Open carry itself isn’t a faux paus, unless you’re walking into a place you legally can’t have a gun. There are a few thing socially that the gun community and the public can agree on as bad behavior while openly carrying a gun.
1. Carrying a long-gun
Don’t carry a long-gun in public. This might be appropriate at some political protest, but for average, everyday carry, you do not need a long-gun. If things are that spicy, why are you going to Walmart?
In Texas, the open carry movement bringing guns in Target and other businesses scared people and caused a lot of businesses to turn on open carry. Then, in the wake of the El Paso Walmart shooting in 2019, after some jerk brought an AR pistol into another Walmart in Missouri for attention, Walmart and a bunch of other stores banned open carry of handguns.
Long-gun open carry tends to frighten people. Keep long-guns at home, or only carry them openly in rural or wilderness areas or in/around events where it’s clear guns are to be expected, like the range or a gun show.
2. Pulling your gun out in public (not in self-defense)
Drawing a gun to show people it is a terrible idea. It’s unsafe and someone could easily mistake that for brandishing or think you are about to shoot someone. You could end up dead or in jail. If the gun accidentally goes off, your negligence is still a crime even if no one is hurt. And if they are, you’ll be on the hook for civil damages.
If you want to show someone in a public setting your gun, turn your body so they can see it in the holster. Only draw it in a private place you control (a home) or on the range, following range protocols.
3. Not using a holster
We’ve discussed this before, but not using a holster makes you look unprepared to fight. It does not instill confidence in the public in your gun handling skills. Your gun is subject to slipping out from the belt or pocket or being snatched. Several open carriers who have lost their guns carried them casually in pockets, etc.
4. Not being situationally aware
When you have a gun on you, you have to be aware of your surroundings and what other people are doing. The open carry snatches I’ve documented mostly have to do with people who are unaware someone is going to try to grab their gun. Boom, the gun is gone, the person has no idea what to do.
Though it has never happened during the modern open carry movement, you don’t want to be the first person who is targeted because he’s an open carrier. See the threat coming and take cover or fight.
Use a retention holster so in a fight or snatch, the gun just can’t be pulled from your holster. Even the best of us can’t always operate at 100% awareness. Turn and look at people coming up to you who might have nefarious intentions. Eye contact solves a lot of problems. Always be prepared to fight for your gun and shoot, if necessary, a snatcher.
5. Grabbing your gun
Like pulling out your gun, don’t grab the grip like you’re going to draw it. People who don’t know that you’re just talking with your buddy and that’s a gesture might think you are going to pull out the gun. If nothing else, it’s cringeworthy.
6. Adjusting your gun
Be careful adjusting your gun/holster in public. People might get the wrong idea, sorta like a guy adjusting his genitals outside his pants. Always do your adjustment in a private area or shielded from view of others.
7. Touching your gun
Try not to touch your gun. Again, someone may get the wrong idea. Use a strong holster, with good retention, on a good belt and it’ll be fine. You could rest your forearm along the butt of the pistol like a cop, but them you look like a cop.
8. Not carrying a loaded gun
Again, we’ve covered this before, but not carrying a loaded gun makes you look like the unprepared person you probably are. Sure, you might carry with an empty chamber, but no one except yourself can see that. An unloaded magazine? Everyone can see that, especially the bad guy who suddenly knows you aren’t ready to fight. Gun fights happen fast. Have a magazine in your gun.
9. Wearing multiple firearms
Okay, you can openly carry multiple firearms and not look like a weirdo, but the people who often carry multiple firearms openly, look like weirdos. If you don’t know how not to look weird while doing it, don’t do it. And if you don’t know that a two-gun man was most often a bad guy, you probably can’t pull off the two-gun Western cowboy look.
Clayton E. Cramer
Gun Free Zone
The War on Guns
The View From Out West