The Ankle Holster: Pros and Cons

An ankle holster made by The Well Armed Woman.

Some people use an ankle holster to secure their primary firearm when carrying concealed, but my own informal research reveals there are more people who believe that an ankle holster is better suited for concealing a secondary, or back up firearm rather than their primary one. I tend to agree.

My education in ankle holsters started long before there were as many holster options available as there are now. I initially purchased one in order to carry a backup firearm while on duty as a police officer, and my love affair with it was short lived. Many police officers carry a secondary firearm in an ankle holster, but for some of us, it just doesn’t work.

First, I found that trying to conceal a full sized firearm on my calf and keep it accessible was impossible… it’s not as if my uniform pants were boot cut, and the way I had to position the ankle holster in order to successfully conceal my firearm was not conducive to an effective draw. I also had trouble clearing my pant leg from my firearm and holster so I could draw. When I would wear shoes instead of boots, the weight of the firearm in the ankle holster would cause it to slide down my ankle.

The final issue I had wearing an ankle holster was that when I had to make a foot chase, I could feel the holster flopping around on my leg. I was really uncomfortable with the thought of losing a gun (I’ve heard that administrators frown upon that), not to mention that while pursuing a bad guy the focus should be on catching the bad guy, not making sure a gun doesn’t fall out of your pants.

Ankle holsters have come a long way, though, and some of the issues I experienced can be resolved with the purchase of a good holster. Still, before committing to this method of carry, there are six questions you should ask yourself. Otherwise, committing to an ankle holster could be hazardous to your health:

The type of pants you wear will affect both the effectiveness of concealing your handgun as well as your ability to draw it.photo by Michael Ahrens

1. Do you want to conceal a secondary weapon?

As stated earlier, one of the most popular benefits of using an ankle holster for concealed carry is the ability to conceal a secondary or back up firearm. Concealing the primary firearm somewhere in the upper hemisphere of the body allows users the ability to access that firearm faster. The role of a backup weapon is to perform when and if the primary weapon no longer functions due to a lack of ammunition, an unanticipated and severe malfunction, or even loss of control of the primary firearm. The use of an ankle holster allows users to conceal a secondary firearm in a place where body real estate exists.

2. Are your concealment options limited by your apparel?

The attire you wear may determine your concealment options. There are plenty of people who are unable to conceal a firearm anywhere but on the ankle. This is especially true of doctors and nurses, someone who may wear a jump suit, or even women who wear fitted tops. For these individuals, an ankle holster makes carrying concealed possible. And I believe that an ankle holster trumps a concealed carry purse, all day, every day.

3. Can you access a firearm on your ankle?

Proponents of ankle holsters often point out that the location of the ankle holster is its greatest benefit. These proponents are usually young, healthy males who can still bend, squat, and kneel with ease. Many shooters with back, knee, and flexibility issues would strongly disagree. Accessing a handgun in ankle holster from a standing position may be slow and difficult for some people.

There may be occasions when body positions make drawing from an ankle holster advantageous. One is when the user is seated, such as in a restaurant during a robbery. Another scenario that might make an ankle holster advantageous is during a ground fight/weapon retention scenario. If you’re knocked to the ground in a spontaneous attack, having your firearm on your ankle could prove beneficial. You may (or may not) end up in a position where you could draw your firearm easily.

4. Will you be able to conceal an ankle holster?

Keeping an ankle holster concealed doesn’t just refer to inadvertently displaying the firearm, it also means ensure that the firearm doesn’t profile. A combination of wearing the right cut of pant and proper holster positioning can prevent profiling. Since carrying a firearm on the ankle is atypical, proper apparel choices and holster positioning will likely eliminate any chance of detection.

To ensure your firearm isn’t displayed when wearing an ankle holster, you must be very cautious when crossing your legs or even simply sitting down. Pant legs rise when you sit, and rise even more when you cross your legs. Make sure to purchase a longer length pant and position your ankle holster higher if you are a leg crosser.

If you’re in a situation that requires you to access a handgun right now, having it in ankle holster will impair your response time.photo by Kathy Churchill

One main complaint of former ankle holster users is that the holster has a tendency to slide down when wearing low-cut shoes. Many users would cinch down the holster even tighter, but keeping the holster in place can be accomplished in ways other than cutting off your circulation, such as wearing boots or using a knee strap (if available by the manufacturer).

5. What type of retention system does it have?

There are many ankle holster types available, and it’s important to consider the retention system and the issues each system may present.

For example, a hook and loop retention strap is noisy to deploy, which is a problem if you’re in a situation that requires stealth. Hook and loop retention systems, by design, may snag on socks, pants, or shoelaces, and will eventually wear down the surface it contacts. Many people report irritation and chafing when using hook and loop retentions systems near exposed skin.

Another retention device that can often lead to problems are open-top holsters with an adjustable tension screw. Typically these holsters cause problems when the user attempts to adjust a tension screw in an attempt to find a level that allows for a smooth draw yet keeps the firearm secure. That’s a hard balance to strike, and it can feel impossible with some holsters.

6. Did you consider that you have to be stationary to draw?

One of the biggest problems with an ankle holster is that drawing the firearm requires the user to be stationary. This is counter-intuitive when reacting to a spontaneous attack, and becomes especially critical in situations when your best defense is to draw while moving off line.

There are a lot of carry options on the market these days, like these Ankle Soxxx Lace Ankle Holster, from GunGoddess.com.

In cases where the individual drawing the firearm isn’t the one being targeted, an ankle holster might make sense. The likelihood that you will ever need to draw your firearm for a situation that is developing is lower than the chance that you’ll draw it in a spontaneous situation. If the only firearm you carry is on your ankle, your ability to draw your firearm is obviously more limited. And if you do choose to draw it during an attack, you are a sitting duck.

Ankle holsters fill an important niche for people who are limited in where they can carry a firearm. It also makes sense for anyone wishing to conceal a secondary firearm. But anyone who chooses to carry their primary concealed carry firearm in an ankle holster really needs to consider those scenarios and circumstances that are actually conducive to drawing the firearm. I think many people who carry their primary firearm in an ankle holster will come to the conclusion that so many others have come to: Using an ankle holster for a primary firearm limits the situations when that firearm can be accessed safely.