min read
The ShapeShift AIWB is engineered to solve common AIWB problems

There are well-known tradeoffs with appendix carry — well, there used to be at least.

Charles Eames, a prominent American architect and designer, inadvertently described the process of creating the ShapeShift Appendix Carry Holster when he said, "Recognizing the need is the primary condition for design."

What he meant was that design should serve a need and solve issues above all else. Everyday carry should affect a holster's design and form factors.

Because of that, I chatted with the lead engineer and designer on the ShapeShift Appendix Carry Holster project, and I picked his brain about the complete design process, intent and goals to make this appendix holster target common AIWB issues and solve them with functionality.

Appendix Carry Placement Is Alarming For Many

Appendix carry is an intimidating decision for some, a devout practice by others and a "mistake" derided by many.

It can be defined as the placement of a weapon on the waistline, typically inside the waistband, between the 12 o'clock and 2:30 position for right-handed shooters (considering the waist as a clock with the belt buckle at center front, 12 o'clock) with or without a holster. Southpaws have reciprocal placement on the front left quadrant of the waist.

Coming from a holster company, the holster is advised. We're biased though.

How to wear the ShapeShift Appendix Carry Holster

The project lifespan for just the ShapeShift appendix carry holster included three months of intensive prototyping of more than a dozen different styles and placements of clips, where the holster rides on the waist and matching comfort with the required form factors, according to the designer.

Think about appendix carry for a moment and the initial concern is clear: the groin and femoral artery rest where appendix carry holsters have typically directed a handgun's muzzle.

He said the safety concerns with holster placement over the groin and femoral artery will never go away no matter what holster it is, or whose holster it is.

There will always be a risk of hitting the femoral artery in a negligent discharge with a holster placed on the waist's center front.

The key, then, is to design around that constraint on the manufacturer's end, and train around that on the gun owner's end. Keeping the trigger guard unobstructed while reholstering is imperative.

The answer is the shell.

The ShapeShift Appendix Carry Holster

"Safety is always important. We have safety built in with the shell design," he said. "It's the way we've standardized our cut on the way that the shell actually ends. It keeps the shell out of the belt line for safety. When we design these shells, we make sure the shell is above the belt line or at the beltline."

By keeping the shell at that level, the handgun is guided more accurately and safely back into the holster without interference from clothing.

Effective unholstering was a goal while making the ShapeShift Appendix Carry Holster.

"When you watch videos on how they draw, shooters aren't actually gripping the gun with their three main fingers," he said. "They actually pull it out with their thumb and squeeze before they go into a full grip. For me, I thought, 'Why would you want to have an improper grip coming out of your holster?'"

With the ShapeShift Appendix Carry Holster, the design is intended to allow room for the handgun to be removed from the holster with a full grip to help create a smoother, safer draw.

Still concerned about a negligent discharge and the chance for a round to impact the groin or femoral artery?

This holster's trigger guard is completely enclosed with a passive retention unit that can be dialed tighter or looser with one of the holster's twist locks.

Or, an appendix carrier can implement Israeli carry (loaded magazine inserted, with no round in chamber), utilize a manual safety and so on. That's an argument in and of itself.

Another argument? Comfort.

Appendix Holsters Must Be Comfortable

Perforated Neoprene Backer on the ShapeShift AIWB

How people concealed carry at Alien Gear Holsters affected the outcome of our appendix holster during the prototyping phase. The team of engineers asked company personnel to carry with various designs to judge factors like ride height and accessibility.

Ride height was a challenge during the design process.

Appendix holsters do not fit every body type and carry preference. That's fine. There are other great options for holsters, and no shortage of opinions on which is "best."

"For awhile, I had it a little bit too high, where it was actually uncomfortable. There is a balance where it's sitting on the stomach and it being down below the beltline," he said. "We eventually settled on the current design because we do know people in the company that concealed carry appendix style, and we had them [determine where it felt right]."

IWB holsters at the 4:00 to 5:30 position may be a better option for larger waistlines, which the ShapeShift 4.0 IWB Holster would do well to support, but there are still key comfort characteristics to improve upon as far as appendix holsters are concerned.


A kydex shell rubbing against the waistline all day will cause abrasion on the skin, and could pull out hair.

And, let's face it, bodies sweat. Sweat gets on holsters. Holsters need a way to mitigate this.

The ShapeShift Appendix Carry Holster is made with four layers of materials to act upon those common issues.

CoolVent perforated neoprene rests against the body, wicking sweat from the holster system (including your handgun) and molding to the waistline without any break-in.

"A lot of appendix carry guys out there will have a full wrap hard shell with no backer on it. It should be more comfortable with the neoprene backer," the lead engineer on the project said.

It also acts a cushion between the handgun and the body.

So, while the backer remains pliable and supportive with its multiple layers (neoprene, ballistic nylon, spring steel and thermoplastic elastomer), it protects the waist from the hard lines on the injection-molded polymer Shift Shell.

Are you ready to try ShapeShift Appendix Carry?


Take advantage of our 30-day Test Drive

gun blog writer jake smith

About The Author

Jake Smith (@notjakesmith) is a copywriter and photographer based in the pacific northwest. He graduated from the University of Idaho with degrees in public relations and apparel.