Open carry of firearms in the United States is a source of regular debate among Second Amendment advocates. Some people see open carry as a social or political statement, while others merely see it as a convenient way to carry a self defense tool. Depending on who you talk to, you can get anything from zealot-like support to Brady-ish condemnation of exposed carry.
Even if you don’t personally think open carry is a good idea, I believe there are some good reasons to consider it. For example, in some states obtaining a concealed weapon permit is not a reasonable option, yet open carry is perfectly legal. Certainly in these situations, open carry makes much more sense to me than going unarmed.
I’m not sure that open carry has the deterrent value some people claim. However, there are anecdotal reports of legally armed people preventing crime merely by having a visible gun on their hip. I don’t know if these stories make a compelling case for open carry though.
I have frequently heard open carry advocates state that social change is a good reason to carry exposed. While I understand the desire to make guns a socially acceptable sight in public, I’m not sure if I am on-board with this rationale.
Will open carry effectively change social norms so that having a shooting iron on your hip won’t draw any more attention than having a pierced eyebrow does nowadays? Maybe, but probably not. If you consider that many people are uncomfortable just talking politics in mixed company, I find it hard to believe that enough citizens will be so bold as to strap on Old Roscoe for all to see. I just don’t see those norms changing in our “civilized” society.
I guess when we are talking about carrying a firearm in public, it all comes down to practicality for me. I’m not interested in changing anyone’s mind, and I don’t give a rat’s hiney about social norms. The first time I walked through another person’s brain matter, social norms kinda shifted for me.
The fundamental purpose to a firearm, in my view, is as a self-defense tool. Carrying one means you have a powerful tool should defense of you life be required.
I think of carrying a gun in the same terms as carrying a trauma/first aid kit with me in my car. If I need it (the gun or the kit), I have one handy. The odds are against me needing either one today…or even this year. But, should bad things happen, I have some of the tools I need to survive.
So, from that viewpoint, open carry should be first about self defense.
Open carry allows you to comfortably tote a large firearm in a position that is easy to access under stress. Instead of carrying a five-shot .38 in your pocket, you can carry that full size Smith & Wesson M&P 40 with 15 rounds on tap. Truth be told: which would be the better self defense tool? The real bonus is the large gun can be carried very comfortably.
But, open carry does have the disadvantage of letting a criminal know you are already armed. While this might deter some thugs, it may simply make you a target from other criminals. You could be singled out for immediate attack during a robbery, for example.
If you do carry in an exposed manner, have you considered what would happen if someone snatched your pistol while you were distracted? Don’t give me that line about always being in condition yellow, or how you are never distracted. Everyone can be, and everyone is at various points throughout the day. You do your best, but your best ain’t perfect.
Sometimes, spotting a criminal is obvious. Many times it is not. Sometimes the person grabbing your gun isn’t a criminal at all, but that nice lady in the grocery store line behind you who just lost her job, found out her husband is cheating on her and thinks life is not worth living. She smiles at you, but she is thinking about death. If someone grabs that exposed gun, can you defend it?
I’ve heard a lot of well-intentioned open carry advocates state something along the lines of “Cops are just citizens and they can open carry…we should be able to as well.” Yes, you should be legally able to carry an exposed firearm. But those officers who are “just citizens” are citizens who have received specialized training in weapon retention. They are also carrying a pistol in a specially built security holster.
How many open carry advocates have ever taken any training on how to defeat a gun grab? My guess would be a scant few. I just don’t see very many classes being taught in these techniques, suggesting there isn’t any demand for them.
What about your holster? If you are open carrying, please tell me you aren’t walking around with just an open top speed scabbard without even so much as a thumb break. Such holsters are fine for concealed carry, but they can be an invitation for disaster when you carry your gun exposed to the world.
A single strap over the top/hammer of the gun generally isn’t considered a security holster, but it is clearly better than nothing for retention. Some secondary button, strap or movement should be part of the retention mechanism to really be considered a security holster. While most police holsters have these features, there are very few non-duty type holsters that do.
Two options for the open carrier are the BLACKHAWK! SERPA and the Bianchi CarryLok. Both holsters are open top and rely solely on the pressing of a lever to release the gun. While I think both of these are only slightly better than a thumb strap, they are still much better than an open top holster when carrying exposed.
It is a responsibility of the person who open carries to maintain control of their firearm. It is not enough to simply ensure that the gun won’t merely fall out of the holster during normal activities. It is also the responsibility of the gun owner to guard against gun grabs through the use of good training and good equipment.
If you choose to carry a firearm in an open and exposed manner, consider the practical ramifications of that decision. Let someone else worry about the politics…you should be focused on making sure that firearm is a tool to be used by you, not on you.