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The Best Ankle-Carry Handguns for When the Waistband Isn’t an Option

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Carrying off-the-waistband presents some challenges. These guns tackle that tall task by being extremely compact and lightweight yet remain shootable and chambered for effective cartridges. (Photo: David Higginbotham)

Why Ankle-Carry?

Or Belly Band, Bra Holster or Pocket-Carry

Ankle-carry has less appeal today thanks in a large part to the Kydex revolution and the many many great, reliable single-stack pistols out there. Today’s in-the-waistband holster materials have made concealing small handguns easier than ever. By contrast ankle holsters are awkward, out of the way and hard to reach. But they’re not irrelevant just yet. Not everyone has the option of wearing today’s mainstream options, depending on their work dress codes or other restrictions, and that means ankle-carry is still one of the best on-the-body options for many concealed carriers.

For those with a “two is one” mentality, ankle-carry is also a convenient way to walk with a backup at all times. In both cases, there are some problems with ankle-carry — besides the draw. A gun on your ankle is a pendulum, so light weight is important. Keeping the weight down helps with retention, just as much a good holster, so picking a gun with a good amount of holster support is equally important.

See Also: Bra Carry with the Flashbang Bra Holster

Of course, the smaller the gun, the greater the felt recoil. You can reduce recoil by going to low-powered cartridges, but only to a point. Nobody’s saying .22 Long Rifle and .25 ACP aren’t deadly, but they are debatable as adequate self-defense cartridges. For most people, .380 ACP, .38 Special and similar options like 9x18mm Makarov are considered the entry level for protection. They are also about as hot as you can go with a lot of smaller handguns, because otherwise the recoil goes through the roof.

This guide is a jumping-off point for people looking for ankle — or belly, bra or pocket — carry guns. Keep three things in mind: low weight, good holster availability, and good cartridge options. These guns are all in production, with decent aftermarket support and weigh under one pound unloaded.

These are mostly .38s and .380s. While small semi-autos generally have better capacity and can cost less without sacrificing reliability, revolvers have an organic profile that many people find easier to conceal. And .38 Special has a load advantage over .380 ACP, with everything from soft-shooting loads for a good time at the range to near-magnum +P loads.

The Semi-Autos

Colt Mustang XSP

Colt recently reintroduced the Mustang after overhauling their methods and materials. These little pistols are surprisingly shootable despite their low weight. They’re single-action mini-1911s with an integral snag-free front sight, an adjustable rear sight and good controls. The XSP is the featherweight model with a polymer frame and approachable price point.

  • Caliber: .380 ACPcolt mustang xsp updated
  • Capacity: 6+1
  • Weight: 11.5 ounces
  • Barrel length: 2.75 inches
  • Overall length: 5.5 inches
  • Overall height: 4 inches
  • MSRP: $499

Alternate Option: Standard Colt Mustang

The standard Mustang is a slightly classier metal-framed option for a little more with a $599 MSRP. It also weighs more at 12.5 ounces and has interchangeable grips.

Shop for Colt Mustangs on GunsAmerica: https://www.gunsamerica.com/Search.aspx?T=colt%20mustang

Glock 42

The Glock 42 is a newcomer to the concealed-carry game but it already has tons of support, thanks to its pedigree. It’s affordable and has a lot of aftermarket sight options, extended magazines and trigger upgrades that make it a no-brainer when it comes to small carry guns.

  • Caliber: .380 ACP glock 42
  • Capacity: 6+1 (extended magazine options available)
  • Weight: 13.7 ounces
  • Barrel length: 3.25 inches
  • Overall length: 5.9 inches
  • Overall height: 4.1 inches
  • MSRP: $480

Shop for Glock 42s on GunsAmerica.com: https://www.gunsamerica.com/Search.aspx?T=glock%2042

beretta-pico_3qt_r_ftAnother Option: Beretta Pico

Like the 42 the Beretta Pico is a deep concealment pistol made by one of the world’s top military service pistol manufacturers. It’s even more competitively-priced with a $400 MSRP and smaller and lighter than the Glock by 2 ounces and an inch in length, making the Model 42 look chunky by comparison.

Shop for Beretta Picos on GunsAmerica.com: https://www.gunsamerica.com/Search.aspx?T=beretta%20pico

Kahr P380

Kahr Arms is one of the oldest and most-trusted brands in the concealed-carry market when it comes to self-loading pistols. They paved the way to today’s blooming concealed-carry culture. They also happen to make a fine, high-quality handgun for deep concealment, the P380.

  • Caliber: .380 ACP kahr p380
  • Capacity: 6+1
  • Weight: 9.9 ounces
  • Barrel length: 2.5 inches
  • Overall length: 4.9 inches
  • Overall height: 3.9 inches
  • MSRP: $667

Alternate Option: Kahr CW380

If you like the P380 but think the price is too high for a gun that’s going to see a lot of use and abuse they now have a lower-cost alternative: the CW380. Less machining goes into the slide, adding just a fraction of an extra ounce to the pistol, but that’s easy to accept along with its significantly lower sticker. The CW380 has a list price of $409.

Shop for Kahr .380s on GunsAmerica.com: https://www.gunsamerica.com/Search.aspx?T=kahr%20380

Ruger LCP Custom

A lot of companies make affordable, simple concealed-carry pistols nowadays. More than a few companies have a spotty reputation, making hit-or-miss guns that are tolerated thanks to extremely forgiving lifetime warranties. But why pick the cheaper guns when there’s a Ruger option, the LCP Custom? The LCP series is expansive with a lot of models but the Custom has the most with its full-size interchangeable sights and a wide, red-anodized trigger.

  • Caliber: .380 ACPruger lcp custom
  • Capacity: 6+1
  • Weight: 9.7 ounces
  • Barrel length: 2.75 inches
  • Overall length: 5.1 inches
  • Overall height: 3.8 inches
  • MSRP: $269

Alternate Option: Ruger LCP

If you’re looking to squeeze the most out of your budget, if every last penny counts more than the first, you might be tempted to pick a bargain basement pistol over the LCP Custom. But it’s not like the standard LCP is out of production, and it will save you a few bucks over the premium model. It comes with the standard trigger and simple integral sights.

Shop for Ruger LCPs on GunsAmerica.com: https://www.gunsamerica.com/Search.aspx?T=ruger%20lcp

SIG P238 Nitron

The P238 is SIG’s answer to the Colt Mustang. A little higher-priced and a bit overbuilt, the P238 also comes with full-size night sights, large slide serrations, and a grooved frame. It’s at the heavy end of the scale at 15 ounces, but it’s also one of the softest-shooting .380s on the market.

  • Caliber: .380 ACPp238 sig
  • Capacity: 6+1
  • Weight: 15 ounces
  • Barrel length: 2.7 inches
  • Overall length: 5.5 inches
  • Overall height: 3.9 inches
  • MSRP: $679

Alternate Option: Any number of other P238s

The extra features don’t stop with the standard P238. If you’re looking for a little more flair when it comes to everyday carry, SIG has it all, from their handsome and de-horned SAS model to their fancy engraved ESR — if you don’t mind paying a little extra.

Shop for SIG P238s on GunsAmerica.com: https://www.gunsamerica.com/Search.aspx?T=sig%20p238

The Revolvers

Ruger LCR & LCRx

Ruger’s LCR dragged the small-frame revolver into the 21st century. It uses a two-piece frame with a light polymer housing and a double-action trigger that’s hard to beat with today’s production revolvers. It doesn’t hurt that it’s rated for serious overpressure .38 +P, although at under 14 ounces (in .38 Special specifically; the Magnum and 9mm Luger models weigh more) very hot loads will recoil sharply.

  • Caliber: .38 Special +Plcrx
  • Capacity: 5
  • Weight: 13.5 ounces
  • Barrel length: 1.9 inches
  • Overall length: 6.5 inches
  • Overall height: 4.5 inches
  • MSRP: $579

Shop for Ruger LCR and LCRx revolvers on GunsAmerica.com: https://www.gunsamerica.com/Search.aspx?T=ruger%20lcr

Alternate Option: Charter Arms Undercover Lite/Off Duty

Charter Arms makes more than a few alloy-framed .38s including the Undercover Lite and Off Duty series. They are surprisingly light solid budget revolvers that weigh just 12 ounces unloaded. Most have 2-inch barrels. They have simple integrated ramp sights and are priced right at $409.

Shop for Charter Arms Lite revolvers on GunsAmerica.com: https://www.gunsamerica.com/Search.aspx?T=charter%20arms%20lite

Smith & Wesson 360PD

The 360PD is a truly featherweight revolver with an alloy frame and titanium cylinder chambered for .357 Magnum — not that most people are going to want to shoot anything close to magnum loads through the 11 ounce beast. It also has great sights to match an overall build quality that can’t be beat in today’s revolver market.

  • Caliber: .357 Magnum/.38 Special +P360pd
  • Capacity: 5
  • Weight: 11 ounces
  • Barrel length: 1.9 inches
  • Overall length: 6.3 inches
  • Overall height: 4.3 inches
  • MSRP: $1,019

Alternate Option: Any number of other J-Frames

Unfortunately, the PD series is also pretty high priced. The good news is that Smith & Wesson has a ton of J-Frame revolvers in production including the much more affordable Model 442, Model 642, Model 637 and a couple of different M&P340s that fit the bill. And Smith & Wesson has been making these guns for so long, changing little, that the used revolver market may as well have the same support as their current-production guns, making them solid alternatives at friendly prices everywhere.

Shop for Smith & Wesson revolvers on GunsAmerica.com: https://www.gunsamerica.com/Search/Category/644/1/Smith-Wesson-Revolvers.htm

To Ankle or Not to Ankle

This guide isn’t perfect for everyone, of course. The weight and size difference between an LCP and a P238 is about as significant as the difference between a P238 and a single-stack 9mm pistol, like a Beretta Nano or Bersa BP9CC, Glock 43 or Springfield XDS. And anyone considering a larger single-stack pistol might be able to carry a subcompact double-stack pistol, even in an ankle holster.

However, for anyone looking for a small, light handgun for less-conventional types of carry, there’s something on this list that will suit their needs inside any budget.

See Also: The Techna Clip for Deep Concealment

Shop for your next concealed-carry pistol on GunsAmerica.com: https://www.gunsamerica.com/

Do you carry off-the-waistband? What type of holster or retention system works best for you? Share your experience in the comments!

{ 23 comments… add one }
  • Dennis October 5, 2016, 8:09 am

    I use waistband carry often, but find it difficult to keep my pants up. I have no hips that can keep them in place unless I tuck my belt to unbelievable tightness. So I use an ankle holster for my 9mm Glock 43. It works fine, and the comfort level wonderful. You do have to learn to walk with one though. Also as I’m a public speaker, when at a pulpit, I don’t want to print with a waistband holster and I have many for many guns. So I use the ankle holster. Yes, to draw is longer and more involved, but I suspect that if I had to draw I would have a enough time for most situations I allow myself to get into. Pocket carry is also an option, but alas, many men’s pants now have pockets way too small to even fit a gun in it. My favorite gun is my Glock 19 at the waist, and Sig P938 in the pocket.

  • rudy October 3, 2016, 8:53 pm

    .32 Kel Tec in the Falco ankle holster, S&W .380 Bodyguard in the Recluse pocket holster, SCCY 9MM proven to be reliable after daily sweaty carry in my Under Tech compression shirt. Too many backups? G17 on the hip. Oh no what wear today!

  • carter October 3, 2016, 8:06 pm

    i also want to mention i recently saw an add for a breathable neoprene calf-sleeve holster thing. more surface area than most ankle rig straps and it think it would stabalize a gun better. dont know about comfort, but they were $29 so i think i’ll try to find one to test it out.

  • carter October 3, 2016, 7:59 pm

    like other commenters here, i think the author erred in not including the taurus 738/tcp as a recommendation. it is lighter, thinner, a and smaller than most on the list. it also has a crisper trigger, with a long and consistent, relatively light trigger, compared to most except the colt/sig single action options on this list. ive fired many of the others including kahr (which i like) lcp, beretta pico.
    i have 500-600 rounds through my tcp now and it has fed a dozen varieties of ammo reliably, including multiple good defense rounds like critical defence and corbon dpx, and golden saber. there is only one round it didnt like, which was the cheap green and white box remington hollow points.
    they are easy to find for $200 bucks now, making them the most economical. the sights suck, but for close range point and shoot it works well, and after putting a crimson trace laser guard on mine, aimed rapid fire at 7 yards is easy to group well too.
    too many people refuse to consider taurus. i would say with a lifetime warranty, on the off chance you get a lemon, getting a replacement should be no problem. mine has been 100%, and so has my step mother’s gun, with the exception of the one variety of remington ammo mentioned.

    • carter October 3, 2016, 8:10 pm

      also, forgot to mention that the mags drop free with not problem, even empty. the baseplate also has a shelf extending rearward that conpletes the bottommof the grip’s profile, and this makes grabbing/drawing the diminutive magazine for a reload easy compared to other makes that size without a proturding baseplate (i am discussing the standard factory baseplates, not an aftermarket extension)

  • Brad October 3, 2016, 7:52 pm

    I don’t know how (or why) you can possibly write this article without mention of a single .32 Auto. The Keltec P32 is a fine handgun, made in America, and plenty of history by now.

    • Steve October 4, 2016, 11:50 pm

      I would second Brad’s question. I carry an 8 shot, .32 Llama, 1911 knock off that packs well in my not too expensive furry ankle holster. I also carry a J Frame in a fitted ankle holster. Both I would consider adequate ankle back ups, as if all goes well, the orc won’t know about it until it hears the bang.

  • Ron October 3, 2016, 6:37 pm

    What works for one, might not work for others. I know what method works for me in some situations and what does not, but which might work for another situation. I rely on several options. It’s all individual.

  • Alejandro Macari October 3, 2016, 4:31 pm

    Why not the keltec P11 I carry one in ankle holster for more than 8 years 11 rds of 9mm firepower in a very ligth and small pack…….my favorite

  • Parnell October 3, 2016, 3:54 pm

    If you’re going to carry the 238, why not go with the one ounce heavier 938? I’d take a 9 over a .380 any day.

  • Sammy B October 3, 2016, 10:28 am

    Why isn’t the Taurus TCP 738 listed? Lighter and thinner than almost all in your list, and Cabela’s has been selling them for as little as $140 with current discounts. I’ve tried almost all on your list, and with an $8 mag-extension (allows 3-finger grip) I find they are much easier to shoot than other .380’s.
    I think the old Taurus bugaboos are gone with newer production; we have been happy with four recent Taurus purchases, including a poly-frame revolver.
    OK, so it’s not a Springfield XD – but I’d much rather walk away from a $140 pistol (or lose one to law enforcement confiscation). Range and duty experience proves to me at least that these are viable options.

    • mrpski October 3, 2016, 7:00 pm

      could not agree more on the TCP 738. After loosing my dear sweet PPK/S I went years before deciding it was the time to pick up a pocket pistol when other weapons just were not practical. I could have bought anything but I got the 738 because it was easy to shoot, accurate enough even with sights you would not think would be accurate, very light and mostly, very darn cheap but not a cheaply made gun. The best reason? If I had to loose this guy it would be easy enough to buy another. Hated losing that PPK/S it was my first ankle gun after getting a badge way back when

  • Howard Mathews October 3, 2016, 10:22 am

    Enjoyed your articles and the tid bits I picked up. will be back. Thanks. Howard Mathews

  • W.P. Zeller October 3, 2016, 9:56 am

    One of the situations where an ankle holster has an advantage is driving a small car. We have a Mazda Miata; driving that little thing, about the only location that works is “lap carry”.
    But I already know I can get my Cobra out of an ankle holster and shoot much more quickly than I can my belt-carried Commander while belted in to the MX-5.

  • Larry October 3, 2016, 8:36 am

    Ankle holsters can be good for people who drive or sit a lot. If you see a car-jacker approaching your vehicle, a slight bend at the waste puts a gun in reach. Ankle weapons may be more accessible than those at the waist, depending on your size, seatbelt arrangement, etc. Personally, I prefer a .45 in a shoulder holster when driving. Easy access, and all the power you’ll ever need….

    • Tom October 3, 2016, 11:09 am

      Larry, I just ordered my first shoulder holster and was wondering if you wear a jacket to cover it while driving?

      • Larry October 16, 2016, 6:19 pm

        Yes, I do, but it’s not illegal if I don’t, as NM is an open carry state. I also wear this rig under a suit coat. It’s black nylon, and isn’t visible, even with my coat unbuttoned.

  • Pete October 3, 2016, 6:12 am

    How about a Walther PPS for concealed carry, including an ankle holster? In 9MM flatter than 1″ and 7+1 (or 8+1) capacity.

  • Chris October 3, 2016, 5:41 am

    Y’all forgot one. Bersa thunder plus. 15+1 of .380 acp. Why stick to 7 rounds when you can double it…

    • carter October 3, 2016, 8:03 pm

      that’s pretty large and chunky for an ankle gun.

  • Will Drider September 27, 2016, 6:25 pm

    A note for “BIG and OLD FELLAS” before you buy a ankle/boot holster. Don’t be a helpless turtle! If you are a sizeable person or don’t bend like you did at 20 years old, you need to make sure you can reach it. It may be accessible when squatting or foot supported on a raised object but you are using your weight to compress your body to reach it. If you can’t lay on your back and reach the ankle gun you need to pass on it being a acceptable location. If you need to grab your trouser leg to pull you leg towards your hand, discard the idea of this method of carry.

    • carter October 3, 2016, 8:05 pm

      good point. guys that big usuakky have pants with pockets large enough to effectively conceal these pocket guns anyway. my pants pockets, for the most part, are not up to the task of concealing a handgun. i still have not found a comfortable ankle holster though.

      • Timothy October 19, 2016, 5:44 pm

        Galco has be very confortable for me for my Taurus PT709 Slim.

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