Hey everyone, it’s back! Yes, whether you like it or not, the fall/winter weather is back for a few months and we can’t do a thing to stop it! After the summer heat, this seasonal change may be a welcome one for some of you, but it will do one thing for sure…. change how we train! I have been training through many different climate changes for some time now having lived in areas ranging from Wyoming to South Carolina to Tulsa, and I have some ideas on training and operating in cold weather. Here are some thoughts on cold-weather training for the concealed carrier.
Cold Weather carry. When the weather turns cold it forces us to modify how we dress, and sometimes how we carry. While I recommend one carry method consistent for all seasons if you do switch how you carry I recommend limiting it as much as possible. The main thing that you will want to do is begin to train with the same clothing garments that you will be wearing most of the time. If you wear gloves, then you need to train with those gloves on to ensure that you will be able to manipulate and shoot your weapon without any problems. Don’t forget to practice some reloading and malfunction drills with them on, you will find that thick gloves will seriously impede your ability to work the smaller manipulation devices on your handguns like the slide and magazine release.
Weapon and Ammunition Deployment. For most of us, this means drawing the handgun. One thing you will want to address in your dry fire training sessions as well as your range time is getting used to clearing garments quickly so you can access your gun. One thing we focus on at S-P when we are teaching the garment sweep to access the handgun is that when you are wearing multiple layers, you must sweep the first layer of clothing that is covering the gun (we call this the primary garment rule). For example, if you are wearing a long sleeve sweater or shirt that hangs over your gun, and an open jacket, your primary sweep would be directed to the shirt, which will also automatically sweep the jacket if done right. It would be much slower and less effective to do a double sweep by going for the jacket and then the shirt. When working around your new fall or winter fashionable garment, make sure you take some time to practice reloading the gun (magazine access), as well as getting to any secondary weapons you may carry (such as knives, batons, etc.).
Ammunition Considerations. We often get the question about ammunition and whether or not we should or do change what ammunition we carry during cold weather to mitigate the chances of your ammunition failing due to people wearing multiple layers of clothing. I wish there was a perfect answer to this question, but unfortunately, there is not. My general recommendation is that if you are already carrying a bullet design that is high quality and has been shown to have effective stopping power by penetrating 12 inches in standard tests, don’t change it just because the weather gets cold. Even though the chances of the hollow cavity in your hollow points filling up with material and lessening their effectiveness is possible, it is not extremely likely and is something that you really can’t control. The only possible solution would be to use a full metal jacket bullet or something with a round nose profile that is more likely to expand after passing through clothing, but with good shot placement and rapid follow up of multiple shots (shoot until the threat drops or is no longer able to harm you), I don’t think this is an issue. Spend your mental energy and time on training to shoot faster and more accurately rather than worrying about the latest ammunition studies in every gun magazine!
Training Tips. While training during 40 degree weather is not as fun, try to look at the positive side, no bugs! Seriously though, try to train during times of the day that will be warmer. I train in the mornings during the summer months (Primarily), and switch to the afternoons in the winter. If you have a range that allows it, you may also be able to carry an afternoon training session into the dusk/dark hours and work on some of your low light techniques. Remember that during the winter we will see much more low light than during the summer, so make sure you prepare for the possibility of encountering that situation under less than optimal conditions.
Another key to training in cold weather is staying warm. The longer you can maintain your relative comfort, the longer you will train, and the training you will do will be higher quality due to the fact that you are comfortable. Consider investing in some insulating undergarments that will keep your core temperature higher. Warm fluids such as coffee or tea will keep you warmer longer; try keeping a thermos with warm fluids with you. Invest in those neat little hand warmers (they make foot warmers too!), to keep your fingers warm without having to wear gloves.
Another one of my little secrets is to have my ammunition near my floor and the car heater when I am on the way to the range. Loading room temperature or slightly warm ammunition into your magazines will do wonders when you are trying to keep your fingers warm! (Caution: USE COMMON SENSE HERE! DO NOT OVERHEAT AMMUNITION)
Dry Fire. Last tip here folks! The one thing we repeat constantly at S-P is that high quality, safe, dry fire practice is 95% as valuable as live fire to develop or maintain skills. During those days where the thermometer drops below 30…think hard about just staying inside and working on manipulation and marksmanship skills by dry firing!
Until Then, Train Hard!