Ankle Holsters: The Skinny

Are you thinking about carrying your handgun in an ankle holster? Have you taken a look at some of the pros and cons of ankle holsters? This can be an effective method of concealed carry, but there are some important details to know. Here’s a look at some of the variables to consider for concealed ankle carry.

Ankle Carry

If the gun is worn on the outside of the leg, it will often bang into things that the wearer walks past. For that reason, many people ankle carry their handgun on the inside of the leg, and often on the non-dominant leg. It’s necessary to bend down to a kneeling position, with the non-dominant knee up, in order to draw the weapon. To draw the weapon otherwise, the non-dominant leg has to be raised so that the handgun can be accessed, which can cause balance issues. Considering that this will be performed under an adrenaline dump during an attack, such acrobatics may be asking a bit much. 

Wearing the gun on the inside of the dominant leg could make it easier for the defender to access it with his or her weak hand. That’s a consideration in the event the dominant hand becomes injured. It’s definitely something to think about. Practice in drawing is essential when carrying on the ankle. I believe more so than when carrying on the OWB or IWB.

.38 revolver in ankle holster for ankle carry
Carrying on the inside of the non-dominant leg is often preferable, giving better access. Plus it bangs into fewer things when worn.

Is ankle carry an effective way to concealed carry?

Ankle carry is an effective way to carry a backup weapon. Sometimes police do this and some private citizens also carry a backup or even primary weapon in this mode.

Ankle carry is really efficient for those who are seated behind a desk for much of the day. If a threat presents itself and they’re seated at a desk, they need only to reach down and draw their weapon, as they’re in a good body position to do so. Another situation where ankle carry would be efficient is if you’re sitting at a table in a restaurant. If trouble starts you’re already seated and drawing from an ankle holster is going to be more convenient if you need to. Similarly, reaching down to draw the pistol while we’re seated in a vehicle would be fairly easy.

Ankle holsters work well in an office environment.
If you spend time in a seated position, the ankle holster may appeal to you. Here, this office worker is all smiles because he’s carrying in an ankle holster with the knowledge that he can defend himself should the need arise. Be like this guy — prepared! (Photo: Freepik)

What about concealability?

People rarely look at the ankles and legs, which makes ankle carry a potentially effective mode of concealed carry. If I’m wearing a dress shirt, tie, and dress pants, a belt holster will not be an option unless I’m wearing a suit jacket. Without the suit jacket, an ankle holster might be an attractive option because no one would have the faintest idea that I’m carrying (except for people who know me well and know that I’m never unarmed).

Noted authority, Tiger McKee, said, “If I’m curled up in a fetal position, trying to keep the bad guy from kicking my head in, the draw from [an] ankle holster may be quicker and safer than trying to draw the weapon on my belt…” That got me thinking, and he does seem to have a point there.

The Drawbacks of Ankle Carry

Two hands are required for clearing the pant leg and drawing the handgun, and from a standing position, drawing from the ankle is not very quick at all. It requires us to bend down in the face of an attack, which isn’t necessarily the best position to be in.

drawing the weapon
Two hands are required to access a handgun from an ankle holster, which is a drawback. It also dictates that we kneel down while being attacked. (Photo: Chris Tran – Recoil Magazine)

People who have limited flexibility will have more difficulty, as will those who are tall or heavy. Consequently, body type will play a role in how realistic this mode of carry is for the wearer.

The weight and size of the gun are both factors, too. We can’t have a huge handgun around our ankle because the pant leg can only conceal so much. And strapping something that weighs a couple of pounds onto one leg can be uncomfortable, ungainly, and fatiguing. So a small, light handgun is going to be the best choice, such as a small J-Frame-sized revolver or auto, such as the S&W 642 or Ruger LCP.

Should things go dynamic and we have to run or otherwise become very active (such as kick strikes to an attacker), the ankle rig might become unsecure or otherwise give us issues. Have you ever tried to deliver a strike with your foot while a handgun is strapped to it? Me neither, but I’m sure it’s great fun.

The bottom line is that drawing your weapon from an ankle holster is not going to be as fast as drawing a weapon from your belt. It will take more time and effort.

Wardrobe Considerations

Obviously, those who prefer to wear skinny jeans need not bother with ankle carry, since it would make drawing the weapon nigh on impossible. Not to mention, it would print the handgun due to the tightness. It goes without saying that tight-fitting materials such as Spandex, et. al., would result in the same tragic disaster.

They say that fashion trends roll back around every 20-30 years. Don’t quote me on that; I’m not considered the most fashion-savvy guy in North America. Despite that, it looks like bell bottoms are due to hit soon, and if that’s true, then ankle carry will become a lot easier. Donny Osmond will be proud! 

Seriously, though, wearing pants or jeans that are loose around the ankles is key to success with ankle carry. As well, we need to ensure that our pants are long enough when we’re seated to cover up our carry piece.

During the hot months, I personally wear shorts most of the time, so for me, an ankle holster is not practical in that portion of the year. Of course, here in the Northeast, the remaining 8 or so months of the year range from cool to resembling the Ice Planet Hoth.

Ankle Carry Holsters

There are many options on the market for carrying in an ankle holster. One that I have selected is the Bulldog Extreme Series Ankle Holster. The holster is lightweight and made of Nylon. It offers good padding, which not only protects the handgun but also adds to the comfort factor.

Bulldog Cases Ankle Holster.
Bulldog Cases Ankle Holster is padded and has a wide, stretchable attachment band, both of which add comfort while wearing.

It attaches via a wide, elastic carry strap that secures with hook and loop material. I found this strap to be both secure and yet comfortable; I can make it tight enough so that the holster won’t flop around. At the same time, it doesn’t cut off my circulation or become obtrusive. The model that I have accepts small revolvers, including the S&W J-Frame Model 642 in .38 Special.

In Closing

Carrying your gun in an ankle holster can be seen as a compromise. Take into consideration the factors of access, concealability, effectiveness, and comfort when deciding whether the ankle holster is the best option. If you decide to opt for the ankle holster, it’s important to train to be able to access the weapon and employ it should it become necessary.

concealed carry
Concealment is excellent with an ankle holster. (Photo: Bigfoot Gunbelts)

It is a slower method of drawing than if we were to draw a weapon from our belt. However, the concealment factor might be more important than speed in certain circumstances (and ankle carry is most definitely highly concealable). Only you can decide when, where, and if ankle carry is the best option.

Jim Davis served in the PA Dept. of Corrections for 16 ½ years as a corrections officer in the State Correctional Institute at Graterford and later at SCI Phoenix. He served on the Corrections Emergency Response Team (CERT), several of those years as a sniper, and also the Fire Emergency Response Team (FERT). For 25 years, he was a professional instructor, teaching topics including Defensive Tactics, Riot Control and Tactical Operations, Immediate Responder, and cognitive programs as an adjunct instructor at the DOC Training Academy. He was then promoted to the title of corrections counselor, where he ran a caseload and facilitated cognitive therapy classes to inmates. His total service time was close to 29 years. He was involved in many violent encounters on duty, including incidents of fatalities.

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