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Citizens, here’s why you should conceal carry your firearm

A police officer encourages open carry citizens to reconsider open carry and understand the tactical advantages of concealed carry

Frederick Open Carry.jpg

I believe open carry increases your risk and puts you at a tactical disadvantage, while concealed carry improves your safety.

Photo/Brad Frederick

By Brad Frederick

If you openly carry a firearm to protect yourself or your family, you may want to reconsider.

Don’t get me wrong, there is a time and place to openly carry a firearm depending on your objective, but as a police officer, I believe open carry increases your risk and puts you at a tactical disadvantage, while concealed carry improves your safety.

Before discussing the reasons why you should consider concealed carry, there are a few things from my vantage point as a police officer I would like you to consider.

Open carry: Is there a time and a place?

Openly carrying a firearm simply means that the firearm is visible to the public. This is also sometimes referred to as permitless carry or constitutional carry. Carrying a concealed firearm means that the firearm is not visible to the public.

Why might a citizen legally open carry? Well, there are at least two logical or at least somewhat sensible reasons for this. First, a public exercise of a citizen’s Second Amendment right to bear arms. This is probably the most common reason or at least it is the reason that gets the most attention.

A public display is the best opportunity for you to publicly exercise your legal right and support for the Second Amendment. If you do decide to demonstrate that right through open carry, I recommend it is always best to partake in that activity in a large group, and preferably at a scheduled event known to law enforcement.

Law enforcement officers are often the greatest supporters of the Second Amendment. When law enforcement is notified of a Second Amendment open carry demonstration, it is a courtesy that allows them to plan accordingly. When they understand what is occurring, they can coordinate assets to ensure it is done safely and they can also disregard or better assess any 911 calls that may occur.

Gordon Graham weighs in on best practices for law enforcement when interacting with lawfully armed citizens. Discover essential safety tips and expert insights to manage these encounters effectively.

The second reason citizens openly carry a firearm is that it is typically more comfortable. While this can be true, there is likely a handgun and holster combination that will work for you to comfortably conceal carry. There are several legitimate ways to carry a firearm in a comfortable and concealed manner.

While open-carrying a firearm does offer you the protection you are looking for, it also puts you at risk in what I believe are more likely scenarios. What you are losing, in my opinion, from open carrying is far more valuable than what you think you are achieving. If survival is the most important thing to you then you may have to abandon comfort as your priority.

Although your intentions are good, I discourage open carry for these reasons.

Open carry: Are you ready for a police response?

If you are part of a large open carry group, it makes it more obvious to law enforcement that you are part of a demonstration and not in the process of committing an illegal act. When someone calls 911 and an officer is dispatched, it is the officer’s duty to investigate. Quite frankly, it can be a major inconvenience for both parties. In the worst-case scenario, you could end up in a confrontation with a police officer who mishandles the situation.

Open carry laws differ by state. Some states still require those who open carry a firearm to have a license to do so while other states consider open carry lawful without needing a permit. Other states like Illinois and California prohibit openly carrying a firearm altogether. Texas recently passed HB127, which made it legal for most people over 21 to carry a handgun openly or concealed without a license, so long as the handgun is in a holster. Even though HB127 was passed there are still benefits to obtaining a Texas License to Carry.

Open carry: Are you ready to be hyper-vigilant?

Police officers are hyper-aware or hyper-vigilant of their surroundings, at least while on duty and when in uniform because they are targets. While in uniform officers must be aware of their surroundings to thwart or identify an attack early.

Another reason for officers to be especially aware of their surroundings while in uniform is because they are carrying a handgun on their hip and the threat of someone attempting to disarm them is very real. From 2002-2011 543 police officers were feloniously killed and 5.1% (28) of those officers were killed with their own weapon after being disarmed.

Open carry: Can you protect yourself from disarmament?

Even under circumstances where officers do not expect criminal behavior, they must be conscious of how they may be exposing their firearm to citizens in everyday encounters, as well as when questioning and arresting suspects. This might mean standing sideways with their gun to the counter at the gas station while they are checking out to prevent the possibility of a citizen having access to it.

Fortunately, the number of officers being disarmed and/or being killed with their firearm has significantly decreased in recent years. Together increased levels of training through defensive tactics, firearms retention techniques and advancements in holster retention systems are reducing the risk of officers being injured or killed with their own weapon. Frankly, most citizens do not have a similar level of training and most do not carry in holsters with retention systems.

Open carry: Can you maintain this level of vigilance?

Are you willing to be hyper-aware of the people around you when you are openly carrying a handgun? Do you want to be that mindful of how you stand and the people around you while you are trying to have a good time with your family? You should never be completely unaware of your surroundings. However, open carrying a handgun should change your posture and over time that can become physically and mentally exhausting.

Open carry: Is it a tactical advantage?

Do you assume that by open carrying a handgun you are representing a show of force and a deterrent to criminals? That may be the case occasionally, but you are also making yourself a target; a target to be disarmed and a target to become the unintentional victim of a crime of opportunity.

Imagine standing in line at a grocery store when a subject walks to the cash register with the intent to commit an armed robbery. Instead of being bypassed by the subject and likely disregarded entirely, the subject now feels the need to deal with you because the subject knows you are armed.

It is possible that openly carrying a firearm will deter a suspect from committing a violent act. While this is a possibility, a violent criminal may still view you as a threat that they need to deal with. I have spent thousands of hours conducting surveillance on violent criminals who conduct aggravated robberies. I have seen aggravated robberies occur in a strong-arm type of manner that takes minutes to execute. From the moment they enter the location, they are committed with guns clearly visible. They will not suddenly turn around and walk away if they see you open carrying.

I have also seen suspects take several hours or even days while they are conducting their own surveillance before they act. In 2019 a Houston police officer in full uniform was disarmed during an aggravated robbery. If the prize is high enough and the suspect is truly dedicated, openly carrying a firearm likely will not discourage them.

Open carry: Is it a tactical disadvantage?

When open carrying a handgun, your opportunity to get the drop on the bad guy with a gun is likely lost. If a subject with a firearm has you at gunpoint, what options do you have? A move to your handgun will likely get you shot. In fact, it is probably in your best interest to keep your hands far away from your handgun at that point, which also means there is a high probability of being disarmed. You have taken yourself out of the fight before ever having the opportunity to be in the fight.

Carrying a handgun concealed allows you to remain covert in your carry until it makes sense for you to draw. If it makes sense to draw at all. At a minimum, it allows you to appear as an innocent bystander and there is less chance of being targeted. If you are the victim of a robbery there is a good chance you can stall, delay, or even distract the bad guy long enough to draw your handgun if you think it is necessary.

Concealed carry: How to have the tactical advantage?

Carrying a firearm is a tremendous responsibility that should not be taken lightly. Even when you have good intentions, things can go wrong and the margin for error is small. Therefore, it is in your best interest to give yourself the tactical advantage by seeking out advanced levels of civilian firearms training and knowing your state laws on carrying a firearm.

Concealed carry tips and best practices

As a cop and firearms instructor, here are my top tips and best practices for citizens who concealed carry.

  1. Understand the legal requirements to use force in your state.
  2. Seek out additional firearms training beyond what is required for you to obtain a license to carry.
  3. Maintain a high level of proficiency in firearms safety and marksmanship
  4. Know that just because you can intervene doesn’t mean you should. Often times allowing the situation to resolve itself may be in your best interest and in the interest of those around you.

About the author

Brad Frederick is an Infantry Marine Combat Veteran and active law enforcement officer of seven years in large metropolitan city. Brad served three years on patrol before transitioning to a tactical team and is now assigned to the tactical operations division. Brad is also the CEO and lead instructor of Kinetic Concepts LLC, a tactical and firearms training group located in Houston. Kinetic Concepts’ mission is to bring advanced levels of tactical and firearms training to police officers and civilians.