What’s Your Concealed and Open Carry Situation?
Over 20 years ago when I first decided to begin carrying a firearm I had plenty of pre-conceived notions on what that would “look” like. Over time I have learned certain truths about the average civilian carrying, both Open Carry (OC) and Concealed Carry (CC). Normally, someone might start with why they choose to carry in the first place, but, one of the greatest lessons I learned came after making that decision. While I will touch on things to consider before deciding to carry in the future; what I tell you today will be helpful on many levels and not just with carrying a firearm.
Make Sure To Conceal Your Firearm
After making the important decision to carry a firearm, I began to do extensive research on the firearms laws of my state (Michigan). If being able to defend myself and loved ones around me was my first concern, then running afoul of the law was my second. I wanted to be absolutely sure that I knew and understood what was legal and what was not. I wasn’t going to invest my time and money into this only to get jammed up for doing something wrong. While studying I discovered, to my initial amazement, that Michigan is an Open Carry state. I began pouring over everything related to OC in my state and realized it would be helpful in the short term for me. I had taken my CPL course (Concealed Pistol License) and was now at the beginning of what ended up being an over 4 month wait for it to go through! I decided then I would at least OC on my daily walks around the neighborhood with my wife until I received my CPL and that would be that. I went through an initial fear of carrying with a round in the chamber do to lack of training and low confidence (the two are related I say). Eventually as I became more confident and had a better understanding of my firearm, I was carrying chambered without fear of the gun “going off.”
I was well-versed in the function of the level-two retention holster I had at the time and found OC comfortable in general. I fully expected to have the police roll up on us during a walk due to a freaked out neighbor calling about a “man with a gun.” Nothing. It didn’t happen. No running and screaming. No mothers grabbing children and hiding, just normal daily walks without incident. Running through various scenarios in my head and even carrying printouts in my pocket of pertinent state law in case the police wanted to start any trouble, I thought I was ready for anything but, was shocked by…nothing! This was the beginning of a revelation for me. It wasn’t about the OC’d firearm really, It was a realization about Situational Awareness (SA) or the basic lack thereof. I already knew that even a poorly concealed handgun goes completely unnoticed to the average person. I still recall with a chuckle the day I borrowed a friends outside the waistband (OWB) holster to try out around the house right after my CPL class. I put my full size handgun in and pulled my t-shirt over it. I looked in the mirror. I looked completely ridiculous. I thought “ the giant bulge on the side of my hip can be seen from a low Earth orbit!” There was NO WAY my wife would not notice this! I walked around like that for a few hours in the house. Finally I asked my wife if she “noticed anything unusual.” It wasn’t until then that she saw it.
As the time of receiving my CPL drew near I started floating the idea of OCing at other places such as the grocery store and such. I remember my wife thinking that was a bad idea. “You better not, you’ll end up getting arrested at Kroger! Don’t do it when I’m with you!” I didn’t bring it up again. I continued training, reading and OCing around the neighborhood and home. I had a plan.
I remember the day over 20 years ago when my CPL finally came in. I decided then and there I would carry everywhere I could OC or CC, no matter what. My plan would be put to the test later that week.
I still hadn’t found a good CC holster and it was unusually warm that Saturday we went to the local grocery store. I didn’t have a good light weight jacket for cover so, I would do it, I would OC at the store. We loaded up the kids in the van and went to the store. Jeans, t-shirt, full size 9mm Open Carried at the store for about an hour and a half. That I could tell, only one person noticed; he was an older gentleman who took an interest and followed nearby from another aisle. I realized he was just trying to see what gun I was carrying and wasn’t concerned in the least. We left the store without incident and I loaded up the van. As we were leaving I remarked to my wife “ It’s funny, it looks like only one person noticed my gun.” She said “What? You were OCing?! I didn’t even notice!”
I remember when we first got engaged. My wife and I went to the local mall to walk around and shop. That day I was certain that EVERYONE was looking at us and our new engagement rings, of course nobody was really. The fact is: the average person is not aware of their surrounding. It was true 20 years ago and it’s only gotten worse. With cool new ways to be distracted by new handheld technology the problem will only continue to get worse. For those not distracted by their tech, most others are too focused on their destination to notice what’s going on around them on the way there. This reality plays out often for me when I OC and notice that, nobody notices. If few people notice a full-size handgun open carried, then your worries about someone seeing your concealed firearm are not too big an issue. A good holster that rides close to the body and a regular shirt that is not tight will do well for most people.
This is not about OC vs CC (I’ll write about that another time). This is a reminder for anyone who is concerned about the safety and well-being of themselves and those around them. The best trouble is the trouble you avoid. If there is unavoidable trouble, it’s best to see it coming and be prepared. If we are unaware of our situations we will always be behind the 8 ball when things go bad. Renew your commitment to be aware of the people and surroundings, wherever you are. The general populace around you is not paying attention, I guarantee it. It’s up to you, especially if you have taken on the responsibility to be armed.
Do The Work
Being aware is work, decide to put the work in. Begin to notice the ordinary around you so you can easily recognize when something doesn’t “fit.” Notice the general body language and demeanor of those around you. Notice posture and gait of walk. Notice how/what/where people are looking. Notice what others do not. If we make the effort to be aware, we will be able to answer when someone asks;
“What’s your situation?”