awkward and uncomfortable. For that reason, every actor ever in Hollywood TV shows and movies has used a Palm Out carry. It looks cool, it feels natural, and somewhere in our brain we've been trained to do what we've seen.

I admit that when I bought my very first concealed carry holster I too bought a left-handed one despite being right-handed. I stared at the pictures on the computer screen and said to myself… I must be missing something because the way I think I'm supposed to carry in my back would require I get a left-handed holster. So I did. It took me years of carrying that way before another instructor took me aside and showed me a large number of reasons why that configuration is NOT ideal. So I changed.

Here is a series of Stock Images I've found that all show the Palm Out draw… and note that in almost all of them there is no holster at all and in many cases the trigger finger finds itself in the trigger guard very prematurely. This only proves that stock photographers don't know much about the proper draw but are naturally inclined to do what they have seen on TV.

Sadly I've seen some of these very photos used on gun media websites that want to promote safe and good gun handling.

Ok, so I know I've probably ruffled some feathers and maybe it was going too far for me to call the Palm Out method “wrong” but obviously, I feel strongly about it. Comment below to share your thoughts. What did I miss? What are other important considerations in favor or against Palm Out carry?

All this talk about holsters reminded me of an article we wrote up on the best 21 holsters on the market. Check it out.

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12 Responses to Dear Gun Industry Please Stop Carrying Backwards In Your Small of Back

  1. tchris February 16, 2018 at 4:46 pm #

    While I believe that many of these points are valid some of them like the trigger discipline has never been a problem I have had with a palm out draw. I also don’t feel that my muzzle ends up pointed at my body any more than it would with a palm in draw. I do wonder about the stronger draw vs. weaker but have yet to experiment. I will agree there is less movement in the palm in draw. Great point in this article I will look at. I was not offended by any of this but will have to disagree on the wording as wrong.
    Here is why it is just like picking the gun to use as your concealed carry. Big caliber? Small caliber? Large capacity, more shots? Small capacity, easier to hide. Each question comes down to you! What gun can you carry that makes it so you can defend yourself best? It may be a .22 that you can use so will that you can put a group of 5 rounds in a quarter size area. It may be the .45 that stops a person much more with on shot. You have to find what works for you.
    Having said all that I think I would say that palm in is a safer way to carry at the small of the back but i can’t agree on it being wrong.

    • Jacob Paulsen February 16, 2018 at 4:49 pm #

      Thank you for your thoughts!

  2. N. Pratt June 11, 2018 at 1:36 pm #

    I agree with you on all points and have been saying this for the past 5 years or more!
    Excellent write up!

  3. Jimmy June 11, 2018 at 5:07 pm #

    It also came from the old days of carrying a 911/45acp on 1/2 cock. As you twisted the gun, you would pull the hammer back.

  4. Fred Todd June 11, 2018 at 6:31 pm #

    The statement that all TV and movie actors ever use (d) the palm out, is not entirely accurate. On NCIS:New Orleans, Special Agent Pride portrayed by Scott Bakula does carry MOB palm out.

  5. Charles Worley June 11, 2018 at 8:08 pm #

    Jacob, as a holster maker, I have to have this conversation at near once a week with clients. The strength issue is what usually gets them when I ask them how a police officer rotates someone’s arm behind the back to detain them. It’s always taught as a palm out move. The other issue is drawing with one hand. It’s much easier to clear your garments and draw the firearm palm in when your support hands is busy (creating distance, holding a loved one, or injured). I’m sharing this to my page, and will be referring to it regularly!

    • Jacob Paulsen June 11, 2018 at 9:11 pm #

      Charles, thank you for the kind words. This article was born out of those similar conversations we were having with holster buyers. It usually went like this… “I carry small of the back and am right-handed. With X holster should I buy a right or left-handed model?” This article is our new answer to that question.

  6. David Lazy June 12, 2018 at 7:20 am #

    First, I really enjoyed this article. Lots of good and valid points. On the other hand, when I carried on the back, I carried palm out. Mainly because it felt more natural, and was a shorter reach for the grip. I never took into consideration the “strength” of the draw of either way, but I shall give it some testing. I don’t currently carry on the back because my arms are not as flexible as they once were. With all that said, you might have just changed the way I feel about and will give other advice on how to carry on the back. Thank you, sir.

  7. Brett Hutchison June 12, 2018 at 3:23 pm #

    While I agree with many things you mentioned, I have two issues with your “its wrong” statement. One you show the palm in draw, and talk about 4 o’clock position a lot? But the main pic you use for palm in is 6 o clock, not
    middle of the back??? Your “in” draw position is between the pocket and the middle of the back, which is the “small of the back. If you actually carry “small of the back” the gun placed butt end left for “in” draw is impossible unless you cant the holster and gun far right, and then its no longer in the natural, hidden, and comfortable, small of back position. Second, as a person who carries SOB, much of the time, I have never faced a “classic” faster draw situation, with a need to clear, or torque quickly to draw. The position you show is my normal “side carry”, usually with an OWB holster, and it is right handed and natural, as well as quick? The real position for SOB, is middle of the lower back, between your major muscle…or fat groups at the waist. And I can assure you that in that position palm in is very difficult, and requires upward movements, twisting movements, and, rolling and swinging movement, and a lot of flexibility to even try, AND you always cross some body part. The other grid of gun pics you showed are commercial, and I would not call many of them “carry” positions at all, more like “TV” prop shots! LOL. I get your point, but I dont agree with the definitions here.

  8. Northern_Michigan June 18, 2018 at 8:55 am #

    The article has some good info and points, but it’s hard to call anything “wrong” unless it’s blatantly unsafe. I will say that like everything else, people have different anatomy, and not everything will work for everyone. I prefer small of back carry because I have large glutes and there is a very comfortable pocket to carry in there. What I notice is this, when I carry palm in (actually SOB, not 5 or 4:30 or some such) I am required to chicken wing my shoulder up AND max my wrist flexion down to draw properly. That’s two joints moving to nearly their maximal limits to accomplish draw. My wrist doesn’t mind so much (they are fairly flexible), but my far past torn collar bone with it’s less than optimal flexibility really doesn’t like the shoulder positioning. It’s a very specific position to draw with and there is almost no room for error. Sitting in a chair? It’s not possible unless you can sit forward to twist.

    I agree with all of your points on the drawbacks of the palm out method. It’s more difficult to get a grip. You have to wedge your palm between your weapon and body. However, I can do it without having to sit forward and create space while seated. I can also do it one handed because the webbing of my hand rides my shirt up and out of the way (to my forearm) for access.

    While I think while standing with room, palm in will accomplish a more perfect draw, palm out has higher chance of actually being able to be accomplished if body positioning is randomized.

  9. Mike Hale July 15, 2018 at 2:48 pm #

    Having carried a 1911 , off and on, for the better part of 50 yrs. and tried both methods , I find that palm out is better for me. I understand your POV and admit you have a point, HOWEVER, WRONG really dosen’t belong . People are different, some can’t rotate their hand, some , like me are better and faster with the wrong technique. Be kind. It has served me well for a very long time.

  10. joe muniz July 15, 2018 at 3:25 pm #

    The only possible advantage I can see to palm in (maybe?) is perhaps easier off hand drawing. But if that’s a consideration, just train to do a palm in draw with your off hand, should your main hand become unavailable/injured.

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