Cold Weather CCW: Your Coat and Gloves Could Be a Problem

Carrying a concealed weapon year-round presents several challenges that we often overlook. One of those challenges is cold weather. One of the biggest traps we fall into when carrying a gun is the feeling of being safe. We all do it at some point because it’s hard to avoid. We feel a little safer, stronger, and ready to confront danger because we are armed. But feeling ready and actually being ready are two different things. How we dress in the winter can drastically change how ready we are for cold weather CCW.

CCW in cold weather.
Coats are needed in some weather, but this can cause issues getting to your gun quickly. [Photo: Jason Mosher]
Have you ever been bundled up with a thick coat and warm gloves when your cell phone starts ringing? I work in law enforcement, so I often find myself out in bad weather. If my keys, wallet, phone, or other items are in my pants pocket, it’s hard to get to them quickly. When it is cold, people wear multiple layers and gloves. Cold weather presents a challenge for CCW holders.

The answer isn’t to wear less clothing in cold weather, but there are some things you can do to stay ready even in a blizzard. This includes training in our cold-weather gear and being selective as to what clothing we wear. I wouldn’t say I like buying all my clothes around wearing a gun. But sometimes, you must be tactful with your selection if you want to stay ready to defend yourself. Here are some things to consider.

Cold Weather CCW: Where Does the Gun Fit In?

Most of the time, an IWB holster works great. It keeps the gun close to your side, tucked inside your pants, providing the most concealment. All you must do is pull your shirt up to grab the gun when needed. But have you tried pulling up your coat or multiple layers of clothing? I’m not saying you can’t do this, but it does get more complicated. Depending on how tight your clothes are or how heavy the coat is, getting to it fast takes practice. It doesn’t mean you have to go out and buy new clothing, but there are a couple of options.

Winter CCW carry.
If you wear multiple layers of clothing, an OWB holster may be easier to draw than an IWB holster. [Photo: Jason Mosher]
First is to practice drawing the weapon with a heavy coat, hoodie, or whatever you tend to wear when it’s cold in your area. If nothing gets in the way and you can draw the weapon without issue, then great, you’re all set. I can draw my CCW weapon with one hand when wearing a T-shirt. I slide my thumb under the shirt so it lifts my shirt out of the way as I grab the gun. But with a heavy coat on, this isn’t possible. To remedy this, I practice pulling my jacket up with my left hand so I can draw my gun with my right hand.

Another option is to wear an outside-the-waistband holster in the winter. This keeps the gun on the outside of most layers of clothing except for a coat. If your coat is unzipped, you can push it open as you draw the gun. If it’s zipped up, it’s easier to pull it above the gun than multiple layers and an IWB holster.

Should We Buy Clothing Just to Carry a Weapon?

You don’t have to buy clothing just for your gun, but sometimes, it makes life much easier. I carry a firearm anytime I leave the house, so I want clothing that makes it accessible and comfortable. Over the years, this has caused me to buy a variety of holsters and clothing for carrying guns. I often switch to a shoulder holster in the winter because it can be worn over any type of clothing. It’s also easy to reach inside of a bulky coat.

CCW vest.
This vest has a built-in holster, making it easy to draw a weapon. [Photo: Jason Mosher]
It does need to be unzipped halfway to draw the gun, but that’s part of the training. My wife bought me a vest this past Christmas with a built-in holster and a mag holder. I like my vest to be snug in cold weather, but that makes it harder to pull it up to reach a gun. I don’t think I’ve worn anything more comfortable, and my gun is easy to reach. A shoulder holster could also serve the same purpose if you don’t want to buy something just to carry a gun.

Once you decide how to carry, it’s important to train with those clothes and your firearm. Make sure you can easily reach your gun and draw it without any issues. Training doesn’t have to be on the range shooting live ammo, either. You can practice this at home and create muscle memory for better performance.

Can You Shoot with Your Gloves On?

Besides the coat and multiple layers of clothing, don’t forget about your gloves. It’s a small thing that’s easy to overlook but can lead to big problems. If you need to wear big, thick gloves, you may have to include pulling them off with your training. If you don’t train for it, there’s a good chance you will forget when things get bad. In a deadly incident, the last thing you want to do is try to draw a small gun with bulky gloves on.

Need some shooting gloves?
If you need to wear gloves because of the weather, make sure you can shoot with them or pull them off before drawing your weapon. [Photo: Jason Mosher]
Many companies make shooting gloves that allow you to handle a gun easily. However, these gloves are on the thinner side and may not be warm enough in extreme cold. This again goes back to having options available for different types of weather. Magpul, Mechanix, and other companies make some great gloves when it’s not extremely cold. But there could be times when you have no choice and bulky gloves are needed.

The best thing to do is train with any pair of gloves you may need to wear. Determine if you can efficiently draw your weapon, change mags, etc. If not, then practice pulling your glove off and drawing your weapon. You don’t have to be as fast as Superman, but smooth and effective is the goal. Do it enough to create muscle memory to get to your gun when needed.

Cold Weather CCW: Train, Train, and then Train Again

I mentioned that a gun can often give us a false sense of safety. Training can do the same thing. We go to the range, shoot our guns, and feel good about the results. But you can’t train one time and call it good. Shooting, carrying, and defending with a firearm requires constant work. Think of it like physical training/exercise. I have always remembered a specific quote from a health class I had in college: “If you don’t use it, you lose it.”

It was talking about your joints and muscles, but I think it also works great for firearms skills. When you train enough, you create good muscle memory. But you have to train regularly to keep your skills sharp. The point is, you don’t have to buy special clothes if you don’t want to. However, you do need to put just a little thought into what you are wearing and how you will defend yourself if needed.

Sheriff Jason Mosher is a law enforcement generalist instructor as well as a firearms and tactical weapons trainer. Jason graduated from the FBI-LEEDA (Law Enforcement Executive Development Association) and serves as a Sheriff for his day job. When he’s not working, he’s on the range, eating steak, or watching Yellowstone.

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