Cold Weather Concealed Carry Tips

It's time to get your furnace ready for the winter months, and also time to get yourself ready for winter concealed carry.

That means rethinking how you draw from concealment. On cold winter days, you could be dealing with base layers, a heavy shirt, bulky jacket, and underneath it all your concealed gun.

Imagine digging for your firearm under all those layers, searching for the thing you need most, at a time when you need it fast.

Here's how I imagine it happening for me …

First, I grab the glove on my shooting hand by a finger or two with my teeth, then I pull my sweaty hand free. Next, I sweep my heavy winter jacket aside, if it is unzipped, or if zipped, I grab the jacket ripping it upward to expose my base layers. Either way, I need to continue digging to get to my firearm.

I reach back down and grab my base layers and rip them up above my firearm, then somehow with my nondominant hand I secure the jacket and base layers and draw my firearm with my dominant hand and bring it up, freeing it from my holster, rotating it towards the threat only to snag it in my jacket and base layers.

Thankfully, confused by what is occurring in front of him, the threat shifts his body weight, slips on the ice, hits his head on the concrete sidewalk knocking himself unconscious, giving me time to run away and call 911. Before I go, I mark the unconscious threat with a stick, because before help arrives, the threat will be covered in fresh snow.

It sounds like a scene from Home Alone, doesn't it?

All kidding aside, for many, that is the reality of drawing from concealment in winter months. However skilled we are drawing from concealment wearing a t-shirt or thin cover garment, drawing from concealment in heavy or layered winter clothes is a completely different skill set that can be developed only with practice, practice, and more practice.

Don’t panic. It can be done. Remember at some time in our past, after we learned the major components of a handgun (frame, barrel and action) we next had to learn the shooting fundamentals, which later enabled us to draw from concealment and put shots on target in under 2 seconds. What did it take? Practice, practice, and more practice. You developed the skills and had a blast practicing (pun intended).

Summertime muscle memory is lifting a t-shirt to expose our firearm and drawing from a holster. This is developed by consistent dry fire practice and time at the range. Once we add a winter jacket and a shirt or two to the equation, your draw and sequence will likely change significantly.

If the jacket is unzipped, the motion is to sweep it to the side and away from your firearm, then lift your shirt to access your firearm. Add another shirt to the scenario, and the motion is to sweep the jacket to the side and away from your firearm, then grab both shirts and lift them up to access your firearm.

We’ve now added an additional step, and we must practice in the same fashion we do during the summer months.

If the jacket is zipped, the motion is to lift your jacket and grab your shirt(s) as you lift. Be prepared and practice reaching back down to lift a shirt if you missed it on the way up the first time.

All it takes is a little practice, practice, and more practice. If the weather outside is frightful, stay inside and practice to make your draw delightful.

The nature of we humans is to stay warm when it’s cold, which is why we bury ourselves underneath layers of bulky clothes, with our hands in our pockets, chin pushed into our chest, head down staring at our feet, as we walk obliviously on our way. However warm we may be, our situational awareness is nonexistent.

If you want to make your winter draw a little easier, maybe it’s time for a wardrobe change.

Clothing has come a long way since we were kids and our mothers put empty bread bags on our feet in an attempt to keep us dry. Update your wardrobe with carrying concealed in mind. Replace your heavy winter clothing with thin cold weather clothing that is now available.

If you don’t shoot wearing gloves, then don’t wear gloves in the winter. If you prefer gloves, there is a large selection of gloves suitable for exercising your fine motors skills while at the same time keeping your hands warm. Go out and find gloves compatible with drawing from concealment and safely, accurately operating your firearm.

Health tip: having two pairs of the same gloves is a good idea. If you made it through life without eating lead-based paint chips, walking around all day with lead from bullets on your gloves isn’t the healthiest idea. Use one pair for practice and the other for wear.
Some folks are inclined to change holsters in the winter months, from Inside the Waistband (IWB) to Outside the Waistband (OWB).

Personally, I’m against that and here are my reasons why.

First, unless you’re practicing, practicing, and practicing drawing from the OWB holster, I don’t recommend carrying this way because it’s a different draw than from an IWB holster. I prefer to stick with one method the whole year round, so I can be assured to diminish any mistakes and inconsistencies that could result in malfunctions.

If you’re off by even a fraction of an inch when drawing, it could cost you a deadly second or two while you’re fumbling for your firearm.I believe in the same holster, the same gun, in the same location each day, every day, unless, that is not possible.

Second, concealed means concealed. If you’re at the store and reaching for your wallet or reaching for an item off the top shelf, you could inadvertently expose your firearm, and Dick’s Sporting Goods will go into lock down.

Some folks suggest switching from a compact to a full-sized firearm when the long jacket come out. Full sized firearms have longer grips and larger standard magazine capacities. Be careful if your state does not allow more than a 10-round magazine, or in the case of the SAFE act controlled New York, ridiculously more than 7 rounds. For some, full size guns are easier to shoot more accurately, but remember, practice, practice, practice.

Lastly, practice, practice, practice out in the cold. You will be surprised by your cold weather skills, but until you try, you won’t know how good or not so good you are. Knowing your skill level under less than optimal conditions is valuable. Not knowing won’t make you better prepared.

Dealing with cold hands, a runny nose, eyelashes freezing together, and a bright blinding reflection off the snow while shooting is a different experience, and it’s good to know how you react when it’s sub-freezing outside. Plus, winter outdoor practice is another opportunity to shoot more.

Stay warm these coming winter months, but mostly, stay safe. Or practice, practice, practice, and stay warm and safe.

Sean Maloney is a Criminal Defense Attorney practicing in all areas of firearm-related law, a multi-discipline firearms instructor, Leader and Legal Counsel with Buckeye Firearms Association, and co-founder of Second Call Defense.