Gun concealment is largely about wardrobe. Common sense would tell us that the more clothing the ambient temperature demands that we wear, the easier it should be to conceal guns. There’s some truth to that, but it overlooks the fact that heavy winter garb can also restrict range of movement, making certain techniques more difficult. It also ignores the fact that the more clothing you’re wearing to cover the gun, the more clothing you have to get out of the way to bring that gun into action in an emergency. Let’s look at some practical elements of this topic that a lot of folks seem to have missed.

Cold Weather Guns

I lived most of my life in Northern New England, which can become a bitter, frozen wasteland in the depths of its long winters. It taught me a few things about concealed carry when bundled up like the Michelin Tire Man.

I learned early on that double-action revolvers are not very compatible with gloves, particularly the thick-fingered ones you have to wear when outdoors for any length of time in truly arctic temperatures. The first shot will go off fine, but the thick glove material may prevent the trigger from returning all the way forward. This will prevent it from firing again. Turning your six-shooter into a single-shot is a very real concern, and because so many people don’t want to shoot outdoors in bitterly cold weather, a scary number of them have never discovered that this very real concern exists.

Another thing to watch out for is very small triggerguards in single-action autos, such as the 1911. It’s not that the trigger won’t return, so much as that the unfeeling glove material can fill the triggerguard so much that it begins to exert rearward pressure on the trigger without the shooter’s index finger feeling it. That can be a prescription for disaster. We all like to say that we’ll keep our finger out of the triggerguard until we’re in the act of intentionally firing, but anyone can make a mistake, and our practice shooting itself has habituated us to have the finger inside the guard.

Traditional double-action autos with long, spacious triggerguards and a design that keeps the trigger to the rear after the first shot is fired, work well in winter. Once the shooting is done, the trigger finger leaves the guard and the thumb activates the decocking lever. Another design that works remarkably well in deep winter weather is the Glock, thanks to its combination of Safe Action trigger system and large triggerguard. This pistol was designed as a European military weapon, remember, and that part of the world has a long history of military operations in frigid weather. Ski troops and all that. The Austrians know how to make winter handguns. Note that the Glock is the single most popular police service pistol in Alaska.

Remember that with gloves off, fingers quickly become numb with cold. With gloves on, the sense of touch is significantly reduced. This means that light trigger pulls are more likely to lend themselves to unintended discharges in this kind of weather than any other, all other things being equal. It’s one more reason to avoid “hair triggers,” and to consider Glock’s NY-1 trigger on that brand of pistol. It gives a firm resistance from the beginning of the pull, and is more easily felt when cold weather has impaired the sense of touch.

Cold Weather Calibers

Even a high-tech hollow point bullet expands from the inside outward, as resilient flesh pushes against the walls of its nose cavity. If that cavity plugs with inert material from heavy coats and thick insulated winter vests, any jacketed hollow point might fail to open, and turn into a ball round. We’ve known for about a century now that 9mm ball is a relatively impotent “manstopper,” but .45 ball is pretty good in that regard. That’s why for a very long time, I’ve made a point of carrying a .45, or at least a .40, in deep cold weather. Note that those Alaskan law enforcement agencies generally issue large caliber guns: the Glock 21 .45 is standard for Anchorage PD, and the Glock 22 in .40 is issued to Alaska State Troopers. Fifteen or sixteen years ago, all the New England state police agencies were carrying 9mms, but time taught them all to upgrade. Half of them now carry .40s (Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Vermont, all Sig Sauers); a third of them carry .45s (HKs in Maine, S&W M&Ps in New Hampshire), and one carries the high velocity .357 SIG (Rhode Island). I made a point of carrying a .45 every time I traveled to Alaska in winter, too.

There’s a common myth that ball rounds will work better against heavy clothing than jacketed hollow points. Untrue. The JHP may fail to expand, but if it does, it simply turns into flat-nosed ball, which is a better thing than round-nose ball. And, there’s no guarantee that the JHP won’t expand in flesh after passing through heavy clothing, only a decreased likelihood that it will. Besides, your defensive shooting may happen indoors against a lightly clad opponent, and then you’ll want the dynamic effect of the JHP working for your side of the fight.

Remember that night sights are more important than ever in the colder months. Even in Florida, there is the time change to consider. In winter, there’s simply more darkness, and it gets dark earlier, during times when most people are still out and about. Heck, if you’re wearing really heavy clothing, you can even conceal a hip holster with a pistol that’s already mounting a white light unit.

Pages: 1 2 3
Show Comments