3 Cold Weather Considerations for Concealed Carry
Cold weather can complicate how we carry our everyday carry (EDC) handguns. Over the years, I have used and heard of different strategies to counter cold weather's effects on concealed carry.
Here is what works best for me.
You may have to limit live-fire training in cold weather —
Some instructors hold outdoor shooting classes in the winter. I used to, but now I only typically hold shorter, private lessons in the cold months. Here is why.
Just like when people get so hot, they can't focus on anything other than getting out of the heat. When people get cold, especially their hands, they can't shoot as well. It's tough to fill magazines when you can't feel your fingers, and we can divide our focus between learning and staying warm. On a side note, get yourself something like the UpLula from Maglula to help with loading mags in the cold weather.
Not only does performance suffer once the person gets gold, but the likelihood of safety violations increases.
I'm not saying you should not shoot outdoors in the cold weather. The advice is more about the duration you spend in the cold weather.
More clothing —
I live in Ohio, so I have to change up my wardrobe for the 5 months of cold weather. However you dress to stay warm, here are some strategies to overcome the extra layers necessary in the winter.
Strategic layering –
I like sweaters because they provide more warmth and don't hinder my draw like a button-up flannel because they stretch a bit. I typically wear a long or short-sleeved t-shirt underneath and tuck it in behind my gun with a sweater. When it gets exceptionally cold, I'll add a long-sleeve shirt designed for cold weather; both tucked in behind my gun and under my sweater that I can forego a jacket.
I ditch my jacket whenever I can, because I find they can be unpredictably tricky to draw from, especially when zipped up. My carry method is the appendix inside waistband (AIWB) position. If I must wear a jacket, try to leave it unzipped, which provides me warmth but doesn't add an extra layer I need to clear. You may also find unzipping your jacket helps if you carry in other positions.
Say there is an event where I know I will be outside, and the weather requires a zipped-up jacket. In these instances, I wear several thinner layers of clothing, all tucked in behind the gun, and then using the jacket as the only cover garment. Then if I go inside and want to remove the jacket, I can untuck one layer over the gun.
I recommend you try different approaches and practice your draw with different clothing. When you practice your draw, you'll find that some materials are easier to grab and clear and some style of shirts are just exceptionally hard to draw with. It is worth the time to grab different combinations and try them out during your next dry fire session.
Gloves for concealed carry—
Gloves may be necessary sometimes. Thick gloves bay be warmer, but might be too thick to allow access to the trigger, mag release, etc. It may also complicate you clearing your cover garment(s).
I avoid wearing gloves unless I simply must. For instance, when I shovel snow and can't shield my hands inside jacket pockets, I put on gloves. In situations like these, here are some pointers for selecting a pair of gloves that work for your needs.
Balance of warmth and sensitivity –
In the balance of warmth and thickness, I'll sacrifice a little warmth for a thinner glove. Thinner gloves offer way more dexterity, which is important in accessing and running the gun.
I know there are all kinds of ways to call an emergency number from a smartphone besides dialing it from the touch screen, but consider gloves that allow you to operate your phone's touch screen just in case. Plus, it's way more convenient.
I prefer gloves designed with some grippy material. Although most ‘tactical' gloves have grippy palm and finger surfaces, you don't have to buy shooting gloves.
It's a must that you practice drawing and handling the gun with your gloves on.
You might benefit from using one or two electronic hand warmers. I use one of these and find it incredibly helpful. As a bonus, the warmer can power your cell phone in an emergency.
Bigger gun in the winter—
What about carrying a bigger gun in the winter? After all, all the extra clothing may provide easier concealment, even allowing you to carry outside the waistband (OWB). While this is undoubtedly an option, I personally don't do it.
I find that my current method of carrying and gun choice provides me comfort and capacity I can live with regardless of the season.
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Some people I respect carry a bigger gun in the winter. I'm not an absolutist on the matter; I just found the optimal carry position and gun, that works for me in a range of weather conditions and clothing choices.
Here is a fantastic course called Holsters, Concealment and Carry Positions, that will help you bypass years of trial and error in finding the best combination of gun and carry strategy.
No matter how you carry, I recommend practicing draws with your unloaded gun and particular setup before leaving the house. This strategy helps especially if you frequently change guns and carry positions.
I certainly don't hold a monopoly on cold-weather strategies for concealed carriers. Plus, everything that works for me may not work for you. However, if you are new to concealed carry in the winter months or haven't tried any of these strategies, it won't hurt to give it a shot.
What are some of the things you do that seem to work for you? Leave us a comment.
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I live Seattle-ish area, so I can wear a jacket most of the year. For that reason, and because I’m a large mammal, I carry OWB. In Winter, I just change my base layer (I’m a fan of UnderArmor compression coldgear) and change my jacket thickness. Pistol doesn’t change too much, except I don’t have to carry Summer subcompacts, I’m still going with the usual double stack striker fired tools.
Gloves, I like Mechanix and can wear that almost all winter instead of anything heavier. I shoot just fine in them, so that’s good.
All due to the fact that Seattle winters are pretty tame temperature wise. Rainy, but not very cold.
during fall, I’m going to change my carry style from my CM9 w/7rd. mag. iwb, to a G26 w/15rd. mag. , in a shoulder holster/”tanker” type, hy-bred rig; worn under (layering as needed) a one size larger 1/2 zipped thicker fleece jacket that gives me quick access from the top. when it turns really Wisconsin cold, I wear the rig over a removable completely zipped liner, under a 1/2 zipped uninsulated gore-tex shell with the storm flap un-snapped between the waist but snapped at chin; this gives me clear access to slide my hand under the shell and across my chest between the waist and chin.
try this at home and alter until you’re comfortable with accessibility.