February seems like a tough month. At least for my wife, it feels like. Me? I enjoy the freezing temperatures and the glory that it brings: the challenge, the adventure of being out in the woods when normal people refuse to venture out. Also, it’s prime woodcutting time, where I can get back into the swamps when the ground and water are frozen. If you are a person who shuts themselves in for the winter, there is inherent danger to that. Healthwise, we lack vitamin D from a lack of sunlight. People get depressed much more easily. Cabin fever sets in. But not for people like me. And not for predators, either.
Raccoons, foxes, hawks, coyote, minx, weasels, bobcats, feral cats…these are predators that are very active in the winter months. The cold drives up their calori usage, making them hungrier…the need to eat increases. While I live in the country where I have livestock to protect, these are serious threats. But they are not the danger to us humans. Humans have human predators and they are just as active in the winter than in the summer. Drug addictions don’t take the winter off. Crime doesn’t decrease in the winter. So neither should your guard.
Do you practice drawing with your winter coat on? Practice marksmanship with gloves on? If not, you are in for a world of hurt if the dawns breaks on the day you have to defend your life. Because a winter coat or a pair of gloves could very easily change a lot. Can you engage and disengage your safety with gloves on reliably? If you are confidant and said yes, I bet you don’t know just how hard it is to move that lever with a glove on.
I remember taking a CPL course years ago in the cold. I had light shooting gloves on. I had my favorite pistol I have ever owned: a Kimber Ultra Carry II. This pistol was a thing of beauty, Kimber makes some serious high quality firearms. That 3 inch barrel, in my hands, was more accurate than a Springfield M1911 with a 5 inch barrel, also in my hands. I was very well practiced with taking the external safety off and on while moving from high ready to ready and low ready to ready positions. There was a noticeable ease that the flaired lever popped into and out of position from the thousands of times I had practiced with it.
What I learned that day is that when I wore even light gloves, I had trouble getting the safety all the way on and all the way off. No matter how hard I tried, about 20% of the time it didn’t work. I worked at it for hours, too. At the end of the say, worn out from trying to make it work, I realized that this was a serious problem. My solution was to sell the Kimber and use the money to buy a Glock 19 and a Springfield XDS both. Yes, Kimbers are that expensive that a used Kimber costs more than 2 new high quality pistols combined. But, I digress.
I switched from a pistol with a manual safety to pistols with automatic safeties. Not everyone has to do that, though. But to overcome the obstacle that light gloves present, it will most likely, take a lot of training. Even more so with heavy gloves. If you think you will simply ditch the gloves and then draw, that also takes training…and if you didn’t train, you won’t do it. Simple as that. YouTube will show video after video that if a normal person has a can of soda in their hands that, when they draw, they don’t drop the can. They set it down. With some training, they switch hands. Only with a lot of training will they actually do what they thought they would do automatically: drop it.
A heavy coat can easily get your pistol entangled, or at least make reholstering problematic. When I teach my CPL classes in the winter, I make sure to be armed while on the range with my students. The first winter class, I had my usual OWB holster under a heavy coat. I went to reholster and thought it was in the holster and let go of the Glock. Right in front of my students, my pistol fell to the ground. Talk about embarrassing! I now make sure to use my drop leg holster during winter classes to avoid this from happening again. But, please let my mistake be a lesson that drawing and re-holstering certainly do change with each layer of clothing.
So when winter comes, train for winter. When Spring sets upon us, train for Spring. And Summer. And Autumn. Just don’t stop training. Seek instruction from other people, learn what you don’t know. Have someone observe and see what you don’t see. Remember the old combat proverb: complacency kills.