The Open Carry Experience, Part 1

It’s no secret that I have been extremely critical of the Open Carry movement in the past. For the most part, I find OC “activists” to be nothing more than attention seeking troublemakers, who are at best a nuisance, and in the case of Open Carry Texas are actually helping the other side win mass media victories. But on Sunday, when I got up and put my gun on, I did something a little different. I decided to OC, because it occurred to me that if I really wanted to understand the open carry “community” I should make an active effort to actually open carry.

So for the remainder of the month of June, I’m going to use open carry as my primary method of carry. Here are the ground rules:

  • OC wherever it’s legal with certain exceptions (I won’t OC at church, for example, because it’s rude)
  • Don’t be a dick
  • Dress like an adult
  • Use a grown-up gun in a retention holster

A couple of things right off the bat – I will not be carrying a gun at people. I’m just carrying a gun, and going about my regular daily activities. So if I have to run an errand or perform a task, it will be exactly the same as it would have been if was carrying concealed, I’ll just be carrying the gun in the open. I’m not going to walk around and wait for the cops to show up, this isn’t some kind of asshole political statement. I am just going to carry a gun…openly.

I realized yesterday when getting ready that the only gun I had a proper retention holster for was my 1911, so right now I’m carrying a 5 inch 1911 in a Galco M4 autolocking paddle holster. I’m also wearing a tucked in polo, a nice belt, and clean shoes.

Colt 1911 Galco M4 holster

Each day, I’ll update the series with notes from my OC experience. Yesterday was pretty boring, went for a hike in the state park. I have to say the most striking thing about OC vs CC is I feel weird. It feels strange and unusual to not bother to conceal my gun, especially since I’m not at a match. I do have to be concious of something else – at matches, where I am by default openly carrying, I have the habit of resting my strong hand on my gun. I can’t do that in public, because it would look REALLY weird.

Ultimately, the goal of this is simple: just carry my gun like I would any other day, just not concealed. I’m not going on OC walks, I’m not wandering around with a rifle slung over my shoulder, I’m just a dude dressed like a grownup going about his business. With a gun.


  1. I think you are going to get a totally different reaction, for two reasons.

    1- You’re not being a Dick about it
    2- South Dakota as a totally different attitude about Guns.

    You know that if you were still living the the Pacific NW, you would get a less than favorable reaction from the Natives.

    But I’m curious to see how it goes for you up there!!

    It’s funny, here in the Valley, I would get a COMPLETELY different reaction Open Carrying here in Peoria than say Snottsdale, I mean Scottsdale… It’s a matter of attitude and culture.

    Keep us posted.

    1. I agree here. The OC’ers I’ve encountered and dealt with have a vocabulary that’s peppered with excessive use of the F word and an attitude to match. They’re nothing but gun toting attention seeking goofs.

      1. I like the f-word a lot. I just don’t use it when I’m trying to be a good example of gun owners.

    2. I don’t generally OC but I have on occasion before here in Portland and nobody much seemed to care. I got weird looks from one guy but that’s about it.

    3. I don’t know about the different reaction here in the PNW. My husband OCs as a rule and has only encountered a few people over the last 2 yrs who had any reaction let alone an unfavorable one. Of course, he follows the same basic rules as Caleb stated. I think if you’re not a dick about it most people don’t care or just don’t notice around here.

  2. Yrsued1 makes a great point that I hope you include in your writings.

    Having lived here I’m sure you are aware of the great juxtaposition that is Washington state. If I am anywhere east of the cascade mountain range I have often open carried and following a similar set of guidelines to your above I have never had any issues , police or otherwise. However on the wet, I mean *west side, the occasional brief and accidental open carry has been met with nothing but fear and disdain. As if I’m breaking the dick rule, but I’m not.

    I think a big reason for this is that if you are not familiar with gun culture then all you might know of open carry is the idiot dicks in the media.

    So, will you be traveling anywhere in June to test the open carry waters with a more polite and scientific approach and write about it?

    1. I don’t think I have any travel on the schedule, to be honest. I want to be able to do it comfortably in my own home town before I go on the road.

  3. Keep a suit jacket handy. In case you want to Don Johnson it…Also, carrying OWB concealed under a jacket is just cool.

  4. Because I find standing with my hands in my pockets to be a little juvenile, I also had to find something else to do with my hands when I started OC. I have settled on hooking my thumb in my pocket, especially in lines or crowds, because A) it gives me an anchor point without putting my hand in my pocket while leaving my hand empty and B) my forearm rests on the grip, which covers the gun without actually placing a hand on it. Early on in OC I realized just how often I would rest my hand on the gun when camping, shooting, or at the range, and I don’t figure its a good idea to look like you’re about to draw. Its kind of like when people first start carrying, and feel the need to constantly check to make sure their gun is stable and concealed.

  5. I’ve always noticed how many cops unconsciously place their hand at rest on their guns. I’ve even teased my good friends about it, asking if they were planning on drawing on me. A couple even recognized that it probably looked more like a power move on their part than anything. As a famous (sort of) blogger often says, “stop touching it!”

    1. When I’ve noted it, it seems like many people will place the palm of their hand on the rear face of the slide (this is likely to be different with hammer bearing guns, I’ve mostly noted it with Glock or similar striker fired guns) rather than a firing grip. I always assumed it was +1 layer of weapon retention. With me, though, it actually just makes a convenient armrest.

  6. Depends on the situation. In town I always CC for tactical reasons. In the bush, where I am a lot I sometimes OC like when I am carrying a big revolver or 12G (griz country). It is awkward to CC a large handgun with a pack. It helps that a lot of other people are doing the same there. (MT, AK, N ID) It would be good to be able to do this in TX (feral hogs everywhere). Sometimes camping along the border I have an AR. Again it helps that others are doing the same especially in AZ. Key is fitting in and the more people that OC the easier it is to fit in when you OC. So there is value in normalizing OC. This is not endorsing or condemning any tactic used to accomplish the goal.

  7. I kind of assumed it was a bad habit to rest your hand on the gun at matches, too.

  8. When I OC, it’s generally carrying the gun in exactly the same location as when I CC (sometimes even the same holster). I don’t find my hand gravitating to the gun, but I have found myself resting my elbow on it (not directly on it – pressing the back of the slide toward smy body ever so slightly), especially in crowds.

    YMMV – I think I picked up that habit over 20 years ago, when wearing a pistol at the gun store in the pre-Shall Issue days that meant I had to OC. Anytime I was out from behind the counter and there was any customer (or customer accessable doors) behind me, my elbow was touching the gun.

  9. OC is being like your forefathers ,that came to this country and settled it…..yes even in the North East states…..imho

  10. I find that when I’m carrying openly, the pistol makes an armrest because it sits at 3 o’clock or slightly forward of that. If I’m touching it with my hand, I find that my thumb rests where the web of my hand would go and my hand hangs down, sometimes with the fingers wrapping over the top of the pistol and holster. It’s a comfortable spot, I suppose. For those interested, I carry in Bianchi leather thumb snap holsters.

    I often carry openly and have been doing so for about four years total.

  11. I usually OC during the warmer months (which is a lot for a Yankee here in NC) but never with a long gun, only a pistol. We have to win the “hearts and minds” slowly. Anyone carrying around an AR/AK is asking for trouble. Just because it’s legal doesn’t mean you have to as it usually garners negative public attitude and more ammunition for the media to use against us. See how that goes during the next election and forthcoming anti-gun legislation. I carry openly to exercise my 2nd Amendment rights, show people that not all gun-owners are homicidal maniacs and by dressing like an adult (usually with one of my NRA Instructor Ts or polos) I get in to many good conversations with people who have questions. This usually leads into talk of what I do and I get to easily hand out many business cards with offers to get training or work on getting a concealed carry permit. You’d be surprised how many people never even see my pistol. Those that do often give me the once over and can see I’m not a threat and 99% of the time it ends right there. Positive experience for all. Unfortunately the press doesn’t gravitate to me but to the boneheads pushing the envelope which increasingly will restrain my rights to open carry as more and more businesses turn against it.

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