Concealed Carry

Ankle Carry: Does It Work or Not?

man in jeans and boot with revolver on ankle

Ankle carry is a modern development of a carry that has been around for hundreds of years.

Scots carried a small dagger in the boot and so did many fighting men in any number of wars.

The dagger or a derringer in the boot was a common tool of gamblers and even lawmen in the Wild West.

Ankle carry is an option I would not wish to be without. On the flip side of the coin, I would not wish to be limited to ankle carry as a primary carry.

I cannot recall using ankle carry as a primary. It is strictly a backup, but then, I can see situations where it may be viable.

Why Ankle Carry?

An ankle holster is attached to the body by straps and sometimes supporting garters. All types do not need the leg support option of a garter.

Some body types are more favorable toward ankle carry than others. A muscular leg that offsets the holster will need more support.

Clothing means a lot. Loose-fitting trousers will easily conceal an ankle holster. Skinny jeans will not.

The ankle holster will only work with relatively light handguns, such as small-frame snub-nose .38 revolvers and subcompact pistols.

A very few 9mm handguns are viable with this carry. The snub-nose .38 Special revolver is the best choice for ankle carry on many counts.

It will come up shooting if dusty and, if need be, will fire again and again after being pressed into the opponent’s body.

Since ankle carry is a niche for backup guns, I find the snub-nose .38 Special eclipses all else for ankle carry.

Two snub nose revolvers
If a revolver is carried in an ankle holster, care must be taken in choosing grips.

A Problematic Draw

The ankle holster takes some of the burden of concealed-carry tools off of your belt. However, there are downsides that must be understood.

The draw is slow. No matter how you practice, the draw is slow. Obviously, you cannot draw while engaged in movement.

The act of presenting the handgun from concealed carry is slow while in a conventional standing stance — exactly the reason that ankle carry is a backup carry.

The primary handgun should be drawn when danger comes.

The ankle holster is worn on the weak-side leg with the holster inside the leg and the pants pulled over the holster.

To draw, you bend on the strong-side knee and draw the pistol after you raise the pants leg.

An alternative is to lean on a wall, if you have a wall or vehicle close by, and raise the leg to the gun hand.

The draw is so slow that for many years big-city cops called it the dead man’s draw. Yet, they adopted the ankle holster and it was very popular.

man drawing ankle carry pistol
The author’s well-used Galco ankle holster is a constant companion.

Holster Options

The reason is, that the ankle is a good place to stash a spare Roscoe.

If you are in a fight for your life and knocked on the ground, it is much easier to move the backup gun to the gun hand and draw.

This makes ankle carry attractive as a last-ditch option. When seated or in a vehicle, ankle carry becomes more accessible than strong-side carry.

In some cases, the backup gun moves from backup to primary, depending on seating arrangements and body position.

A too-cheap or poorly-designed holster is a bad choice for ankle carry. There are two basic types in the better class of holsters.

Some, like the Galco ankle glove, hold the revolver secure by friction and require a strong tug to draw.

Others, like the Galco Cop, feature a safety strap. The new Crossbreed ankle holster features a pull-through strap.

There is security, but properly adjusted, the handgun may simply be pulled from the holster.

The inexpensive fabric types with a pull-over strap seated by Velcro closure are far from ideal.

Some are useful, provided the user practices quickly unfastening the safety strap. You need either tight friction or you need a safety strap.

If you have ever stubbed your toe or stumbled, the bump on your ankle is going to cause even more trouble if you are not aware of it at all times.

It is possible to stub or snag the gun handle, so be careful of your movements. The trouser leg offers some offset.

Practice carrying the ankle holster around the home until you are certain of your understanding and competency.

You may practice wearing the holster just in front of the ankle bone or just behind.

Crossbreed Ankle Carry Holster
The Crossbreed ankle holster is long on comfort.

Final Thoughts

An alternate carry mode I do not use is sometimes used by experienced shooters.

They place the ankle holster on the strong-side leg on the inside of the ankle. The butt of the gun is facing forward.

This would make an awkward draw under most circumstances.

However, if seated or driving, all that is needed is to cross the legs and the gun butt is readily at hand. Concealed carry is personal.

If the ankle holster is secure and you practice, there are many options.

What do you think of ankle carry? Let us know in the comments section below!

About the Author:

Wilburn Roberts

When Wilburn Roberts was a young peace officer, he adopted his present pen name at the suggestion of his chief, as some of the brass was leery of what he might write. This was also adopted out of respect for families of both victims and criminals. The pen name is the same and the man remains an outspoken proponent of using enough gun for the job.

He has been on the hit list of a well-known hate group, traveled in a dozen countries and written on many subjects, including investigating hate crimes and adopting the patrol carbine. He graduated second in his class with a degree in Police Science. It took him 20 years to work himself from Lieutenant to Sergeant and he calls it as he sees it.
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (5)

  1. I used to carry a small pistol in an ankle holster when I was tending bar. I got into a real fight with a man who tried to tackle me. He wrapped his arms around my legs, and felt the gun. I ended up keeping him from it, and was able to get him under control, but I never wore an ankle holster again.

  2. I’ve been carrying my S&W model 60 in an ankle holster for 40 years. Granted, it’s there for back-up. I always carry a primary firearm in an in the pants holster. The good thing about ankle carry is that it’s great for back-up because as long as you are wearing long pants, no one knows you are carrying. The bad thing is that is’s slow on the draw. Although it’s slow on the draw, it’s better than not carrying any type of back-up at all. I’ve also discovered that while sitting in a car, it’s not really a problem to access.

  3. S&W M36 in an Galco Ankle Glove. Good for sitting or driving. Good for fighting on the ground on your back. Control the opponents head. Throw the left leg around their back and draw. Pairs well with Jiu-Jitsu.

  4. As a non LEO CCW carrier, I used to use ankle carry fairly often. It avoids the bump frisk and the need for a jacket, etc., but takes a lot of practice to become comfortable (sort of) and effective (better than leaving the piece at home). I laugh at TV cops who carry on the outside of the ankle. It’s PAINFUL and it bulges! I started with an elastic holster, then went to a thumb break when my Roscoe skittered across the pavement (embarrassing but not disastrous). The author is correct in choosing a lightweight 38 snub revolver, preferably with a covered/shrouded hammer. It carries easier and is more effective than a small semiauto.

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