I would never forgive myself if a loved one were attacked and I could not prevent it because all my guns were locked up at home.
For that reason, I believe in carrying when I can; not when it’s merely convenient. But occasionally, my favorite carry method—inside the waistband (IWB)—isn’t practical. It’s good to have other options.
Consequently, I decided to take a second, harder look at ankle holsters.
Ankle Rig Bias
I haven’t worn an ankle holster regularly for a number of reasons: You have to bend to get to your gun—a bad move if your attacker is right on top of you. And it’s harder to draw on the move if you’re racing to cover. You have to wear pants with sufficiently loose pantlegs to conceal the gun and access it reasonably well. If you are apt to walk through deep snow ( a curse for us in the Northeast), your gun will get wet. If you need to run or walk very far, an ankle holster can feel as if you have an anchor chained to your leg.
Nevertheless, to give ankle carry another chance, I selected four holsters to try.
“… you must practice either the lunging draw or getting into a kneeling position to draw and fire.”
Desantis Apache Ankle Rig
The DeSantis Gunhide Apache Ankle Rig is an American-made nylon holster sewn to a nylon strap that’s wide enough to prevent the handgun from rocking back and forth like a pendulum as you walk.
The version I chose—for small autos—had an adjustable retention strap with thumb break. The rig is secured by hook-and-loop fasteners, and it stayed put when I walked around. There is an attachment ring for an optional calf strap. The wide strap is lined with sheepskin and was very comfortable with the Ruger LCP I carried in it.
Desantis Die Hard Ankle Rig
This holster is top quality. Like the Apache rig, it features a wide nylon strap with sheepskin lining. It is secured with hook-and-loop fasteners and an attachment point for an optional calf strap. The holster, itself, is leather with a coated exterior for durability and a smooth leather lining to protect the finish of the gun.
The model I tested, molded specifically for a subcompact Glock (models G26, G27, G33), also had a leather retention strap with thumb break. The gun was a perfect fit; there was no movement of the gun inside the holster. I didn’t feel I needed the calf strap with either of the DeSantis holsters.
Bug Bite Ankle Holster
The Bugbite differs from the others in that instead of a strap, it consists of an elasticized fabric sleeve that covers nearly the whole calf. That distributes the weight, making the holster extremely comfortable to wear. There was no shifting of the holster and the handgun was stable—no rocking motion.
Another advantage of the Bugbite is that it uses a stretchy pouch to hold the handgun, making it suitable for many different handguns. I tried it with a Ruger LCP, Glock G26, Harpers Ferry Armory A.H. .357 Magnum,
and Smith & Wesson Model 60 revolver. All rode very well in this rig.
A zipper at the bottom makes it easier to take this holster on and off. An adjustable hook-and-loop strap at the top helps keep the holster in place. There’s also a pocket for a spare magazine.
Uncle Mike’s Tactical Ankle Holster
This holster features a contoured strap, adjustable retention strap with thumb break and a removable, above-the-calf strap, all secured with hook-and-loop fasteners. Mine was designed for a small revolver with hammer spur.
What’s The Verdict?
Predictably, in actual use, I found that a small, flat, lightweight pocket pistol (such as the Ruger LCP) carried most comfortably without me feeling that my movement was hampered. The other guns I tried—the S&W Model 60, Harpers Ferry Armory A.H. .357 Mag. and Glock G26—are probably about as big as I would go in an ankle holster.
I still prefer a mid-sized gun that I shoot better as a primary weapon carried in an IWB holster. However, a comfortable ankle holster can be a good thing to have in these instances:
When carrying a backup weapon. Let’s face it: You only have so much room around your waistband. Putting your primary and backup weapon on the waistband might necessitate a belt and suspenders (and a steel cable attached to a crane) to keep your pants up.
Instead of a pocket holster. The advantage of an ankle holster over a pocket holster is that you can access
your gun with either hand—difficult to impossible with pocket carry. You won’t always be wearing tactical
pants with cargo pockets, and pocket space is limited with typical business attire. When one pocket is devoted to a handgun, you must cram everything else (keys, cell phone, wallet, pocket knife, tactical pen, flashlight, pepper spray, spare pistol magazine, business cards, etc., etc.) into the rest.
When the dress code limits your options. You’re in the office, and you take your sport jacket off. Uh, oh. Where’s your gun? A belt holster or shoulder holster is out of the question. If you take the gun off, where are you going to put it? Your desk, your briefcase, your car? These are not great options, because you give up immediate control of, and access to, your gun. Yes, there are tuckable IWB holsters, but they still leave the attaching clip or belt loops exposed, and your pistol bulging under the shirt might be apparent. You can opt for a pocket holster, which, as mentioned earlier, takes up valuable pocket space and limits access to one hand.
When traveling by car or otherwise seated. Sitting in a car has an impact on your carry choices. A firearm on the belt can be uncomfortable when sitting in a vehicle, and the seat belt can interfere with access to it. Drawing from a pocket holster while seated can be difficult too.
It Takes Practice
Wearing an ankle holster takes an adjustment. And you must practice either the lunging draw or getting into a kneeling position to draw and fire. At the very least, ankle carry can give you a leg up—pun intended—against an attacker, as compared to if you carried no gun at all.
Steven Paul Barlow is a retired sergeant/station commander and former firearms instructor with the New York State Police. He has been writing on outdoor topics for more than 30 years and has served as the editor for a number of Engaged Media special publications, including Gunslingers.
Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the October 2018 print issue of Gun World Magazine.