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For some Americans, happiness isn’t a warm gun but a nearby gun, one snugly holstered to the hip like a gunfighter’s. Since 2004, the most vocal proponents of expanding Second Amendment laws to encourage Americans to carry loaded sidearms in public are the devoted members of the “Open Carry” movement—an inchoate mass numbering in the tens of thousands, according to their website. The group consists of armed citizens who go about their business in public with unconcealed weapons attached to their belts wherever possible. They believe that more guns will lead to less crime.
Firearm laws vary state-to-state, but in 14 states across the country—with the right permits—it’s perfectly legal to walk around with a holstered weapon in full display. Just this week, it was announced that open-carry bills sailed through the Oklahoma state legislature. (As the Wall Street Journal reported, Representative Steve Martin, a Republican who co-authored the House bill, said: “Just because some people are not in favor of the practice doesn’t mean we should forbid it. If that were the case, we would also ban face-piercing.”) Minnesota was the most recent state to relax its gun laws, in 2005.
Bloomberg Businessweek spoke to OpenCarry.org founder John Pierce, who lives in Virginia (a “gold star” state, he says, where he can go anywhere with a weapon and where “there are no obstacles whatsoever”), and commutes to Pennsylvania for work (not a gold-star state “because there you can open-carry on foot—but you have to carry a permit in a vehicle. It’s a quirk in the law.”). From the pistol itself to the must-have accessories to an app meant to combat unjustified seizures, Pierce provided his perfect “open carry” starter kit for those who wish to legally and prominently pack heat on a daily basis.
Photograph by Henry Groskinsky/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images
“There are a number of very popular firearms. The Glocks are some of the most popular for law enforcement and for civilians. Glock 17 is the market leader. A generalized tip: Like any other high-end tech product, when you go below a certain price point, you get what you pay far. You’re looking at a $400-plus purchase for a quality firearm.”
Galco Paddle Lite Holster
“I am a big fan of the Galco holsters, simply because it’s what I personally wear. I’ve had really good luck with it in terms of durability. The one I’m wearing right now I’ve had for almost a decade now—worn everyday—and that includes some pretty rugged outdoor activities. Not a stitch is out of place. The most important thing that a holster does is cover the trigger and trigger guard to make sure that the trigger doesn’t get snagged. From an open-carry perspective, it has to have a retention characteristic.”
Galco CSB7 Cop Belt
“You can’t underestimate the importance of having a good belt. One of the most common mistakes people make in open carry is they will tend to try and use a standard issue dress belt or just a work belt. What happens because it doesn’t have enough torsional tension: The belt twists and the gun will be aimed out. Also improper belts and improper balancing can cause back problems. The Glock, fully-loaded, is a decent weight. You can literally get back problems if you’re carrying every day.”
Photograph by Matt Meadows/Getty Images
“Your traditional ammo that you buy for target practice is ball ammo. If you ever had to deploy that in a residential environment, that ball might go through several interior walls and endanger people in subsequent rooms and subsequent apartments. Hollow points, when they strike their first target, they expand into the first thing they strike—whether it’s a bad guy or a wall. It provides greater safety. And it helps stop the threat more quickly.”
Galco Magazine Holder
“You’re getting into options here, but some people carry an extra magazine on their belt. You have an extra magazine that is loaded in a small sliding pouch. A Glock 17 holds 17 rounds of ammunition. Between the two, you’d have 34 rounds of ammunition.”
Qik App for iPhone or Android
“Some people will carry a voice recorder in case that law enforcement approaches them. The number of interactions with law enforcement across the country that are unpleasant is becoming much, much smaller. But some people like to be prepared. It’s simply to record the conversation in case the consensual encounter becomes more than that and rises to the level of a seizure. But with the prevalence of cell phones these days, a separate voice recorder is becoming an unnecessary accessory. Most people these days use the Qik application on their cell phones. It streams it up to the cloud, so even if your device is seized, you still have a copy on the cloud. If the local copy were to disappear, you’d still have the cloud copy.”