Correct on the open display if it is in the cab of the vehicle. I was with a guy many years ago and we went through a license/registration check. He pulled a revolver from under the seat and put it on the dashboard. when he got to the officer, he pointed to the weapon and handed the officer his license.
the officer nodded to the weapon and waved us through. Like it was nothing at all. I have no idea who or what they were looking for, but they didn't seem to mind as long as there was an obvious effort to obey the laws.
Having said that, The NC law states that the "accessibility" of the weapon by the driver or passenger is up to the "officers discretion" so make it hard for him to make the case that you had access to it.
And finally, I agree, if you can get the CCW, that is the very best way to go. I've been told that the police actually like to see a CCW permit. It tells them that you're one of the good guys and that you have passed a nationwide background check. You become a known quantity. I was told during my CCW training to show your permit at any police interview or traffic stop even if you're not carrying. It helps the officer evaluate you.