I’ve been thinking a lot about open carry lately. I have a conceal carry permit from the great State of Texas, which means I’m licensed to carry in around 38 states. Now, I don’t carry that often – which has more to do, frankly, with my lack of a easy-to-carry weapon (a full-size 1911 with a steel frame is waaaay too heavy and bulky for an every-day-carry gun).  But if I had a pistol more suited to conceal carry, I very likely would carry most of the time. So the question of carrying openly versus carrying concealed fascinates me.

Before I received my training for my permit, I thought I had a clear picture of how I’d carry my gun. I was wrong. Completely clueless, as it turns out. It seems that all the reading, studying, and hypothesizing in the world can’t really prepare you for the real-world situations, rules, laws, and practical applications of carrying.

The biggest lesson I had to learn about conceal carry was “printing” – in other words, making certain that nobody could tell that I have a handgun concealed under my shirt. Turns out, the bigger the gun, the easier it is to print. I’m convinced that there’s a sweet spot for conceal carry, when you’re looking for the biggest bang (literally), with the greatest accuracy, plus the smallest size. I just haven’t found it yet.

Of course, one of the factors that affects concealment more than most is your choice of holsters. I assumed that an inside-the-waistband holster would be the smart choice, as it automatically conceals more of the weapon than a holster that attaches on the outside.

One tiny little problem – if you’re not built like a ripped WWE wrestler or have the scrawny physique of Barney Fife (in other words, if you’ve got even the slightest hint of a spare tire around your waist) you’ll find that carrying inside the waistband is a pain. Literally. The bigger les poignées d’amour (Frenchy French for “love handles”), the bigger the problem.

Seems that grabbing your piece is more difficult when a roll o’ flesh is in the way. (I’m not copping to massive love handles by the way – turns out that ANY excess weight is something of a problem.)

So . . . since we’ve established that conceal carry is not a slam-dunk, easy-as-pie thing to do from a physical standpoint, why not carry in the open?

Well, in most states, you can’t carry a handgun legally in the open. Unless you live in an open carry state, it’s conceal it or nuthin’. (Interestingly enough, you can carry a rifle or shotgun just about anywhere…but not without raising some eyebrows or the attention of the local constabulary.) But why would you want to carry in the open (aside from the “not having to worry with the concealment” thing)? And that’s where the discussion gets interesting.

Let’s take a scenario. You’re in a busy Starbucks. (Why Starbucks? Hey – if the Brady Bunch can pick on ’em, why not us?) Two thugs with guns waltz in and announce that they are robbing the joint. As a responsible gun owner who’s carrying, you play it cool. You practice restraint, up until the bad guys announce they want to herd everyone into the walk-in refrigerator in the back of the store. You quickly realize that this could mean they plan to kill everyone, leaving no witnesses.

That’s when you go for your concealed piece and level the playing field. Let’s set aside for the nonce, the idea that you may not have a shot, there’s a risk of collateral damage/friendly fire or that the bad guys may start shooting first. For now, let’s concentrate on the fact that, concealing your weapon, you have the element of surprise on your side. And keep in mind that you may not be the only patron that is carrying concealed.

Same scenario, but now we have an open carry law. You look around the Starbucks and note that there are several patrons with handguns on their hips. The bad guys can see this, too. Question – would this deter them from their holdup, or would they simply shoot the people that are carrying in the open, to take out what they perceive as credible threats to their plans? Answer – I dunno.

Talk to self-defense mavens and they’ll laud the tactical advantages of concealment. Element of surprise and all that. Plus, they’ll tell you, carrying concealed means you won’t be singled out for the “let’s ice this guy first, since he’s a threat” treatment. Theoretically, if your state has a concealed handgun law, the bad guys will think twice before they jack a restaurant, bank, or other commercial venture, because they know anybody in the place might be a potential threat with a concealed handgun.

On the other hand, there’s something to be said for open carry in that situation, too. Seeing that someone is armed is a deterrent, make no mistake. (If it weren’t c0ps would conceal carry just like us civilians.) And theoretically again, if your state offered the option of open or conceal carry, then it would presumably make any bad guy think twice – I mean, if you go into said Starbucks and see one or two guns on patrons’ hips, who’s to say that there aren’t two or three more customers conceal carrying?

I’m hypothesizing here, but I think there might be cases where I’d carry concealed and others, that I’d carry in the open. For instance, if I’m camping, hiking, or doing some activity where I’m somewhat isolated – maybe on a trip and pumping gas after dark – carrying in the open sounds to me like a really good idea. The kind of situation where I don’t need the element of surprise, but would be better off with a deterrent sounds perfect for open carry. On the other hand, dining in a restaurant, shopping, or some other similar activity (attending church, for instance) seems tailor-made for conceal carry.

In the long run, I think allowing citizens to exercise their 2nd Amendment right for self-protection makes a lot of sense. Allowing them to carry in the most appropriate way for a given situation makes even more sense.

11 Responses to The Pros and Cons of Open versus Concealed Carry.

  1. I am 260 pounds, with an unfortunate amount of that excess as spare tire. Nobody with eyesight good enough to drive would call me ripped. With the right design and decent quality an IWB can carry a fairly big gun comfortably.

    My favorite type of holster is an IWB with a mostly-flat leather back and two clips on either side of the gun. While widely available online from many makers, I don't know if I have ever seen this design in a gun shop. The leather/kydex combos I've used (Crossbreed Supertuck and Comp-Tac Minotaur) work well, are reasonably priced, and generally ship quickly compared to full custom. I've started making all leather holsters with similar features.

    With the right gear including a good, dedicated gunbelt, you can probably carry your 1911 comfortably, despite its size and weight.

  2. Have you looked at the SmartCarry holster. The guy in the video is carrying the single-stack Glock in .45 ACP.


  3. I agree with the author of the article that, "Allowing [citizens] to carry in the most appropriate way for a given situation makes even more sense."

    I recently starting watching Wild West movies, and I noticed that if a character has a gun and lived in a colder climate, then they just put on a coat, such as a suit coat or trench-coat-length coat, over the gun, which is in an OWB holster. This would be considered CC in today's parlance, only because the gun is not in plain view, but to conceal something is to make a concerted effort to make something hard to see, to hide it. When one lived in a hot climate, CC would be uncommon since it was just so much easier to put a gun in an OWB holster.

    A few monthes ago, I saw a Youtube video about a non-gun-related topic, and the speaker had a suit coat on. At one point he mentioned that 4th generation glocks have sticky handles, all while readjusting his coat.

    My point is to show that the difference between OC and CC in the Old West was based almost solely on the climate and not on whether or not on your desire to hide of not hide a gun on your person. I think that our governments have gotten suspicious and now want to distinguish, unnecessarily so, between seen and unseen guns, generally prefering unseen carry with a license.

    I have found that the ultimate difference between OC and CC is that CC gives you as much extra retention of your gun (from sight and loss) as you have clothes over it, whereas OC gives you superior speed of draw and quiet enactactment the phrase, "walk softly and carry a big stick."

  4. Open carry becomes a nightmare for police and private sector (security). If you require a permit to open/conceal carry can you imagine the insanity of trying to determine who to check and who not to check? Extra work load for the private sector, you walk into a business that has security there are two factors. The law gives the right of the proprietor to say no to any carry or yes (requiring proof). A lot of people are going to have to be checked before coming in unless it is a very liberal business. Police will also have to determine if the guy on the bike or the women pushing the baby carriage is legal. Remember, Florida is requiring you to have permit if the open carry law passes. Not just a law that says you can. If I was a bad guy and wanted to rob you and saw you open carry I’m going to walk up behind you and shot you in the head, take your money AND your gun. Most bad guys think twice about robbing someone they can not tell is carrying concealed. What is really scary that most about Florida CCW is the vast majority of concealed carries don’t shoot enough or at all, most of them have no idea what a defense load is, weapon retention to what nomenclature means. A lot stick a gun under their clothes and figure they are good to go. To get a CCW in Florida you take a gun safety course, that’s it. I have mixed emotions about the lack of people’s experience or mind set about concealed carry as it is, but to let them just start open carry make it more that just mixed emotions I must admit scare me a little.

    • I read your comment on carry and conceal, and you stated that not enough c/c holders train and just take the minimum class necessary to obtain a c/c permit. OK with that said i have a question and this is a friendly question simply because you seem to be level headed on the subject. When a citizen goes down to the DMV they are only required to pass the minimum requirement to get their license and after they pass the minimum requirement they take charge of a two thousand pound automobile in my eyes that’s more dangerous than a responsible adult attempting to protect their family. Where i live the min age to drive is 16 so every day we have a bunch of 16 yr old teenagers driving 2000 lb cars irresponsibly. Do you thing an adult with the min training is at least some what qualified to defend himself. Im just talking DEFENCE. Thanks i look forward to your comment

  5. Yes i believe in Gun Control….use two hands!!! anyway, they did a study on one of the many news channels about concealed carry that i thought was very interesting as well as informative. the participants knew they would be challenged they just did not know when. it was in a classroom setting and about 20-25 people where there and durring the session in comes an assailant firing an assualt rifle. out of 3 people with the ccw on 1 got their weapon out and fired a shot that missed terribly. the other two guys both got hung up on the clothing they were wearing as they were scrambling for the protection of the desk they were sitting behind. the assailant got off multiple rounds (now mind you that the simulations where made with paint ball guns). he would have killed and/or injured numerous people had it been a real situation. so there’s your ccw in action. now lets take the same scenario with open carry…number one it probably would not have happended because i don’t think anyone would rush into a room with people openly carrying guns and open fire they would pick an easier venue because they typically want to kill or mame as many as they can before taking themselves out. anyway lets say it did happen i’d bet the chances of the participants getting their weapons out and getting of more rounds would have made the difference in casualties on the friendly side. think about it for a sec…if you have a weapon underneath your clothing and you have to access it in a hurry as most situations tend to happen, plus your adrinaline is at a peak your far more apt to make a mistake maybe even shoot your own damn self. lol but seriously, whether you decide to cc or oc get as familiar with your drawing technique as well as the operation of your weapon. when you go to the range its ok to run a target out 20 yds or more but….remember this, most gun fights occur within spitting distance. so when i go to the range it the minimun distance for me and burst of two’s. so there it is and good look to you all. comments welcome.

    • I also saw this video, and in my view the situation was predetermined to happen the way it did. In the video, they take individuals generally unaquainted to firearms as the test subjects. One of the participants actually whispers to the girl next to him that he’s carrying a weapon. Second, the mock assailant knows that there will be an individual carrying in the room when he enters. After fake shooting the teacher upon entry, he immediately scans for the CCW holder, who is having to react to the assailants presence. Third, the classroom itself is set up like a shooting gallery with the students being the ducks. It’s a small semicircle with stadium seating. Not only is there no cover but because of the above, the participants wouldn’t even know how to seek cover in time. Did I mention the mock assailant is also tactically trained. All in all, in my opinion, all that video proves is that in their particular weighted scenario things could turn out badly, but it doesn’t make even the slightest attempt at an unbiased examination of the practicality of concealed carry. It’s another example of bad journalism. I’m not saying this means Mr. Control doesn’t have a point, but please do not cite that video for evidence.

  6. One big reason I prefer to carry concealed is to protect myself and my family. I can’t do that if some thug sees my open carry weapon and disarms me before I can draw, or chooses to shoot me just because I am carrying.

    I figure the reason to get a concealed carry license is to carry. I suggest finding a smaller firearm and practice with a variety of holsters and carrying positions until you find one that works for you–“love handles” and all.

  7. “Well, in most states, you can’t carry a handgun legally in the open.” This statement is absolutely untrue! The vast majority of states have some form of OC.
    Please do your research next time.

  8. hah!… actually open carry is legal in all the United States!! The states just illegally enforce unconstitutional laws that require you to have a license to exercise your rights. You can open carry in all the 50 states… just some will illegally arrest you.

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