Some people change their concealed carry gun with the seasons. Should you do the same?
Some folks insist that the bulkier clothing of fall and winter requires sizing up to a bigger gun and/or a bigger caliber. Or at least a harder-hitting personal defense load. That M&P Shield or GLOCK 43 should be changed, these people say, to something like an M&P Compact, a GLOCK 19, or better yet a Government-size 1911 in .45 ACP, as God and John Moses Browning (which is basically redundant) intended.
Not only that, according to conventional wisdom, you should also use a winter carry load. Instead of that standard-pressure JHP, you need a +P load for better penetration through those layers of clothing or a different design, such as a Lehigh Extreme Penetrator projectile.
Is all that true? Should you?
You can if you want to, but you don’t actually have to for the most part.
There are some circumstances in which this old wisdom, which wasn’t invalid back in the day, still actually applies.
Okay, so this goes back to a time when Members Only jackets were all the rage and it was acceptable to listen to Peter Cetera. (Just kidding; it was never acceptable to listen to Peter Cetera. Now carve Slayer into your forearm and read on.)
Back in those days, the standard hollow point design was the old cup and core hollow point. That was a hard jacket around a soft lead core, with minimal (if any) bonding of the two components.
When entering fleshy tissue, the jacket of those rounds can fragment and peel off as expansion occurs. If you ever watch ammunition testing videos, you’ll see some of the more classic JHP loadings such as Remington Golden Saber or green and white box JHP do this while more modern bonded hollow point ammunition – such as Speer Gold Dot or Federal HST – does not.
Why is this important?
Back in the day, those bullet designs had a tendency to clog with clothing when police shot suspects or armed civilians defended themselves. It also become clear that larger caliber rounds, especially .45 ACP, had sufficient mass to keep going to acceptable depths of penetration, whereas 9mm (especially standard-pressure 9mm) did not.
This was part and parcel to the FBI’s ammunition tests in the wake of the 1986 Miami shootout and that whole 10mm/.40 S&W saga that most of us have heard enough of by now already. Therefore, the done thing was to carry 9mm in the warmer parts of the year and level up to .45 ACP, 10mm, .40 S&W or .357 Magnum when people start wearing more clothes.
Don’t believe me? Watch some Paul Harrell videos; he tests ammunition with a meat target wrapped in plenty of layers of clothing. It turns out even cheap JHP like 9mm Winchester White Box and Remington green and white box JHP are darned effective.
So, this sojourn into the weeds now comes full circle by saying if you carry quality, modern defensive ammunition, the change of seasons (and attire) is not a problem. Modern JHP and other types of self-defense ammunition are tested for penetration through multiple barriers, and many ammunition manufacturers use the FBI testing protocol for developing their practical ammo. In fact, many quality modern loads of .380 ACP will still be fine through a jacket and a few shirts.
Therefore, you don’t really have to change what you carry in terms of caliber if you carry quality ammunition. If you feel that you need to, maybe change from standard pressure to +P ammunition (assuming your carry gun is rated for it), but the truth is you don’t really need to.
However, there is one other instance in which you definitely WILL want to level up to a different gun.
Much of the United States doesn’t really have four distinct seasons; they have summer followed by slightly less summer. Those folks in the Southeast and a lot of the Southwest pretty much can skip this part. In those areas that DO experience all four seasons, you’ll probably have to wear gloves for a few months out of the year.
Your typical subcompact polymer striker-fired pistol may not have sufficient clearance inside the trigger guard for you to get a gloved finger on the trigger. Maybe you’ll be fine, but I wouldn’t be. I can shoot an M&P Shield just fine with my naked hand, but if I wear a glove thicker than, say, a golf glove, it’s a non-starter. I can shoot my carry gun fine with most gloves outside of my ski gloves.
What you’ll want to do is grab your typical pair of winter gloves, put them on and try it out with your usual concealed carry pistol (which has been cleared of all ammunition, of course). If you can’t easily get your trigger finger on the bang switch, then you have a problem.
In that case, you’ll want to either switch to carrying a bigger gun that allows sufficient gloved digit clearance or find yourself some thinner gloves.
Leather driving gloves aren’t a bad choice or – if you can get them – military surplus D3 leather gloves, though those are getting a little harder to find these days. Leather gloves of this sort offer good-enough protection against the cold, but are usually thin enough to get inside the trigger guard. They also look good, and it won’t kill you to have a little class for crying out loud.
So no, you don’t really need to switch to a bigger gun with the seasons. Unless, of course, you want to. Or you have to.
Fall, after all, is the perfect season for a 1911 in a high-ride OWB under a flannel shirt.
Disagree? Just came here to vent? Agree with me that Will Ferrell movies just aren’t that funny? Sound off in the comments.