Concealed vs Open Carry

Within the armed citizen community to only topic that is as contentiously debated as .45acp vs 9mm is the merits of concealed vs open carry. Some people believe that there are tactical reason to carry concealed or open and I see merits in both cases and. interestingly the public acceptance of each has changed over time.

Concealed carriers commonly state that having a firearm concealed gives them the advantage of surprise and that they are less likely to be the first target in an armed encounter.

Open carriers believe that the presence of their firearm may dissuade a threat from committing a crime in the first place or choose a different target because of the high likelihood of armed resistance.  It is also a commonly held belief that an open carried firearm can be drawn more quickly; however in my tests I have found the difference with the same holster, covered by a coat to be ~.05sec (obviously deeper concealment increases the time).

While it is true that if there is an attack a concealed pistol could have a tactical advantage in stopping an attacker, it is also true that only the non-observant or determined attacker would choose an armed victim if another target was available. This means that while an open carrier is less likely to face at all.

However, if the open carrier is attacked it will likely be by either ambush or by an overwhelming force, which the attacker believes will negate the pistol.  In the case of an ambush the pistol is likely to be a primary target for the initial grab and the reason I believe that open carried pistols should be carried in a holster that has some form of retention device; which will likely eliminate any speed advantage.

Historically, open-carry of a weapon has been more social acceptable because there is no evidence of deceit.  The concern over the potential of a concealed weapon may have led to the handshake, which is believed to have originated as a gesture of peace by demonstrating that the hand holds no weapon and even the clapping of hands before a sumo competition.  The concealed weapon was thought to be tool of card cheats and assassins.  This is the genesis of many laws prohibiting concealed carry, but still allowing open carry…  Like in my North Carolina.

Today, there are many people that have been raised to fear weapons and would rather not know that they are in the presence of a firearm.  Whether this is because of the fear of the weapon itself, denial of any of threats that they may face or because it lets them know that the carrier is capable of exerting a force that they cannot withstand they would rather just not know.  In the interest of calming the sheep, states like Texas have outlawed open carry to the point that obvious printing could be illegal.

While I believe more and more people are becoming familiar with firearms and they are not as demonized as they once were, I feel that we are still a long way from open carry being social acceptable in urban environments.  I do understand the feeling that this socialization will not occur unless people are exposed to courteous, friendly, non-threatening open-carriers that are willing to educate the public and make the political statement.

I carry concealed because I want to minimize any ostracizing that I may face in the community and to limit the anxiety of my friends, family and those I meet.  I am not willing to be the open-carry ambassador in my area. I understand that this may cause me a higher risk of being attacked by a common criminal, but I believe the increased opportunity to de-escalate any arguments and the decreased daily aggravation are worth the risk.

How do you carry and why?



  1. Freiheit says

    Great post!

    I carry concealed. In no particular order, I do this because:
    – the pistol club I shoot with encourages it
    – the “don’t spook the horses” attitude. If its concealed I don’t get MWAG (man with a gun) calls and fewer worries about “OMG IS THAT A GUN” when I go out
    – as I’ve gotten older (the ripe old age of 28 :P) I’ve gotten a bit quieter, I don’t wear as many loud tshirts, fewer bumper stickers, etc. Carrying concealed is similar, its my gun and my business, not on display to the public
    – sometimes I get tired of being the “gun guy” and I grow weary of all the social and political baggage that comes with guns. If its concealed, I can avoid some of those conversations.

  2. Rob G says

    Thank you for your article.

    Open carry just isn’t common in most parts. Seeing someone carrying open the first time is much like seeing some kid with a bright purple Mohawk for the first time. It makes you pause and stare.

    However, after you’ve seen a few of them, it becomes commonplace and you simply get used to it, barely noticing it in future encounters.

    Like you, I carry concealed and have no real desire to be a trend-setter. Once open carry becomes more commonplace, I will happily purchase an OWB holster.

  3. says

    Actually, I bet you used both hands when drawing from concealment and used your offhand to remove the garment, correct? I practice my draw from concealment constantly and if I have both hands, then the delay is barely noticeable. However, just trying to remove my shirt over the pistol with one hand is *MUCH* slower, and I live in Florida where a t-shirt is generally the only thing covering my pistol. Each additional layer makes that time slower.

    If I’m tucked, I’ve determined that if I’m going to have to draw, it’s going to have to be when I’m not in line of sight of who I’d draw on. It’s too slow.

    I’m a HUGE OC advocate, but then again I live in one of the few states where it’s illegal. I understand the social issues and agree that if you’re not comfortable with it, then you shouldn’t do it. My only problem is that when we pushed to get OC legalized here in Florida, our biggest opponents were not the Brady’s or other gun control groups, but gun owners who, because *they* didn’t like OC, assumed that keeping it illegal was just spiffy.

  4. says

    I’m in the concealed crowd. I would rather not advertise that I’m packing when it’s at all possible.

    I think there is another valid reason for open carry: to preserve the right to do so.

  5. BroBrandonB says

    both, with a personal preference for open carry.

    I know, I know… it would probably be better to stick with just one – but there are times when I know concealed is just more prudent.

    Why open carry so much?
    1. I’m a medium-small frame guy. Skinny, even. open carry is much more comfortable for me if I want to carry a pistol that isn’t a BUG.
    2. I live on “the edge” in a purple state where there are decent laws supporting our civil rights with regards to carrying, however I’m in near proximity to lots of people who have just plumb never been exposed to firearms. I dress nice, act nice, am a generally upstanding member of my community so I proudly open carry partly to show others that normal good people carry guns. If I CC they would never know.
    Often nobody notices, but sometimes it generates very positive interactions with complete strangers where I can inform and educate. I think that’s a good and important thing so that we can continue to preserve these freedoms.

  6. says

    In the interest of calming the sheep, states like Texas have outlawed open carry to the point that obvious printing could be illegal.

    Considering the Texas law against carrying handguns openly or concealed was passed in 1871, and not substantially modified until the 1995 CHL law, I’d guess there was another reason behind it. That was during the Reconstruction.

  7. Douglas in CT says

    If “Open” carry is not prohibited in your state (laws vary), there is also the concept of exercising your “Right” to do so.

    Here in CT, there is nothing to prohibit “Open” carry, though attempts are constantly made to change the law in this regards.

    A local group that was formed to defend gun rights in CT is
    Connecticut Civil Defense League.

    Mission Statement:
    The Connecticut Citizens Defense League is a non-partisan, grassroots organization devoted to advocating rights affirmed by the Constitutions of the United States of America and the State of Connecticut. We are especially dedicated to protecting the unalienable right of all citizens to keep and bear arms, for the defense of both self and state, through public enlightenment and legislative action.

    We welcome anyone who believes that the defense of our constitutional rights is critical to the longevity of our freedom and to the success of this nation, and in particular that the rights to self defense and to keep and bear the arms to actualize that defense, are fundamental and undeniable.

  8. Elm Creek Smith says

    I often open carry. It is amazing how many people just don’t notice a blued, 3 inch barreled Smith & Wesson Model 13 .357 Magnum in a black basketweave Bucheimer Concealer. I’ve even had people miss the fact that I was carrying a nickel-plated Smith & Wesson Model 37 .38 Special in a spring holster worn cross draw (except for a 6 or 7 year old girl whose eyes locked on it instantly). Most people are too wrapped up in themselves to really see what’s happening around them.

    Another thing: Retention devices do not necessarily reduce the speed of one’s draw. A thumbbreak, Safariland’s ALS device, and most other retention devices don’t slow the draw if the use practices with them. At that, they are generally faster than drawing from concealment where you have to clear your cover garment.

    I have had only one (1) negative encounter while open carrying. A busybody stopped in front of my shopping cart demanding to know why I was carrying a gun. I told her that I wasn’t carrying a gun. She spluttered and pointed at my little Model 37, blurting, “You are TOO carrying a gun!” I turned my body so she could see the Model 13 and said, “No, ma’am. I’m carrying two guns.” While she was spluttering, I pushed my cart around her and out to my truck.

    If someone wants to ostracize me for open carrying, I don’t need them as a friend anyway. My friends and family would most likely be anxious if I wasn’t carrying a gun.

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