Ankle Carry:
Backup, Or Primary

— Or Primarily A Back-Up?

Renegade made soft ankle rigs in their day (that’s an original holding the cuffs), and today The Wilderness makes
the Renegade, complete with real shearlling liner and surgical elastic. That’s Roy’s old Charter .44 in the picture.

“Having a gun” is, indeed, a good idea if you need one. People who carry guns for defense (or even sometimes because they have to, like cops), often default to the easiest, most comfortable way possible. It’s only natural to get lazy when it comes to something you do constantly, almost automatically. But it’s not always smart. Ankle holsters fit into that category, and I fit into that profile of being lazy — at least in the past.

During my entire police career, if I had long pants on I had an ankle gun on — all the time, every time. I always had a back-up gun of some sort. Several officers saved themselves because they used their back-up guns to shoot a thug off of them. If I had shorts on working the Harbor Unit, I had an NAA .22 Magnum mini-revolver, a lightweight J-Frame or, believe it or not, a cut-down Charter Arms Bulldog .44 Special (oh gosh, that wasn’t authorized, but I’m retired so can admit it now) hiding in a front pocket .

But what I’m embarrassed about is I often — even usually — wore either that J-Frame or the Charter in an ankle holster off-duty, as my primary gun. During my time as a reserve in the 1970’s, and during my early San Diego PD career later, the game was the same. But in retrospect, I’m not convinced my carry method was a sound idea. Yes, I didn’t violate the “have a gun” thing, but to get to it required a judicious application of bodily contortions. Fast? Not in the least. As a matter of fact, it was slow and often sort of fumbly to draw it.

If you’re right-handed you wear the gun on the inside of your left ankle. Then to draw, you kneel, dropping your right knee to the ground, your left leg bent as you claw your pants hem up, hopefully clearing the top of the gun’s grip, then yank the gun out. Meanwhile, don’t forget, you’re not exactly mobile in this pose, so you need to engage the bad guy while kneeling, or jump back to your feet and go to work. Hopefully the bad guy(s) have been so amazed by your grace and fluid movements they have paused to watch you.

Sometimes, if my Spidey-sense was activated, I’d sort of pause behind a car when walking out into a dark parking lot, lift my left ankle and, leaning on a hood while I drew the gun, slip it into a coat pocket while I entered the “bad guy” zone. Once in my car, I’d stuff it back into the ankle rig. Which, by the way, isn’t always easy. But a plus is when driving, if you keep your pant’s hem above the grip, it does make a convenient “driving” holster. You just reach down and presto, you’ve got your gun in your hand. Just remember to pull your pants hem back down.

Security can be an issue too. Cross your leg and the world sees your gun. Mas Ayoob says to pull your sock up over the whole thing and that works, but can get uncomfortable. Also, some holsters aren’t very secure. During my early police career I had a leather, thumb-snap ankle holster. While on a spirited foot chase one night, I saw a shiny object suddenly appear at eye level, flipping over and over. I watched it, wondering what sort of UFO it was as the street lights glinted on it as it spun. Then it dawned on me — it was my stainless S&W Model 60 dancing in front of me. In one of those “I can’t make this stuff up” moments, I snatched it out of the air, stuffed it into a pocket and kept up the race. After the dust settled I figured it out. I had kicked my ankle holster with my off-foot, efficiently unsnapping the thumb break, allowing the next running step to launch the gun into orbit in front of me. Oops.

It was soon after, I discovered Renegade’s “virtually impossible to lose a gun out of” ankle rigs and have worn them or their modern iteration ever since that day, some 35 or more years ago. Today, you can get the same rig from, still called the Renegade, and please use it with my blessings. But I get ahead of myself.

Pocket holsters Roy has carried include (L-R): BLACKHAWK!, TUFF Products, Thad Rybka and the
factory-supplied one with his Ruger LCPII. All work just fine.

More traditional leather rigs (L-R: Rosen, Tauris and Ritchie) work fine and often incorporate elastic
straps, kydex and other blends.

Thinking About It

In retrospect, I had it all wrong. I don’t think you should ever-never rely on an ankle rig to hold your primary gun. Cue hue-and-cry and hang-wringing contingent. As a back-up spot it’s nearly perfect. On the ground fighting? You might be able to reach an ankle. Sitting in the car and getting a surprise handed to you? The handy ankle gun is right at-hand. Primary gun out of ammo, broken, lost or stolen? Ta-Da, all is not lost as you kneel to get your back-up into play. And, people don’t think to look there. Well, most people don’t.

About 100 years ago I was in a house in a rough part of town taking a report. A young man, about six or seven was walking around and around me checking me out. Kids often check you out to look at your Batman Utility Belt. Then, abruptly, he knelt, patting my pants leg right where my J-Frame sat. As he stood up nodding knowlingly, he crossed his arms, saying, “That yo’ frowdown gun?” as he looked at me accusingly. I’m not making this up, honest. “Um, er, uh … nope, it’s an ankle weight I use to help me exercise my injured left ankle,” I muttered. He harrumphed, turned on his heel and strutted off. Something about the set of his shoulders said, “Like I believe that.” Something to keep in mind if you wear an ankle rig.

In a perfect world? I think a high quality ankle rig you fall madly in love with makes impeccable sense. Make sure it’s very, very secure, then carry your back-up gun there. And practice drawing from it, but make sure you do it safely, etc., etc. I think you’ll be surprised at some of the antics it may take to go from “I’m standing here” to “I’m standing here with my ankle gun in my hand now.” Also people will stare — and frequently point — wondering what you’re doing while you’re busy drawing the gun.

Alternatives? Pocket holsters are simple, good ideas and work amazingly well. Also the gun is at-hand, literally. Going from yellow to orange alert? A casual hand in the pocket looks right at home. Going to orange with an ankle holster? Kneeling abruptly and hiking up your pants leg in the aisle at Home Depot might be awkward and draw undue attention. There’s that pointing thing again. I’m just saying. And of course, there’s always belt carry, IWB, shoulder holsters, various back-packy/bag ways and a near zillion variations on the themes. Just make sure your primary gun is handy and the ankle rig is reserved for a safe and sane back-up gun plan.

Of course, that’s just my opinion based on my limited experience over the past 42 years or so, and I might be completely wrong. Gads … has it really been that long?

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