Sunday, January 13, 2013

Cold Weather Shooting

Yesterday, I was an assistant instructor for a basic pistol class. While the classroom was heated and comfortable the range was outdoors and we are in full-blown winter. It was twenty degrees and windy. Getting out of the wind was tolerable if you were stomping your feet and well dressed for the cold but standing in the wind was a bit like getting hit in the face with ice cubes. Any exposed skin immediately started to sting, turn red, tingle and finally go numb. Or, in the case of hands, induced incredible shaking.

We instructors did our best to put our backs to the wind and stand between it and our students to shield them at least a little bit but it wasn't much use. If you were on the firing line you were going to wish you weren't.

My first student on the line didn't have anything for his head more substantial than a baseball cap and he had no gloves. Before he shot he needed to show me that he could safely manipulate his firearm and then take the required number of shots. By the time he was half-way through the manual of arms his hands began to shake, badly. I let him put his hands back in his pockets for a few moments and we went through the shots as quickly as we could. He had to stop a few times to put his hands in his pockets or cover his ears and face. To say he was miserable would be an understatement. He did very well considering the circumstances.

My next student was better prepared with a hat and a hood and thick leather working gloves. He got to the line and picked up the gun to show me he could operate it safely and couldn't operate it at all with his gloves on. While his gloves were ideal for working in a field or digging a ditch, they were too thick and too big for use operating a firearm. He had to take them off to operate anything but the slide and, like the first student, as soon as his hands were exposed to such cold they began to tremble. He did an amazing job of shooting through the tremble, however, and got one of the best groups I've ever seen in a first timer, cold or not.

This pattern repeated itself over and over again. Those who had gloves had thick winter gloves or even mittens that they had to take off in order to shoot. Many of them couldn't fit their gloved finger into the trigger guard, especially on the smaller baby 9mms and .380s that are popular in concealed carry. Those who didn't have gloves were so cold they could barely feel their flesh or had trouble operating their firearms because their hands began to get stiff and unfeeling.

Despite it all, they did very well and I'd love to see them all back on a warmer day.

As for myself, the only gloves I had were the cheap, knit gloves you can buy a pair of at WalMart for $1.

While my hands were chilly they were not ice-cold. The gloves protected me from the biting cold wind, but were thin enough for me to operate every gun well enough to demonstrate and shoot.

As far as the students I worked with, there was only one other young man--an avid hunter with well fit hunting gloves and a full-size XD--who had no problems with gloves and operating his firearm.

I had learned long ago that if you are going to carry in cold weather you need to address shooting and how that cold is going to effect your hands and shooting ability. I have shot many times with hands so cold I could not feel them. If forced to shoot without gloves, it's nice to know that until frozen stiff, my hands will still work enough to shoot. But I've also tried other types of gloves to the point where I'm willing to suffer a little cold for thinner gloves that fit well enough to not impede my operation of the gun.

I know there are shooting gloves out there that are quite pricey that likely work very well for most. I've given up trying them. Mostly because I have extremely short fingers which leave excess material at the top of the fingers of most gloves that can impede my ability to operate a firearm well. But I can buy 10 pair of knit gloves for $5 and stick them in all of the pockets of every coat I own as well as my purse and the diaper bag. And if they tear or I need to rip them off and get rid of them there is no real loss. They may not have a lot of gripping surface but that is what texturing and cocking serrations are for. I trust those features on my firearms and they've not let me down yet.

Think about the cold but don't over think it, either. If you can find a good pair of gloves that fit you well to wear there is no bulk or excess material, they may be a good investment. Or, if you're like me, you can go cheap and stuff your pockets with cheap gloves that will be there when you need them but won't get in your way.

1 comment:

  1. Hi! I'm reading back through your posts. Here from Smallest Minority, I think.
    Anyway, I wanted to mention that you can get gloves altered to fit. Very hard to find gloves that fit me (long, skinny, non-typical comparative length fingers). Years ago, when I rode and raced motorcycles, I found that a local custom leather suit shop could alter gloves to fit me. So, my suggestion would be to check with motorcycle leather shops first. Reason being that they understand the concept of gloves needing to enable the operator to manipulate things with precision, because your life can depend on it. Second choice would be someone who repairs leather clothing. BTW, keep in mind that Italian made gear quite often would fit me off the shelf, and Japanese, to some extent. (The rest of me tends to be a bit oddly proportioned, as well, at least compared to the average American)