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March 19, 2012
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Tom Marx Casting a Critical Eye on Weapons Technology and Training
with Tom Marx

Fit for female cops: Ankle holster checklist

Out of all the non-waistband concealment holsters, the ankle rig is one of the most popular. A well designed one can carry even a medium sized handgun comfortably, and it places the gun on a part of the body that most people don’t look at when looking for a firearm.

But this holster is also one that people often buy and just strap on and think they will be able to carry without difficulty and, more troubling to me, be able to utilize without problems when the time comes. Unfortunately, there is a lot more to it than that.

Here's a short checklist for what to consider with this type of holster.

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1.) Will you be wearing plainclothes or  a duty uniform?
• Ensure garments can be lifted for draw
• Ensure material will minimize printing of the gun
• If wearing a skirt, make sure it doesn't expose the weapon

2.) Is the gun on the ankle a second gun?
• Be sure to protect both

3.) What activity will you be doing?
• Not ideal for running, climbing over fences, or  close-quarters combat
• May not be best for off-duty activities like jogging or bicycling

4.) Does your firearm allow it?
• Can accommodate a fairly wide range of pistols and revolvers
• Large service weapons may not work best

5.) Will the weather be a problem?
• Snow, rain, puddles and standing ground water can slosh liquid into the weapon
• Dust and dirt can work their way into the weapon

6.) Can you physically use it?
• Need ability to reach far enough down your body to produce the weapon?
• Need to keep your head up while doing so
• Consider age, weight and range of motion

When wearing an ankle holster, the two biggest points to consider are comfort and shoe type.

Comfort
Many people who complain about the ankle holsters they have purchased being uncomfortable are often wearing them directly on the protruding ankle bone or structure. As I said in that earlier article, what would you expect? For the comparisons to the pressure point control techniques many of you have been taught, are numerous. Just rotate the assembly around the leg before snugging it up so that when installed, the muzzle (if not the bulk of the gun itself), rides behind and alongside that protruding structure and not on top of it. The increase in comfort and the reduction of annoyance is amazing.

The other thing this move will do is aid concealment. Worn on the highest point on the uneven landscape that makes up the circumference around the ankle (that protruding ankle bone again), the gun and holster limit the number of pants that will “work” in both concealing and allowing for the production of the weapon under stress. You also increase the possibility of printing the gun through those pants and giving yourself away in that manner. Moving the firearm behind (in essence, below) the higher bones in the leg and ankle make it far harder to be detected.

Additionally, by positioning the weapon behind the ankle “bone”, the butt of the gun will tend to turn into and just behind (or at least alongside) the calf in a manner such that it will not stick out and print through the pant leg as readily as it might do otherwise. Again this parallels the idea that when the gun is carried along the waist and worn behind the hip “bone” and its butt fits more readily into the hollow formed by the rib cage.

Shoes
Most traditional duty uniform shoes have some sort of composition and/or limited slip sole. Many of the newer more “technical” styles employ more aggressive (but generally still “non-slip”) soles that often parallel the waffle-like segmentation (not necessarily the pattern) seen on running shoes. Duty uniform boots often advance these aggressive patterns even further; many times increasing their depth or often going on to an outright lug sole.

On the range, most of these designs are not too problematic. However, real life can be different and “different” shoes and boots can be even more of an issue. Lug soles can “bite” into certain gravel surfaces as well as into certain muddy environments and stop the turning movement of the foot completely. Or they can at least slow it down to the point that the upper part of the leg will turn at a faster rate than the ankle. Neither is a good thing.

Leather-soled dress shoes can cause your feet to slide out from under you on wet streets or grassy terrain. This is one of the first things I discuss with plainclothes officers who wear suits as their “uniform”. Women have even greater issues for heel shape, and height also comes into play and can greatly affect stability and support. There are reasons that many airlines have rules concerning shoe styles for female flight attendants, and they are not all appearance-related. Many of them relate directly as to how they allow those women to perform in emergency and sometimes merely less-than-stable working conditions. There is something to be learned from that.

Next time, we'll look at specific models, design features and drawing techniques for ankle holster use.

About the author

Tom Marx left the Chicago Police Department in 1988 to become an instructor at the Smith & Wesson Academy. After several years of teaching full time both nationally and internationally, he shifted roles at Smith: first to a series of technical positions and then as Head of their Domestic Law Enforcement Operations. He left S&W to organize a Law Enforcement Division for Michaels of Oregon as well as to help design much of their police-related duty gear. Leaving Uncle Mike’s, Tom became Director of Intellectual Property for BLACKHAWK Products Group; focusing on the patent efforts for all of their divisions. Today, he is a consultant in various firearms, accessory and training matters. Throughout the years, Tom has continued to lecture and instruct both inside and outside the US with such diverse groups as ILEETA, IALEFI, WIFLE, LETC, NDIA, the NRA, and Team One Network. .

Contact Tom Marx.




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