CHL Operating in Cold Weather

By on January 14, 2015

Image of cold shooter

Me in the posing in the Cold!

For most of you, it’s probably cold already, but here in San Antonio it just got cold. I taught a class Saturday and it was 32° and sleeting out in the morning.   Then add a ten-mile an hour wind and it’s cold.

Cold weather gear always becomes a problem when operating your weapon, any weapon. Your clothes seem to get in the way. Your gloves are the worst. In the military I had a love/hate relationship with gloves. I loved them because they kept my hands warm, dry, and protected when moving. But they got in the way of doing everything. Your gloves can stop anything in your gun.

Gloves

First, can you reach the trigger with your gloves on? Some trigger guards can be small, especially on older guns, 1911’s, and guns with lasers or other stuff screwed to the trigger guard. If you can’t get your finger on the trigger, you can’t fire the gun. Normally you can shove and make it fit, but it will slow you down a good second if your gloves don’t fit inside the trigger guard.

LCR Revolver being fired with gloved hand

Gloved Finger just Fits, but won’t reset trigger

Can you make the reset work with your gloves on? If the trigger won’t reset, then the gun won’t fire again. I have this problem with some big Under Armour gloves I was wearing at the course last weekend. I had to partially pull my finger out of the trigger guard to get the trigger to reset on my Ruger LCR. I could make the gun work but follow up shots where really slow.

Gloves will affect your feel and finger placement on the trigger. Unless you practice a lot, your accuracy will go down when wearing insulated or thick gloves. Some ultra thin gloves may be okay, but anything that keeps your hands warm will have a negative affect on your accuracy. Don’t believe me? Go try it!

Gloves affect your grip on the gun. It will change your hand position and sometimes on different guns make it hard to get the same shooting grip. Not that big a deal (except that it will affect accuracy), but if you haven’t tried it before and spend time trying to get that perfect thumbs forward grip but your gloves are in the way it could be a problem.

Gloves can get snagged in the guns working parts, or press parts they shouldn’t. Generally gloves won’t get caught in the action and cause a malfunction, they seem to affect hand placement and you may push the magazine release by accident during firing or push up on the slide stop without knowing it and cause the slide to lock back after shooting.

Gun being reloaded with Gloves in the way

Glove won’t let the magazine go home

Your gloves will get in the way if you have to reload your gun. Big gloves seem to like to get caught between the gun and the new magazine going into place and tend to stop the magazine from being seated fully, then it will cause a malfunction. You may also miss your magazine release or slide stop when you reload. I have to confess that on the range Saturday in my big gloves, I missed the slide release for the first time in years. My students didn’t notice it when I told them about it, but I did. It wasn’t a smooth reload when I had to push that lever more than once.

Malfunctions are always a threat. Can you work the slide with a lot of force when wearing your gloves? Some gloves are slippery on the finger area or have track things in them so you can use your smart phone. Will those allow you to get enough grip on the gun to run the slide? Have you tried it?

Lastly, with gloves, can you even draw your handgun? If you have a retention device on your holster like I do (I have a ALS by Safariland), can you get the retention device to release? I don’t have a problem with this holster but other holsters do create an issue. I especially had problems with think holsters and traditional thumb break snaps on leather holsters. Make sure you can get your gun out without problems?

If you find any of these issues, think about changing your system. That might be as easy as getting some new gloves, or as complicated as a new gun, holster, and carrying location. Lots of companies actually make gloves to shoot in. My favorites are 511, Oakley, and Under Armour.

Coats

Coats are almost in the way as much as gloves. They hinder you getting to your gear. Especially those that have a drawstring or elastic on the bottom that keep them tight to your body.

Can you draw your gun with your coat on and zipped up? I know you can when it’s open because it’s easy to get to, but you know, sooner or later, it will get cold and you will zip up. Can you still draw the gun? Does it get caught on anything? Can you even get to it? Some coats you may not. Either way, it’s something good to know. Your jacket also makes it difficult to get to your reloads in a timely manner. The big thing is can you get to everything with the coat on and zipped up?

TIP: When I have to be outside for long periods and wear a big coat, I drop a .38 Revolver in one of the outside pockets inside a pocket holster. It’s much easier to get to and I can have my hand on my gun anytime I want and no one knows.

Your coat will get in the way of the draw sooner or later. If you have to fire from retention and your coat is open, it will cause a malfunction sooner or later by getting caught in the action. And the coat will keep you from re-holstering easily. It’s something you have to practice before trying it in the real world under stress.

Last thing about a coat, they are loud. Most aren’t very tactical (even the branded tactical ones) and make noise when you move. Gortex is great for waterproofing, sucky for soundproofing. Most coats swish and just make some kind of noise when you move. Don’t believe me? Go try it!

Batteries

If you have any batteries in your life you need to replace them more often. Cold definitely plays hard times on battery life. If your life depends on something with a battery in it, you should change the batteries more often. Things like your flashlight, laser site, or taser. Keep checking them when it’s cold out.

Gun Lubes

What’s you lubricant do on your firearm when it gets cold? I know a lot of you are fans of Frog Lube, but it gets pretty thick in the cold and that’s just at around freezing. I don’t know what it will do when the temps go below zero. Check to make sure your lube doesn’t turn to a solid in the area you are operating in.

During the Korean conflict in the Frozen Chosin (Battle of Chosin Reservoir), Marines had to work the actions on their weapons almost constantly to keep the actions from freezing closed. As a CHL holder, this is less a problem since the gun is generally against your body and kept warm, but is something to test. Make sure your chosen lube doesn’t stop your gun from running in the cold.

Awareness

In the cold make sure you keep your awareness up. A lot of people, when they get cold, get miserable and all they want to do is get warm. So they put their collar up and head down, and go straight for the building or car where the warmth is. Make sure you still look around no matter how cold you look. If you look like you are freezing to death and only care about getting warm, you start to look like easy prey. Just because it’s cold doesn’t mean bad guys aren’t out working.

Preparedness

Last foot note, make sure you are prepared for the weather. I look around and see people that wouldn’t last an hour in the conditions but are out in the cold driving around and shopping. If they couldn’t get inside they would be dead from exposure within an hour. Dress to survive the cold. If you get stuck out someplace, could you survive for a couple hours with just the clothes on your back?

Truck and cold weather gear on hood

My Truck and Some of my Emergency Gear

In your vehicle, do you have enough gear to survive a night without turning on your vehicle or getting any help? I hope so. Every year people die from exposure in their cars because they get stuck someplace. Make sure you have extra clothes and maybe a sleeping bag and blanks so you could survive if you get stuck. Cars get really cold really fast when they aren’t running with the heater on.

Stay Safe,

Ben

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Comments

  1. Ben Branam
    January 17, 2015

    Leave a Reply

    Extra suggestions from a close friend of mine:

    “For gloves, I like the mechanix gloves you can buy in all the auto parts stores. Inexpensive and effective. I know a lot of people like to put aluminum grips on their handguns. I stay away from these as they act as a heat sink in the cold and draw the warmth out of your hands fast. A strong argument for the polymer pistols and G-10 grips.

    Regarding drawstrings on coats, there was the incident a few months ago where a LEO had a ND caused by his drawstring and a lot of departments are having them removed from coats or not allowing them period.”

    I do like Mechanix gloves and have used them a lot when I was overseas as a security contractor and still use a set as work gloves today. The only down side now; they don’t work my iPhone. But I can live without that.

  2. Michael
    January 15, 2015

    Leave a Reply

    I use wool fingerless gloves that have a “mitten” covering built-in. They work reasonably well and are very warm (use them when it is really cold (single digits) I found a no name pair of leather gloves with thinsulate at JC Penny’s. Thin but warm.

    • Ben Branam
      January 17, 2015

      Leave a Reply

      Can you work the gun with the mitten part on? or is that impossible. I’ve never had a pair of gloves like that. The fingerless gloves aren’t fun for me. My fingers get cold.

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