There are many ways in which someone may carry a firearm, but, arguably, the first decision that must be made is whether to carry open or concealed. For some, there isn’t an option. In Texas, for example, it is illegal to open carry, regardless of whether or not one possesses a permit to legally concealed carry. However, in Wisconsin, open carry was legal well before the state granted its residents the right to carry a concealed firearm. As with all varieties of carry methods, there are associated benefits and drawbacks to carrying either open carry or concealed carry. This article will briefly introduce the key arguments in favor of and against open carry (the merits and risks of concealed carry will be the topic of a followup post).
As the method’s name suggests, open carry allows for the carrier to wear their carry piece visibly. The most popular means of open carry is via waist holster (often outside-the-waistband/OWB rather than IWB). Keeping one’s carry pistol open on one’s hip makes it easily accessible in a self defense situation. There are no cover garments to move out of the way, and there is no need to design the holster in such a way that it lies flat against the body. However, the faster draw isn’t the only argument that some make in defense of carrying open. Some choose to carry open for the psychological factors of being visibly armed. There are some who choose to openly carry their firearm as a preemptive show of force to dissuade would-be attackers from victimizing the open-carrier. The idea here is that an armed individual presents a more challenging target than someone who is unarmed. However, the psychological implications of open carry are not always helpful.
Earlier, I mentioned that it was legal in Wisconsin to open carry many years before concealed carry was legalized. Although this is true, open carry was still liable to get someone in trouble; someone who is legally open carrying can still be arrested for “disorderly conduct,” or “disturbing the peace.” There also exists the argument that those who open carry are making their self defense tools more easily accessible to others. To emphasize this point, there are some individuals who attempt to contact another’s open carried pistol without the carrier themselves noticing. This exercise suggests that there may be some who open carry who are not completely aware of their surroundings to a degree that may put possession of their self defense firearm in jeopardy. Open carry, by its very nature, also removes the element of surprise that someone is carrying a firearm. This is a distinct disadvantage under the circumstance that a victim is surprised and overwhelmed by an attacker (or group of attackers) who then takes measures to impede, or outright prevent the victim’s access to their self defense tool.
Not being encumbered by cover garments, or hampered by holsters designed more for their ability to conceal than for their ergonomics of efficient use allows open carriers to access their self defense firearms quicker than many concealed carry options. However, because there are individuals who are unsettled by the sight of openly armed individuals, the presence of a firearm may be as likely to cause someone to call the cops on a law-abiding open carrier as it is to dissuade a potential attacker. There is also the argument that an openly carried firearm may be easier for others to access (and therefore disarm the open carrier). Are the benefits worth the risks? The answer may vary depending where you’ll be, what people will be around you, and whether or not you’re all right with others knowing that you have a firearm on your person. What’s your preference?