Open or Concealed: Our Freedom to Choose

I often hear comments from SurvivalBlog readers with conflicting views on concealed carry versus open carry of firearms.  Some claim that concealed carry is “the only way to carry” and that carrying openly makes you a target. But others say that open carry acts as a visible deterrent to crime.  My position is that both are apropos at different places and at different times.  So I believe that you should both train and acquire the right holsters and slings, to be ready for either, as the situation arises. In recent weeks, open carry whilst wearing a Hawaiian shirt has become popular. The shirt serves as a quick identifier, to differentiate open carriers from any black-shirted Antifa types.

It is noteworthy that armed citizens have showed up, at many Black Lives Matter protests, just to make sure that they don’t devolve into rioting, arson, and looting. This is confirmation that an armed society is indeed a polite society. I commend the folks who have done so. Just be sure to reassure the protestors: “We aren’t here to intimidate you. We are here to protect you, and your freedom to speak out.”

We must remember that the Right to Keep and Bear Arms (RKBA) pre-dates the Constitution.  The Constitution’s declaration of that right is not granting that right. It merely assures that this antecedent right will continue to be protected. And the Constitution makes no differentiation between bearing arms openly, or concealed, on foot, or horseback, in a private conveyance, or in a public conveyance, in the confines of a town, or out in the hinterlands, nor does it delimit that right to  private property versus out in public. It implies that all are protected, because that was clearly the intent of the Founding Fathers.

Assuring Continuity

One thing that is not apparent to many observers and even news reporters is the importance of an uninterrupted continuity of the RKBA, with no strings attached. This means circumstances, and “emergencies”, or simply lack of popularity cannot be used as excuses to deny a right. Nor can any “license”  or “permit” be added.  I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: Whenever someone must buy a license or pay a fee to exercise a right, then it is something less than a right. It is in fact a mere privilege, subject to the whim of petty bureaucrats. Fundamental rights are not abstract tokens that are given or sold by other men. They are in fact primary liberties bestowed upon us by God, our maker. Rights are not substantially secured by asking, “Mother may I?” of any government agency. Rights are more properly demanded or boldly seized and then conspicuously exercised regularly. This secures the liberties that have legitimately belonged to us since birth. If need be, lost rights can and must be restored through proscriptive use. If you live in a land where your rights have been marginalized into privileges, then it is either time to change your government, or to change your address. Much like a muscle that atrophies with disuse, any right that goes unexercised for many years devolves into a privilege, and eventually can even be redefined as a crime.

Do It Correctly

With rights come responsibilities. So it is important that  If you choose to exercise your RKBA, that you do so in a responsible way that carries the right message, and that keeps your gun in responsible hands. If are going to carry concealed, then keep you gun fully concealed. If the outline of your pistol is “printing” through your clothes, then you might as well have a flashing sign that says “Concealed Carrier!”

If you are going to carry openly, then you need to be vigilant about controlling your weapon. If you get tackled and some thug takes your gun, then you are in part to blame. Maintaining control means always sitting with your back to a wall, and never dropping below Condition Yellow.

If you are going to carry for part of a trip into town, then be prepared to secure your weapon if you leave it in a vehicle. Unfortunately congress enacted a wicked law that prevents any carry of post-1898 firearms or any ammunition inside of a U.S. Post Office. This is beyond bothersome. It means both parking on the street (rather than inside a post office parking lot), and locking up your gun in your vehicle before entering a post offioce. In a high crime area that necessitates buying one or two vehicle pistol lock boxes.

Please show courtesy to others, by putting them at ease. You should carry with an air of casualness and confidence. If some Special Snowflake feels intimidated by the mere sight of you being armed, then you’ve lost a point in the Public Relations War. If anyone complains, then be quick to remind them: “Your freedom of speech, including your freedom to say what you just said, is guaranteed by our right to keep and bear arms. The Second Amendment is the insurance policy for the First Amendment.”

I must underscore the fact that I am an advocate of both the Second and First Amendments. That is why I originated, to provide press credentials to any adult citizen who desires them. So I recognize the right to carry a gun, and a camera. And whenever I’m covering an event as a journalist, I reserve the right to also be armed.  Just because I’m exercising my First Amendment right doesn’t mean that I have to leave my Second Amendment at home, or locked up in my car.

Constitutional Carry

Permitless Concealed Carry — also known as Constitutional Carry — has gradually been re-legalized in many states.  That is encouraging. But regaining the right to carry concealed does not mean giving up the right to carry openly. I expect he Constitutional Carry trend to to continues. In some states, like Idaho, it is getting even better: There, even visiting out-of-staters may now carry openly or concealed, if they so choose.

The Bottom Line

I suggest the following:

  • Respect the rights–all of the rights–of others.
  • Uphold and encourage the rights of others to exercise their RKBA, regardless of whether they pack openly or concealed.
  • Don’t carry a gun unless you train. A gun is not some magical talisman. You need the confidence and competence to carry, or you shouldn’t carry at all.
  • Don’t chide. Rather, just give constructive advice. If you spot a concealed carry gun’s outline, just whisper: “Hey, buddy, you’re printing. Wear looser-fitting clothes.”
  • Regardless of how you choose to carry, always carry at least one spare magazine. When you need a spare, you really need it! As Clint Smith says: “In the middle of a gunfight, don’t expect the Ammo Fairy to drop you an extra mag.”

To carry, or not to carry, and how you carry, those are all choices. And regardless of the vagaries of public opinion, or fads, or the whims of bureaucrats, the choice is yours. – JWR


  1. Just the thought of open carry just trouble’s my mind . I live near a very Liberal area and to open carry in public would have me face down at gunpoint within minutes of being in public . I will only conceal carry and I carry a very small compact 9mm

    1. Where I live any ammo available is being rationed at a box or two per customer.

      Online, I have noticed that reloading bullets are out of stock at a number of vendors. I have been doing some reloading and it appears many others may be also. Unless the out of stock is because of supply chain disruption from COVID?

      Does anyone have any information about whether the seeming shortages are from another spike in demand or from supply chain disruption?

      1. An acquaintance who is both an FFL and part owner of a large outdoor range recently explained to me that they have not yet seen the wholesale ammo market fully recover from the first run back in March. As of a week or two ago, he said many products were switching from backorder to available status on his end. However that availability has not reached the retail market yet and the “peaceful protests” have now caused another demand spike. The producers are running 24/7 so I’d expect availability to come around in the next 2-4 weeks barring an alien invasion/biblical flood/EMP/ect.

    2. You might try asking the manager if they have any in stock. We understand that Walmart announced it has removed their displays and inventory to an “out of sight location” in many of their stores nationwide due to the rioting/protests. Your area may be different and perhaps just out, but I would ask anyway. Ammo availability has been spotty in many areas.

      1. With our local Walmart it depends on who you ask- the department manager says “we can’t sell that right now” but one of the other guys that works there told me that corporate is still letting them sell ammo. I’m not sure about firearms. He also told me that the manager is telling everyone that because he doesn’t want to go in the back and look for the ammo.

  2. Wise words. Especially about safety and courtesy.

    I have no patience with gun accidents. My neighbor shot himself in the foot with new fire arm at Christmas several years ago. He was a retired Viet Nam era “snake eater” and a cop so he should have known better. I ran into another young man about the same time who shot his pinky off cleaning his gun. No excuse for it. These events are rare but every one damages the reputation of gun owners and highly offends me.

    And on the courtesy front, I want to encourage more people to own guns and carry if they desire. So courtesy is a must as it should be in all situations.

    1. Most of the folks (but not all) I’ve known who had a negligent discharge were trained, either military or LEOs. It all comes down to complacency. Whether you’re using a firearm or a chainsaw, you have to maintain awareness. My experience is that the newbies tend to be very aware, but as time passes, many (again, not all) become overly familiar with their weapon, and we all know that familiarity breeds contempt. As responsible carriers, we must always strive to remember we are carrying a weapon, not a toy or a fashion accessory, and to treat it with the proper respect. As the old saying goes, complacency kills.

  3. Two legal considerations about carrying a firearm others can see: 1) Brandishment. It is entirely possible that if you handle your firearm around others, they could claim to feel intimidated in such a way you could be charged with brandishing your weapon. Open carry is areas where it is not common will likely get the cops called on you by someone and you will have to deal with that. If the cops see a firearm on you, the presumption of innocence becomes secondary, meaning they will assume you did brandish the firearm. 2) Affray. Even if you don’t touch your firearm, someone can claim you displayed it in a harassing or threatening manner. Again, you will get a visit from law enforcement. This is especially bad if you are trying to carry concealed and someone sees you are armed anyways.

    Open carry is as much a deterrent as a convenience. It is slightly easier in some circumstances to draw from open carry than from concealed. The public enemy will always engage those who open carry first, as they pose the immediate threat to their plan’s success. Those who open carry therefore lose the element of surprise in a crisis situation, though occasionally they may gain the drop on the stupid criminals that don’t notice them first (kinda like the guy who peels out at the intersection without looking in his rearview mirror first to see the squad car behind him).

    In a combat environment, there’s no point in carrying concealed, unless you are an insurgent or a spy.

  4. Hmm, as an old fart ( who doesn’t know his rear from a tomato can sometimes ), I carry concealed pretty much all the time ( even here on the ” farm ” ). that being said , I don’t carry into county court houses, federal court houses or the V.A.or medical establishments , but have carried into bars, banks and other places, but always concealed. Nobody knowing that I have something. Going into a bar /grill, I usually a soda or other non beverage ( I drink a home, at my age I don’t need a dwi ), when at banks, I do my business and leave. Am I wrong to do this, good question. Carrying concealed to me is more of ” damned if you and damned if you don’t ” because of where you can and can’t go. Now I’ll get off of my soap box, it’s getting shaky again.

  5. Great points in this article.
    It is painful that laws contrary to the constitution exist and are enforced – even though they are not legal – and not truly enforceable.
    We should all be able to open or conceal carry wherever we please.
    I struggle with the limitations lawmakers lave put on that right enshrined in the supreme law of the land. I wonder – what about felons…. do we truly have the right to limit their ability to carry? I certainly don’t like the idea of known felons carrying… but I wonder what right do we have to limit their constitutional rights?

    I guess the same is true of so called “hate speech” It is ludicrous to say that because speech is hateful to some, it cannot be uttered. The first amendment has not limits on offending someone…. what is considered “hateful” to some jurisdiction is unimportant to the supreme law of the land. I would argue that it is actually important that the people be unobstructed in their speech so that the people may know where each individual stands in their thinking.

    I wonder what would happen if people exercised their first amendment rights by printing and caring a sign around periodically that states “I reserve the right to hate_____ ” and filled in with each and every “protected class”

    Almost like the the freedom of navigation exercises in the south china sea…

    Exercise it, or admit it is lost. The Nanny State is evil.

    1. Regarding felons losing certain rights, bear in mind they lost those rights only after receiving due process (theoretically, anyway). I do believe those rights should be reinstated, but only after a certain amount of post-release time without reoffending. I also believe that time should be proportional to their time incarcerated (for example, 25% of their sentence) and should be non-discretionary (i.e., once they’ve successfully completed their sentence and post-release period, the courts MUST reinstate all of their rights).

  6. Apostle Paul said everything is permissible but not everything is good.

    I have never, ever, not one single time seen a fellow open carrying who appeared to have any good sense.

    Have you ever seen a muscle-bound guy strutting around as if nobody can tell he hits the gym everyday? For five hours? That is what open-carrying fellows are doing —- they are not exercising their rights. They are strutting.

    1. I disagree. Things are substantially different in lightly-populated rural regions. Here, vehicular carry is the norm. And open carry on one’s hip is fairly commonplace.
      Once again: If we don use it, we lose it.

      1. I open carry in states where I can, and I appreciate it when I see others open carry as well.

        This linked video in this article is why “If we don use it, we lose it” matters, a lot.

        Listen to women direct her friend “Take pictures of these guys with their guns out”. She wants to get them in trouble. She succeeded in that she got a news article written about it. She is shocked to see guns in public. This is how we lost the once great state of California to the gun control crowd.

        1. My father was born and raised in Oakdale. So seeing this made me feel good to know that there is still a spirit of liberty there. But I have no doubt that these men will be vilified, persecuted, and probably prosecuted for Failure to be Politically Correct. California is doomed.

          Oh, in California they have the made-up “crime” of “Engaging in Paramilitary Activities.” That law was created in the late 1960s.

          1. That is why I recently fled California before purchasing my homestead. Even with “NRA Carry Guard” I became concerned that California would make an example out of me if I had to defend myself, and things were falling apart so quickly that I made the call to bugout in a van and live on public lands while I still had the chance.

    2. I have to disagree also. I live in an open carry state, in a medium sized city. I don’t see a lot of open carry, but when I do, they are NOT strutting around. They are just going about their business.

    3. Ditto in my area, nobody is strutting around and the majority of people don’t seem to think much of it unless they are recent transplants from the city.

      Guns are a tool here in the sticks, not just something used for target practice. Ranchers and a lot of us who spend most of our time outdoors need a quick way to dispatch rattlers and copperheads without taking time to hunt down a big rock or club. Have you ever hit a deer with your truck, just enough to paralyze it, and had to dispatch the suffering critter with your pocket knife slicing open its jugular as it was laying in the ditch? My son and I had to once, it sucks big time. A 9 mm would have been quick and clean and more merciful.

      One thing I am sad to see, you don’t see as many 22’s and 12 gauges in window racks in pickups anymore like you did 20 years ago. I keep a 12 gauge behind the seat, just a single-shot $85 special I got at a gun show so if it gets stolen, no big loss. Lots of others do the same thing.

      Nice article JWR.

    4. Most patrol cops carry, and only the really stupid ones strut. A lot of military open carries, and I only see them strut on parade.

      In Anchorage, I haven’t seen any civilian open carry, but we have constitutional carry here and you just assume everyone is armed anyways. Out in the “burbs” near my house, I seldom see anyone open carry except during hunting season. In the winter it is hard to tell if someone is open carrying outdoors as they are usually draped in too many clothes to tell.

      In the bush, even the fishermen open carry. Usually it is magnum caliber sixguns in bandoliers on chest rigs, pump shotguns or lever guns slung. We have different sort of combatants to deal with up here during fishing season.

    5. The few times I have seen open carry actually do make me feel more comfortable and relaxed.
      I suppose though, if I saw an antifa type open carrying, it would have the opposite effect. Or if I saw a drunk or high person open carrying… same thing.
      I have not seen that personally, thank God.

    6. Hey, Bill ! [[A joke about trolling deleted by the Editor.]]
      All kidding aside, open carry vs concealed carry is a matter of individual circumstances and personal preference.
      P.S.- gun shops and gun shows where people are open-carrying are among the places where I have felt the safest.

    7. I’ve seen plenty of people open carry in rural areas and no one in the convenience store (or wherever) gives them a second look. But in larger cities, even where it may be technically legal, it may get you kicked out of somewhere or someone will call the police. Its a judgment call and best to carry concealed IMHO if you don’t know the area well.

  7. Two comments,

    One, if your site were to be ‘vanished’ for whatever reason, what is your new IP address?

    Two, in addition to carrying a spare magazine, I would encourage all to carry a tourniquet as well. May be essential for you, or some other that is injured. And it is another indicator to others that you are a responsible individual.

    1. I remember from years ago JWR posted an alt ip address… was looking for that yesterday on the wayback machine and could not find it. Would be great if there were some venue where we could regroup if the site were to come down for any reason (, anyone?)

      The tourniquet is a great idea… I have one to carry on a carabiner clip that I frequently forget to bring with me on those rare occasions I venture out anymore… nice thing about the carabiner clip is it makes it much easier to twist the tourniquet sufficiently to stop the blood flow, esp. if on a leg with a damaged femoral artery.

      I absolutely believe in both open carry and concealed carry, depending on the location and circumstances. The most important thing is to carry. At all times.

      1. Unfortunately we now use dynamic IP addresses. So there is no way to keep a single “dotted quad” backup address. I recommend marking your calendar for January 12th, 2021, with the reminder: “Order the new SurvivalBlog archive USB stick.” That is the ONLY way to be certain that you’ll have long-term access to our archives.

      2. I carry my Survivalblog Archive Memory stick on a lanyard around my neck when I go out. The lanyard also carries a small light, my medicine, and a spare house key. I consider these to be essential EDC items.

  8. Good article & comments. Years ago pre-Clinton era, there were guns in every truck’s rack, including at the high school & no one gave it a second thought. Now, not so much. We have open & concealed carry here. I always carry concealed when going to town. I have seen more open carry, especially at gas stations in the last 4 months, I think the Wuhan Chinese virus and the protests account for that. I don’t think open carry of a handgun excites too many around here, but several years ago, some out of towners were open carrying with AR’s at Walmart, and the cops were called. I remember the cop explaining to the folks, ‘just because you can, doesn’t mean you should’. Walmart’s parking lot is private property & if they don’t want you to open carry with a rifle, than you should respect that. I thought the cop really handled it well, explaining to them, he was pro 2 A, and concealed carried off duty, etc. They were filming it all of course (hoping for a different outcome), by the end, they were shaking his hand and agreeing with him. He really displayed his ability to have dialogue and find common ground with the group, and deescalate the situation. Kind of like what JWR’s said about respecting the rights of others. So, I think there is a time and place to open carry, but all concealed carry permit holders, should train and carry as often as possible.

  9. Comment and question. Where we live open carry is legal, though I have seen only one persons do so. His gun was so discrete that unless you knew what you were seeing you might not notice it. That said I conceal whenever I go out off farm.

    Question. Is it illegal to have a gun on post office premises? I know it is inside the PO, just not sure about parking lot after today’s article.


  10. I tell people we used to have .22 rifles in our high school along with thousands of rounds of ammo and they don’t believe me. We would have the rifles laid out all over the classroom for cleaning after shooting matches. Funny how with all of those rifles and bullets available, nobody ever shot anyone. Times have changed…

  11. I lived in Yakima, Washington, when going to high school. The parking lot was filled with pickups and jeeps, all with gun racks in the back window and shotguns and rifles hanging in them. After school the guys would go grouse or chuckar hunting on sedge ridge or one of the other spots.

    The snowflakes today would freak out. No one was ever shot or even threatened. People respected each other back then and expected to be respected. Idaho is sounding better every passing hour.

  12. Open carry if you are (fill in this space) enough to retain possession and control. Conceal carry if you are older, slower, smaller…

    And yes, maintain trained.

    Excellent article.

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