For years I was personally opposed to the open carry of firearms. I made jokes about it often and told others it was poor choice tactically.
I didn't think it should be illegal or that it was more dangerous to the public than concealed carry. It just wasn't for me. But I have changed along with the times. There are a number of compelling reasons for doing it and I recently recounted them half serious in a tweet. But I would like to explain each in more detail and seriousness.
1) I don't care what people think
This statement was made with a shock value intent that the Twitter medium tends to invoke, but it really is true for me lately. "In the before times" concern for others was an important factor in preventing me from carrying a pistol. It is shocking to a certain demographics and numbers of people, and I knew and know that. Most of this is assuaged now with the fourth and last reasons listed here, but the truth is any concerns about what people think no longer have the same gravity as my own personal safety considerations. People will be shocked. They will think I am a gun nut or worse. Folks will judge my appearance and make assumptions that are both true and false about me. Those don't factor much anymore when put against my own care for private and public welfare. People can think what they wish. So long as they leave me armed and in peace this is something I can live with now. I will be armed for the awful likelihood that I might need to be when going about my business.
Compared to concealed carry (which for legal purposes I will state clearly that I have only conducted within my home and on my property) open carry is much more comfortable. Placing anything within your waistband and going through the natural movements of life is going to create some discomfort. Add the fact that many legal restrictions on printing and adjusting your carry have been imposed and you have a method for carry that can at times be uncomfortable and cannot be adjusted without finding a private place. Open carry has none of these issues. The weapon resides on a sturdy platform outside your clothing where it is accessible and not difficult to adjust slightly without causing attention.
3) Summer in NC
This reason is obviously seasonal and since we are due for a progression soon, I should make a case for the whole trip around the sun taking both extremes of the seasons in consideration. In summer it should be easy to understand why open carry is a great option. Concealed carry requires clothing to cover the weapon and during summertime temperatures, excess clothing is unwanted. A person also tends to sweat during these high temperatures and a sweaty weapon is also undesired. The opposite season makes it easier to achieve concealed carry, as winter is confronted with coats, jackets, and other warm garments that are excellent at hiding a firearm. But these garments are a more difficult barrier to an important aspect of carrying a firearm: the draw. A handgun carried in the waistband and covered with clothing means that before a person can draw, they must clear that clothing. Open carry naturally has nothing obstructing or blocking this drawstroke. No matter what season open carry is in my mind, is the best method of bearing arms.
4) Acclimates hoplophobes
Hoplophobe is a derogatory term made popular I think and from the best I can tell, by Jeff Cooper. It was created by combining the Greek words hoplon (weapon) and phobia (irrational fear of). It probably simplifies the concern too much, but is a word in the gun world used to describe the type of people who are either morally or emotionally against the carrying or use of firearms for self defense. This reason for open carry obviously relates to the first reason I described and this justification is an attempt to relieve some of the pressure mentioned there. The demographic of people who are opposed to firearms (the hoplophobes) are often even more opposed to the bearing of arms due to a lack of exposure to them and some wrong assumptions or stereotypes. The hope is that by carrying around these people, and being a good citizen during that time, we can make them accustomed to the act and eliminate these false concerns, assumptions, or stereotypes.
In the state in which I currently reside, it is completely lawful to carry a firearm openly and doesn't require permit or onerous legal restrictions. So long as I avoid doing it in government owned or controlled facilities or properties, or businesses that have displayed signs indicating restriction, I am able to do it without fear of charges or hassle. It is a very simple explanation but well worth mentioning.
6) Doesn't require me to give the government my money
This is admittedly and absolutely a petty reason to open carry, but the fact that open carry is something I can do without paying for a license or permit is a real one. In North Carolina there are already legal restrictions that require payment to purchase a handgun, and I feel that not providing them with additional funds to inhibit my rights (such as buying the concealed carry permit) is something worthwhile. There are many government functions that should and do receive my support and funding, but restrictions on firearm carry or ownership are not things I wish to include.
7) Aposematic detterence
In the gun community I think this is the most controversial reason to open carry. In the past I have seen and even contributed to a lot of criticism for open carry that usually was posed as an interrogative along the lines of "who do you think they are going to shoot first?" or "how can you create an advantage when everyone knows you are armed?" These are legitimate questions.
The first argument I find of lesser strength. I have attempted to discover how many open carriers were targeted for the way they chose to bear arms, and don't see any patterns or statistics to support the concern that open carrying will make us a victim or target. In the Infantry I learned and came to value the opportunity that surprise can play in a tactical engagement, and I must admit that showing others that I am carrying I somewhat prohibit that tactical surprise. My solution is twofold: 1) situational awareness or orientation 2) weapon retention awareness and preparation.
Situational awareness means keeping track of your surroundings with respect to your own position. I use the term orientation with a lean toward Col John Boyd's OODA concept which means that not only do I track my own position and the position of others, but attempt to maintain competitive advantages in that space. Hypervigilance is usually purposed to negatively describe some conditions of post-traumatic stress but I think it adequately describes a state I attempt to foster when in public. Believing that being aware, even overly aware of surroundings, is both beneficial and desired when in out in the world armed. If I can stay aware of my surroundings and ensure that I stay oriented in such a way that if I am required to bring my weapon to bear, I can hopefully do it effectively and safely.
I want to pause here a moment for a clarification. I don't claim to have special powers of perception (and really despise people who attempt that affect) but try my best to keep a close eye on others. I don't think this requires special training or experience such that I have but I do think it can help. But anyone can do it. Keeping an eye on others and making sure to maintain both distance and beneficial angles, meditating on and attempting to create the conditions to keep the handgun in your control are both simple and hard. Simple because they are not complicated efforts, hard because they must be conducted at all times. I try to keep my firearm side facing away from people and if possible near a place where people can't get to it such as a wall, store shelf, or vehicle. I also stress that people keep a holster with some mechanism that prevents someone from plucking it out from you during a scuffle or if caught unaware. I choose a Safariland 6390 with a paddle mounting mechanism but there are others and some you might find better suited for retention. All of these concerns aside, I'm hoping that people see me armed and aware, in places around them that seem disadvantageous for criminal actions.
In the end I really don't want to use my weapon to harm or potentially kill someone, and I am hoping that by seeing that I am armed, they choose to not commit harm to me or others. If a person out to commit crime or pain to others can be deterred by seeing someone else armed, I hope I'm there when they consider the act and everyone goes home without any trouble.
8) Doesn't require wardrobe changes
Closely related to the previous reasons about seasonal effects on comfortable concealed or open carry, the open carry option doesn't require many special clothing considerations. The only garment options I can imagine not being congruent with open carry revolve around fashion such as open carrying with a suit and tie or a swimsuit. It would still be possible but might look funny. For the most part I can wear what I want, and how I want and only must ensure that I can wear a belt.
9) Bolsters gun owners
This last reason doesn't offer much as an inspiration but is a good side effect. Just as carrying in the open acclimates hoplophobes, it gives gun owners some visual confirmation that their choices have public support. There are tens of thousands of concealed carriers but if they are doing it correctly no one ever knows. With open carriers gun owners who are considering carrying can see that no only are there other gun owners but that they are proudly carrying, safely and openly.
In the end carrying is a great responsibility and I leave it to everyone to make their choice to do it or not very carefully. Once that choice has been made I next stress practice and familiarization. Not just familiarization with the weapon but also laws about carrying and use of the weapon in a deadly situation. Be safe out there.