I have used every conceivable form of concealment to carry a firearm hidden on my body. This tends to be inevitable for many who actually make the dedication to carry a gun all day, every day. I carry legally in my home state as well as the other states that reciprocate my permit but to me concealed means concealed regardless. I carry a gun concealed and I want it to be hidden from observation from anyone including potential bad guys. The element of surprise that a concealed firearm provides is just as important as the force capability itself.
My standard carry mode that I use most of the time is inside-the-waistband carry on my strong-side hip. This tends to still be the most common carry method with appendix carry making strong inroads in popularity. I consider either of these to be ideal carry modes for a “standard” carry method since they both accommodate larger guns and put the gun in the accessible waistband location. However, like many of us, I often must dress in certain ways that simply do not permit my usual carry mode. This necessitates the use of alternate modes of carry.
Before proceeding let me reiterate from the outset a principle I strongly encourage all to stick to: use your primary carry mode whenever possible and go to the alternate mode only when it is the choice between being armed or not. Bouncing between carry modes is bad and in a time of crisis you will instinctively reach for a gun where it is most often carried. I only use an alternate carry mode when I absolutely must because of dress. When dressing in any sort of formal manner we usually wear tucked-in dress shirts which rules out waistband carry, unless also wearing a suit jacket. There are tuck-able holsters which are designed to work under tucked shirts that may work for you, but I never had success with these. Here is an overview of the alternate modes I have used and my rundown of the benefits and weaknesses:
Pocket carry at one time served as my alternate carry mode. For many it is a primary carry mode and I have no issues with that. Obviously pocket carry limits you to carrying fairly small guns, but if you use it exclusively there are many benefits to this mode, as well as some limitations, but it can be very functional. For myself it was always strictly a secondary mode. I no longer use it simply because it does not work for me in my circumstances, but I did use it fairly extensively for a few years so I can speak to it. Here are my thoughts on it:
Pocket Carry Pros:
It is convenient. Slipping a gun and pocket holster into your pocket is great and it allows you to disarm or re-arm quickly.
If you proactively anticipate trouble you can acquire a grip on the gun and you simply look like a guy with his hand in his pocket. This sets you up for an extremely fast draw stroke and this is the single great tactical advantage of pocket carry.
Concealment can be quite good, depending on the gun used, the holster used, and the pants used. If done right there will be a bulge in the pocket but it is unrecognizable as a gun and people having various items in pockets is the norm.
Pocket Carry Cons:
The pants pockets have to be right or it does not work. The pocket has to be sufficiently deep so that the heel of the gun does not peek out. The pocket has to be loose enough so that you can actually draw the gun efficiently. The pants material needs to be right and in my experience thinner material like on dress slacks allows the outline of the gun to print significantly even when using a good pocket holster.
Pocket carry presents a slow draw if you don’t proactively acquire a grip.
It is difficult to access the gun in awkward positions, or when seated, or when in an entangled fight.
I have used ankle carry fairly extensively when dressed in ways that rule out my usual carry mode. While I rarely use it any more for an only gun I still prefer it for carrying a second gun when I do so. Ankle carry puts the second gun in a place that is typically not already occupied by other gear so for a backup gun it can serve well, but it does have many limitations.
Ankle Carry Pros:
Extremely concealable and allows for larger guns than does pocket carry.
Extremely comfortable IF you use a good ankle holster. A bad holster provides a horrible experience concerning comfort.
Provides quick access to the gun when in a seated position.
Ankle Carry Cons:
Provides the slowest possible access to the gun when standing as you must bend over and reach to the ground to draw the gun.
Provides virtually no access to the gun if you are in motion, like running for your life!
Despite the great concealment it is easy to allow the ankle holster to peek out from under the cuff when in a seated position as pants tend to bind and ride up.
Despite the fact that they have been around for literally decades, I am new to the belly band. I don’t know why I never used one before, but as of this writing it has become my preferred alternate mode when I need deep concealment due to dress. I wear a small revolver in the appendix position when using the belly band under a tucked shirt as opposed to my usual double-stack 9mm carry option on my hip.
Belly Band Pros:
Very concealable. It hugs the gun into your body tightly and a smaller gun hides quite well even under a tucked shirt.
Allows you to carry a gun still in your waistband as opposed to somewhere drastically different like the ankle.
Is much more consistent to draw with a tucked shirt than are tuck-able holsters in my experience as the belly band does not cling to and bind the shirt.
Belly Band Cons:
It is a bit of a hassle as it needs to be worn under your cloths, it takes a few extra seconds to get it on and positioned compared to putting on a regular holster or dropping a gun in the pocket.
It can be uncomfortable when against bare skin. I typically wear an under shirt below it.
So, in closing, you very well may find, like me, that you must deviate from your routine carry mode on occasion and I think this is acceptable if the choice is between your preferred carry method or no gun at all. Still, try to minimize your alternate carry modes to as few as possible, preferably one, and use it when you wish to be armed even under more restricted conditions.