Ankle Carry: Lessons from the Field

As concealed carry grows in popularity, so do holster options. While some ideas are novel and practical, others are downright ridiculous. However, there are some tried and true — as well as occasionally misunderstood — carry methods with ankle carry among them. While it’s not for everyone, ankle carry is an excellent form of deep concealment. Unfortunately, it’s not necessarily the most accessible or fastest draw around. For nearly 10 years, I carried a Glock 26 on my ankle. For a variety of reasons today, I rarely do so. However, that experience and training provided some insight into ankle carry.

Why Ankle Carry?

Ankle carry is no different from carrying a firearm inside or outside the waistband. There are proper techniques for carrying and accessing a firearm on your leg that we’ll cover later. However, if worn properly and practiced, it’s a relatively practical method of deep concealment. While most folks check the torso and waistline for firearms, an ankle gun is easily missed.

Concealed firearm on ankle
While these pants are a bit tight for ankle carry, the author easily carries a concealed Glock 26 on his ankle.

This deep concealment method isn’t condoning ankle carry for nefarious purposes. Rather, ankle carry permits the lawful gun owner a carry method without drawing unwanted attention in non-permissive or potentially hostile environments. In a previous career, I learned some folks don’t take kindly to seeing a firearm in certain business settings. Some employers and attire don’t permit traditional waistband carry. These environments are where ankle carry provides someone with the means to defend themselves while remaining discreet.

drawing gun while seated in car
Ankle carry is extremely convenient for those of us spending time sitting in a vehicle. The draw is easy and convenient in a seated position.

For many of us, our days are spent seated in cars. For almost nine years, my office was a patrol car. Furthermore, many of my days off were spent riding or driving a vehicle on family road trips or running errands. Being belted into a vehicle with a firearm on your hip isn’t exactly ideal. For some, a gun on the waist is virtually inaccessible. If anything, the draw is slow — take your seat belt off, clear a concealment garment or retention holster, and reposition to draw the firearm. On the other hand, ankle carry places the gun within short reach. While my work and personal life haven’t required me to use my ankle gun, it was reassuring and conveniently accessible.

What holster?

Ankle carry requires a secure holster with proper retention. Walking, running, jogging, and jumping can dislodge a firearm from a holster with improper retention. This less-than-desirable result ends with the gun flopping into your pant leg or onto the ground. I leave the resulting potential chaos to your imagination. A proper ankle holster has some form of thumb snap, active retention, or strap keeping the firearm from inadvertently dislodging.

Galco Ankle Glove
This well-worn Galco Ankle Glove is on its second strap in over 10 years and needs some TLC. Regardless, it still serves reliably.

While I’ve tried several ankle holster brands over the years, I’ve mainly used a Galco Ankle Glove. Due to the Glock 26’s heavier weight, I purchased a calf strap to prevent the holster from sliding down and hitting the ball of my ankle while walking. However, this isn’t much of an issue with boots. While retention is king with ankle holsters, comfort is a close second. If it’s not comfortable, you won’t carry it. The Galco Ankle Glove features a soft liner and neoprene-like Velcro strap. The gun is also secured with a thumb break. I’ve sent the holster to Galco once to be re-lined after years of daily wear, and they did so at a nominal cost. That holster still gets put to use occasionally.

Ankle Carry — Inside or Outside of the Leg?

For those who’ve worn some kind of duty or utility belt, it’s bulky. When you first wear one, as I did in law enforcement, you feel like a newborn calf as you inadvertently bump into walls and furniture with the extra bulk on your waistline. I compare it to waking up one morning and suddenly having an extra eight inches on your waistline. It’s awkward. So, how does this relate to ankle carry?

drawing gun from outside of ankle
While outside of the ankle may be practical for some, this ankle carry style throws the upper body off balance and adds bulk. As seen here, the author has to reach outside of the center of gravity to access the firearm and is off balance during the draw.

Ankle holsters are carried in two locations: inside or outside of the ankle. While I’ve heard some folks tout carrying on the outside of the ankle, it produces extra bulk on the outside of your stride. This extra bulk easily bumps into furniture, walls, and door jambs. When on the inside of the ankle, the holster doesn’t add bulk to your body’s footprint. The gun’s weight is centered more toward the inside of your body and alters your stride less. Finally, a gun on the inside of your ankle contributes to a more balanced and easily accessible draw. You don’t have to lean outside of your base (e.g. your legs) to access the firearm. Your upper body and arms remain balanced towards the center of your body.

Practice and Technique Matter

Ankle carry isn’t the easiest to draw from. Mastery comes from practice. However, ankle carry draw mechanics are relatively simple. First, your pants must be loose enough to pull them up to access the firearm. I’ve learned that some pants in my wardrobe aren’t conducive to ankle carry, while others fit perfectly.

pulling up pantleg to draw
The draw process starts with properly tailored pants loose enough to pull the pantleg up to access the firearm. Ideally, the gun leg should be forward during the draw if standing.

The process starts with grabbing a handful of your pants at your knee and pulling them up towards you. This is much like clearing a concealment garment for waistband carry, except it’s with your pant leg. The next, or simultaneous, step places the gun leg forward. By spreading your feet, you create a solid and balanced base to draw. Obviously, this technique assumes you’re drawing from a standing position. In most scenarios, accessing an ankle gun will be while on your back or a seated position. Nonetheless, drawing from the ankle requires practice, repetition, and trial and error. While convenient, you won’t achieve competency overnight.

The Drawbacks

Some years ago, an industry associate attended SHOT Show while ankle-carrying. After a day at the show, he ended up in the hospital with blood clots in his leg. The long flight, standing for hours on end, and then the constriction produced by the ankle holster caused a perfect storm for developing blood clots in his carry leg. While exceptionally rare, some ankle holsters are extremely restrictive to blood flow to the legs and could potentially cause some vascular or comfort issues.

Ankle carry gun on ankle
While just over 1.5 pounds, the added weight and constriction on your leg of this loaded Glock 26 could potentially cause injury or health issues under the wrong circumstances.

An on-duty injury caused me to step away from ankle carry. Around three years into my law enforcement career, I chased a wanted subject through a local trailer park. This foot pursuit was far from my first and seemed business as usual. As I closed distance with the suspect, I felt a sudden pain in my left quad and knee. Luckily, he fell, and we quickly caught him. However, I pulled my quad and partially tore my patella tendon. The doctor and I later agreed the gun’s added weight on my ankle contributed to the injury. From that point, I stopped carrying any extra weight on my legs.

Verdict on Ankle Carry

The unfortunate reality of ankle carry is it will almost never be as fast as carrying on the waistband. For example, I can consistently draw, shoot, and hit a target’s “A” zone at seven yards in between 1.2 to 1.5 seconds. For ankle carry, that time jumps by nearly a second. Ankle carry is discreet, but it’s not fast. The pros and cons between these two are ultimately up to the end user.

Ankle carry is definitely a viable option but requires some forethought, practice, and consideration on the carrier’s behalf. Frankly, competent ankle carry isn’t for amateurs. However, if the choice is between no gun or ankle carry, I’m keeping a gun on me. The choice is ultimately up to you, but if anything, you’re a little more informed on this topic.

Tom Stilson began his firearms career in 2012 working a gun store counter. He progressed to conducting appraisals for fine and collectible firearms before working as the firearms compliance merchant for a major outdoor retailer. In 2015, he entered public service and began his law enforcement career. Tom has a range of experience working for big and small as well as urban and rural agencies. Among his qualifications, Tom is certified as a firearms instructor, field trainer, and in special weapons and tactics. If not on his backyard range, he spends his time with family or spreading his passion for firearms and law enforcement.

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