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  • Rowan

Best Winter Shooting Gear

Updated: Nov 13, 2023

With temperatures dropping and the snow starting to fall it can be harder and harder to get to the range. I recently took an 8 hour shooting class and it was hovering around 35*-40* all day with the occasional snow fall. Not surprisingly we were some of the only people at the range for most of the day.


While its great shooting in the beautiful sunshine, if you carry and train for self-defense nothing says you will only encounter threats on nice warm sunny days. Training in inclement weather is an important part of your skill set because you don't get to dictate when you might need to utilize your firearm.


Shooting in the cold and wet presents some different challenges but with the right equipment and mindset it should not stop you from training.



Layer Up


When it starts to get cold having a good layering system will allow you to shoot in any weather. Start with a warm base layer.

Merino wool makes a great option as even if you get wet from rain, snow, or sweat it will still keep you warm. Personally I also like the Columbia Omniheat products. They have a reflective layer inside that helps keep your heat in while staying light and moisture wicking.


Throw on a mid layer like a warm fleece, my go-to

is the Patagonia R1 Hoody. The R1 is expensive but super versatile. It is a favorite of climbers and I use it for shooting, backpacking, and any activities where I need to be able to move around without much bulk.


Pick an outer layer that is going to match the weather that day. Puffy down jackets are great for keeping you warm but make sure it is at least water resistant if there is going to be snow or drizzle

and try and stay away from the super bulky jackets as they will make drawing and manipulating your firearm difficult. I picked up a great jacket at Costco for only $30 or so that is plenty warm, water/snow resistant and not too bulky.


Have something available incase in really starts raining. Something that again isn't too bulky and preferably allows some ventilation in the form of pit zips to stop you from sweating. Staying dry in the cold is vital!


Headwear


Keeping your head warm will go a long way to keeping you comfortable. The old myth of losing 50%+ of your heat through your head isn't true but it does make a difference. Thankfully your ear protection should keep your ears warm. I find upgraded gel earcups are even better at keeping the cold and wind out. Finding something that will keep your head warm and not interfere will your ear protection can be a bit tricky. A slightly thinner watch cap or fleece beanie will keep you warm and shouldn't interfere too much with your ear protection. Just be careful whatever headwear you choose isn't breaking the seal of your ear protection and damaging your hearing. Having a fleece neck gator is a great addition as it will keep your neck warm but you can also pull it up over your mouth and nose to warm up between drills.


Gloves


The hardest part about shooting in the cold is keeping your hands warm. As your hands get colder and colder you will begin to lose fine motor control and manipulating your gun will become harder and harder. Finding a pair of gloves that provides enough warmth to shoot in but enough dexterity to safely handle a firearm is a challenge. I have tried many gloves and have yet to find something that gives me the dexterity I would like. The reality for me at least is that I will give up comfort for dexterity and either shoot with regular

Thin shooting gloves like a simple pair of Mechanix gloves or I will forgo gloves and use other means to keep my hands warm. At my most recent class temps were in the mid 30s and I shot all day with no gloves. I kept a pair of handwarmers in the my pockets and every time I wasn't shooting I had my hands tucked away warming up. Obviously this isn't practical outside of a training scenario so I would strongly suggest you train with gloves and get used to them. Train dryfire first with an unloaded gun to make sure you can safely operate it. It is easy to get a bad grip or get bulky gloves stuck on the trigger.


Footwear


Wear a good pair of warm socks and preferably insulated shoes or boots. Shooting generally doesn't involve a ton of moving (although it should!) and standing around on the cold ground or concrete can sap the heat out of you quickly.


Accessories


Some great cold weather accessories can help to keep you comfortable out at the range.


Hand/foot warmers - Throw some in your pockets and if you get cold feet you can get the toe warmers that go in your boots.



Propane heater - This can make a huge difference if you happen to have one you can bring to the range.

Having a source of warmth to defrost between drills is amazing.




Electric handwarmers - If you don't want to keep buying handwarmers you can get electric USB rechargeable handwarmers that will function the same way.


Hot drinks - Bringing a thermos of your hot beverage of choice is a great way to keep you warm and a little caffeine can help keep the edge off.


Firearms


Your guns should work just fine unless it gets well below freezing but you will notice a few quirks to cold weather shooting. Batteries die very quickly in the cold so bring spares for any optics, ear protection, or weapon lights. Red dot sites with open emitters can have issues in heavy rain or snow. If any water or snow happens to land on that laser emitter all you will see is a red smear and just having water on the lenses of your optic can make aiming more difficult.


Closed emitter designs mitigate this a bit but it is something to be aware of and to train around.


Metal gets very cold. This might seem obvious but there is a big difference


going from shooting a polymer framed pistol in the cold to something like a 1911 with metal grips. In below freezing temperature any exposed metal will be extremely uncomfortable to the touch. For rifles you will find handguards without and rail panels will quickly sap all the heat from your hands. All the more reason to get your gear out in the cold and see what works and what doesn't.


Get the right gear and there is no reason to not get out and train, no matter what the weather. Be prepared to use your equipment and skills when you need to, not just when it is convenient.


I look forward to seeing you all out at the range in the miserable weather!






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