Open carry or concealed carry?

Regardless of your mode of carry, you need a good holster. Pictured here is a Heckler & Koch VP9 in a Vice Industries IWB kydex holster.

It’s been a hot-button debate in the firearms world as of late. Should you openly carry your firearm, or should you carry it concealed? There’s pros and cons to each method…

Unfortunately, for us here in Florida, open carry isn’t really an option outside of some extremely limited circumstances. However, there has been progress in that regard. Gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam (whose signature adorns your CWFL if you live in the state), has given his support for open carry, in the sense that he’ll sign off on it if a bill legalizing it reaches his desk as Governor.

But for 40+ states in the Union, some form of licensed or unlicensed open carry is perfectly legal. Yes, if you live in one of those states, you can carry your firearm openly. It might seem strange at first, but it’s totally a thing.

The realities of open carry

When most people who aren’t acquainted with firearms hear about open carry, they envision everyone in a state walking around with a visible firearm holstered on their hip. It’s actually far from the truth. For most firearms owners, open carry is merely one mode of carry, practiced only in certain situations or conditions. For example, some people open carry only in certain weather conditions, where maybe a concealed-carry setup can prove uncomfortable. And even then, when they open carry, they may have a breathable and loose “tactical” style shirt over an undershirt and holster. Another example may be people coming to and from a hunting expedition. And yes, some people do openly carry as a matter of course. The mode and choice of carry is up to the individual, and not necessarily up to the government. Is there blood in the streets and bodies stacked like cordwood everywhere? Certainly not. That’s just hoplophobic histrionics.

Most people keep it concealed

With a good holster, concealed carry is an option, even in extreme weather. That’s why holster selection is so important. A good holster must be ergonomic, have adequate retention, and be somewhat comfortable. That being said, even in hardcore pro-gun states, most people keep it under wraps. Again, personal choice reigns supreme.

Pros and cons of open carry and concealed carry

Of course, each mode of carry has it’s pros and cons. There’s benefits and drawbacks to both.

Advantages of concealed carry:

  • Concealed is concealed. No one knows you have a gun unless you tell them or you don’t conceal properly.

  • A (small) tactical advantage. In a situation where there’s more targets than assailants, it’s easier to discreetly go for you firearm when the aggressor isn’t facing you.

  • More comfortable, mentally. You don’t feel like everyone is staring at your gun.

  • Some private places are cool with concealed carry, but not with open carry. An open carrier would have to either disarm or put a longer shirt on, which could prove inconvenient.

  • Potentially less issues with law enforcement. Even in gun-friendly jurisdictions, sometimes LE will question someone openly carrying a firearm, to ascertain their mental state, and so forth. Again, concealed is concealed.

Disadvantages of concealed carry:

  • Not all firearms are easily concealed. A full-size 1911 presents issues and you probably have to “dress around the gun”. A small gun such as the Heckler and Koch VP9SK is easier to conceal. Sometimes, dressing around the gun will also indicate to the trained eye that you are carrying, as well.

  • Slower time to deploy a firearm in an emergency situation. However, this can be mostly overcome with training and practice. Clear your gun, holster it, draw from concealment, and dry-fire - daily. It’s a great exercise, and it’s free.

  • Holster selection becomes critical. You have to buy what works for you, and not just the generic plastic one of the rack at your local gun store.

  • In some places, there’s a weird quirk of the law where open carry is permitted without a license, but you need a license to conceal. Strange, huh?

Advantages of open carry:

  • Comfort. The gun and holster are outside your waistband and not rubbing up against your underclothes and skin. It’s very nice in hot weather.

  • Carry whatever handgun you want - chances are someone makes a “duty” holster for it.

  • Quicker time to deploy, albeit a time measured in split-seconds.

  • Visual deterrence. People see a gun and may back down from accosting you or causing problems in the area. Or they may not.

  • With the right gun and attire, you can pull off that “Southern Gentleman” look…

Disadvantages of open carry:

  • You have to be exceptionally aware of your firearm and surroundings at all times. People see the gun, and some of them may attempt to snatch it from you.

  • You should have a holster with active retention. Active retention can be described as a lever, snap, or switch actively holding the firearm in the holster. In holster parlance, it is known as Level 2 or Level 3 retention. Holsters with active retention are bulkier and can cost more.

  • People know you have a gun on you, and you aren’t a cop or armed security. Some people in this world have issues with guns, and they may not hesitate to tell you to your face about them. Some internet tough guys may even threaten to forcibly disarm you. Google around for that one.

  • Higher risk of questioning by law enforcement. Cops are allowed to ask you questions, just like anyone else. You may have to produce identification proving you are allowed to carry a firearm in that manner.

  • “Utah carry”. You can carry openly in Utah without a permit, but you can’t have one in the chamber. Strange, huh?

  • Criminals may single you out for the “first bullet” in an emergency situation.

  • Private property owners which normally tolerate/don’t care about concealed carry may ask you to cover up or leave the premises.

A note on the law

Don’t take my specific advice on legal matters without first verifying things. An excellent and authoritative resource is, of course, handgunlaw.us. Remember, you aren’t fully armed unless you know the law.

My opinion

So what’s my opinion? As a Regular Guy, it’s not in my job description to open carry. I’m not required to. Plus, I’m in Florida so I really can’t open carry for the most part. However, I firmly believe the right to keep and bear arms is absolute, and that limiting the mode of carry is an infringement on the Second Amendment. Carry openly, or carry concealed - it’s your choice.

My choice? For the most part, in my current situation, I’d rather carry concealed. Why? Well, I live in an urban area, and my spidey-senses tell me that I’d either have issues with various “street characters” trying to prove their manhood by accosting me (or worse), or every two-bit scold with unresolved inanimate-object fears would take time out of their day to lecture me. I’m not scared, really. I just really don’t have time for that.

However, I’d like to have the option. In certain situations, it could prove useful, and also it would solve the uniquely Floridian problem of “brief exposure”. By law, we’re allowed “accidental” exposure of our firearms here in Florida. You can reach up for that last purple Red Bull (sidebar - I am open to accepting purple Red Bull as currency…) and accidentally display your firearm, and it’s “OK”. However, it’s up to the discretion of law enforcement whether the exposure was accidental or not. Open carry would make such arguments moot.

In the end…

The mode of carry shouldn’t be a legal matter, but a personal one, and decided upon after considering things such as the situation at hand and personal preference. In other words, it should be up to you, and you only.

And for the love of God, use a decent holster - don’t just cram your gun down your pants!