By Mike Keleher
With the wind chill in the subzero zone here this week, I thought I’d make some notes on Concealed Carry in the cold weather. Isn’t it nice to get to have plenty of clothes to put over your best carry gun?
You can even get those bigger pistols out and tote them around-so much easier than trying to cover them up with just a summer t-shirt and some organic muffin tops! Yes, those full sized 1911’s, Sigs, Glocks and Berettas still love to get out and see the sights from time to time!
My first super-cold weather note is you need to check the lubricant on your carry gun. We all like to think oil will last forever- it doesn’t. I don’t care how much you pay for it or what the manufacturer claims, they do thin out/dry out, and if you haven’t put any on the rails in 3-4 months, then dab some on before you head outdoors this winter.
The problem with super cold, is the metal has more tendency to be very dry and add to the amount of drag in metal-on-metal contact. If a very cold gun gets fired a few times outdoors, it heats, and the metal swells a tiny bit, and you don’t want extra drag on the slide movement to prevent the pistol from cycling fully. So put some fresh lube on for the new year.
Taking it to the absurd, I met an Alaska State Trooper SWAT team member who said they operated in all crazy temps and when it was below zero, they added at least one revolver to their gear to insure they had a pistol that would not gum up or seize up. These guys could start outdoors with cold cold guns, run inside a building and have a 100-degree temperature change. Extreme SWAT.
Next up, I love vests for concealed carry. I still have some of the original safari vests- I just don’t wear them anymore. I don’t need to look like a photojournalist or 1990’s Iraqi operator. Now, when the temps drop below 50 degrees, I drag out polar fleece vests. They are just right to cover holstered firearms and do not scream “I have a gun on board!” or “I am fresh off of safari!”
The fleece lays close to me, yet is easy to push out of the way, and best of all, I get them long enough to cover down to my pants pocket/low hips level. They can be had in a variety of colors with or without logos. Indoors they are not bulky or cause you to overheat. I like ’em. Got lots of ’em.
Hoodies are often used for concealed carry, but please double check the length. Some really only make it to the waist level, and if you are moving or bending you might inadvertently be exposing your gat…roscoe…rod. Another hoodie drawback is it might be long enough when it is brand new, but being all cotton, most will shrink a bit. Bring enough hoodie.
Here is something else to consider with cold weather carry. Are you now covering your holstered pistol with one, two, three or four layers of clothing? Have you practiced getting to your weapon before leaving the house…or do you chit it off to “I’ll get it if I need it…somehow!”
Grip and draw protocol, tells us you get one grip on your pistol if you need to draw it out. You don’t have time to get an imperfect grip and then adjust it in your hands while trying to engage. One grip. It might not be exactly right, but that is the one you get. Get your hand on the grip and make the draw…you have other things to deal with.
So, if you have three or four layers of clothing covering your pistol you have to dig for it just to establish your grip. Well worth considering and practicing before heading out.
I am seeing a lot of concealed carriers engaged in gunfights this winter in the news. Can you access your weapon through your clothing? There are several ways to get there.
The first way is to have your coat/vest unzipped-this gives you easiest access, but even then, you might have a shirt tail still covering your pistol grip. Some people keep car keys or cell phone inside their jacket pocket over their pistol. That way, when they sweep the jacket back with their strong hand hopefully the weighted pocket will haul the material to the rear. Sweep, grab, draw.
Then next way to get to your gun, is to try and snake your hand under the jacket/hoodie/shirt hem, establish grip and then try to draw upwards directly into a lot of material. You see the problem. This gets worse when seated in a vehicle, under multi-layers of clothing and a seatbelt. It can actually become impossible to draw the gun if the clothes are strapped down by the seat belt. (Old school seated executive protection advice- shoulder holster. Think about it. The grip remains easy access while seated.)
The third way to draw from under clothing, involves using both hands. You grab a handful of clothing with your off hand and push and either hold it to the rear or tug it all upwards. This hopefully gets enough material out of the way so your strong hand can reach the grip. Takes a small bit of practice, but it is something you should try. If it is super cold, and your jacket is zipped up, you may be able to pull the hem up with your off hand. It’s not great-but you should try it before you really need to buy it.
Obviously, being in a heightened state of awareness when you are out cruising around and armed, you are going to need to factor in the extra time you will need to get to your gun-it adds precious seconds. Get moving sooner. Get your hands out of your pockets and jacket zipper down. Jacket buttons? Forget it. Get your grip established-you don’t have to draw it, just make sure you can get on it.
Gloves are a very tactical issue to consider. Are they so big you can’t draw and engage your pistol? It happens, especially with compact pistols. If you are wearing a pair of big bulky gloves, at least get the pistol hand glove off if you can. A quick grab with your teeth is probably as fast as trying to pull or shake it off. If you can’t get the glove off or don’t have time, remember you still get only one grip in your draw sequence. A bulky glove is just going to make it harder.
Every temperature situation is different, but I like an unlined glove, generally deerskin, neoprene, or a thin nylon glove. They give me warmth down to about 20 degrees and are quite shootable without having to take them off. Below that temperature point, I still like as thin a glove as I possibly can with some Thinsulate for insulation. Easy to practice with your gloves and an unloaded firearm. Not many people do it. Remember the old green Nomex flight gloves with thin leather palms? They were a staple for military operators for years. They still work.
Moving on to another near impossibility…can you reload your pistol with all your warm gear on? Getting the gun out is hard enough, but can you also get to a spare magazine or reloader under your clothing and/or with gloves on? Higher capacity firearms are going to be helpful, as are a second concealed carry pistol on your person- but in the end, you may still need a reload. How long do you have? Well, take it from yer old Uncle Mike, you have the rest of your life to finish a reload.
While I am passing along all this cold weather advice about near impossibilities, I will of course finish with something called “the ankle holster.” Don’t. Just don’t. If you have to wear bulky clothes, gloves and boots, getting down to your ankle gun is awful. If you think you can get one of those tiny blasters out, God Bless You. I can’t. Time yourself drawing one from your waistband or even a pocket vs having to bend down, kneel down, fall down to get to the hem of your pants, tug it up and get your gun out. The time difference is staggering accompanied by the fact you are now either bent over or down on the ground -while exciting stuff is going on around you.
Years and years ago I used to carry a revolver ankle gun while working narcotics. (I think it was right after the Civil War let out, and we were buying sulfa powder or morphine.) That tiny S+W or Taurus Snubby were easy to carry, and it was too hot to wear a jacket or vest over a waist level pistol. Well kids, the second time I really needed my ankle gun all the way up here, and it was all the way down there on my ankle, I decided “Holy shit. I am gonna get killed wearing this ankle gun.” I never wore one again.
As a firearms instructor, we hated ankle guns on the range. Some people insisted on carrying them and believed they would never need them or magically could get to them if necessary. They chose convenience over practicality. Ankle guns required a whole separate training course of fire, added safety hazards on the line-you can’t have several people on the firing line digging for ankle guns and wobbling around at the same time, and it was terribly slow when seconds count. Do your own math.
Stay warm and safe, and don’t neglect to get your big guns out. They are much easier to find, grip and draw than micro guns while wearing multiple layers, and as stated before, they really like to get out too.