My Experiment in Open Carry: Part One

My Experiment in Open Carry: Part One

This is the first of a series of articles, and a bit of a departure from my normal contributions. Here I’ll recount my experiences open-carrying a handgun, with a focus on the reaction from the rest of the public. Nothing in here should be construed as legal advice; it’s just an account of one person’s journey. If you’ve done something similar, please share them in the comment section. 

As so many things do, this journey starts in the spring. I had just moved to a new city on the coast to attend graduate school, and as part of settling in to my new apartment I bought and installed a gun safe. It was a smallish safe, just enough to hold my sole handgun (a Springfield Armory 1911, as many of my regular readers know), a Remington 870 I had configured for what Colonel Cooper would have called ‘social work’, my bare bones basic Ruger 10/22, and a small collection of WWII era bolt action guns. I’ll confess that I only got into shooting seriously as an adult; my suburban childhood didn’t involve a lot of hunting or tin-can plinking.

And like a lot of people who discover something as adults, I rapidly became an enthusiast. I’m a political animal and a news junkie, and the issues around the Second Amendment intrigued me. I did a lot of reading and a lot of research, and public attitudes toward firearms intrigued me. One morning over coffee inspiration struck, and I decided to conduct an experiment. I was going to open carry a handgun, and see what happened.

A quick conversation with my attorney confirmed that open carry was legal in North Carolina, and walked me through the laws regarding it. I advise anyone to take this step when decided to open carry or adopt a CCW; the laws around handguns are often complex.  Based on the legal advice I received, the parameters for my experiment took shape:

  • I would carry when it was both legal and advisable; good judgment would reign.
  • I would carry openly and visible
  • I would keep track of the responses to my open carry
  • I would, should it prove an unfortunate necessity, defend myself or someone else

The time-line was open, but to spare you the suspense the whole experiment lasted six weeks.  The first step was to select the necessary equipment: a rigger’s belt a rather nice Wild Bill IWB leather holster, both acquired at a local gun shop.  My beloved M1911.  Two Chip McCormick Power Mags, 10 rounders. My stash of Remington Gold Saber .45 ACP.   All good equipment, all proven and reliable. This was comforting; I was trusting my life to it.

I did my homework as well. As part of the process, I made it a point to practice carrying and drawing the weapon (loaded with snapcaps, triple-checked each time. Safety first and always, people!) within the comfort of my own apartment for a week before venturing into the wild. This was also a fun chance to practice tactical movement in my own space; in the event of a home invasion, this would prove useful.

Finally, I did some soul searching to check my attitude. My reasoning is that while open carrying I would be an ambassador for the entire shooting community, and I needed to be on my best behavior—the Southern Gentleman standard my grandmother had made it a point to teach me.

And then I set out to see what would happen.

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  • Scott L. Schable

    I have/do open carry, too. I have experienced one guy keeping an eye on my sidearm, when I stopped to offer my lack of engine knowledge to help with his motorcycle (which I had no problem with him doing that). This guy was very polite, as I was to him. The other event was at our local grocery store, he just moved from Florida to Wisconsin and he had a carry license from there, but not for WI, yet. We had a great conversation about the different carry laws for Florida and WI, and I encouraged him to apply for his permit, as soon as possible.

  • charlie baker

    Open carry goes against my grain. I spent much of my life in NY state where I had a concealed carry permit for nearly forty years. In that state if you carry a handgun it must be concealed from view, and keeping that very difficult to get NY pistol permit depends on keeping it out of sight. Now I live in Kentucky where I also have a concealed weapon permit, but Kentucky also allows open carry, without benefit of any license. In the days when I first moved here and had not yet acquired my CCDW, I did consider open carry but quickly dismissed the idea. I just could not bring myself to do it. I have seen a few, actually very few, people doing that here and I have to say I find it a bit disconcerting. I guess I would simply be too self conscious walking around with a gun hanging out and feel like everybody was looking at me. It just ain’t for me, I guess.

    • I am from NY too. After 40 years I moved to Iowa. Much easier to get a permit there and it wasn’t so limited like the one in NY, which was target shooting and hunting. Then I moved to AZ. I got a permit here too. It took longer than Iowa, but wasn’t a problem. I can open carry and with a CCW, I have fewer restrictions, but I too feel a little weird about it to the extent that I have not open carried. I will say though that in our past, criminals hid their guns and honest people open carried. What a change in culture it has been. The one place that might be interesting to open carry is when riding my motorcycle. 🙂 All in all, I’ve had a license since I was 19 (yes, I actually got a permit in NY at 19), I am 54 now and haven’t had an incident. YMMV. I will say carrying concealed is more of a chore in AZ due to the heat and the fact that I have full size auto pistols. I never liked IWB either. It might work well for skinnier folk, but for someone large, not as well.

  • Scott Dismukes

    Texas passed open carry first of this year – 64 days ago. One group predicted panic in the streets, every Tom DIck and Harry (Dirty, of course) would be packing heat, there would be showdowns on Main St at high noon, blood would flow, and of course everyone in their right minds would call 911 at the mere glimpse of a gun, overwhelming the system. Another group, those who had the requisite concealed permit to even be allowed to open carry, pretty much said nothing would happen. Most would opt to not open carry. The whole thing would be a non-event.

    It was a non-event I personally have seen a single open carrier, this being far from the big cities, to boot. Nice 1911 in an OWB paddle holster. No one was following him with phone at the ready, in fact no one much noticed.

    My position is and was, probably will not routinely open carry. Mostly I saw no reason for Texas to actually PROHIBIT it, which was the case up to 64 days ago. We’re big boys now, we have our concealed carry licenses which have shown how well behaved a group we are. Let us make up our own minds.

    • Mikial

      I’m glad Texas is beginning at least to respect it’s citizen’s right to defend themselves. I do think it’s not much of an advantage to be allowed to open carry only if you have a concealed carry permit. Any law abiding citizen should be allowed to open carry without the need for as permit, but i do understand that this is at least a baby step forward for Texans.

      I have to say I’m actually very surprised that after all we hear about Texas being the home of independent thinking and patriotic Americans, they are not further along in the rights of citizens to defend themselves, but like I said . . . this is progress and I’m happy for you and all Texans.

    • G50AE

      Hopefully South Carolina will pass some form of open carry law in the next few years. The most likely path of reform would be changing the Concealed Weapons Permit to a “Weapon Carry Permit” allowing the individual the choice of how they wish to carry.

  • Mikial

    I live in Virginia, which allows open carry without a permit for anyone who can legally own a handgun. I also have both Virginia and Utah concealed permits, so carry options for me are wide open.

    I am always armed unless I’m somewhere i cannot legally carry. Around the house I always open carry, (I have my G21 in an OTW holster right now) including when I’m outside mowing the lawn or going to the mailbox or BBQ’ing. I occasionally open carry if I have to make a quick errand and don’t feel like changing clothes and doing the IWB holster thing, and it is nothing here see people open carrying in Wal Mart, our tattoo parlor, on motorcycles, etc. No one pays any attention.

    I prefer concealed because it gives me the advantage of no one knowing I’m carrying, but open carry should be a fundamental right of every law abiding citizen with no need for any kind of a permit.

  • HomerS

    You can tell a lot about the confidence and competence of an open or concealed carrier by their behavior and if they constantly check and adjust, whether hands are involved or just eyes and other body movements. I also think you can tell a lot about a person by what they carry. Somebody I know at work carries a 357 magnum or bigger revolver in a cowboy style holster and loves it when people part like he’s Moses in the sea. I think that is stupid and immature. I carry a Glock 19 in either a Bulldog slider, or more commonly in a Blackhawk Serpa, both totally open with no jacket or shirt covering, and with a jacket for concealed when necessary. Nobody ever reacts or seems to even notice.

    As somebody else said, in Virginia open carry is legal for anyone who is legally allowed to own a firearm, simply by default because it is not prohibited. There is no law specifically allowing open carry. I grew up in Africa where we had to have a permit simply to own a firearm of any kind, and could only buy ammo for the specific caliber we were licensed to own. Permits took 9 months or more to get so there was no quick decision to buy then go out and use or misuse what we had. The law there was that we had to carry concealed, open carry was not allowed other than police and military. I did my time in the army like every other young man drafted at 18, and grew up hunting small game and shooting.

    Open carry felt a bit strange to me at first, and generally I still prefer concealed but have no problem with either. Both have their place. When I’m doing an RSO (range safety officer) shift at the club I joined, I carry openly and stay back behind the firing line while shooters go forward. If I am with others on a shift, one or more of us will go forward to check the baffles while one stays behind to watch the benches and people’s backs.

    I took DCJS (criminal justice services) armed security officer training and certification, not for work purposes, but because in my church we have a good security team and we don’t want the people carrying unless they have a law enforcement credential. Now I do. In church I obviously always carry concealed, but only ever in the Blackhawk Serpa which is a type 2 retention holster, more secure than just plain friction in other makes.

    I watch others, I watch their body language both in and out of church and you can often tell even a concealed carrier or less confident person by their constant checking and other movements. A confident person usually doesn’t get any attention at all. Recently I went out of state to see my daughter – after checking all state carry laws of course in all states I passed through. I arrived at her apartment, went inside and maybe an hour later my wife said something about my pistol. My daughter looked down and said wow, I didn’t even notice you were wearing it – and she knows I’m a shooter, and has fired every one of my rifles. pistols. and muzzle loader even though she is not a regular shooter.

    I’ve never had anyone around our area show any level of discomfort or say anything, and I’ve done a lot of open carrying and even working just generally out and about, though that has usually been because I take a jacket off so as not to overheat. It all depends where I am and what I’m doing.

  • Gluke

    The first time I saw someone open carrying a handgun in Texas, my reaction was “Oh cool, that guy’s open carrying!”

  • Green Hornet

    This all seems like some sci-fi movie as I have open and concealed carry for just about my whole life and don’t see an issue. obviously from a state that has always been neutral, needing a lawyers help is like going to Mars for me. Guess I’ll stay in home state as long as the rules don’t change!!

  • WilliamDahl

    Texas has open carry now as long as you have a CHL from some state. Initially, I didn’t do it since the weather was cooler and I was going to have a second layer of clothing on anyway, but lately, it’s gotten pretty warm and humid and I like the fact that I now have an option that doesn’t involve an extra layer of clothing. I haven’t seen anyone else open carrying, but I’m retired, so I don’t go many places anyway — Wal-mart, Krogers, Home Depot, Lowes, and a couple of fast food joints. Most people either don’t notice or at least don’t say anything about it. I’ve had a few people comment about it being nice that we now have the option.

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