Open carrying

A Quick Guide To Open Carry

Curious about open carry but don't know a thing about it? Then you've come to the right place. We're going to go over the basics of open carry so you can make a decision about whether to do it or not and if so, how to start.

However, one thing you should know is that there may be some legal requirements or constraints that apply to you. We'll go over what that might look like, but you will have to find that out for yourself. It's not like we know where you live.

Anyway, at the end of this quick guide you'll have a better idea of what open carry is all about and how to set about it.

Open Carry Means No Concealment At All

open carrying means completely out in the open

The first thing to know about open carry is that, in the broad strokes, every US state defines it in more or less the same way though you may find different wording.

Basically, the gun must not be concealed in any way, shape, or form. It must be displayed openly for all to see. If carrying a handgun, it would generally need to be carried in a holster. Whether a holster is mandatory depends on state law, so make sure to check that.

However, some states treat open carrying of a handgun differently than that of a long gun. Others allow open carry of either. For now, we're going to concentrate on open carry of handguns rather than open carry of long guns.

Open Carry And The Law

States and their open carry laws

Most states allow open carry in one way or another. A small number of states don't permit open carry, however; Florida, Illinois, New York, South Carolina and the District of Columbia don't allow open carrying of handguns in public, though there may be exceptions - depending on state statute - for hunting or in other designated areas.

As a practical matter, open carry is permitted at law but not at all common in Hawaii, Maryland, New Jersey and Rhode Island.

Some states only allow open carry in rural areas, such as California. Certain municipalities may not permit open carry within certain states, such as the city of Denver, Co., which prohibits open carry. Denver is a special case, as that city's firearm laws predate (and therefore supersede) those of the rest of the state.

That aside, the states that allow it fall into two categories: open carry with a carry permit and permitless open carry states. In other words, some states - such as Vermont, Washington state, Arizona and Maine - don't require a permit to open carry, though they may for concealed carry. Other states - such as Texas, Georgia, North Dakota and Utah - require a permit to open carry.

There may, however, be some exceptions. For instance, Utah and North Dakota allow open carry of an unloaded pistol. Iowa requires a permit to open carry in cities, but not outside of city limits. Oregon allows open carry of a handgun without a permit, however some municipalities - such as Portland, Salem, etc. - forbid open carry, though persons with an Oregon permit can open carry.

Other prohibitions may exist as well, such as age requirements, and location restrictions. Often enough the latter are locations you normally aren't allowed to carry a gun such as schools, courthouses and so on.

So, you'll have to consult your state laws to determine what legal requirements or prohibitions exist regarding open carry. You may be required to obtain a permit, you may not.

You'll Need A Good Holster And Gun Belt

Openo carry requires a good holster and a solid gun belt

Now that you're getting an idea of what's legally required for open carry, next we deal with the gear. Specifically, you'll need a pistol, but you're also going to need a suitable holster and gun belt to keep it anchored to your waist.

What makes a suitable open carry holster?

Generally, an outside the waistband or OWB holster. They're easily attached and worn, as the gun moves with you and provided you don't cover it up, is easily visible which - again - is typically a legal requirement for open carry.

However, a drop leg holster is also good for open carry, especially during the colder months so you don't have to wear your holster and pistol outside of your coat.

As to the holster itself, it should offer good retention. Ideally it will be custom fit for the gun being carried - whether through stitching on leather or a custom-molded durable polymer retention shell - and it should securely hold the gun. While it's up to you, it's a good idea to consider using a holster with an active retention device, such as a thumb break or a trigger guard lock like a thumb or finger release.

Active retention prevents anyone from being able to grab the gun from the holster, and certainly will prevent the gun from falling out, though a holster with good passive retention (meaning how well it holds a gun on its own) will prevent these things also.

Sam Hoober 

About The Author


Born in southeastern Washington State, Sam Hoober graduated in 2011 from Eastern Washington University. He resides in the great Inland Northwest, with his wife and child. His varied interests and hobbies include camping, fishing, hunting, and spending time at the gun range as often as possible.

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