Since Texas enabled licensed individuals to openly carry handguns about 2 weeks ago, I have public openly carried twice.
And honestly, I don’t see myself doing it again.
Well, first, I should explain why I open carried in the first place.
It’s because as a firearms instructor in Texas, I should be able to speak with some first-hand experience about such matters. Having to actually do something, having to actually go through it and being forced to consider things you hadn’t considered before, it’s enlightening.
And so, I carried twice in particular environments for the learning.
The first was on my way to/from the first KR Training Open Carry Concepts class. I figured given the nature of the day, it was appropriate.
The second was when I attended the 2016 Paul T. Martin Preparedness Conference. One of the topics was covering open carry, and Karl, Paul, and I figured it would be good for a few of us to open carry to demonstrate what we believe good, responsible open carry is and should look like — because we don’t want “that guy”. We were dressed in business casual clothing, carried ourselves professionally, and worked to give the impression of someone “with their act together”, not the “derp” that the media wishes to see and portray.
So each time I carried, it was because there was purpose, because there was reason.
And so, that’s where it’s going for me.
What advantage does Open Carry give (me)?
And the conclusion I’m coming to is: none.
Now, that’s a blanket statement, made for some poetic impact. In reality, it’s “almost none”.
When Karl gave his presentation on Open Carry, he listed the following advantages:
- Faster access to your pistol
- Potential deterrent
- Easier to carry a larger pistol
- More comfortable in warmer weather
- “Normalization” of right to keep and bear arms
As blanket statements go, they are advantages. But at least for me? I don’t find them to be advantages. (and for the record, Karl’s pretty much in the same boat as I am — you had to view his PowerPoint slide within the context of his presentation).
Faster access to your pistol. Yes, technically an open carry draw is faster than a concealed carry draw. If concealed carry was faster, then the fastest competition pistol shooters in the world would be shooting from concealment – but they don’t; they all use open carry holsters. There’s no clothing to get out of the way, to foul the draw, to slow things down. But on the flip side, if you’re openly carrying you should be carrying in a retention holster, and having to deactivate that retention mechanism will cost you time. The more retention mechanisms to deactivate, the slower things get. And believe me, you can fail to deactivate the mechanism and totally foul your draw. So while certainly an open carry draw is faster than a concealed draw, a retention draw is going to be slower than an open draw. Advantage lost.
FWIW for me, my retention draw is slower than my concealed draw, from a level-2 Safariland ALS holster. I’m sure I could get faster in time, but my thumb is going to hate me. But even tho I am can get faster, it’s still going to be slower.
Potential Deterrent. Maybe. I covered this before. There are stories of crime being deterred, but there are also stories of open carriers being attacked for their gun — flat out inviting crime. So does the potential for deterrence provide a compelling enough advantage to me? Not really. I think it’s more of an advantage to leave ’em wondering and let my gun be a surprise, not an invitation.
Easier to carry a larger pistol. This is certainly a fair point to reason. It’s easier to carry outside the waistband than inside, and when you don’t have to consider the need to hide bumps and bulges under clothing, that matters too. Granted, while some Texas residents were always concerned about getting in trouble for printing or concealment issues, it was never a legal problem. And certainly now, it’s even less of a legal problem. Still, strictly speaking, open carry can permit the carry of a larger gun. Thing is, I carry a full-sized S&W M&P9 on my hip, inside my waistband, every day for the past many years. Works out just fine. But I know this doesn’t work for everyone because body shapes and styles are different. And interestingly? I find it more of a pain to carry in my Safariland 7377 ALS because it sits the gun out so far from my body, it balances weird, and my arm keeps banging into it all day. As well, because it doesn’t hug my body, it’s this big lump of steel sitting in an awkward place, and no, sitting in a desk chair all day just is not as comfortable. So, I’ll say to this point, it’s a personal issue, but for me, it’s not any advantage.
More comfortable in warmer weather. Hard to call since OC went legal in Texas in the coldest month of the year. 😉 But for sure, not having the gun pressed up against your body will probably be nice when it comes to sweating. Thing is, clothing choices start to matter more here too, and the clothing choices necessitated by OC may negate any summer advantages. However… I was joking with a friend that OC requires you to tuck in your shirt… unless you had no shirt, or even better – a belly shirt. Please, no, don’t do this. 🙂
“Normalization”. This is a political matter, not a practical one. While I certainly involve myself in gun rights matters and politics, I don’t carry a gun for political reasons. I might carry from time to time because of this or some other similar reason (e.g. the two times I’ve OC’d so far; not political, but for a reason other than practical, self-defense), but as for offering me some sort of advantage, there is none.
Other reasons. Having to put myself in a position of a responsible open carrier, I had to think about some things and make some changes that I didn’t like.
For example, I have to tuck in my shirt. I don’t like tucking in my shirts, because of body shape, comfort, preference, and so on.
But another important reason for an untucked shirt? I conceal a lot more than a gun. I wear a lot of things on my belt, and if my shirt is tucked in, I cannot conceal them. I lose a lot of useful tools, or I have to cram them into my pockets (and I may not be wearing pants that can support that extra load; and it’s uncomfortable). This is a loss of functionality for me, and that’s certainly not an advantage.
Another is I don’t need the attention. While at the conference I spent some time just walking around the Cabela’s. Now if any place should be friendly to OC it’d be such a store with such a clientele, and for the most part there it was a mundane issue. But for sure I saw a few looks, heard a few passing comments (nothing bad, just evident people noticed because Joe commented on it to Fred as they walked by), but otherwise uneventful. But even that small bit of attention wasn’t something I wanted. I prefer to keep to myself, to go about my business, and frankly drawing attention to myself just gets in the way and wastes my time. My time is precious, and if I’m going to spend it on OC-topics then I want it to be because I chose to engage in it, not because someone else drew me into it and interrupts my day.
And now with the proliferation of 30.07 signs, that’s certainly going to be an interruption of my day to have to weave in and out of contending with that. But if I’m just always concealed, I can just go about my business and have one less hassle to deal with.
Are there reasons to openly carry? Certainly. There can be times when it will be an advantage to do so. And I am thankful that, as a law-abiding citizen, I am enabled with options. In general, for me, open carry causes me more hassle than gain, from a practical, every-day standpoint. I may do it from time to time, and I appreciate that I can. But in general?
I’m going back to untucking my shirt.