Blackhawk A.R.C. IWB: One Holster, Three Concealed Options

The new A.R.C. IWB Holster (appendix reversible carry, inside-the-waistband) from Blackhawk.

The new Appendix Reversible Carry (A.R.C.) Inside the Waistband (IWB) Holster is suitable for both civilian and law-enforcement concealed carry. Designed to appeal to users who prefer the appendix-carry position (rather than on the hip), the holster is constructed of a soft, yet durable, injection-molded polymer material for all-day comfort. The pliable material lets the holster to fit more snugly to the body, allowing the use of tighter-fitting clothing. The fully reversible and ambidextrous holster accommodates left-and right-handed users and is packaged with two cant- and ride-height adjustment belt clips for 1.5- and 1.75-inch belts. A passive retention detent with adjustment screw allows users to vary the amount of friction for personalized firearm security. The holster can be used in conjunction with pistols featuring rear-mounted red dot sights and is available in Urban Grey in four models (Glock 17/22/31, Glock 19/23/32, Glock 42/43, and S&W Shield). SRP: $22.45.

The above text is the official sell sheet on the new A.R.C. IWB holster.

Here’s why it’s worth knowing about:

Carrying in the appendix position has certain advantages over other inside-the-waistband positions, because it allows for deep concealment opportunities and quick access to the firearm. Your arms are naturally positioned close to the holster, and drawing from that position is very quick. Carrying in the appendix position also has an unspoken advantage--most people avoid looking at other people’s front waistline, because it’s near the crotch.

When I visited Blackhawk’s manufacturing facility in Manhattan, Montana, recently I was able to get a peek behind the curtain at how the holster came to be.

Like many modern manufacturers, Blackhawk’s Montana operation doesn’t have a huge physical footprint, but the space is used efficiently. One big plus is that the engineering staff, which is composed of computer-savvy shooters, is located right next to manufacturing. In essence, the two sides are joined at the hip, which allowed each to critique the other’s designs and work together in a timely, cost-conscious manner.

“When looking to build any new product, we start with a need or an opportunity in the marketplace,” says Liam Yarbrough, Blackhawk’s product line manager. “This comes from consumer feedback, account comments, market trends, and internal users. In the case of the A.R.C. IWB Holster, there has been a resurgence of the appendix-carry method, and feedback indicated a need for an appendix holster that would fit a wide variety of firearms and both left- and right-handed configurations. Another need was for the holster to fit rear-mounted red dots with higher sights. So, we were tasked with creating a comfortable, non-marring, ambidextrous, red-dot compatible concealment retention holster that had versatility, not only as an appendix-carry holster, but viable for strong side and cross-draw as well.”

Tall order. But they filled it quickly, in part because the Montana plant is designed for rapid teamwork and cross-platform consultation.

“For years, our engineers had wanted to use softer polymers in holsters,” says Yarbrough. “Though we had first looked at doing injection-molded IWB holsters in 2012, the project never came to fruition because it didn’t offer anything unique.”

But there was a particular polymer that Yarbrough thought could do the job. The project began in earnest last year when design input was requested from conceal-carry users from around the company, who also helped with the testing and evaluation of prototypes. The particular proprietary polymer was selected because test results demonstrated that it yielded a pliable holster that better prints to the body, allowing the user to wear clothes that fit the body better.

The polymer also had to have the right durometer, a measure of the hardness of a material. In this case, it had to be one that was comfortable to wear yet stayed open inside the waistband, could compress enough for belt-clip adjustments, hold a passive retention screw/insert assembly, and reduce wear on the firearm finish.

One key point to keep in mind is that if you’re not comfortable carrying in the appendix position, the A.R.C. can also be worn in the cross-draw and strong-side positions as well. So, for not a whole lot of money, you can get an adjustable holster that offers three carry positions.

Another point to stress is that given where an appendix holster is placed, a new user should practice drawing and re-holstering with either a demo pistol or an unloaded pistol. Practicing these motions will give you the muscle memory and familiarity so that if the time comes where you must defend yourself you can effectively draw the firearm in a timely yet safe manner.

Although the choice is limited right now to Glock and S&W, Blackhawk intends to expand the line to accommodate more firearms.