Top Five Open Carry Guns

The Top Five Concealed Carry Guns article has been done to death by every single gun publication on earth one hundred times over. Please stop beating that horse; it’s been dead for some time. I humbly submit a slightly different approach. Only five states, California, Florida, Illinois New York, and South Carolina, as well as the District of Columbia, prohibit the open carrying of handguns in public places. This means the majority of the country is still somewhat free. Why don’t we do a Top Five Open Carry rundown? While there is much seething debate on the merits of open carry as a whole, we’ll save that argument for another post. We took a poll at the Defender Outdoors Shooting Center, and here are the results.

[Editors Note: No, despite multiple requests otherwise, we’re not including the Gold Tiger Strip Desert Eagle or the Muddy Girl Pink Camo Hi-Point. Sorry to disappoint.]

  1. CZ 75 SP-01
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    The slightly tacticool variant of the traditional CZ 75, the SP-01 has a lot to bring to the open carry table. Outfitted with an accessory rail, rubber grip panels, an extended beavertail, and flawless reliability. CZ designed the SP-01 as a military and law enforcement duty gun. With an impressive 18 round magazine capacity, a great trigger and night sights, the SP-01 was a favorite on our poll. You can even get the CZ 75 SP-01 chambered in .40 S&W for a little extra oomph.

  3. Smith and Wesson M&P
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    Whether you go with a .45, .40 or 9mm, you could do a lot worse than a full size M&P. There’s a reason why these things are so popular. Interchangeable grips make your freakishly large or small hands feel right at home. The 2.0 line sports an improved trigger with a shorter, audible reset, and ambi controls make this option a dream to shoot. Perhaps the best thing about S&W’s design is the bore axis. The combination of the low bore axis and the long grip tang make it easy to get your first shot on target while keeping the recoil manageable for follow-up shots.

  5. Smith and Wesson 686
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    Some call it a “modern classic.” This L frame wheelgun has been around since 1980, and boasts an impressive resume. The trigger and hammer are made of case hardened steel. The stainless steel finish is shiny, but not ridiculous. Revolvers are about as reliable as guns get, so your open carry choice is practical. Not to mention the outstanding trigger this thing has. Backed by the versatile stopping power of the .357 Magnum and .38 Special, the S&W 686 is pretty much the sum of what a revolver should be.

  7. GLOCK 17
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    There’s value in popularity. Gaston’s gats have been a favorite for quite some time, and they’re not going anywhere. If I were to buy one firearm for everyone to own, it would probably be a GLOCK 17. (My steel gun sensibilities aside of course.) They’re light, accurate, and infinitely reliable. They put rounds where they count and when they count. The factory trigger is good enough, the factory sights aren’t fancy but they work, and the standard mag holds an impressive 17 rounds. Pick up some after market sights and a decent holster and you’ll be ready to rock your Glock.

  9. Any Well Manufactured 1911
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    You can’t argue the merits of the reigning champ. The venerable 1911 is accurate, dependable and the owners love them like they love their pets. The long sight radius makes for straight shooting and the short, light trigger breaks with a glorious crispness you have to experience to believe. This is one of the most common open carry options to boot. The Colt Rail Gun pictured here is a great choice, but most gun companies seem to have their version. From budget 1911s by ATI to high performance 1911s by Ed Brown and Dan Wesson, there’s a 1911 for every budget.

Do you agree with our list? Let us know in the comments below if you have a better ideas for open carry.

66 Comments On This Article

    • Not saying the P229 is bad (I have/carry one and love it). I think the point was a full size open carry vs the compact size for cancelled carry. Just saying…

  1. I am no authority on handguns and have a preference for striker-fired pistols. I agree with the choice of the M&P. I also would include the new SIG P320. My favorite pistol that can be used for both open and concealed carry is the Steyr C9-A1 (17rd+1); it fits my hand like a glove! I have direct experience with the P320 (both 17rd & 21rd) and the M&P 45 (both 10rd & 14rd). All three (C9-A1, P320, & M&P45) would be on my list and in that order.

    • I like the 1911’s but my choice is my Sig P226 in .357 Sig caliber. It’s an older model without a rail but the night sights work great and the .357 Sig is a fast, flat shooting cartridge that exceeds the FBI standards. It’s smooth on double action as well as single action mode.

    • I’ve had 4 or 5 military 1911’s thru the years. Now, I have a Colt Series 70 Gold Cup National Match. I’m quite comfortable with belt carry of this old target gun, and can handle it fairly well, I think. I also carry a Glock 23 in .40 caliber that works really well. Beauty, and functionality, and comfort, and yada-yada is in the eye of the beholder! You should carry what works best for you, simple fact…

  2. The 1911 is by far the better choice but I carry a Glock 19 gen-1 with a crimson trace laser. Never has failed me and it’s more compact. Also the latest 9mm rounds have outstanding knockdown power.

    • Years ago you could not have given me ANY 9mm but today the ammo is superior and packs a punch AND there are plenty of them in the mag.

      There is a report of a guide in Alaska who was forced to kill a bear as hand shake distance with is S&W 9mm with +P loads

      There is no doubt the 9mm will bring you home alive if loaded right.

  3. You forgot the Ruger American in 9mm its fast on the draw quick for sight on target and recoil return to first round hit second and third round right next to or on 17+1 ambidextrous and great iwb

    • Rugers are ignored a lot. They are, however, all I carry. Can’t beat their reliability. You can fire a dog turd in them and still hit your target.

    • Same with the SR9 & 9E; extremely fast to target & stays on target. Have a SR9C & 9E that you can do a mag dump at 25 yards and have all rounds stay on target. Very natural pointing guns with great triggers.

  4. The Glock 17 of course ! Glock is open carried by more law enforcement officers in the country ! Reliability and magazine capacity and has for aftermarket products than any other gun on the market !

  5. i’d have to agree with the folks who would go for the 1911. it was the first handgun i ever fired and i fell in love with it. but i’d also have to give hard consideration to my S&W Model 57 with a four in barrel. the .41 mag is a highly underrated round for a carry weapon, open or otherwise.

  6. I can’t help agreeing with your list since I own three of the five pistols you recommended. Even though open carry is legal in my state I prefer to carry concealed most of the time so I carry a CZ-75 PCR. Just the right size and weight for me and just a smaller version of the SP-01 tactical I used to carry.

  7. I carry my pmr 30. The 22 mag is less likely to over penetrate. It holds 30 rounds for sustainable suppresion. It weighs 17 oz loaded!! The light recoil and weight mean I’m on target fast, and follow up shots are effortless. As to the dependability argument, mines been perfect for 500+ rounds using cheap armscore ammo.

  8. My open carry preference now is the Sig 226 (15 rds), although I’ve always preferred the 1911. The problem with the 1911 is mag capacity. That’s why is why I’m building a Para double stack in .38 Super (20 rounds in the mag) and an STI in .40. My preference for concealed carry is the Bersa Thunder .380 Plus (15+1). It’s a sweet little clone of the PPK.

    • While I love my 1911s, I would have to say the Sig Sauer P226 Legion would be my preference. The SAO trigger is almost as smooth and crisp as a 1911, but it holds 15 rounds and is very accurate.

  9. The “key” is “will you carry it?”. Many firearms are so heavy loaded they’ll take your trou off! Remember…the first rule of a being in a gun fight is “have a gun”. Altho’ I LOVE my Ruger Super Redhawk Alaskan .454 Casull, it’s NOT something I prefer to carry…concealed or NOT concealed. If you want “heavy”, probably nothing is better than the 1911. (If you’re spending time at the range). Otherwise, get GOOD at something you’ll carry…like a comfortable .380.

  10. Open carry for me has been: Ruger GP101 in .357 magnum (shoulder holster) and/or a Walther P99QA in .40 caliber.

  11. I would include the Taurus tracker 7 rd ,357. I carry it in a fobus holster. Adjustable from strong side to a cross draw since I also ride horses in the mountains alot. The tracker is very accurate.

  12. my service weapon was a Taurus PT99 I liked the the feel and the balance .
    When I left I went with a PT92 and it is my carry weapon no matter if open or concealed
    been very happy with it although it does get a bit heavy in the shoulder holster

  13. I have a couple of 1911s, and really like them, no question about that, but I still place my confidence in the six-gun. I am confident my S&W 686 will place ordinance on target anytime its needed.

  14. The best “open carry” pistol/revolver for anyone is the one they can afford, afford to practice with, handle safely and effectively, and shoot well. Assuming it comfortably fits their build and activity routine, that’s the best for them.

  15. “The Top Five Concealed Carry Guns article has been done to death by every single gun publication on earth one hundred times over.” So true! Very well said.

    My open carry gun here in beautiful Virginia is my Glock 21. 13+1 rounds of .45 in a virtually 100% reliable package. All I’ve ever done to it is had a 4 pound trigger installed.

    And for all you Glock haters out there, please, find some maturity and deal with the fact that some people prefer Glocks, some prefer 1911s and some prefer something else such as Sigs or XDs or on and on. By expressing you vitriolic hatred of an inanimate object, you are really just making fools of yourselves.

  16. I do not hate Glocks but I do not want one, been there done that,each to his own.
    Open carry to me is a Revolver in an appropiate holster, cal 357, minimum 4.5″ barrel, 7 rounder , and as permit hide out the 357/38 Spec snubby; with lots of fun gunning with 38 Special.

  17. My preference is a g34 same size as a 1911 but lighter and with my 20 round mag I have confidence to stop multiple attackers

  18. Clifford Robert Robinson

    What I look for is comfort, and accuracy. I have a Gen 2 Glock 23 – 12 in the mag and one in the chamber, and full-size M&P both 15 in the mag and 1 in the chamber – both 40 caliber. I train with both consistently at the range, and use both for open carry. The Glock even works for concealed carry with the my IWB holster because it’s just a little more compact. I have a Taurus 1911, but it’s a heavy gun, with not enough rounds in the magazine. No I like what I have, and a couple extra magazines close at hand.

  19. Why change things around if you don’t need to? My concealed carry is a Sig P220 with a factory 10-round magazine. I don’t open carry, but if I did, I’d simply use the same one.

  20. Ladies and gentlemen, We must realize that there are choices of different handguns for an obvious reason. Different strokes for different folks! Just because I may like the newer Springfield Armory XD MOD 2, or the S&W 686, or the Glock 21, doesn’t mean that they are wrong to carry, it’s just what I like. That’s the point….it’s what YOU LIKE that counts. I also like my 6.8 SPC Stag Arms AR15 but I am not about to open carry it. That baby is reserved for special reasons like home protection from bears and the like. Oh! My 629 works good on bears to but to be honest, I don’t have a quick recovery with the 629, but it will scare the piss out of anyone trying to break into my home.

  21. I carry a Ruger super Blackhawk with a 7 1/2″ barrel 44 magnum. Nobody wants to be on the bad end of a cannon ball. It would stop a charging grizzly bear. Definitely leaves a bad scar.

  22. One thing to consider also is what you’re wearing clothes wise. Whether concealed or not, it makes a difference if you’re wearing slacks or jeans or shorts etc etc. some people might have a favorite depending on what they’re wearing. Just a thought.

  23. Being a fan of big, heavy and slow bullets, I would add a strong, modern wheel gun (older Vaguero, newer Blackhawk or Redhawk) in .45 Colt. Standard loads are comparable to .45 ACP; can be loaded lighter for practice, plinking or just plain fun, but heavier loads (comparable to .44 Mag.) are also available for Rugers and the like. DA is faster for loading and unloading, but SA just feels better. The 1911 is for concealment. I am also a big, heavy, and slow old-timer.

  24. Conrad C Gabbard

    I’m not prone to open carry, but am tempted by my Canik TP8v2 9mm DA/SA w/18 or 20 round magazine. For a Trail Gun, I can’t imagine a better pistol than my KelTec PMR-30. Both guns are affordable and have fine SA triggers. I don’t carry a gun without a laser, preferably green, on it.

  25. I carry an M&P Shield .45… old pappy used to say ” Why shoot them multiple times with a 9 when you can shoot them once with a .45 ? ”
    My favorite guns in my collection ?—My P-83 Makarov , sweet gun , straight shooter , and my Canik-Tristar C-100…when you get the C-100 you get an exact clone of the CZ75…accurate and doesn’t break the bank…

  26. Would prefer Glock 19 or 22. What about Springfield XD? Pretty much the same
    as Glock, though. Must have: Para Ord 1911, 8 rd mag.

  27. Based on my options, I’d grab the Sig P226 w/ Mec-Gar 20 rd mag.

    Shopping for “Best” option, I’d pick the Sig P227 (w/ ext. mag)… and even though I’m not a fan of striker-fire’s, the Sig P320 sure seems to be an overlooked favorite.

  28. If you want to open carry a revolver, I suggest the Ruger Super Redhawk Alaskan. It’s a big, damn gun, and it commands tremendous respect. Only a 12 gauge shotgun is more intimidating.

  29. I’m not telling anyone they are wrong, because I don’t know your particular situations, but I travel a lot. Usually find myself in hi density urban or suburban areas so I’ve shifted from my Springfield operator or beretta 96 to carrying p22 or j frame s&ws. Way less print and with the right ammo you don’t have to worry about over penetration. Realize the 22 isn’t a first choice for anyone, but its better than a handful of rocks.