Guns for Beginners: Three Ways to Make Open Carry Safer

Level 2 retention holster with GLOCK19 (courtesy The Truth About Guns)

In the latest edition of Guns magazine, Massad Ayoob offer some cautionary tales of open carry gone wrong. They’re not very many and they’re not very convincing. The gun guru only provides one clear example of a gun snatch from an average open carrier. The bad guy shot and killed him with his own gun. That said, the owner chased the gun thief. While Mas studiously avoids taking a position on open carry, I’m all for it. Open carry is a deterrent that normalizes guns, which protects our gun rights. Here are three ways to limit the danger associated with open carry . . .

1. Don’t do it all the time

There’s a time and a place for open carry. I’m not speaking here of your legal rights. I mean in terms of when it’s dangerous for you to do so.

Walking down main street in broad daylight? Go for it. Your local grocery store or Target? No problem. The biggest “threat” you face in these sorts of situations: an unpleasant encounter with a gun control advocate or curious cops. Walk away from the former, be respectful and careful with the latter.

Open carry requires more situational awareness than concealed carry, but that’s a good thing, not a bad thing. The decision to open carry becomes more problematic in any place where you encounter stupid people in stupid places doing stupid things. If you open carrying in or around a bar (where it’s legal to do so). Alcohol makes a lot of people stupid. Aggressive. Confrontational. In that situation, why not pull your shirt over your gun?

If you’re walking down a dimly lit street to a dimly lit parking lot, or walking the dog at night, you may or may not want to conceal your firearm. It’s judgment call that depends on a lot of factors (e.g., how many and what sort of people are around you). But again, you always have the option of not open carrying. Sure you may print like the New York Times – especially with  retention holster – but that may one the safer course of action. Speaking of which . . .

2. Use a retention holster

This is a no-brainer. Why not use a retention holster? Snatching a gun from a Level 2 retention holster (as above) is nearly impossible. In fact, one of open carry’s biggest advantages is your ability to use a retention holster – which are usually about as easy to conceal as a small skateboard.

To increase your safety, it’s a good idea to master some open hand skills to counter a gun grab. Nothing fancy required, just a few quick, decisive moves. Remembering that anyone who tries to grab your gun can be assumed to be trying to kill you. You are well within your rights to immediately draw your gun once you secure enough space/time to do so. And shoot your attacker in self-defense if needs be.

3. Carry a spare gun

Open carrying a firearm frees up your pocket and or waistband for a second gun. You can prepare for the possibility of an open carry gun grab by carrying a second gun. Depending on which backup gun you choose and how you carry it, a spare gun can be a [literal] pain in the ass, but the extra protection might be well worth the discomfort.

Mr. Ayoob’s article contains an example of a disarmed open carrying gun store owner who used a hidden back-up gun to save his life. Obviously, a gun store owner has a lot more to worry about than your average open carrier. But it’s an undeniable fact that open carry exposes a practitioner to more danger of a gun grab than a concealed carrier. I balance that against the aforementioned deterrent effect, but you can limit that danger by taking one or more of these steps.


  1. avatar Vhyrus says:

    This 2 gun thing I’ve been hearing about is a little too over the top for me. I am already lugging 5 to 10 pounds of kit as it is, you want me to add another 2 to 5 pounds?! Not to mention the fact that in some states it isn’t even legal to carry more than 1 gun at a time.

    1. avatar Danny Griffin says:

      in some states it isn’t even legal to carry more than 1 gun at a time.

      Cite? If you live someplace that requires your gun to be listed on your license, list them both/all you may carry.

      1. avatar younggun21 says:

        Yeah where is it illegal to carry more than one gun if you have a permit to carry? I’m not familiar with any carry permits that stipulate the number of guns that one can carry.

        1. avatar WedelJ says:

          Illinois. I’m 99% sure that Illinois limits its CC-ers to one gun at a time

      2. avatar Vhyrus says:

        New Mexico specifically says you may only carry one gun concealed, but I am not sure if that means you can carry one openly along with it.

        1. avatar Danny Griffin says:

          In NM you can carry more than one gun at a time. You can only CC one gun (which is stupid, but there you go). So you can OC and CC a BUG which is what we were talking about.

        2. avatar PavePusher says:

          Cite that law, please.

        3. avatar Danny Griffin says:

          PavePusher, you could just check yourself, you know:

          A. Carrying only handguns listed on license. No person shall carry a concealed handgun of a different category or higher caliber than is indicated on the license issued to that person by the department. A licensee shall only carry one (1) concealed handgun at any given time.

    2. avatar Sean in Tampa says:

      Taurus TCP .380 in the pocket with a DeSantis holster weighs under a pound and dissapears.

      1. avatar ChiDog says:


        1. avatar WedelJ says:


  2. avatar Rabbi says:

    Best security holsters have the unlocking mechanism that is less obvious and not easy to reach by a second party.

    The holster pictured is the Safariland ALS which is an excellent choice. The unlocking button is not very obvious on the street, not easy for a second party to activate and the draw is not slowed down by the locking mechanism.

  3. avatar Bill Kohnke says:

    The “Taste great…less filling” debate is a false comparison because it’s not an either/or argument. In any armed confrontation, the first rule is to have a gun. Whether it is carried concealed or openly is completely irrelevant. I’d sooner argue how many angles can dance on the head of a pin. No doubt I’ll get feedback on this topic as well.

    1. avatar Chip Bennett says:

      I’m guessing the more obtuse they are, the fewer angles can dance on the head of a pin? 😉

      (I agree with you. I’m in the just carry, baby camp.)

      1. avatar MeRp says:

        I guess it depends; can dancing angles overlap? If so, then the answer is infinite for both obtuse and acute (and those far-right angles too). If not, then your approach is correct; the more obtuse the angles the fewer will fit.

        1. avatar Another Robert says:

          If she’s acute angle, maybe i’ll want to dance with her…

        2. avatar Geoff PR says:

          “If she’s acute angle, maybe i’ll want to dance with her…”

          Cripes, angles, Angels, what’s the difference?


        3. avatar Cincinnatus says:

          Geoff PR, it’s just a matter of degree…

      2. avatar ChiDog says:

        “… I’m in the just carry, baby camp.”
        Am I the only one that hears Telly Savales?

    2. avatar Bill Kohnke says:

      I knew somebody would spot my spelling. 🙂

  4. avatar William Burke says:

    Oh, for sure. That’s some acute angles you’ve got with you there.

    1. avatar Timmy! says:

      So I start dating this slightly older lady, right? And she tells me, “I have to admit, I have acute angina.” So I says, “I sure hope so… your tits are awful!”


      Thank you! I’m here all week! Tip your waitress.

  5. avatar livefreeordie1 says:

    I’m not against open carry, but I have a story to relate. A few weeks ago I saw a guy open carrying a Glock in Sam’s Club. I’m not sure what kind of holster he had, but his belt wasn’t adequate and the gun was sagging, with the grip splayed out away from him. He wasn’t paying much attention, and I later remarked to my wife that if I was so inclined, I could have easily come up behind him, given him a left fist to the right side of his head and I’d have that pistol in a matter of seconds. He couldn’t have done that to me because he didn’t know I was carrying. If you’re gonna do it do it right.

    1. avatar peirsonb says:

      Just for argument’s sake, it may have been the holster rather than the belt. The first holster I ever bought was a cheap Uncle Mike’s and I had that problem no matter what belt I wore.

  6. avatar mark s. says:

    Open carry appendix or 10:00 . If I open carry in public for some reason , it’s not on my side and never ever in the small of my back . I openly conceal carry nearly every day in my office . I carry appendix , inside the waist , in a
    ‘ Dead Eye Luke ‘ holster and pull my shirt out and behind my pistol . I only wear Carhartt Henley’s at the office .

  7. avatar Cliff H says:

    I agree with the normalization argument for open carry and I do open carry about 50% of the time. As RF says, there is a time and place for going covert, if only to not rile the gun muggles.

    But what I have yet to see, and would like to see some valid statistics on, is how often does this alleged “gun grab” actually occur? I know bad guys often try to take away a LEO pistol, especially in a struggle, but what percentage of run of the mill bad guys and just stupid people are willing to risk walking up to an obviously armed person that they do not know and try to snatch the pistol away from him/her? Is this really a big concern?

    Along those lines, I would be willing to bet that if there were more than one open carrier in the vicinity, or if it was locally understood that a fair percentage of people might be concealed carrying, only a complete idiot would attempt to snatch someone’s pistol unless they had a death wish.

  8. avatar Cliff H says:

    And while I’m thinking of it, and the comments on this post have slowed down, What’s to stop a bad guy with a cheap piece of junk pistol from walking up behind you, putting his junker in your ear, and politely asking you to do a trade?

    Answer – situational awareness is ALWAYS the key. The other answer – the sight of an openly carried pistol is very likely to convince bad guys to seek a different area of operations, not openly confront the armed citizen.

  9. avatar ThomasR says:

    I’ve OC’d for about eight years with a Black Hawk Serpa level two kydex holster.

    The most dangerous time, to me, for a gun grab is when I’m standing in line and I can’t see who might be behind me.

    So when in line, I’ll stand mostly side ways with the gun towards the front of the line and I’ll also slide the pistol on it’s paddle more towards the center line of my body. So I keep my peripheral vision on the person behind me and I can keep an eye on the front door to see who might be entering the store.

  10. avatar Chris O'Shea says:

    I’ve carried concealed in Florida since 1990. Why give bad people the advantage of knowing that I’m legally armed?
    Different strokes for different folks.

    1. avatar Aerindel says:

      So are you hunting down bad guys and ambushing them or what? How does the element of surprise work in a legal defensive shootin? Me, I’d much rather go for the deference factor, tha what…? Wait until she run out of ammo shooting you and then as you fall to the floor get to pull out your cc piece and announce “surprise mother humper” and shoot them ? I don’t get this element of surprise thing at all, at least not if it’s truly a defensive shooting by a good guy. Bad guys on the other hand, well, they are all about concealment and surprise

      1. avatar Don from CT says:

        This is like the 9mm vs .45 thing. You can make logical arguments to support either side. Do what you think is best for you.

    2. avatar PavePusher says:

      Florida basically has NO legal open carry anyway, so… uh….

      I’m shocked… Shocked, I say…..

      1. avatar Danny Griffin says:

        Everyone in North America was thinking this when Chris O’Shea wrote that. LOL

  11. avatar BDub says:

    So your advice for open carrying is:
    1. Do it all the time.
    2. …but make sure your gun doesn’t get snatched.
    3. …but in case it does, carry a concealed back-up.


    1. avatar PavePusher says:

      So… same as ‘concealed’ carry.

      What’s the problem?

  12. avatar I'mRonBurgundy? says:

    1. Get training.
    2. Retention holster.
    3. Don’t be a dick about it.

  13. avatar TX Gun Gal says:

    Interesting discussion. Call me naive but in states where Open Carry has been legal for a while, not seeing a lot of news on OC gun grabs. The few where it happened, most notable, young guy with brand new .22 pistol. If remember correctly he was out and about in the wee hours, showing his cousin his new gun, not paying attention to surroundings, had the gun out of the holster, all of which called undue attention to the situation.
    There is something to be said for OC to “normalize” the sight of a gun on the hip of a law abiding gun owner. I have a weapon on me or within reach better part of 24 hours a day, not because I’m paranoid but because, although crime rates are down, crazy seems to be on the uptick.

  14. avatar MSgtB says:

    I often open carry my FN FiveseveN in a level 2 serpa holster at 4 o’clock. In case of a grab I have a Benchmade AFO II automatic knife (switch blade) inside my left front trouser pocket, clipped to top of pocket If an attempt is made my plan is right hand grab opponent’s wrist, left hand draw and open knife, then open opponent’s arm. Should make them let go.

    1. avatar Lowell Savage says:

      Slightly better plan. Same basic outline, but knife blade, edge up between snatcher’s legs, then “unzip” up to either his belt buckle or sternum. A snatch is a deadly force assault, and the knife is a deadly weapon. You just opened up a far larger “permanent cavity” than any bullet ever would.

  15. avatar Don from CT says:

    The Safariland ALS holster that the photo above shows is a great holster. And it is BULKY like Mr. Farago notes.

    A Safariland ALS is what I choose when I semi-open carry in my home state of CT. (OC is perfectly legal there and is practiced by dozens of people daily. There hasn’t been an OC arrest there in 4 years). My ALS is designed to carry my G19 with a light attached, which adds a couple of inches to its length and significantly to its bulk.

    However, when I choose to carry OWB in a more discrete way, I use the Safariland GLS. Its fundamentally different from the ALS. Its more instinctive and a bit less secure. It also takes a lot of practice to get a good HIGH grip on the gun. But it is very very compact and carries the gun nice and close.

    I rarely truly OC, mainly because I wear my shirts untucked and I’m not going to go out of my way just to display my firearm. But I do often engage in what I call “casual carry”, where my firearm is clearly obvious to any observer who bothers to look, but is covered by a thin garment. Typically a T shirt of polo shirt. When I “causal carry” (concealed doesn’t always mean concealed) I always use a retention holster, and the GLS is a very good choice.


  16. avatar Former Water Walker says:

    I don’t see any problems in Indiana with open carry-except ninnies freaking out when they see a non-leo packing. I respect Mas’ opinion but he’s squarely in the cop/statist camp.

  17. avatar Ted Unlis says:

    Once again, just because open carry is legal doesn’t make it smart. There might be a few places and circumstances where open carry is appropriate, but for the most part it’s just plain old fashioned dumb. Deterrence doesn’t count for $#it in a situation where an armed criminal predator knows you’re armed before you perceive them as a threat. To beat the dead horse once again, the biggest plus for the new open carry law in Texas is that as of 1-1-16, the relatively small percentage of armed [email protected]$$es who’ve previously been invisible will be remarkably easy to spot.

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