By Rick Ector
Should The “Polar Vortex” Influence How You Carry Your Handgun?
Detroit, Michigan – -(Ammoland.com)- Carrying a firearm in cold weather often does not get the attention it definitely deserves. For one, it's a topic that is only relevant for people who live in the cold climate states of our country. Toss in the fact that winter only lasts a few months, and it is easy to see how this topic can be overlooked by the media that serves the gun-owning and gun-carrying community.
Personally, this topic has come to the top-of-mind lately because my state – Michigan – has been hit a few times already this winter season with the dreaded “Polar Vortex.” In a nutshell, this condition is when very cold and arctic weather conditions drop down geographically from Canada into our area of the country – the Midwest. As a result, we have seen heavy snowfall and sub-zero temperatures.
There was a period about a week or so ago when our high temperatures – in Detroit and the surrounding suburbs – for a few days were sub-zero degrees Fahrenheit AND the low temperature for one of those days measured in at a negative forty degrees Fahrenheit when you factored in the wind chill.
Do You Really Have To Choose Between Safety and Comfort?
It would only be too easy for me to let the discussion of absolutely dreadful weather conditions preempt a much needed discussion about why people in my community carry firearms. Crime is a pervasive and persistent issue here.
There is hardly a day when a local newscast informs the citizenry on the newest atrocities that were committed: homicides, rapes, abductions, shootings, carjackings, and home-invasions. The irony, as I see it, is that crime has not taken any days off during this current brutal winter season which already has broken the all-time record for snow-fall.
It seems as though that the bad guys have already quickly adapted to the environmental conditions or they just stubbornly refuse to be slowed down by Mother Nature. In that vein, I am suggesting that good Americans who legally carry firearms for personal protection must also adapt if they are to remain both warm and safe.
Addressing Your Hands Is The First Order Of Business
The first item to be addressed is the hands of the gun owner. Should he wear gloves or do without them altogether to preserve his ability to properly handle and operate his firearm? Forgoing gloves in arctic temperatures for a prolonged period of time may compromise health and performance. If cold weather exposure can be guaranteed to exist for only brief periods of time, this can be the solution – no gloves at all.
Alternatively, a gun carrying citizen needing to endure longer exposure times in the cold may wish to explore a variety of gloves to see if another solution can be found. Options include regular insulated gloves with the fingers cut off, mechanic's gloves, or special “tactical” gloves worn by law enforcement.
Obviously, one would need to practice drawing, handling, and operating their firearm with the gloves in a safe and controlled environment. Needless to say, an operator needs to at least be sure he can get his finger into the trigger guard cleanly and not negligently pull the trigger when he didn't intend to do so.
Not Being Able To Draw Your Gun Is Tantamount To Not Having One
The next item to be addressed is the issue of being able to quickly access your firearm when it is needed. By definition, cold weather implies that the gun carrier will most likely be wearing a lot of layers to keep warm. Methods and modes of carry typically done during warm weather will not prove useful or practical during very cold temperatures.
The overall consideration or point to be made is that if you can't get to your gun when you need it most – during a violent attack – then on a functional level you are no different than someone who does not carry a firearm at all. You can become a victim by default.
Openly carrying a firearm on your waist outside of your coat or on your leg in a tactical rig is obviously a great solution for ease of access, regardless of the season. However, many people are not quite ready to take the plunge into this truly alternative lifestyle despite its legality in Michigan. I am mindful that handgun open carry is not legal in all states. Please follow your local laws on this matter.
Perceived drawbacks of this manner of carry are unfounded rumors of being shot on sight by bad guys instead of the gun having a much more likely deterrent effect of subtly convincing criminals to ply their trade elsewhere and acquiring the unwanted attention by the general public and law enforcement officers in the area.
One thing to keep in mind when open carrying in very cold temperatures is that your firearm could jam if the lubricant in it was not formulated to work under sub-zero temperatures. Some oils can harden and gel. Accordingly, you should check the specifications of the oil you are using and change it if necessary.
Alternative Methods of Carry Should Be Explored
Another cold weather fast access solution is to wear enough layers of clothing such that you can be reasonably warm if you leave your outer garment unfastened. By leaving your coat open, you can still have ready access to your concealed firearm at your preferred on-body location. This option obviously allows you to have the benefit of your prior firearm access training at your disposal without having to learn another method of drawing a handgun.
Other modes of fast access carry in cold weather also include carrying a firearm in your coat or outer garment pocket, carrying a firearm in your front pants pocket, or carrying a firearm in your rear back pocket. Unlike open carry which does not limit your firearm options, the type, size, and caliber of firearm you will be able to carry in these other locations will be limited by the amount of space you have in the respective pocket.
If you elect to use any of these other suggested carry locations, it is strongly endorsed that you always use a holster. There are holsters available to accommodate each and every one of the above modes of carrying.
Not using a holster can lead to a dangerous mishap which could result in the unintentional damage of property, injury, or death to yourself or another person. If someone gets shot by your firearm, it should be because you were justified under Michigan law to shoot them and that you made the conscious decision to pull the trigger.
Moreover, you will need to practice drawing your firearm from your chosen location. If you will be wearing gloves, then they should also be used when training.
Carrying in Cold Weather Is Possible
Carrying a firearm in very cold conditions does present some challenges. Chiefly, you have to ensure that you are reasonable warm and comfortable while still ensuring that you can have fast access to your firearm.
Solutions available to you include open carrying, wearing enough layers to leave your jacket open, and exploring additional locations on your body to carry your gun. Whatever option you choose, please ensure your success by practicing and taking the appropriate safety equipment precautions.
About The Author
Rick Ector is a National Rifle Association credentialed Firearms Trainer, who provides Michigan CCW Class training in Detroit for students at his firearms school – Rick’s Firearm Academy of Detroit.
Ector is a recognized expert in firearm safety and has been featured extensively in the national and local media: Associated Press, NRAnews, Gun Digest, The Politics Daily, Fox News Detroit, The Detroit News, Lock-N-Load Radio, WGPR and the UrbanShooterPodcast.