We come across this situation a lot … what to wear during winter …
Time to get your furnace ready for the winter months, so to is it time to get yourself ready for winter concealed carry. The layers, the gloves, the heavy winter jacket, your concealed carry gun. Talk about deep concealment, your firearm; a base layer shirt; another heavy shirt; a fleece pullover; your heavy winter jacket.
Imagine digging for your firearm under all those winter clothes, wearing those thick Thinsulate winter gloves, searching for the thing you need most, at a time you need it most.
Time to rethink how you draw your firearm from concealment.
First, I grab my glove on my shooting hand by a finger or two with my teeth, then I pull my sweaty hand free from my glove. Next, I sweep my heavy winter jacket aside, if it is unzipped, or if zipped I grab the jacket ripping it upward to expose my base layers. Either way, I need to continue digging to get to my firearm. I reach back down and grab my base layers and rip them up above my firearm, then somehow with my non dominant hand I secure the jacket and base layers and draw my firearm with my Dominant hand and bring it up freeing it from my holster, rotating it towards the threat only to burry it in my jacket and base layers. Thankfully, confused by what is occurring in front of him, the threat shifts his body weight, slips on the ice, hits his head on the concrete sidewalk knocking himself unconscious, giving me time to run away and call 911. Better mark the unconscious threat with a stick before you run, because before help arrives the threat will be covered in fresh snow.
Drawing your Firearm from Concealment
Sound like a scene from Home Alone 22? All kidding aside, for many, that is the reality of drawing from concealment in winter months. However skilled we are from drawing from concealment wearing a t shirt, or thin cover garment, drawing from concealment in heavy or layered winter clothes is a completely different skill set that can be developed only with practice, practice, and more practice.
Don’t panic, it can be done, we all can do it. Remember at some time in our past, after we learned the major components of a handgun (frame, barrel, and action) we next had to learn the shooting fundamentals we built upon, which later enabled us to draw from concealment, and put shots on target in under 2 seconds. What did it take? Practice, practice, and more practice, you developed the skills and had a blast practicing, pun intended.
Summertime muscle memory is lifting a t shirt to expose our firearm and drawing from a holster. This is part of our muscle memory developed by consistent dry fire practice and time at the range. Once we add a winter jacket and a shirt or two to the equation, your draw and sequence will likely change significantly. If the jacket is unzipped, the motion is to sweep it to the side and away from your firearm, then lift your shirt to access your firearm. We’ve now added an additional step, and we must practice in the same fashion we do during the summer months. Add another shirt to the scenario, the motion is to sweep it to the side and away from your firearm, then grab both shirts and lift them up to access your firearm. If the jacket is zipped, the motion is to lift your jacket and grab your shirt(s) as you lift. Be prepared and practice reaching back down to lift a shirt if you missed it on the way up the first time.
All it takes is a little practice, practice, and more practice. If the weather outside is frightful, stay inside and practice, practice, practice, it will be delightful.
The nature of we humans is to stay warm when it’s cold, that’s why we bury ourselves underneath layers of bulky clothes; with our hands in our pockets, chin pushed into our chest, head down staring at our feet, as we walk obliviously on our way, in an attempt to keep warm. However warm we may be, our situational awareness is nonexistent, our reaction time is well, reduced to a person staring at their feet, with their hands in their pockets oblivious to their surroundings.
Update your Wardrobe for Concealed Carry
If I just described you, it’s time for a change. Clothing has come a long way since we were kids and our mothers put empty bread bags on our feet in an attempt to keep us dry. Update your wardrobe with carrying concealed in mind. Replace your winter clothing with thin wintry weather clothing that is now available. If you wear gloves in the winter, and want to avoid the scenario I described above, then practice your self-defense shooting skills while wearing gloves suitable for the occasion. If you prefer gloves there are a wide selection of gloves available, designed specifically for exercising your fine motors skills, while at the same time keeping your hands warm. Wearing gloves that allow you to skillfully operate your firearm, safely draw from concealment, and accurately put shots on target are essential. Then once again again practice, practice, practice adding yet another skill to your self-defense toolbox, operating your firearm while wearing gloves . Health tip, having two pairs of the same gloves is a good idea, if you made it through life and avoided eating lead-based paint chips, then you are aware that walking around all day with lead residue on your gloves isn’t the healthiest idea.
Cold Weather Holster?
Some folks are inclined to change holsters in the winter months, from Inside the Waistband (IWB) to Outside the Waistband (OWB). Personally, I caution against the change and here are my reasons why. First, because it’s such a different “draw and motion” than from drawing from a IWB holster, it is easy for your firearm to get “hung up” on your winter clothing. Unless of course you practice, practice, practice drawing from the OWB holster. But, let’s be honest, few of us find the time to practice enough to maintain our current skill level, let alone finding the time to develop additional skills. I prefer to stick with one method the entire year, so I can be assured to avoid any mistakes and inconsistencies that could result in malfunctions, which slow us down. If you’re off by even a fraction of an inch when drawing your firearm, it could cost you a deadly second or two while you’re fumbling with your firearm. I believe in the same holster, the same gun, in the same location each day, every day, unless that is not possible. Second, concealed means concealed if you’re at the store reaching for your wallet or reaching for an item on the top shelf, you could inadvertently expose your firearm, and in today’s environment the store could go into lock down.
Some folks suggest switching from a compact to a full-sized firearm when the long jacket come out. Full sized firearms have longer grips and larger standard magazine capacities, be careful if your state does not allow more than a 10-round magazine, or in the case of the SAFE act-controlled New York, ridiculously no more than 7 rounds. For some, full size guns are easier to shoot more accurately, but remember, a different firearm, demands different skills, and the time to practice developing those skills so practice, practice, practice.
Lastly, practice out in the cold. You will be surprised by just how much the cold diminishes all of your skills and abilities. Until you give it a shot, there’s that pun again, you will not know how good or not so good your cold weather shooting skills are. Knowing your skill level under less-than-optimal conditions, is valuable. It’s important to know, don’t be consciously unaware of your skills, not knowing won’t make you better prepared. Dealing with cold hands, a runny nose, eye lashes freezing together, numb fingers, a bright blinding muzzle flash reflection off the snow while shooting is a different experience, and how you react when it’s sub-freezing outside is a must know. Plus, winter outdoor practice is another opportunity to have some fun and shoot more, pew, pew, pew; practice, practice, practice.
Stay warm these coming winter months, but mostly, stay safe. Or practice, practice, practice, and stay warm and safe.
*Sean is a certified multi-disciplinary NRA Instructor, Self Defense Attorney, and co-founder of Second Call Defense.