Tips for Winter Carry

In This Article:

        • Extra layers are great for winter carry concealment.
        • Leaving a coat unzipped allows easy access.
        • Find thin, snug gloves.
        • Don’t forget about situational awareness.
        • Remember to practice in your everyday cold-weather wear.

With winter fast approaching in most areas of the country, it’s a good idea to consider some practical elements of carrying a firearm in less-than-perfect weather. Sure, the Midwest and Northeast are famous for the snow and cold. But even in Florida, I’ve seen how the locals dig out sweaters and vests when evening temperatures drop below 60 degrees!

While extra layers of clothing can make concealment much easier, they can also affect your ability to quickly draw your gun. The finest handgun in the world is useless if you’re bundled up like Ralphie’s little brother in A Christmas Story and can’t get to it.

A Simple Test

With your gun unloaded and carried in your usual manner, dress as you intend to for bad weather. Now, attempt to rapidly draw and acquire a target. Most people are surprised at how clumsy this can be — not a good thing in a threat situation.

I’m in Minnesota. When carrying, I tend to leave my vest or coat unzipped and/or unbuttoned. This gives me quick access to my strong-side belt holster and doesn’t really affect my comfort all that much since I seldom spend hours on end in the cold.

If you do spend significant time outside all bundled up, and your primary carry gun is small enough (or you have another gun that is), you might want to consider carrying in an outside pocket (and always in a pocket holster, please — never carry a gun loose in a pocket).

By the way, did you remember to wear gloves when you tried drawing your gun? You may be shocked to find that your glove-covered fingers are now too fat to fit easily into your gun’s trigger guard. This is no minor issue. Fumbling with a gun in the middle of a violent encounter can be life-threatening.

Winter Carry Solutions

One solution is to find a pair of thin, very snug-fitting gloves that give some protection against cold. These should still allow smooth and easy access to the trigger. Also, some guns have trigger guards that do allow access with gloved fingers. In winter, I often carry my SIG P239 for just that reason. Other guns do not, in which case I avoid wearing gloves at all … as long as I won’t be outside long enough to freeze my fingers.

So, you have your method of carry and your bad weather wardrobe assembled. Now, since the procedure probably differs from your summer routine, remember to practice (several hundred times minimum) drawing your gun rapidly and smoothly. This can be done at home. Top professionals spend a remarkable amount of time in just such dry-fire drills. (Again, unloaded firearms at all times)

Another, less obvious (but potentially serious) problem with foul weather is the effect it has on our situational awareness. Whether it’s bitterly cold in Minnesota or raining in Seattle or Florida, research has shown that whenever we are in a rush, we tend to ignore important signals. These visual or auditory signals can be missed for example, when darting to or from a car to avoid inclement weather. And things like hooded parkas and umbrellas further restrict our vision and hearing. In bad weather, pay extra attention.

Lastly, it is essential to have a clean, properly lubricated gun. Note that special lubricants for winter carry are seldom necessary. Defensive handguns stay relatively warm where they are normally carried — close to the body.

So suit up, gear up and be safe this winter.

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