Cold Shot: Are you a fair weather shooter?

By Steve Hensyel – Hawkeye Firearms Instruction

Practice and training for all types of scenarios and situations is a routine many permit holders and gun owners prepare for, but is shooting in cold weather one that you also prepare for?

My Dad used to say there are two seasons in Iowa, winter and road construction. Here we are again, when the mercury is dipping down, and the coats and cold weather gear come out. I am no different from most people, in that I prefer to go out shooting and practice during nice weather, and this seems to be more the case especially the older I get. Sure, I like to hunt when it is cooler and there is a skiff of snow, but I usually keep moving when out in the field. Let’s face it, just standing outside on the range isn’t always conducive to making practice fun or using good technique. Perhaps that is even more of a reason why we should include “off season” practice as part of our regular routine. Here are some tips and information to get you thinking about the challenges cold weather might bring to shooting.

As with any outdoor winter activity, dressing properly is the key. The trick is layers of comfortable and easily removable clothing. The old timers will tell you that cotton kills because of its inability to dry quickly and its moisture holding properties. I am a big fan of wool in at least one of my layers. So how does this relate to shooting outdoors, well the connection is easy to see on several different levels. Besides the obvious of staying warm, could you access your firearm quickly, proficiently and safely from a concealed position? Once you have your firearm out and are ready to shoot, could you do so comfortably and from your normal position all while having good fundamentals?

Do you wear gloves and are they going to interfere with your trigger access or control? Many people have not given much thought to all of these things, let alone prepare and practice them. I know I am probably just raising more questions than really offering help, but let me offer a few tips on some things that I have learned and that have helped me. First thanks to modern transportation lifestyles, many of us do not have to be out in the cold for very long periods at a time. I tend to dress light in most situations with usually only a top layer between my holster and me. Sure, I carry extra clothes and back up gear in my vehicle when traveling, but for the most part, I keep it light. If you have to be in the cold or work outdoors then you might need to explore alternative methods of carry. I like to wear insulated bibs and I have a nice holster that fits comfortably on my chest inside. Of course, practicing a proper draw from any position and level of dress is also the key. Learning to sweep aside your coat or concealing garment is something that takes practice.

There are also plenty of ways to practice and prepare for cold weather carry and shooting in the comfort of your warm domicile. Safely practice accessing your firearm while bundled up to find out what options and combinations of dress and holsters work best for you. See if you can still get into shooting stance and position and practice all of those with dry fire. Come try my virtual shooting system, and put yourself, your gear, and style of dress to the test under real life scenarios.

Even though there are a few indoor ranges popping up around Iowa there is still no replacement for actually getting out and practicing in the cold. Our body’s reactions, responses, and even our firearms all respond differently when the temperatures dip down. Are you sure that your gun will work reliably if it went from a warm snug holster to freezing cold and moisture? Are you sure your body will do the same? These are two very important questions to answer and the only way to do so is to get out in the elements and practice.

I hope that these are some questions and ideas to get you thinking about all the challenges that cold weather brings. Don’t be afraid to get out there and warm up your barrels come rain, sleet, or snow.