Winter CCW: Ready to Carry A Larger Handgun?

I’ve talked before about carrying different sizes of handguns depending on the weather and the clothes you wear to conceal them. Some people like to find one CCW gun and carry it year-round. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I live in an area that gets really hot in the summer and freezing cold in the winter. This creates a desire to carry different handguns throughout the year. The idea is to carry the largest gun possible (within reason) while concealing it.

Walther PDP - Need a CCW gun?
The winter months make it easier to carry a full-size weapon. [Photo: Jason Mosher]
It’s hard to conceal a full-size handgun if you’re going out wearing shorts and a tank top. A person’s size and build may also play a role in how well you can conceal a gun. If I’m wearing jeans and a t-shirt, I can’t conceal a Glock 17, M17, or full-size 1911. Even with an inside-the-waist holster, the handle of the gun can be seen under my shirt. And so, I resort to smaller compact guns in the summer.

But in the fall, I can start carrying a slightly larger gun because it cools off enough to wear a jacket, hoodie, or second-layer shirt. When winter hits, I can carry a full-size gun on an OWB (outside the waistband) holster and still conceal it. This is why I prefer cold weather when it comes to carrying a gun. With cold weather, there are more options for holsters and ways to carry them. Here are some of my favorite ones.

Outside-the-Waistband Holsters

These are your regular belt holsters. These could be duty holsters, leather belt-loop holsters, or paddle holsters. I wear pants that are just loose enough to fit a compact gun with an inside-the-waist holster. Trying to fit a full-size gun with an IWB holster doesn’t work for me. A leather pancake belt holster or a polymer auto-locking paddle holster is what I prefer. Unless your gun is a rare, hard-to-find model, there are going to be holsters available for it.

If you have a good holster, carrying a full-sized handgun can be comfortable. If it’s cold enough to keep your coat on while running errands, it’s easy to keep concealed. I often carry a Glock 19, Walther PDP, 1911, or a High Power during the winter. Leather pancake holsters with a thumb snap are nice because you can mold the holster to your gun. Leather also has a little more class than a plastic holster does.

Paddle holster for OWB carry.
Black Hawk Serpa Level II holster. [Photo: Jason Mosher]
But if you want something easy to get on and off without weaving your belt through it, there are options. A plastic paddle holster, like the Blackhawk Serpa paddle holster, is a great choice. It needs to be made for the gun you are carrying to fit right. But it holds the gun securely and is easy to get on and off. It also has an auto-lock feature so your gun locks in place as soon as you holster it.

Shoulder Holsters

I have used shoulder holsters for years and continue to wear them at work or off-duty in the winter. There are some benefits of a shoulder holster that other holsters don’t offer. The biggest one for me is the location. If I’m going to be sitting in a car for a while or at a desk all day, a shoulder holster is more comfortable. In the winter, a shoulder holster also has the advantage of concealing it under a coat.

Shoulder holsters. Galco horizontal and Craft vertical
The Galco horizontal shoulder holster (left) and the vertical shoulder holster by Craft Holsters (right) [Photo: Jason Mosher]
If you are wearing a heavy coat that is zipped up, pulling it up over a gun on your hip can be hard. With a shoulder holster, you can pull the zipper down on your coat and it’s right there. Shoulder holsters also make it easier to carry those really big guns if that’s what you like. I have a friend who bought a Desert Eagle, and he couldn’t stand the idea of never carrying such an expensive gun. A shoulder holster was about the only way he could make it work. It’s still too big of a gun to carry in my opinion.

If you decide to use a shoulder holster, make sure you get a good one. I like to use Galco and Craft Holsters. There are a few other good brands out there but stay away from cheap shoulder rigs. In my experience, they are uncomfortable and will break on you while out and about.

What guns do you like to carry?

I don’t want to get into the debate over capacity vs caliber. But I will say I carry both at times. A traditional 1911 doesn’t have a high capacity, but the .45 has great stopping power. A double stack .45 would be even better, but sometimes I need a gun that’s on the thin side and the 1911 is very thin. Over the years I have also grown to like the Walther PDP and carry one often in the winter. They have oversized trigger guards that work well with gloves.

Full size 9mm handguns.
Winter allows us to carry some of the larger guns. [Photo: Jason Mosher]
My CZ 75 is another classic I like to carry, and it works great on a belt or shoulder holster. The High Power is like the 1911 in size and carry. But it’s 9mm and holds 15 rounds if you want a higher capacity. If you are a revolver guy, the winter also provides more opportunities to carry a revolver. For the most part, we are limited to snub-nose revolvers for CCW. But in the winter, you can finally carry that full-sized wheel gun that begs to be let loose.

Have the upper hand

We could all give multiple reasons why carry or don’t carry a specific gun for self-defense. But sometimes we also just like to carry those cool classic guns that may not be feasible during other parts of the year. Those winter months make that possible, and fun. Extra ammo, a light, knife, and even a compact tourniquet are also easier to carry in the winter. We spend a lot of time setting up our go-bag or tactical vest. Setting up a winter coat can also be a great idea. Head out to the range with it and do some training. Be familiar with what items are in which pockets.

Whichever gun you decide to carry, find one that’s a little bigger than your micro-pocket gun because it will be a lot easier to use in a stressful situation. We hope the unthinkable never happens, but if it does, you want to be prepared. A full-sized gun with bigger and/or larger bullets may give you the advantage should you ever find yourself in need.

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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