Concealed Carry or Open Carry?
The Question of the Ages for Legally Armed Citizens
By: Dan Johnson| Instructor with National Carry Academy
The chicken or the egg? Duck-duck-gray duck or duck-duck-goose? Coke or Pepsi? Despite these questions having been debated for generations, we are no closer to finding the correct answer and being able to fully convince our opposition to see our correct point of view. In our current society, legally armed citizens debate a timeless question amongst each other: Should one open-carry their firearm when in public or should their firearm be concealed? Depending who you ask, you will likely get a different answer to this question of the ages!
Before providing some insight to help aid you in your decision for carry method, let’s quickly define the differences. Concealed carry means the firearm is not visible to the outside world, and is concealed underneath clothing as to keep it hidden. In some states, concealed carry is the only legal method for persons with carry permits to use. Open carry means the firearm is easily visible to everyone. In Minnesota, legally armed citizens will notice their issued their permits state, “permit to carry a pistol.” While some, if not most, casually refer to their permit as a “concealed carry permit,” it is important to note that Minnesota residents have the option to carry concealed or open. Let’s explore these two options in more depth.
Before picking sides in the debate with your inner circle of friends, it’s important to first consider a couple of key questions: How do you want to be perceived as a legally armed citizen? More importantly, how do you want to represent the rest of the community of responsible gun owners? Each of these questions can be answered in different ways and at different times. The following are some pros and cons to having your firearm concealed or open carried in public.
First, let’s discuss the most popular method of concealed carry. Its biggest attraction to this method is carrying the firearm is a secret to the world around you. No one knows what you have riding on your hip. But you know it’s there, and that should be comforting! Since no one can see it, you can also avoid situations where others may have a negative perception of you because of your firearm, but also, and more importantly, you avoid giving a negative perception to the rest of the responsible, firearm-owning community. Keeping your handgun hidden and out of sight allows you to blend into the rest of the public around you in the eyes of criminals and would-be attackers. While some may view this as a disadvantage, it must be noted that a visible firearm is likely to draw attention from criminals (explained in detail below). The most obvious drawback to concealing a firearm is drawing the gun from concealment in an instant should the need arise. Perhaps your gun is buried under a t-shirt and a sweatshirt, a jacket, in a purse, or worse yet, a collared shirt with a tie! Unfortunately, criminals don’t warn their victims in advance before attacking. Drawing from concealment takes time and practice. Additionally, the second biggest complaint I hear of carrying a concealed firearm is the discomfort. Whether it’s in an ankle holster, inside the waistband (IWB) holster, or a variety of other “deep concealment” options, carrying a gun all day is simply not comfortable! The safety, magazine release and take-down levers all feel greatly enlarged by dinner time after a long day on your body. Beyond the discomfort, drawing from concealment takes time, and in a life and death situation, time is precious!
The world of open carry, in my opinion, opens up a world of problems, although the benefits are plentiful. With a pistol exposed on your hip, drawing from a holster (especially modern polymer/plastic varieties) is quick and can be done easily with practice. Additionally, having a handgun openly exposed to everyone to see sends a message to the world around you that you are armed and are prepared to defend yourself (and next of kin). On the flipside, having an easily accessible firearm can easily create some dangers. The open-carried handgun can quickly identify you to criminals that you are the only thing standing between them and some quick cash. By having a firearm visible to everyone, criminals can quickly identify the person who is most likely the only obstacle that stands in the way, so you may be the first victim of their malicious actions. Further, the world around you may not appreciate your proud display of your Second Amendment right, nor will they understand your reasons for open carrying upon seeing it on your hip. Again, as a legally armed citizen, you now have the responsibility to not only care for yourself and your family, but to also represent the rest of us as descent and equally responsible citizens. Lastly, if you open carry, expect to be contacted by police a lot more often than your concealed carry peers. Let’s face it, guns have a negative perception by the majority of society today. If someone sees a gun on your hip in a convenience store or other place, there is the likelihood they will call the police and report a “man with a gun”, and all the cops in town will be racing with lights and sirens to investigate!
Let’s apply these considerations to a classic scenario: the convenience store robbery and you just happen to be grabbing a fountain pop near cashier counter. If the criminal observes you without a gun on your hip, would they perceive you as a threat if they don’t know you are carrying concealed, and would they leave you alone? Or, if upon entering the store, the would-be robber notices your firearm on your hip and you don’t pay attention to them as they enter, would they target you first upon seeing your firearm openly carried?
So, is there a simple and correct answer to this age-old question? No! I prefer concealed carry because I don’t want to draw attention to myself while in public. I don’t want anyone to know I have it on me because I’d prefer not to use it, but if I do, I am comforted in knowing I have the option. Lastly, and most often the most overlooked aspect of carrying a firearm, regardless of how you choose to carry your firearm, is to practice! Practice drawing from concealment or practice drawing from your open holster! Even if your local gun range does not allow drawing and firing from a holster, practice drawing your unloaded firearm from your preferred method of carry and see what is best for you. Remember, carrying a firearm should be comforting, not necessarily comfortable. So, keep the timeless debate going, and keep calm and carry (concealed or open) on!