Ankle carry is a mode of concealment that seems to garner a great deal of controversy and disagreement compared to other carry options. Like all else in the world of carrying concealed, there are pros and cons. Let me start with a rather strong opinion: ankle carry is not ideal in any way as a primary mode of carrying if you have the choice. However, it may prove the best solution for accommodating carrying in less permissive environments, or when dressed in a less permissive manner. And it may also prove a good option for carrying a backup gun. Most would agree that carrying a gun on the ankle beats carrying no gun at all. And if ankle carry works best for you for carrying a backup, then you are certainly not alone in that regard.
The Role of Ankle Carry: Deep Concealment and Backup Guns
I used ankle carry for quite a few years as my deep concealment mode when I had to dress formally. The relatively loose fit of dress slacks actually works quite well for concealing a gun on the ankle, as long as the gun tends toward the smaller side. Ankle carry provides excellent concealment when standing, but one must use caution when seated as the pant cuff can easily ride up and expose the holster.
Currently, I only use ankle carry for a backup gun. I rarely carry a second handgun on my body, but when I do, I carry it on the ankle. For backup gun carry the ankle offers some advantages. Having a backup gun on the ankle takes it off your belt or out of your pocket, areas of the body that are often over-burdened with equipment as it is. This is one reason why the ankle proves popular for backup gun carry; your waistline and pockets may be full already.
The Downsides of Ankle Carry
There are two significant downsides to ankle carry. First, being that the gun is attached to your leg, accessing it while moving is almost impossible. In a fight, this is a liability. The second downside is that the draw is slow and requires a great deal of bodily motion compared to accessing a gun from your hip. You must drop down to your ankle level, or raise your ankle up to hand level, to draw the gun. No matter how practiced you become ankle carry will never be as fast in deployment as is a gun carried on the waistline. Another consideration is the ramifications of carrying a gun on your leg, which, over time, can lead to issues with your knee, so I suggest carrying only light-weight guns on the ankle. Small polymer-framed autos and light-weight revolvers are ideal here.
The Benefits of Ankle Carry
Ankle carry provides several benefits that may make it the most viable option for your situation despite being far from ideal as a primary carry mode. One compelling benefit offered is that the gun proves very accessible while seated. For this reason, ankle carry may prove almost ideal for people who spend a great deal of time at a desk or in a vehicle. Drawing from the ankle while seated often proves to be faster than drawing from the waist, depending on where and how you carry on the waist. And it can also prove more discreet. If in a vehicle you can access the gun without anyone outside of the vehicle even noticing. If seated at a desk or a table, the same benefit applies. The ankle carried gun can also be readily accessed when in a supine position on your back, which is a likely position to end up in during a fight.
Selecting the Appropriate Gun for Ankle Carry
A big consideration before getting started with ankle carry is what gun you will actually use. Generally speaking, full-size guns are not used for ankle carry. A sub-compact double-stack auto, like a Glock 26, is often used and this tends to be the largest realistic selection. Most people find even this size gun a bit much for the ankle. Small-frame revolvers, small single-stack 9mm autos, and small pocket autos tend to be favorable here. The smaller and lighter in weight, the more concealable and less obtrusive you will find the gun on the ankle. I favor a revolver for ankle carry as it lends itself to be reliable and resistant to the harsh conditions that ankle carry can expose the gun to. The weight is a foremost consideration as a heavy gun attached to only one leg can lead to an awkward gait while walking, and over a long duration can actually lead to knee or hip problems.
The Ankle Holster Itself
Don’t waste time on budget variety ankle holsters. A poorly designed holster will be uncomfortable and not tolerable for any amount of time. The better holsters use a sheep-skin or similar material on the inside of the holster, below the gun, where it sits against your leg. Be sure to use a holster with secure retention that holds the gun tightly, and one that has high-quality hook and loop material for the fastener around your leg. Good holsters are made using both leather for the holster itself, or nylon. I am adamant in the suggestion, however, to only use a design that utilizes a thumb break or strap that retains the gun. Even if the holster is very tight the butt of the gun can get snagged on a car door or elsewhere, leading it to dislodge. The thumb break or strap makes the draw slightly slower, but I am firm in recommending it.
The standard location to wear an ankle holster is the inside of your leg that is opposite your dominant hand so that you can access the gun with your dominant hand. You can also wear the gun on the outside of the leg, but this lends itself to the gun bumping into things much more often. The gun can also be worn on the dominant-side leg with the grip facing out; this makes for a more awkward draw when standing, but facilitates reaching the gun more easily if in a grappling fight on the ground.
Positioning, Fit, and Comfort for Ankle Carry
Some ankle holsters also incorporate the optional use of a calf strap, which is a band that wraps around your leg above your calf and ties to the ankle holster to prevent it from sliding down, as they often have a tendency to do so. A strap may or may not be preferred depending on the holster, gun, the shape of your legs, what type of shoes or boots you wear, etc…, so only experimentation will sort this out.
Likewise, the exact placement of the gun’s position against your leg will vary based on preference. Some like the gun to sit slightly forward on the leg so the muzzle is just in front of the ankle bone, while others prefer it behind. You might also find that even the best ankle holsters prove uncomfortable if placed on bear skin, so using a high-riding sock is needed. You can also cut the foot section off of a tube sock and use only that portion of the sock to place it directly under the holster to improve comfort.
Ankle holsters can offer good concealment, but the clothing used needs to be right for the job. Obviously, really tight-fitting pants that hug the shins and ankles won’t work. Also of note, the length of the pant needs to be on the longer side as a pant cut too short will tend to ride up and expose the ankle holster more readily. In a sitting position, it is easy to expose the bottom of the ankle holster without you realizing it.
I found that using socks that can ride up high enough to be placed over the holster, at the bottom of the holster, offers the ability to conceal the holster significantly better, should it peak out of your pant cuff while sitting. Also, the pants must be loose enough to not only conceal the holster but to allow you to retract them when you must access the gun. If too tight, the pant cuff will bind on the holster when drawing.
Drawing from the Ankle
The draw from an ankle holster is simply slower than anything from the waistline while you are on your feet, though it can be a fairly fast draw if in a seated position. From the standing position, you must clear the concealment garment by raising the pant leg, acquire a grip, then draw the gun. The pant cuff can be raised by grabbing the pant above or below the knee with a single hand and raising the pant leg. A second, and typically more positive, way is to grasp the cuff of the pant with both hands near the ankle area and raise the pant cuff.
There are three general ways in which this can be done: first, if agile and mobile enough, you can raise your leg high enough to meet your hand, pull the pant cuff up, and draw the gun. The second option is to drop to the knee opposite the leg that the holster is on, lift the pant cuff, and access the gun while on your knee. The third option is to take a step backward with the leg opposite of the holster, bend down and lift the pant cuff, and access the gun. I favor the third option as I find lifting the leg up while maintaining a standing position puts me off balance and taking a knee minimizes mobility. Like anything else, you will need to experiment to see which method works better for you.
Ankle carry takes some significant experimentation and training to work into your carry routine, but it provides another means of going armed that may be the best option for the situation.