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We firearms owners who aren’t fortunate enough to live in one of the southerly settlements of the American Republic like Phoenix, Austin, or, say, Charlotte Amalie, typically go into “winter training mode” when the temperatures dip below freezing and snowflakes start to fall. In the best-case scenario, “winter training mode” meaning going exclusively indoors, where one sets up in a single stall and shoots at flat paper targets at between 10 and 50 yards. There are usually rules governing how and when a firearm can be drawn from a holster, and no ability to move while shooting.

Maybe cold weather shooters do some dry-fire exercises throughout the season to keep their skills in reasonable form. In the worst-case scenario, “winter training mode” actually means sitting in an arm chair with a remote control in one hand, a beer in the other, and the closest thing to firearms or self-defense being the shotgun formation on the TV.

The reality is, anyone in the snow belt who carries a firearm when they go beyond the wire needs to devote a bit of time to training to draw, present, and fire that sidearm while wearing their winter gear. From what I’ve heard, defensive gun uses occasionally happen in cold snowy weather, too.

If all of your self-defense practice has been done while wearing sartorial options more appropriate to springtime in St. Thomas, you just might be up a fecal creek without a paddle. Especially if you try to draw your sidearm while wearing your North Face ski jacket over an Icelandic wool sweater when things get real.

Even just practicing your draw a few times outside while in your cold weather gear can help you learn what does and doesn’t work. Just this weekend, for instance, I braved the freezing temps and snow flurries to go out to my preferred Pittsburgh-area outdoor range. I’ve made it a point to practice in the past drawing while wearing gloves and a coat.

This time, though, I happened to be wearing an old sweatshirt that I occasionally wear in the cold months, but that I’d never actually worn to a range. Good thing, too. I learned that between its floppy internal pockets, soft material, and waistband cord, trying to draw a hip-holstered pistol from under all that was a train wreck. It was even worse when trying to draw the pistol from underneath the sweatshirt AND a jacket or vest.

A lot of people are also surprised when they put on their gloves and find that gloves meant to keep your fingers warm and toasty while on ski slopes don’t necessarily fit well into the trigger guard of your .380 pocket rocket. (Best case – they won’t fit in the trigger guard at all; worst case, they’ll fit just well enough to facilitate a negligent discharge.)

My solution has been to wear an old pair of leather shooting gloves. They aren’t the warmest, but they’re better than nothing, and I know that they’ll work well while shooting, and I’ve tried them with all of my guns.

Some guns are better candidates than others when it comes to gloves, too. As Massad Ayoob noted some time ago, GLOCK firearms tend to be more amenable to shooting with gloves because they’re made to spec for the Austrian army, for whom finding in cold, snowy weather is a prerequisite. Other duty-sized handguns will likely be good-to-go with gloves…but you won’t know for sure unless you get out there and try it.

My cold weather trip to the range taught me a few things. While I’m not a huge fan of carrying in a pants pocket, I found that my GLOCK 43 fits just fine in my softshell winter jacket, and is far more accessible there than it is under several layers of clothes in a hip holster. Of course, this also brings up the question of what to do with the gun when removing the coat. Discreetly transferring the pistol (and pocket holster) to an empty pants pocket or empty side holster and reversing on the way out seems to be the least bad option. I don’t like the idea of unnecessarily handling the gun, but I like the idea of leaving the gun in a coat that’s been removed even less. (I’m definitely interested to hear how others who pocket-carry in a winter coat address this question.)

If you can’t make it out of doors for some reason, at the very least, dress up in your winter clothes, unload your heater, and try some dry practice while dressed for chilly weather. It’s better than nothing. Still, though – if you’re in the snow belt, try to make the time to get out to the range when it’s frosty. It’s good to know how you and your sidearm perform in inclement weather…and practice isn’t supposed to be comfortable, after all.

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  1. Yes, but I live in the Vegas area so its not really a big deal. My range is in Boulder City and it does get a bit windy, so gloves and a coat are warranted when I go to the range (6ish in the morning to avoid crowds). But even then its only down to the high 20s (a tad lower with wind chill)

    I don’t envy you snow crawlers 😀

  2. Yeah, but I’m afraid it just proves your point, since I’m in the Austin area. Sons and I took a new young lady to introduce her to firearms, 2 weeks ago, went to a new range for me, she got to fire rifles in .17 HMR and .300 Blk, suppressed, pistols in .38 Spl, .40 S&W, and .45 acp. She liked the Python with .38 Spl ammo best, smart girl! Looking at holes she had personally put in a target, she was beside herself, had a hell of a time.

  3. I live in Wyoming, at pretty high altitude. The range is open all year, but nobody plows the road up to it… so I can’t always get there. Dry fire, covering just about everything, goes on all the time. But when I can, I shoot outdoors at least once a week. The indoor range is usually empty during the day, and the only rule is not to shoot at anything but the targets… so if it is really too cold or snowing/raining hard I can go indoors. During nice weather, I offer a free shooting clinic. But in the winter, I’m pretty much alone.

    We do have four seasons here: Winter, still winter, summer and almost winter. The heavy coats hang at the back door at least 9 months of the year. You bet I train in my winter clothing. 🙂 I’ve found that nitrile gloves are usually good enough to protect my hands from the cold unless it is raining and the wind is blowing. Then I cover them with some thin mylar type gloves. And I carry a pair of the nitrile gloves in my fanny pack at all times. The only concern, if I needed a SD draw in bad weather, would be having enough time to put them on… probably just going to get cold for a little while. 🙂

    • I hear that. We spent a few years in SD, determined that summer was 2 weeks in Aug, the rest of the year was winter.

  4. Winter here today in Flori-Duh is 81F and partly cloudy.

    You poor bastards in the Northeast and the high country out West.

    I’ll be thinking of you while slapping mosquitoes the size of light aircraft…

  5. Sadly, even though I live in the “Gunshine State,” the nearest outdoor range is over an hour’s drive away. Local municipalities here are not keen on outdoor ranges.

  6. Yes. Last Sunday for a practical pistol match. Actually, it was colder for the November match. My club also does a “Battle of the Bulge” match in the middle of January. It is shot with WW2 period military firearms.

  7. I continue to be puzzled by the notion that an outdoor range automatically means that shooters can move around, and draw from holsters. I wish there were more such ranges, but…

    • Yeah, I only know of one, and I guess that’s because you have a whole large protected area all to yourself, so you can draw and fire while moving, drop to prone, play with your shotgun, do all manner of stuff as long as you are only firing in the correct direction, into the berm. Most outdoor ranges have essentially the same rules as the indoor ranges, the most recent one I went to, really nice, well established, family owned range, prohibits FMJ ammo. Never heard such a thing, no idea why.

  8. I practice a couple of times a week here in rainy Washington, by psychokinetically grooving my trigger press while watching Blackhawk Down and Lone Survivor on DVR.

  9. When I lived in snow country legal concealed carry wasn’t an option. Now I live in sun country and legal concealed carry still isn’t an option. Unless I’m fishing in an unincorporated area.

    If it ain’t legal for me to pack I might as well have nice weather.

  10. Since the weather has been in the 70’s here, I hit the range each weekend. It’s nice being in a t-shirt still. That is until the sun goes down, then it’s light jacket weather. I’m bummed that I haven’t been able to wear my “Merry Christmas ya filthy animal” ugly sweater because it’s been way too warm.

  11. I know this isn’t a picture quote thing, but when I saw this, all I could think is “Santa’s elves are prepared for delivery support even to ‘those’ areas.”

  12. I’m lucky – my Indoor range does winter leagues, including an action league. Draw from holster, move, engage multiple targets, reload on the move. (We don’t do a draw from concealment though – which can be tricky in MN cold weather gear).

  13. Just got back from Ben Avery. A little misty rain today. It was so cold I had to wear a sweatshirt. 😛

  14. Ah, December in Texas; where we have 8 months of Spring, 4 months of Summer and 2 bone chilling days of 27 degrees somehow w/rain…every leap year. Hit 80 today

  15. I use Mechanix gloves year-round. They are thin enough to fit inside the trigger-guard on everything I own, allow for a good tactile sense of what the trigger is doing, and the Classic type work on touch screen phones & monitors. Even when I was living in Colorado & Michigan, they were warm enough to keep my hands from freezing; just as long as I kept my hands out of the snow since they’re not waterproof.
    I haven’t had the opportunity to try the Mechanix cold-weather gloves, so I can’t say if they work with touch screens or not.

  16. What is this cold winter weather you speak of? It’s Xmas and we haven’t seen any of it here in NC.

  17. I was at the range yesterday. 45 degrees, definitely warmer than average here in Northern IL. My buddy and I had the place to ourselves.

    With a shot timer, I practiced drawing and firing, sweeping my jacket aside. Sometimes with gloves. Sometimes with half-frozen hands. We went through about 100 rounds apiece.

    After it snows, the areas around the shooting benches become icy and dangerous to stand on while shooting. At that point we wait ’till the spring thaw.

  18. ‘In the worst-case scenario, “winter training mode” actually means sitting in an arm chair with a remote control in one hand, a beer in the other…’

    Well when you put it that way… Kind of a win-win situation.

  19. i live in the Pacific Northwest so its rainy and cold, perfect weather for com bloc guns and surplus ammo.

  20. Shooting outside in fresh, falling snow is easily way better than any other time. That muffled sound and high-contrast white stuff is awesome.

    • Yeah, and the picture above is really wonderful, gotta wonder if those Chinese guys are getting paid to shoot off free ammo. I mean, does that look like fun, or what?

  21. Yes, but here in the northeast we are far above seasonal temperatures. It was colder in October than it is today.

  22. Urban California, land of crap gun laws but also home of just the year with just one season. Even when it’s really cold by our standards, it’s not cold. That said, we still have some heavy coat days which I like as it makes concealed carry much easier to pull off and drawing much more difficult. Practice or perish.

  23. What’s a range? I live in Bush Alaska, I train outdoors whether sun, rain, or snow year round. Ever try transitioning from beaver mittens to drawing from a Parka? Ever train in -10 degree weather when you lose all feeling in your fingers?

  24. Range!? Try militia practice. Try patrols! All night long in Shenandoah makes you firmly resolve to not whine so much about indoor ranges.

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