Just returned from KR Training‘s first Open Carry Concepts class. First, of course, because the (licensed) open carry of handguns only became legally possible in Texas just yesterday. But, this won’t be the last class (there’s another scheduled for January 30).
The intent of the class is to cover concepts relevant to the open carry of handguns, such as: proper retention holsters, open carry laws, draw/reholstering drills using retention holsters, relevant live fire drills, interactions with people (law enforcement, random folks), gun retention and disarm techniques. The class was co-taught with Leslie Buck of Tactical Arts Academy.
If you’re going to open carry, or even just want to learn a little more about it, taking a class like this is a must. Open carry brings a host of new issues into your world, and the more you can be aware of those issues and handle them responsibly and gracefully, the better off you will fare.
Class was sold out, and we had a good group of students. Some returning alumni, some new folks. But everyone seemed to get a lot out of the day, and it was eye-opening on a number of levels.
First, retention holsters are going to require practice. It will be different from your normal holster, not just in terms of managing the lock mechanism, but most retention holsters are going to “carry/ride” differently on your body, and even an inch of variation can make a huge difference to your muscle memory. There were numerous self-administered wedgies today when people would fail to deactivate the retention mechanism, try to draw, and wind up with their pants pulled up high. It’s going to be different, you’re going to need practice. Thankfully, working on drawing from a retention holster is something you can do at home in dry practice.
Second, almost no retention holster is going to be concealable. Is it that you can’t have retention and concealability? I don’t think so – I think it’s more about what’s on the market, but to some extent there is mechanics. I mean, that ALS mechanism would be difficult to work if it was tight against the body. This Safariland 537 has been working out really well in terms of concealment, but it was pretty evident in class today that while technically there is a retention mechanism, gee it’s really not much. Even those with rigs like the Safariland 7377 were able to have the ALS defeated fairly easily with particular simple grabs – tho for sure, adding the 6006 ALS Guard greatly aided in making it difficult to defeat the retention. But then, that 6006 caused a lot of thumb pain and grief and missed draws. So again, it’s back to lots and lots of practice.
But when it comes to holsters, like so many things it’s going to come down to tradeoffs. My present feeling – for myself – is if I’m going to intentionally and knowingly open carry for some reason, using my 7377 with the 6006 is going to be the way to go. But this will also require me to not have a need to conceal (e.g. needing to enter a place with a posted 30.07 sign), because the only way I could conceal the 7377 would be under my huge Carhartt duck coat. The 537 is much more concealable, and I could potentially even see wearing it as a normal concealment holster (tho OWB, so I would have to have particular clothing). Then if I went open, or if there was need to be open but then sometimes go concealed, the 537 would work out better. But then, I just don’t feel as good about the retention mechanism (jury is still out; needs more testing but so far I’m not high on the retention mechanism). So, trade-offs.
Frankly in most respects? It feels like the best option is to just keep it concealed and go about life as usual.
See for me, the question comes down to: what is gained? Is there some advantage I’m gaining by carrying openly? I mean, fundamentally what it comes down to is: is my shirt tucked in or untucked. Really, that’s it. At this time, I see no advantage gained in carrying openly, and I do see disadvantages. But this is me in my life and my world. Other people, other circumstances, carrying openly may be useful. For example, now that a lot of reciprocity agreements with Virginia were just nullified, one way people can get around it in Virginia is to carry openly… so there’s an advantage there.
But for me? Well, what I appreciate most is having the option available to me, should I wish or need to exercise it.
And for what it’s worth, I did today. I mean, I was going to KR Training to assist in an Open Carry-related class, so might as well walk the walk now that I can. And that I did.
And you know what?
No one cared.
I’m not even sure anyone noticed.
If anything seemed to get noticed, it was the group of 3 “goth-ish” girls that walked into the Buc-ee’s, one of whom looked like a goth Santa Claus. That got everyone’s attention. My gun? Not so much.
Will I OC regularly? Again, I don’t think so because what does it gain me? I do see it causing me some hassle (e.g. weaving in and out of the web of 30.07 postings), and frankly, there’s a bigger thing I thought about as I was getting dressed this morning.
See, I have a hard enough time being “the gray man”. The very nature of me doesn’t blend in very well: I’m tall, I’m big, I have long hair, I have this fu-man-chu-like facial hair. I stand out. People may not know me, but people sure recognize me and I easily leave impressions on people. And there’s other things about me that cause a lot of interest and odd looks, and I’ve dealt with this most of my life. Consequently, I have to do things to manage people’s perception of me, sometimes in good ways and sometimes in bad ways. I know when to look intimidating, and I know when to look soft and friendly.
And frankly? I’d just rather not put the whole gun thing into the mix of managing those perceptions of myself. I don’t carry a gun as a fashion accessory – it’s a tool with a specific purpose. It’s too sensitive of an issue for some people. I don’t need the hassle that may come, whether it’s from dealing with 30.07 signs, to hysterical hoplophobes, to some dude that just wants to talk gun gear with me. If I’m out and about I’m either doing something with my family, or I’m taking care of business. I don’t need hassle and distraction and other shit getting in my way and delaying me. I like keeping my shirt untucked anyways – always preferred this, even before I carried a gun – because it’s just more casual, it’s just more comfortable, and Motörhead t-shirts look stupid when tucked in. 😉
And honestly, I don’t care to have people irrationally associate me with “gun”, because it will happen. I have enough things people irrationally associate with me anyways (because of my hair, my clothing, whatever). I’m getting older and prefer to make my life easier, not more annoying. Right now there’s nothing that I personally gain from carrying openly; and for me personally I only see potential negatives.
But to each their own. Everyone’s going to be different.
And if you are going to choose to carry openly, please please please. Don’t be “that guy” that hurts the cause more than helps it. Karl wrote some excellent thoughts on open carry. Please read them.