A (Mostly Tactical, Partly Ideological) Argument against Open Carry

Photo credit news.yahoo.com

Photo credit news.yahoo.com

I’m not a fan of openly carrying a pistol.

Before you accuse me of being an “anti-gunner” or liberal activist, you should know I’m about as pro-2nd Amendment as they come. I’m a 20 year cop, 25 year Marine and Soldier who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and am 100% supportive of armed citizens. I’ve written extensively on the importance and need for the 2nd Amendment, and effectiveness of armed citizens against a variety of threats.

Having said that, I think open carry is a bad idea.

No, I’m not saying everyone who open carries is a bad guy. Nor am I saying there’s never a good time and place for open carry. Several people have told me success stories about open carry, and I believe them. But hear me out on this. As a cop I’ve carried a gun on and off duty for decades, and have a pretty good grasp on the factors involved with being armed in public. So I’m going to lay out my reasons why people shouldn’t, generally speaking, open carry a pistol.


I started as a cop in 1994, not long after police went through a collective “holy cow” realization about how many officers were killed with either their own or their partner’s gun. For decades cops were more concerned with a fast draw than a secure holster, and as a consequence lots of cops were disarmed and killed. Around the early 90’s equipment companies started pushing security holsters, and police academies started training harder on weapon retention techniques. The number of officers killed with their own weapons fell sharply. In my first years on the street, I was in a couple of chaotic fights where the suspect apparently unsnapped my holster without me realizing it, but couldn’t get my weapon.

Fast forward a few years to 2001. I was a UN police officer in Kosovo, working with officers from 54 countries plus the local cops. In my unit we had officers from America, the UK, Greece, Germany and a few other places. I bought my own security holster, but our Greek cop carried his pistol in a really slick, not very secure quick-draw holster. He sold those holsters to several local officers, over my objections.

One afternoon we were in the office before shift. One of the locals had his Glock in the Greek speed holster. As the local officer conversed with coworkers, I walked up behind him, slapped the holster snap with my left hand and yanked his pistol out with my right. He spun around in shock. I handed his pistol back and told him, “that’s why you shouldn’t use those piece-of-crap holsters.”

Then I felt a tug on my weapon. I turned around. The Greek officer had seen me disarm his customer, got angry, and tried to do the same thing to me. But he didn’t know the sequence of movements necessary to remove my weapon. My gun was still secure in the holster.

So what does this have to do with open carry?

The average non-LE belt holster has, at best, a single snap. Many holsters rely on only friction and a tight fit to keep the weapon in place. For a concealed weapon, that’s generally regarded as an acceptable risk; it’s hard for someone to go for my gun when they have no idea it’s there. But if you’re walking around with an exposed weapon in a typical holster, especially in a crowd, you’re at risk of being quickly disarmed.

Photo by whitewolftactical.com

Photo credit breitbart.com

If you’re willing to spend the extra money on a security holster (they’re not cheap), and willing to put up with the extra bulk (they’re not small), then I’m a little more with you on open carry. But if you think, “I’m going to be so alert all the time, nobody could possibly disarm me,” you’re wrong. Nobody is switched on 24/7. We all get tired sometimes, we all get lazy, we all get complacent. We can all be overpowered by someone bigger and stronger. If you’re open carrying with a regular holster, you can be disarmed, period.

EDITED TO ADD: A reader shared this video in the comments.

This wasn’t a holster issue, but it illustrates an important fact. Not every criminal is afraid of a gun. If you open carry, you may just make yourself a target.


When I’m in public, I don’t advertise that I’m armed. I don’t wear anything that says police, I rarely wear anything related to the military. One of my goals is to be the “grey man”, the guy nobody notices. Cops or military guys may pick up on clues and ping me as one of their own, but almost nobody else will. And that’s a good thing.

If I’m ever unfortunate enough to find myself in the middle of a crime in progress, I doubt the criminal will immediately ID me as the guy who needs to be shot first. I won’t wear tactical pants (anymore), or t-shirts with huge Glock or Colt symbols, or anything else that screams “I’m probably armed”. Instead, I’ll be just another face in the gas station, bank, mall or theater. In most cases, this gives me a distinct advantage.

Criminals get tunnel vision just like everyone else. Watch videos of convenience store robberies; you rarely see a robber watching his back, or securing customers. Most robbers quickly scan their surroundings for cops or other immediate threats, go to the counter, produce the gun, get what they want and run. If I’m regular Joe in the background, I can draw and make my move when I have the element of surprise.

If I don’t think the robber is going to hurt anyone and I don’t want to risk opening fire around innocent bystanders, my “move” may be to be a good witness. But if the robber is threatening enough or starts shooting at the clerk, I can engage him from an advantageous position, like right behind him. There’s nothing immoral about shooting a bad guy in the back.

If the worst ever happens, and I wind up in the middle of a robbery while my wife and kids are with me and I have no choice but to fire, I’d much rather be involved in a “shooting” than a “shootout”. Ideally, the robber will figure out I’m armed right after he yells “Ow, something bit me!” like Forrest Gump and falls to the floor with multiple gunshot wounds. That’s a much better outcome than having the robber walk in, see me openly carrying, and shoot at me first.

EDITED TO ADD: These two videos give examples of what I mean.

If you’re in a place targeted by a criminal, carrying concealed could give you an extremely important advantage.


This is one of the more contentious points about open carry. The anti-gun side thinks anyone who open carries wants to scare and intimidate people. Even if the open carrier is doing nothing threatening, doesn’t say anything and behaves in a totally benign manner, people around might still freak out. Earlier this week I wrote about the recent incident in Forsyth County, Georgia, where a man was legally open carrying at a park. This generated twenty-two 911 calls, sparked hysterical reactions from local media, and was the subject of really stupid reporting from the Daily Kos (https://chrishernandezauthor.com/2014/04/28/open-carry-the-daily-kos-and-mass-hysteria-in-georgia/).

Photo credited grudgingly to the Daily Kos

Photo credit 11alive.com

People at the park got so scared of this man, they herded their children into a baseball dugout and stood guard in front of it. One woman broke down crying for the camera, saying her son asked, “Did that man want to kill me?” This incident has received national attention, been blown way out of proportion, and is being used by the anti-gun side as yet more proof that pro-gun people are insanely violent (“That crazy man was carrying a gun in a park! Around children!”).

So what did the open carrier accomplish?

If his goal was self-defense, I guess it worked. No criminals attacked him while he walked through the park, probably because they were too distracted by the stampede of terrified parents rushing their children to the dugout. And criminals definitely weren’t going to try to rob the guy as police screeched into the park in response to the twenty-two 911 calls. So he achieved safety, at the cost of being the center of tons of unwanted attention from the local public, police, and eventually much of the country. Keep in mind, this was in gun-friendly Georgia, not some liberal paradise like California.

And some open carriers deliberately try to inflame the public and provoke a police response. This goes back to what I wrote earlier this week: I support open carry as a political statement. I don’t support it as a tactic. If your goal is to rile everyone up and force them to accept your right to carry, fine. Walk around with an AR-15 across your back and a Colt 1911 on your hip, and have your friends follow with cameras. You will get the public’s attention. You will provoke a police response. In an open carry state you should be simply questioned (not detained) and allowed to go about your business, which apparently is to make as big a scene as possible. And maybe to put a video on YouTube, showing how you were hassled by freedom-hating cops for no reason.

Is that why we want to be armed? To force people to react to us?

Carrying to provoke a reaction and then complaining about that reaction is pretty dumb. It’s right on par with a woman walking around topless in New York City because it’s legal there, then complaining “people were staring at my boobs”. Many gun-rights advocates loudly claim they want the government to leave them alone, then some of them take actions calculated to get police officers all up in their grill. Human nature is human nature. Guys will stare at any exposed boobs that happen by, and people uncomfortable with guns will freak when someone openly carries a gun around them. Open carriers and topless women can be as legal as the day is long, but they’ll still have to deal with the unreasonable and unwanted attention their actions bring.

Some of you will undoubtedly say, “I don’t have to change my behavior because of other people’s stupid reactions.” I agree, in principle. But we should also be free to walk in the woods without being eaten by bears. Unfortunately, bears attack and eat people because, well, they’re bears. Liberals and the media overreact, distort, inflame and try to spread panic about armed citizens because, well, they’re liberals and the media. My reason for carrying a weapon isn’t to prove anything, it’s to defend myself, my family and innocent people around me. I can do that better if I don’t have a crowd of panicked liberals calling 911 on me, police questioning me and TV cameras following me to report the Manufactured Outrage of the Week.

Again, as a political statement, I get it. This is America, please speak out about what you believe. But if you’re trying to provoke a response, don’t act like your goal is to be just a regular guy, no different from everyone else except that you happen to be armed. You can exercise your 2nd Amendment rights without making a scene, which in my opinion works out better for all of us on the pro-gun side.


This is going to be another contentious point, because not all open carriers are trying to be confrontational. I’d guess most of them aren’t. But many have been, and I think that confrontational stance works against us.

As a writer, I travel in some pretty liberal circles. The modern writing culture is basically overrun with extremely left-leaning people. As a conservative soldier and cop, I’m the fringe element. And because of this, I’ve had quite a few conversations about guns and gun control with liberal friends.

We on the pro-gun side often justifiably feel that debating the other side is pointless. We want to tell people preaching “reasonable” gun control to shut up, slap them with a copy of the Bill of Rights, show them our openly carried pistols and walk away. Unfortunately, while slapping them and walking away might be satisfying, it doesn’t help. And actually does more harm to our side.

I had a conversation recently with a very intelligent, very reasonable liberal friend. This guy is knowledgeable as hell on many subjects, and discusses everything rationally. Except guns. On that subject, he checks every irrational, emotion-driven box there is.

When we had the gun control conversation, he broke out the usual arguments (“the kind of people who want to carry guns are the ones I’m afraid of”, “if someone drops their gun it’ll go off”, “guys with guns will get mad and shoot it out over minor arguments”, “if everyone’s carrying guns how can the cops tell who the bad guys are”, etc). We had this conversation at a coffee shop, and he thought I wasn’t armed. When I told him, “You’ve never seen me without a gun”, he was taken aback. He seemed to think guys who carry guns can’t be trusted, have no self-control, and will spray and pray at the drop of a hat. When he found out I’m always armed, he had to reconsider.

My friend and I have been attending writers’ group meetings for over a year, we’ve hung out at bars and restaurants, and he’s never seen me do anything stupid. Being armed doesn’t make me cocky and impulsive like he thought it would; on the contrary, because I’m armed I’m much more likely to avoid confrontations. After the conversation, my friend had a new perspective. Chances are, next time he’s around his liberal friends and the topic of gun control comes up, he’ll totally screw up their mojo by saying, “I was convinced that only wackos carry guns. But then I found out this totally normal friend of mine always carries a gun. He calmly explained why he thinks I’m wrong about gun control, and he made a lot of sense.”

Photo credit whitewolftactical.com

Photo credit whitewolftactical.com

Call me crazy, but I think that kind of interaction is worth a lot more than the shock tactic of, say, walking into Starbucks with an AR-15. Had I been openly carrying, our very productive conversation would probably have never happened because my friend would have been scared to talk to me (since, you know, I might have gotten angry and opened fire). Even if my friend doesn’t change his stance on gun control, he still learned that armed citizens aren’t the racist, redneck, Tea Party insurrectionists and child-eating NRA members some liberals think we are.

I know the anti-gun side’s tricks. I know many of them engage in irrational, overtly emotional attacks on us. I get sick of it too. But there are intelligent, reasonable people on their side who will listen to us if we make the effort, and some of them do change their views. We gain a lot more traction when self-described “New England liberal” author Justin Cronin writes an essay titled “Confessions of a liberal gun owner” (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/28/opinion/confessions-of-a-liberal-gun-owner.html?_r=0) or Anthony Bourdain tries to convince his liberal friends to stop demonizing us (http://anthonybourdain.tumblr.com/post/62424540749/guns-and-green-chile) than we do by telling everyone who disagrees with us to fornicate themselves. Or by openly carrying a pistol, just to piss off the people we know are scared of guns.

Again, guys, I’m not saying open carry is flat-out wrong and nobody should ever do it. If you’re in a place where open carry is normal and accepted, and you think it’s worth the risk of being disarmed or spotted by criminals, do what you think is best. There undoubtedly are places where open carry doesn’t raise an eyebrow and criminals know better than to cause problems, just like there are places women can walk around topless without being ogled (or so I hear, but my wife won’t let me confirm that).

But in a whole lot of America, legal or not, open carry is going to cause problems, and it’s going to put you at more risk. Which is why I think it’s a bad call. Not that it’s evil, not that it’s immoral, not that it should be illegal. In most cases, it’s just a bad call.



67 Responses to “A (Mostly Tactical, Partly Ideological) Argument against Open Carry”

  1. Excellent. You hit all the salient points.

    My question for the open carry people is, simply, “Why?” What’s the point, other than screaming “Look at me?” Is it so the media can always find some idiot strutting around, like the dummy with his carbine in a coffee shop above? Gee, thanks guys, way to draw attention to yourself.

    Just for clarity, if I am wearing clothes, I am also wearing a gun. As I type this, I am carrying two. I am a cop and work narcotics, often entailing UC work. I carry concealed for a living, and I carry everywhere I go. My wife does, as well. I’m also a firearms instructor, and as a matter of fact am leaving in a few minutes for a two-day firearms training course. I also retired a few months ago after 26 years in the Army/USAR/ARNG, and did three deployments myself, so I think I have a pretty decent idea of the problems/issues with carrying a gun, everywhere, everyday. And other than in the military and in uniformed law enforcement, I have never needed to open carry.

    On the other hand, maybe everyone should open carry. I can more easliy slide by under the radar with them drawing all the fire/attention, that way.

    Any minute now, someone will come along, frothing at the mouth, and start going on about how we are anti-Second Amendment or some such foolishness.

    Good article, as usual.

    “Ow, something bit me…” Love it….

    • Mac,

      I get why some people OC, sometimes. I just don’t see the utility of OCing at times and places where it’s likely to attract unwanted attention. Again, if it works, it works. I just see too much potential for problems for it to be practical.

      Where/when did you deploy?

    • So, peacefully, lawfully, openly exercising a Constitutional Right in public is “screaming “Look at me?””? Really?

      A. Since when?

      B. I guess blacks shouldn’t have marched in the streets, voted, ridden busses or sat at lunch counters, right? That would be a logical extension of this ‘reasoning’.

      • I have to agree with pavepusher here. Rosa Parks make people uncomfortable… Also, the negative reaction to OC varies wildly by location. States that have unlicensed OC, or states that have Constitutional carry, seem to have very few negative reactions to people OCing. Why? Because it is more well known.

      • 5 Jeff Gauch

        A) Since wearing weapons fell out of fashion. In most cities that happened by 1700. In the western US, it was somewhere around 1920. Walking around openly armed in today’s society is unusual. Unusual things garner attention. If you can’t understand that you’re far too sociopathic to have guns.

        B) This is nothing like the Civil Rights movement. For one thing, we’re winning. After Sandy Hook many people thought we were in for a new round of gun control. Outside a few rather liberal areas the push for increased gun control went nowhere. Even when Colorado passed new gun control laws the backlash nearly cost the Democrats control of the state senate.

        For another, the major media is on the other side. Just look at the Georgia story. The theme in the major media, where most people still get their information, is “Look at the crazy gun nut.” When at least half the stories instead have the theme “Look at those crazy mothers overreacting to a gun” open carry might have some benefit. Until then the vileprogs in the media will use any chance they can get to paint gun owners in a bad light and discredit them. Only an idiot gives ammunition to their enemy.

      • 6 wlewisiii

        And when those blacks showed up in Sacramento OC’ing all they got was for Governor Ronald Reagan to destroy the right to OC in California.


        That’s all you OC twerps will accomplish nationwide. Thanks for nothing.

    • “My question for the open carry people is, simply, ‘Why?'”

      I didn’t open carry for years after I got my CCW, but now that I am, it seems as just as natural as carrying concealed. But to answer your question,
      A) Because I can, and B) Because in Arizona, open carry is no big deal, and it’s no big deal only because we’ve been doing it for so long that nobody cares.

      If gun owners want that same level of laissez-faire about firearms, we have be concerned whether people open carry or not, because if we make a big deal out of it, you better believe that gets noticed and that others who aren’t on our side will make a big deal out of it was well. And if open carry people want open carry to grow, they have make sure their politeness and courtesy exceeds the standards of the community they live in. Want better firearms law? It starts with better firearms owners.

      More about this at http://www.exurbanleague.com/misfires/2014/05/05/a-mostly-tactical-partly-ideological-defense-of-open-carry/

      • Kevin,

        I read your post, and it’s very well thought out and well written. And I agree that there are some places where OC doesn’t cause a stir. I have no argument against OC where OC doesn’t cause a problem. I just think that in most of America, it is going to cause a problem, and is going to work against what most carriers are trying to accomplish.

        I really like your point about being a better firearms owner, thanks for bringing it up.

  2. 9 Fritz

    Good write up Chris! The only time I open carry is at the range, or if I go hiking/camping (mountain lions aren’t known for their disarming techniques). But there are some times that open carry as a political statement has worked out. There is a guy in Utah that open carried at college everyday and was heavily involved in fighting the attempt to pass a law banning firearms from schools a few years ago.
    As for your story about your liberal friend in the coffee shop, I have to wonder if he chalked up your being a “normal” person with a gun to being a cop. I’ve heard people make comments to the effect of “cops (sometimes they include soldiers, but since they all have PTSD from Iraq now….) have special training and spend all day getting good at shooting so we can trust them, unlike those crazy rednecks that just walk into a store and buy a gun!”

    • Fritz,

      Agree, OCing is about as strong a political statement as they come. I have no argument with OC as a political statement. It’s the practicality that escapes me.

      Regarding my liberal friend, he did bring up that I’m a cop. I pointed out that I know many civilians who carry who are better trained than a lot of cops. He said cops are against non-cops carrying weapons. I said that’s BS spouted by police chiefs who are political appointees and completely contradicts how almost all street cops feel. I pointed out that a lot of cops teach CHL classes. He immediately responded “they just do that for the money”. I refuted that.

      By the end of it, I think he had pretty much seen the flaw in his arguments. And he’s a good guy, open to new ideas. We’re going to continue the argument as soon as possible.

  3. I think you have a very good right up and have great points. I do wonder how much your perspective is affected by the fact of your career choice.
    Most of the people who Open Carry are not LEOs.

    Issue #1 – Weapon Retention –
    To me this is one of the biggest perception gaps; I have studied the issue greatly and I have not seen reports of this being an issue. There is a vast difference between LEOs engaging on a routine and daily basis people who might be try to take away a weapon and the average person going about their business.

    The low likelihood of it happening does not seem to be a factor that over rides the comfort and convenience of Open Carry.


    HUH? This one doesn’t make sense to me. If a criminal has targeted you or the place you are at; you’ve already been ambushed.
    And it seems like you are trying to have it both ways here; criminals will pick you out of a crowd if you Open Carry or identify as armed but have tunnel vision and won’t see your reactive draw from concealment coming.

    I do see a value in surprise but isn’t it offset by the greater possibility of a criminal avoiding the place if they see an armed customer or picking a different victim?

    Again, there just does not seem to be the case load of criminals targeting Open Carriers first.


    I think there is considerable confusion between Open Carry as Activism and Open Carry as a daily practice. Those I talk to who daily Open Carry report very little notice of their firearm, very little reaction and no issues with criminals.

    Yes, some people make a jerk of themselves doing it. But the vast majority of the people live the life of the ‘grey man’ you spoke ot.


    I think this area misses the boat the most. The anti-gun people won’t be convinced by confrontation or by conversation. The idea of Open Carry as a quiet activism (not the in your face provoke a reaction) is to engage the fence sitters. The people who go “Oh, is that legal?”
    The people we need to see normal, every day John and Jane Doe doing every day chores armed and not being anything but just like them.

    you’re in a place where open carry is normal and accepted, and you think it’s worth the risk of being disarmed or spotted by criminals, do what you think is best.

    So in place where it is accepted, do it but how do we get a place to accept Open Carry if no one ever does it?

    Isn’t that a little bit of a conundrum?

    I deplore the in your face advocacy that turns people off. I think there is a place to push the limits and some times that is going to initially attract attention or make people edgy. But that is where the rest of us come in. It is our Ice breaker, the opening we need to talk about our rights.

    We need to point out “Hey that guy in the park, exactly what was he doing illegal or threatening?”

    I have not heard a single verification that he said a word to anyone. Just that parent was saying “he was like ‘look at me, I have a gun and nothing you can do”.

    I think Open Carry or Concealed is a personal choice as you do. I do think that like the presence of LEOs (and thank you for your service) the presence of armed people will reduce crime.

    Bob S.
    3 Boxes of BS

    • 14 Mike

      I think you need to craft your message based on your audience. There are some places where people are neutral or somewhat friendly to guns where open carry activism can make sense. If you’re talking to fence-sitters or “fuds,” it can start a good conversation.

      If you’re dealing with people who are going to run, hide, and call the police, your activism isn’t winning any hearts and minds. Unless you’re trying to force the government’s hand to win a court battle (as appears to have happened in California), your activism is hurting more than its helping.

      There’s a time to be proud, and a time to convince people that you’re “just like them.” Sometimes a pride parade can be more effective – but most of the time you really need to just know Bert & Ernie live next door and are totally normal and boring.

      • Mike,

        I agree but I think you missed the point – nothing I do or don’t do will change the hearts and minds of those who are going to run, hide or call the police simply because I’m armed.

        The other aspect is despite the media’s attempt to blow Open Carry fears all out of proportion; the people who don’t notice, don’t run or are neutral greatly out number the ones who fear it.

        These incidents are news worthy for two reasons; one the media’s bias against 2nd Amendment Rights and two they are so rare that people even notice.

        …but most of the time you really need to just know Bert & Ernie live next door and are totally normal and boring.

        I absolutely agree but going back to your earlier comment; you don’t know that Bert & Ernie live next door until they move in. You don’t know that people Open Carry everywhere until they show up at place you wouldn’t expect it. If everyone only Open Carried at the range or the gun stores; how many neutrals would ever see it?

        We do need to have people carrying picking up their kids at day care; at the mall, at the barber shop, etc. We need people to calmly, rationally and as a part of their normal routine go to the bank or restaurant.

        Maybe a better way of saying it would be “We need to make sure our audience sees us as normal” instead of trying to craft our message to suit a particular location.

        Bob S.
        3 Boxes of BS

        • 16 Mike

          I’ve personally been able to move several people on the “anti” side to at least a much more moderate stance by making sure I was seen as “normal” first. The “oh, you’ve been carrying all along” is *much* more effective, in my experience, than “holy crap that guy’s a real activist” reaction.

    • 3boxes,

      I’m sure my occupation has affected my feelings, but I don’t think it affected them in a negative way. As a cop I simply have more insight than many people about the realities of carrying a gun. You’re right that most OCers aren’t cops, and there’s a good reason for that. Cops generally don’t want anyone to know they’re cops when they’re off duty in public. They don’t want to make themselves bigger targets than they already are.

      Now I’ll address each of your points:

      #1: With a relatively small number of open carriers, we can expect small numbers or maybe even no reported incidents of OCers being disarmed. I didn’t say in my essay that OCers are routinely disarmed, however; I said that it’s a risk, which is a claim I stand by. If no OCer has ever been disarmed, that doesn’t mean I’m not going to have my weapon taken from my single-snap holster by some enterprising thug in Walt-Mart. If OC activists accomplish their mission of getting more people to OC, and those carriers use crappy, unsecured holsters, the statistical probability of someone being disarmed increases. Again, I didn’t say it’s a common occurrence, I said it’s a danger.

      #2: A criminal can target the location you’re at without targeting you as an individual. I hate to resort to a movie as an example, but the final scene from Pulp Fiction is a good example. Robbers target the restaurant where Samuel Jackson and John Travolta are eating, but don’t realize they’re armed. Which gives Jackson and Travolta an advantage. This kind of incident has happened in real life as well.

      As far as being personally ambushed, well, if that happens it’s just a bad day for me. If someone drops an anvil on my head while I’m asleep, I’m going to lose. Even Chris Kyle lost when he was shot in the back by someone he thought he could trust. If I get ambushed by someone who has his stuff together, I’m going to lose whether I’m OCing, CCing or in full police or military uniform. I’m not going to worry about that.

      #3: Absolutely agree with you on the difference between OC as practice and OC as activism. And I believe you when you say OCers often report no problems or reaction. However, the fact that nothing has happened doesn’t mean nothing will happen. I wouldn’t be surprised if the OCer in Forsyth County never had a bad experience, until he had a bad experience. If OCers you know are successfully OCing, I definitely wouldn’t say they should stop. But I still think the risks incurred outweigh the benefits.

      #4: I agree with you that we need to convince the fence sitters. But I also think we can engage some of the people who are virulently anti-gun simply because they don’t understand the realities. I’ve had some success talking to people who were anti-gun for dumb reasons (like the friend I described above). If we write off the entire population of anti-gun people, we’re potentially making things harder for ourselves.

      Also agree that in the Forsyth County incident, there is no reason to believe the man said anything like “I have a gun and there’s nothing you can do about it.”

      And agree that OCers are a deterrent to crime, especially in large groups. I do believe OC has its good points, but from a personal perspective I still see CC as much more advantageous.

      Thanks for your comments, and for the civil tone of your debate. You have some very intelligent, well-articulated points.

      • I’m sure my occupation has affected my feelings, but I don’t think it affected them in a negative way. As a cop I simply have more insight than many people about the realities of carrying a gun.

        This is where I really wonder. You say you might have more insight than many people about the realities of a carrying a firearm but that insight has been shaped; almost entirely, by your profession.
        A profession that brings you into contact with more criminals, more people seeking revenge than the non-LEOs.

        Your statements follow on and show what I’m talking about

        Cops generally don’t want anyone to know they’re cops when they’re off duty in public.

        Your argument against OC also includes it is better to be the ambusher than ambushed — but most people never get that chance. If there is a crime; they’ve been ambushed. Most people want to avoid being ambushed — just like most criminals don’t want to encounter an armed victim. So Open Carry would be a deterrent.

        But LEOs have a different perspective – criminals might want to seek them out. So your point makes sense; from your perspective.

        • “Your argument against OC also includes it is better to be the ambusher than ambushed — but most people never get that chance. If there is a crime; they’ve been ambushed. Most people want to avoid being ambushed — just like most criminals don’t want to encounter an armed victim. So Open Carry would be a deterrent. ”

          If you’re being ambushed, it doesn’t matter where you are or if you are OC’ing or CC’ing. For example, if you are inside a gas station Open carrying in one of the isles, you will not deter a robber from the outside as he will go straight to the cashier. For OC to be a deterrent, the bad guy needs to see you with your exposed weapon. This might not always be the case as the bad guy is not always looking out for a civilian with a gun; he is just there to commit the crime.

          The claim that OC will deter a crime is very situation-dependent. Even if the criminal did see you with that exposed weapon, what makes you think he might not shoot you first?

          Sure he might be scared off by the sight of your openly carried weapon. But what if he isn’t?

          Each situation will be different, so obviously you have to choose whether you want to OC or CC. Most of the time its better to have the element of surprise, not just in violent situations, but in daily life.

          Food for thought..

  4. 20 GSP

    There is a time and a place for everything. When it is that time and place, just do it correctly and not like this.


    • Godz. He could only make that worse by carrying in a cross-draw, nylon open-top holster.

    • 22 Jeff Gauch

      When I was in Afghanistan (civilian mechanic) we had an officer come in carrying her pistol in a shoulder harness with the muzzle pointed down and forward and the magazine well pointing up. We spent the entire time she was there trying to figure out how she was expecting to draw her weapon.

  5. 24 Stuart the Viking

    Good article Chris.

    The guy with the AR in Starbucks forgot rule number one of activism… DON’T BE A DICK!

    We have been fighting for OC here in Florida for a while now. While I would probably never carry openly myself (for many of the reasons you have pointed out), I strongly believe in the effort.

    Up until last year, some one legally carrying concealed here in Florida could have been charged with some pretty hefty crimes if their firearm was accidentally exposed. As anyone who carries concealed knows, sometimes accidents happen. It happened to me one time getting out of my car. An old woman “squeeked” when she saw me. She looked scared. Then I noticed that my shirt tail had hooked itself on the butt of my pistol and she had gotten a good look at it. I apologized, fixed the errant shirttail, gave her a smile, and went on about my business like nothing was wrong. All the while expecting the police to show up. Luckily for me, they didn’t. Apparently, being nice to people puts them at ease… who knew?

    Last year, an “Open Carry” bill was neutered to “fix” the problem of an accidental exposure of a concealed firearm being a crime. While I’m glad of that, the wording isn’t the best and I’m not really sure how well it will work if an anti-2A cop (sadly they exist) is involved.

    Florida gets HOT and MUGGY. I would love to be able to carry in a holster on my belt rather than inside the waist band (IWB) as it would be much more comfortable. I would, of course, still use a cover shirt for concealment. If OC was legal here, I wouldn’t have to worry about a breeze blowing my shirt and uncovering the gun. As it is, I’ll stick with IWB and avoid the trouble.


    • Stuart,

      The “don’t let anyone see your gun” rule is kind of goofy to me. If it’s okay to carry a gun, it’s okay to carry a gun. I don’t see myself ever arresting someone for accidentally revealing their weapon.

      Texas gets hot and muggy as well. It would, no doubt, be much more comfortable to OC than CC. But I still can’t see myself doing it, except in very specific situations.

      Thanks for the comment, and I’m glad the old lady didn’t call the cops on you.

      • 26 Scot M

        What the “don’t let anyone see your gun” rule SHOULD be, is goofy. I wish (and i’m sure there are) more cops like you with that mentality…here in commie NHS revealing a weapon, even accidentally, is a major no-no, and actually considered brandishing. Hell even printing has gotten some people in trouble.

        A classic story I tell new CCers is that a buddy of mine who is 181st airborne was home on leave a few years back shopping at a local mall with his daughter. Bent over, or squatted down to look at something on a shelf with her and some lady freaked when his colt “appeared” at his waistband. No joke, he was told to leave the mall or he’d be arrested. By police. And he obviously had a carry license…oh yeah, and his military ID.

        Not sure to chalk that story up to a case of one person overreacting, or a police force that isn’t very tolerant, but either way, it’s a good lesson about being VERY careful and conscious of how you carry depending on where you are.

      • 27 Stuart the Viking

        Would that all law enforcement officers were as enlightened as you Chris. However, I have met a few officers who went out of their way to harass law abiding gun owners anytime they could.

        I personally spent a few hours one evening while a knuckle-head deputy tossed my vehicle because I made the mistake of following the law and saying “yes” when asked I had any weapons in the car. Never mind that our business had already pretty much concluded with me getting a verbal warning to… I don’t know, since he stopped me because he thought I was driving around with my bright lights on and I showed him that nope, they were the dim lights after all (an easy mistake to make on a 4WD vehicle since the lights tend to be up higher). The deputy was pretty mad that I hadn’t told him about the gun as soon as he walked up. Florida is not an inform state, legally I don’t have to unless he asks, and I personally think it’s safer to just leave the gun where it is. An opinion that, as you’ll see, this particular situation confirmed in my mind.

        I wish I had video footage of what transpired. I would send it to you and you would use it to train rookies what NOT to do. The deputy had me get out of the vehicle and placed me near the back of the jeep, still on the driver’s side (I guess so he could watch me) then proceeded to TURN HIS BACK on me (completely) to retrieve the gun out from under the driver’s seat.

        He then explained that he was going to unload the firearm and make it safe. After about 5 minutes of playing with it (while his back was STILL towards me) he finally asked how to drop the magazine.

        I ask you, how was anyone in the whole neighborhood safe when deputy knuckle-head was fingering a firearm that he didn’t know even the simplest manual of arms for?

        I told him, and then sent him back when he was done to clear the chamber (I was listening, he hadn’t).

        After a pretty thorough search of my vehicle, I got a lecture about how unsafe the neighborhood was and how I shouldn’t be driving around with a gun in my car.

        I was a block away from my own house. I KNOW how unsafe the neighborhood is. Ergo, I carry a gun…. DUH!


  6. 28 Eric

    Chris do you have any statistics or numbers to support your argument about the disarmament retention risk? I have not been able to find a substantial number of incidents on the civilian side to support that argument.

    • Eric,

      I don’t have any information specific to civilian OCers. And I don’t think I need to quote numbers here: the description of how easily a weapon can be removed from a bad holster doesn’t need stats to back it up. As I mentioned to 3boxes, I didn’t claim OCers are being routinely disarmed; I said being disarmed while OCing with a crappy holster is a risk. I certainly hope OCers aren’t being disarmed, but even if it’s never happened, it’s still a huge risk because it’s so easy to do.

      Just curious, have you found documented incidents of OCers being disarmed? I haven’t looked.

      • 30 Tierlieb

        Chris, I am not sure if that is the correct answer. You are implying that because something is possible, it will happen as expected.

        Even the whole “allow people to carry guns and blood will run in the streets” rhetoric was based on something that made sense, because if people don’t have guns, they cannot shoot each other.

        After a while, we could point out that assumption was wrong, allowing people to carry made both them and people around them actually safer. And we could smugly say “we knew all along”, while secretly wiping sweat off our brows, happy that it turned out to be as we expected.

        The disarming issue might play out this way or another – maybe any kind of openly carried gun does scare away human predators, maybe to those untrained people, it does not even occur to attempt this. So I think Eric’s criticism is valid, without numbers that prove that theory, it stays a shaky one.

        • 31 Jeff Gauch

          I would say that the experience with cops discredits the theory that criminals would be dissuaded by open carry. After that, it’s simply the law of large numbers. Given enough trials the probability of even unlikely events occurring approaches 1. Being disarmed and killed by your own gun might be a one in a million occurrence, but that doesn’t matter to the one.

          • 32 zuk

            I open carried in AZ when it was the only choice. As a civilian, and motorcycle rider, a full coverage holster on the hip was both comfortable and practical. Keep in mind too, that this was when the grocery store had a ‘gun check’ room (like a coat check room) so you could disarm before shopping as it wasn’t legal to carry in the store. It was COMMON to see bikers and cowboys carrying.

            Despite all that, OC was a drunk and d!ckhead MAGNET. Maybe I was not as intimidating as the bikers and cowboys OCing, but I got too much hassle from the shallow end of the gene pool. “Hey man, what you gonna do, shoot me?” After the 2nd or 3rd time you hear that called out to you as you get off your bike, you think about doing what everyone else was doing at the time–accidentally letting your shirt fall over your pistol.

            I’m glad to have the option of CC (in TX, the only option.)

            I agree with the division between the political aspects and the tactical aspects, based on my personal experience. BUT. I’m afraid that soon the comparison with the lunch counter and Rosa Parks will become necessary. We won’t be able to quietly keep to ourselves and work within the system. The system is intent on crushing us to its will. (See CT, CA, and MA for example.)

            Thanks for the posts Chris.


        • 33 justice06rr

          If something is possible, then it is possible. No need to go further than that.

          Is it possible for a boat to sink? Is it possible for an airplane to crash? Is it possible for me to sneak up behind you with your openly carried pistol and steal it from you?

          you get the point. Most boats don’t sink, and most planes don’t crash. But it doesn’t mean it can’t happen.

          What Chris is saying is that the risk is there when you Open Carry. If you CC and no one knows you have a weapon, then that risk is eliminated. Its all about calculating risks, and reducing risks as much as possible.

        • Tierlieb,

          The story that CCW posted below is a pretty clear indication that at least one OCer has been targeted and disarmed. I read another anecdotal reference to a similar incident. Does it happen routinely? No, but OC isn’t very routine either. If more people OC, there will be more opportunities for disarms, and there’s no question it’s very easy to do.

          You have a point though, there is no evidence that OCers are being disarmed (other than the one incident we know of). But I still maintain the risk of being disarmed is real and a big enough factor to discourage people from OCing.

  7. 35 RandyGC

    Nice job Chris.

    I agree with you on being more comfortable with using open carry for range work, backwoods etc. The primary reason I like living in a state where open carry is legal is to avoid issues that Stuart the Viking brought up, unintentional exposure of a concealed weapon.

    I was fortunate to get some retention training some years back when working private security and have a good retention holster for my SW Model 19 revolver (a buddy of mine was almost able to lift me off the floor grasping the grip and not able to get it out, but once I practiced a while I was able to do a very quick and smooth draw). However I use a Browning Hi-Power for carry, and really don’t want to go to the expense of a retention holster for it.

    • Thanks Randy. When I searched for pictures of OCers last night, I was actually surprised to see so many using Serpas or paddle holsters with retention devices. Serpas have issues, but hey, an attempt at retention is better than nothing.

      With the retention training I’ve had, and disarming technique training, and knowing officers who survived attempts at disarming, I would not OC without a security holster.

      By the way, I’ll give you $100 cash for that Browning. Hawaiian money. 🙂

      • 37 Fritz

        Aside from people shooting themselves in the leg by not using them correctly, what issues do Serpas have? I’ve used Serpas for years now without any issues, and I know that unless you draw properly, that thing is NOT coming out…

        • Fritz,

          The issue with Serpas, aside from Tex Grabner shooting himself in the leg, is that there have been several incidents of debris being caught in the release mechanism which jams it so the weapon can’t be drawn. So it does keep the weapon secure, at the small cost of not being able to draw it.

      • 39 RandyGC


        I’ll pass on the Hawaiian cash, but will give you a Hawaiian good luck gesture at no charge 🙂

  8. 40 Ccw

    One disadvantage with open carry is that some bad guys might look at it as an invitation to increase their firearm collection for free…

  9. One of the best articles I’ve read in a long time.

  10. 45 DaveJ

    First well written and well thought out OC discussion I’ve seen. I’d like to see your article get picked up by a mainstream news outlet for greater dissemination to Gun fans.

    I’m a Texas concealed carrier of nearly 10 years, retired military, average civilian guy nowadays. Former expert rifle and pistol in the military but as I age, means diddly nowadays. lol

    I think Texas will approve OC in the next legislative session (next year). The part of Texas I live in will probably not be a problem for OC _however_, downtown Austin may be touchy as that’s where all the liberals hang out.

    I have different concealed carry holsters for different clothing, depending on what I’m doing that day, so I’ll probably OC in some instances and not others. When I do OC, it’ll be a level II holster.

    OC offers a better reaction time for us old guys who have slowed through the years and now wear glasses. On the flip side, we will react a bit slower if some person lunges forward to steal our weapon. It’s a fact, old folks are slower. 🙂 Also, I don’t want to be the guy that is trying to make OC popular again, I’ll leave that to the younger generations (those that want to have regular discussion with non-leo’s).

    Again, Thanks for writing a fine article. You are quite articulate and seem easy to get along with. Nice job.

    • Thank you sir. I hope Texas legalizes OC, but I don’t think it will be a common practice. There is definitely a time and place for OC, but it will always raise an eyebrow and will cause panic in places like Austin.

      Thanks for your service, and I hope you’re around if I ever need backup.

  11. I once open carried in target up in Reading PA. I agree with all the points and I did it at the time as an experiment. I wore my Sundays best. I believe people in the store believed me to be a police officer.

    No panic was involved because I look presentable and non threatening. Mitigating some of the soccer mom terror might be possible if you look like a well dressed gentleman instead of grungy t shirt Joe boxer.

    Just Sayin. My trip around town and shopping in target was met with nary an eyebrow raise.

    • Hey man, if it works, it works. I’d still be cautious though, cause all it would take is one person to freak out and then you’re dealing with all the crap the GA guy did.

  12. 49 Angela

    Once again, a well written, thought provoking article.

  13. 51 Mike in KY

    Great article. I’ve tried OC a few times in public (around town and a couple of businesses) and, really, I was very uncomfortable and felt way too conspicuous. Nowadays I only OC around the house and property, the woods, and sometimes when we’re going for walks on our rural dead-end road. Otherwise, I concealed carry all the time. Like you, I’m much more comfortable being the grey man nobody pays any attention to.

    Fortunately, being in Kentucky, I don’t have to be too careful about accidental exposure. Although I may not open carry, I don’t particularly worry about it printing or briefly showing unless I’m in a bank, church, or some place that, although may not be prohibited by law, has a no-firearms policy (God bless Kentucky).

    It’s been said that the first rule of Open Carry is, “Don’t be a dick.” Too many times, it seems, OC’ers break that rule, especially when they receive the attention they were apparently seeking.

    My takeaway line from your article was this:
    “My reason for carrying a weapon isn’t to prove anything, it’s to defend myself, my family and innocent people around me. I can do that better if I don’t have a crowd of panicked liberals calling 911 on me, police questioning me and TV cameras following me to report the Manufactured Outrage of the Week.”

    That’s pretty much it.

    • Thanks Mike. I hope you never have any problems carrying in KY, my understanding is that the laws there lack the stupidity common to other states. And pretty much everywhere, if you follow the Don’t Be a Dick rule you’ll probably be okay. That goes well with the Don’t Go Stupid Places Where Stupid People Do Stupid Things rule, which I try to live by.

  14. I found your article on open carry very persuasive, but I’m already in that church. While open carry maybe a tool to promote the need for CCW in a state or to demonstrate that people with handguns are not a danger to the community, after CCW is achieved why would carry that way?

    Why draw attention to yourself? The corner stone argument to CCW is your willingness to protect yourself and those you love. Being concealed make the victim selection process that much harder for the criminal, creating a situation in which he may chose to hunt else where.

    Why give up that advantage?

    I would be more interested in talking to the fellow with what appears to be an iron cross and a skull on the grip of his firearm. If he does use this gun in self-defense he will, unless he’s born under a lucky star, find himself in either civil and/or criminal court. That emblem will be shown to the jury, it will be painted as a sign that the shooter is a degenerated person wanting to kill/punish. What’s he going to say to the jury? “Oh, it looked cool…” Again why do that to yourself.

    I tell people self defense has three components. Preparing for self defense, the act itself and surviving the legal challenges. Start at the beginning and prep your equipment for the all the stages.

    • Frank,

      I always want to ask, why protest for a right you already have? Maybe OC activism makes sense in states like Texas where it isn’t legal yet, but what does OC in OC states accomplish?

  15. 56 reserve corporal

    Great article as always Chris, i’m really glad you bring this subject.
    as i already told you, I ran in several youtube videos about OC activists who forgot Stuarts the viking first activist law 🙂

    I know i won t make many friends here but…
    as some of you knows i’m french ( sorry for that 🙂 ) and therefore we dont have the same rules about carrying a weapon, even if i’m openly against a kind of 2A in France, after differents arguments with Chris, i do now ” support” the US 2A.
    Why that? simply because for the USA I think it is simply to late, there are too many guns everywhere, and having a proper gun control will take centuries…
    If i had to live in the US, you can trust me i will own a gun, and probably CC it for all the reasons above.
    But I’m still afraid of something, and that s why I’m against a “french 2A” . i’ve travelled a bit and I’ve seen in the US what are the risk of owning a weapon….
    Lot’s of people are asking me what sentence could define the best USA, and i always answer:” it s a country rich in contradiction”

    when i land in LA in 2009 my friends and I were suposed to sleep at some US friends house, we had the adress, took the bus and then… get lost… I decided to go ( alone) ask someone witch way was the street i was looking for, I soon as i said ” excuse me sir do y…” this guy a almost 7ft African-American build as hell, look me in the eyes and… ran away… literally… he ran away, enter his SUV and lock himself in, 2 minutes later stil confused by what happened, the 3 of us asked our way to a cab driver, saying we wanted to walk, the cab driver insisted about us jumping in, and drove us on almost 2 miles without charging us.
    My whole US trip was like that.
    Some people acting really wierd, and others really generous.
    The thing is some of the people who gets afraid for no reason were armed citizens.
    one even draws his gun and point it at me asking me to leave (i was a little bit pissed of), an other one in the countryside saw me coming and grab his shotgun, he later invite us to dinner and to sleep in his house.

    I do know i’m the typical leftist here by sayig that, but i’ve seen in many countrys people using a weapon ( gun or knife) just because they were afraid, and for no more reasons.
    I do think, OC attracks attention, and potential fear, off course in lots of towns you could be use to it, but you can be sure that someday someone is gonna freak out, and fear is contagious

    I hope i maid myself clear enough 😉

    • Corporal,

      You need to come to Texas and hang out with me and my friends. I think you’ll have a different, more “American” appreciation of the 2A afterward.

  16. Sorry for the delay on comment responses, guys. I’ve been tied up with military stuff and a really cool vehicle CQB class. I’ll start responding to everyone’s comments as soon as I have time, hopefully tomorrow.

  17. 59 Paul


    If you have the time and inclination, would you share your thoughts on the shooting in Hearne? http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/05/09/officer-shooting-93-year-old/8886487/

    Thank you,


    • Paul,

      I don’t have many details on the Hearne shooting, what little I know comes from media reporting. On its face, the shooting looks bad; however, another report came out yesterday or today that quoted a family member of the elderly woman saying she fired at the officer before she was shot. The smartest thing for me to do right now is wait for more information before making a determination on it. I do know that an elderly person can be a lethal threat. It does seem like the situation could have been handled differently, but I wasn’t there and I definitely don’t know all the facts.

  18. 61 Tim

    A little late to the party but I’ve got to ask though:
    “””Open carriers and topless women can be as legal as the day is long, but they’ll still have to deal with the unreasonable and unwanted attention their actions bring.”””
    Is there any state where both are legal ? And any where both are widely accepted ?
    Now that’d be quite a state to live in.
    Just a foreigner’s interrogation^^

    • Tim,

      Unfortunately, for some reason Open Carry and topless women seem to be mutually exclusive. Damn our strange American sense of propriety!

  19. 63 Tom

    The 3 cop killer in Canada says it all when you see the photo of him openly carrying his murder weapons. To me he looks the same as some of the open carry guys. A younger white male, wearing some camouflage, and carrying menacing weapons. There is no way most civilians (including myself) are going to know whether an openly armed, non-uniformed individual has any ill intent, until they start shooting. We are betting our lives and our kids’ lives on mostly untrained civilians who brashly carry assault weapons in public stores and restaurants.

    I learned to shoot when I was 5 years old. My dad earned a marksman ribbon in the Navy in WWII and taught me correctly, responsibly, and safely. I know how to use firearms and own a few, but I also appreciate what I don’t know, which is important when you handle or carry firearms. A neophyte, or a reckless, careless or overconfident individual can be very dangerous with a gun, especially an assault weapon. And of course there is always the potential for mental illness, terrorism, or criminal motivation behind the non-uniformed civilian carrying such weapons, as recent public shootings continue to demonstrate.

    If my dad were alive today, he would be shocked and alarmed to see such dangerous behavior. Open carry of assault weapons in public by private citizens is political grandstanding and extremism. It’s only a matter of time before we see some deadly consequences of allowing such reckless and dangerous behavior. “Well regulated”? Hardly. Not what our founders intended when they wrote the second amendment.

    • Tom,

      I think we’d probably disagree about one or two things, but in the main I support just about everything you just said. Thanks for commenting.

  20. This is what k have been saying to friends and family all along. You want to carry?, knock yourself out…. but open carry might as well be a shoot-me-first sign.

  1. 1 Friends Don’t Let Friends Open Carry | Active Response Training

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