5 Tips on How to Open Carry

Open carry, or the practice of carrying a firearm in a non-concealed & visible manner, is not a new phenomenon in the United States. Early settlers routinely carried their firearms while traveling or otherwise going about their daily business, a practice that continued well into the 20th Century in some areas. In rural areas, where residents routinely depended upon a firearm for both protection and food supply, you were more likely to attract attention by not carrying a firearm than if you strolled down Main Street with a revolver on your hip.

Over time, a once regularly accepted practice has become taboo. Guns became scary and only the police or bad men had them. In either case, they were best not seen.

Open Carry MapYet, according to Opencarry.org, the practice of open carry is still permitted in all but 6 states, the U.S. Virgin Islands and District of Columbia. Even California allows for “rural open carry,” depending upon local ordinances. In 30 states you are allowed to open carry without a permit or background check, meaning it is often a far less burdensome or costly means of exercising your 2nd Amendment rights. Over the past several years the number of citizens taking advantage of this opportunity has increased sharply. At the same time, there appears to have been an organized effort by the anti-gun proponents to use these individuals as examples of the careless cowboys they want the rest of America to believe gun owners to be – macho tough guys looking for a fight who put everyone in danger.

Educated, responsible gun owners know this is not the case and statistics, as well as common sense, show that open carry is not synonymous with “criminal.” In fact, I would bet that the majority of criminals would never think of open carry due to the simple fact that they do not want to draw attention to themselves. But common sense has little to do with modern opinion, which relies more on video clips and sound bites than the facts – and regardless of which side of the issue you find yourself on, a 30 second clip of a guy strolling into the corner market with a 1911 on his hip ranting about prying it from his cold dead fingers makes for good video.

Open CarrySo, how do you avoid becoming a poster child for the next gun control movement? Easy; become boring and routine. That’s right, become so boring and routine , even when carrying open, that no one gives you a second glance much less feels the need to play the video of you doing it over and over again on the evening news.

  1. Carry it in a casual, non-alarming manner just as you would a cellphone or pocket knife.
  2. Use a quality holster, designed for the particular firearm, so it is not only secure but looks secure to the casual observer.
  3. If questioned concerning your actions, whether by law enforcement or the general public, be prepared to explain your situation both calmly and knowledgably.
  4. Do not exceed your rights by attempting to force business owners or others to allow you into their establishment when they do not need to. Even those states with the most favorable open carry laws often allow property owners the right to prevent the carrying of weapons on their property.
  5. Be prepared to fight for your rights but do so in the courtroom, boardroom and voting booth rather than the street. Public confrontations, even if you are correct, often provide the negative video clips the opposition are seeking while doing little to further the pro-gun agenda.

Maybe someday, seeing someone with a gun on their hip will be (although not common place) at least uneventful, and Americans will realize it is not a part of the “gun culture” but rather a part of American culture.

Tom Burrell

Tom enlisted in the US Marine Corps Reserves in 1987. Following service in Desert Storm, he transitioned to active duty with the US Coast Guard. In 1997 he left the USCG to pursue a position in conservation & maritime law enforcement. Tom is currently a Captain and he oversees several programs, including his agency investigation unit. He is also a training instructor in several areas including firearms, defensive tactics and first aid/CPR. In 2006 Tom received his Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice from Harrisburg Area Community College and in 2010 a Bachelor’s Degree from Penn State University.
Tom Burrell
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3 thoughts on “5 Tips on How to Open Carry

  1. A right not exercised, is soon taken away.

    “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”

    Don’t just stand there….. Fight Back !

  2. Mr Burrell,
    A well reasoned and well argued piece. The only thing I would add is to make sure you carry ID so that when you are stopped by the police, you can quickly establish who you are, thereby de-escalating any potentially problematic dispute. I especially liked your emphasis on arguing your rights in the courtroom and not the street. Asserting a legal right is always best defended in court. It now remains for the NRA to get on board and assist with financing such cases pro bono publico (for the public good).

  3. You make some great points about being a responsible gun owner. I myself have a concealed weapons permit and carry my own pistol in public. I always make sure that it is not conspicuous and that everyone is safe. Like you said, its important not to present a negative image on carrying a firearm. https://blucore.com/pistol-training-classes/

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