Handguns > Semi-Auto

Carrying on the Cuff: Concealed Carry on the Ankle

Ankle carry is a good option for both backup and primary carry.


The method of concealing a handgun on an ankle goes back much further than most people realize. Contrary to popular belief, many western towns didn’t allow the carrying of firearms within city limits. Because of this, many cowboys, gamblers and ordinary townsfolk hid sixguns in their boots—one of the earliest forms of concealed carry.

Today, many concealed-carry advocates consider ankle carry to be a backup method. However, there are times when ankle carry is the best method for the situation. In fact, Shootrite Firearms Academy Founder Tiger McKee is a huge advocate of ankle carry.

“I like ankle carry a lot,” McKee said. “I often use it as backup, and even as primary when I can’t carry a gun on my belt. It provides good access to get to a gun without sweeping yourself or anything else.”

Ankle carry provides deep concealment for a medium to small pistol or revolver, and in certain situations, can be easily drawn for self-defense. Sitting is one of those situations. Whether in a car, at a table or a park bench, an ankle holster provides fast access to a handgun, and with practice, can be done quite discreetly by feigning an itch or casually raising a foot to rest on the chair rung. However, it is in a car where ankle carry really shines.

An ankle gun doesn’t dig into the seat back, or get covered or tangled by the seatbelt. It is easily reachable with either hand. Most importantly, you can reach and grip the gun’s handle with very little chance of anyone realizing what’s happening, even if they’re standing by the car door. And, if the situation diffuses itself, no one needs to know that you were able and willing to defend yourself.

Draw Into Action
While drawing an ankle gun from a sitting position is almost instinctual, drawing while standing requires more thought. Some believe that the best way to draw from an ankle holster is to bring the gun up to the hand by lifting the leg, but most self-defense experts say you should always keep both feet firmly planted on the ground.

Since most people carry on the inside of their weak leg, the accepted method of drawing an ankle gun is to:

  • • Grasp the pants leg above the knee with the non-gun hand and pull to expose the gun and holster.
  • • Drop back on the strong leg to widen your stance and make it easier to bend down to the gun.
  • • Bend down at the waist to the gun while leaving the head up to keep eyes on the threat.
  • • Grasp the gun, breaking the retention strap if the holster has one, firmly with the strong hand.
  • • Draw the gun and immediately rotate the muzzle toward the target. At this point shots can be fired one-handed if the situation demands speed.
  • • Bring the support hand forward to the gun to fulfill a two-handed grip.
  • • At this point, either fire from the low position, or, if you have time, rise into a shooting stance.

Train Continuously
While training is recommended for everyone who carries a concealed firearm, ankle carry requires additional commitment since the gun is such a long distance from the hand. It takes good muscle memory to reach, draw, aim and fire from a crouched, somewhat awkward position. Also, since most ankle guns are usually on the smaller size in both caliber and barrel length, accuracy under pressure is important.

Of course a lot of ranges don’t allow practice from ankle retention, but you can train with an unloaded gun and a LaserLyte Training System to determine where the shot would hit. Be sure to start slow and build up to defensive speed. Never forget that slow is smooth and smooth is fast. Speed will come with time.

Choosing an Ankle Holster
Like with other holsters, choosing an ankle holster can be an exhausting process of trial and error. There are a multitude of brands—Galco, Fobus, Mitch Rosen, Uncle Mike’s—styles and materials available from which to choose. Basically, choosing an ankle holster boils down to comfort, retention and concealment.

Start with a holster that has a soft, cushy material, such as sheepskin or foam, between the ankle and the gun. This protects the ankle bone and keeps the skin from chafing. Next, determine whether the holster will retain the gun, which is jargon for not letting it fall out, during ordinary movement such as walking or running. Lastly, the holster has to remain high enough for the pants leg to keep it covered even when sitting. While some legs may be more naturally suited to ankle carry, for others the use of calf straps will the gun from dropping below the pants cuff.

One argument against ankle carry is that you can only carry smaller guns, and many shooters want a gun with more punch for self-defense. However, any gun is better than no gun, and there are times when a 1911 .45 ACP just doesn’t make sense with the clothing or situation. Sometimes compromise is necessary, but according to McKee, it’s all a compromise.

“If I could, I’d carry my rifle, but I can’t, so I compromise and carry a handgun,” said McKee.

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24 Responses to Carrying on the Cuff: Concealed Carry on the Ankle

D. Fitch wrote:
September 03, 2013

I know it sounds weird but trust me, this works: carry a glock 19 iwb and a glock 30 on the ankle. I like having more rounds with a 9mm but it's comforting to have a good .45 at hand.

John Carter wrote:
November 24, 2012

If you have / can afford more than one carry gun, put on on your ankle that is great when you are sitting in a car, truck, restaurant, etc., and it is inconvenient to get a gun inside the pants or in the small of your back. Than have the second gun where ever your favorite place is. Police have had a backup gun for years - learn from them. I move my main gun as seasons change and I am wearing a tee shirt or a coat.

Paul Williams wrote:
June 01, 2012

I carry a Charter Arms Bulldog .44 Sp. In my front pocket or in a inside the pants rig works just fine. It's easy to conceal.

Jeff Baxter wrote:
May 31, 2012

I carry a Glock 36 or Walther PK380 in a Fobus ankle holster most days in the summer. Once I am wearing cloths that have a tucked in business shirt to belted pants, then I go with the ankle rig for most of the time carry. If I can go back to OWB then its either of these pistols or my S&W model 13 or 1911 under a shirt, lite jacket or coat for the rest of my year. Has worked great for 5+ years. I do think any carry position requires some deployment practice and thought, to be sure your fluid in your draw. Great.

Howdy wrote:
May 22, 2012

Buck- If you want to have more protection in a restroom, pee sitting down with the door locked and your hand on your pistol

POPO wrote:
January 30, 2012

I carry a glock 33 with Galco holster. It works great.

Buck wrote:
December 15, 2011

I know this is an old thread but just wanted to put my two cents in. I carry a s&w 686 plus 6' on my ankle and a sub compact glock on my inner thigh in a thigh holster This comes in handy if your at a urinal takin a leak and someone trys to mug you from behind. Public bathrooms leave you extremely vulnerable.

Michael C wrote:
March 10, 2011

Great article...I prefer to carry strong-side IWB, but it isn't always practical or even possible. So for those times, I have a fobus ankle holster for my LCP. And Ed G.; lighten up. You sound like a mall ninja. Life is compromise, and if you depend on how fast you can get to your gun, ninety-nine percent of the time it means you haven't been paying attention to what's around you or you would have already pulled the weapon and had it in your hand inside a pocket. Like the article says, a lot of ccw is compromise; better a gun on your ankle than no gun at all.

TS Tharp wrote:
November 17, 2010

Ruger LCR .357 in my boot, SR40 inside pant, strong hip. Both in Unca Mike's gear.

John wrote:
October 25, 2010

I usually carry a Kel Tec in a pocket holster but the ankle holster would make more sense when driving. Before you laugh, I can promise 7 hits in the chest at 7yds with the laser sight.

Rick wrote:
August 21, 2010

I carry a Detonics in 45 ACP in an ankle holster

Crash Corrigan wrote:
August 18, 2010

I carried a Smith M&P Model 10 2"tubed revolver for over 18 years on my left ankle while working as a uniformed LEO in NYC from '66 to '84. I never had to pull it...but it was nice to know it was there if needed for a NY Reload. It was fantastic when driving a car and with the right holster no one was the wiser. For reason I could always shoot the little back up gun better than my duty gun right from the get go. Something to do with the ergonomics and balance but I really could drive tacks with that Smith snubbie. Even now at 67 I am very accurate with my Taurus 85 in .38 Spcl or my CA 327 Federal Mag or .44 Special Bulldog.

David Steele wrote:
August 18, 2010

If you are driving use crossdraw or attach the holster to the car seat. Ankle carry is insane. While you go for your weapon you either trip over yourself, get caught in your pantleg or never reach it because you are already shot while hunging for it. You'd be better off with a shillelagh than ankle carry.

EmeraldCoaster wrote:
August 18, 2010

I use a Galco ankle holster for my LCP with pants, but I choose to go with a Recluse pocket holster when wearing shorts. As with most things in life, specific carry methods have their pros and cons.

jmp wrote:
August 18, 2010

You're not limited to a small gun. I ankle-carry an officer model 1911 every day. Aluminum frame helps the weight. Also, a boot helps support the weight better than a regular shoe. I've tried a lot of holsters - I recommend the Blackhawk size 16 with the garter support, but you'll want to wear a full-height sock like a Gold-Toe athletic sock. It's so comfortable, I often forget to take it off when I get home.

Peter wrote:
August 18, 2010

I carry fairly frequently in the ankle holster as my primary carry. However, I learned to drop to a kneeling stance for the draw. I can then either fire from the (more supportive) kneeling stance or return to a standing position. I had not seen the "crouch draw" shown here before. Any thoughts regarding the advantages or disadvantages between these draws?

Paul Rackley wrote:
August 18, 2010

While strong side is my prefered way to carry, there are times when ankle is best, such as a long drive. Borntotravel, I currently carry my LCP in a Galco Ankle lite.

JOHNNIE wrote:
August 18, 2010


ed g wrote:
August 18, 2010

this is tv junk excuse me mr tug my shoes untied.ive been carrying for 35 yrs strong side is the best.this is ok for a backup

ForceTech wrote:
August 18, 2010

Great article Paul! You've convinced me that the crouching draw is better than a standing draw. An additional tip: a second sock, over the bottom of the holster will help conceal the holster/gun if the pants leg creeps up while sitting.

borntotravel wrote:
August 18, 2010

What brand are you using for your LCP?

Jere Joiner wrote:
August 17, 2010

I never liked an ankle holster, primarily because the weapon flopped around and just didn't feel right. I also didn't like the possibility that contact between the gun and my leg would cause the weapon to rust (obviously, this was before polymer guns). Now it might be a different matter if a boot or high-topped shoe was designed with a holster built into it...

ed g wrote:
August 17, 2010

excuse me sir i have to tie my shoe/yeah right/ive been carrying for 35 years and you couldnt give me an ankle holsterr thats tv junk

SLippold wrote:
August 17, 2010

I carry a LCP in an ankle holster and found it to be very comfortable. Almost to the point of forgetting that I have it on!