Winter Carry Considerations
Updated: Dec 15, 2020
Old Man Winter arrived in East Tennessee earlier this week with the season's first snowfall accompanied by below freezing temperatures. And with the change of season comes that time of year where I start wearing a couple more layers of garments to keep me warm for the next few months.
Having spent my adult life as a cop in Florida where i DIDN'T have to change my mode of carry due to extra layers of clothing (except for the occasional light jacket or sweater for the mild Florida winter season). But now living in Tennessee's four-season climate I found that I need to adapt my carry mode to accommodate extra garments during the Winter.
So, what does that mean? It means that wearing extra layers of garments can and will become barriers that hinder your being able to efficiently draw your weapon in the event you need it. If you (like me) carry IWB at the 3-4 o'clock position while wearing what many of us are typically wearing for the Winter months: a t-shirt, a button-down shirt on top of that, a hoodie, and a heavy overcoat (i.e. Carhartt, North Face, etc.) Now try drawing your weapon from its holster under four layers of garments... see what I mean? That my friends is a recipe for disaster in a situation where each second matters. So now that we have identified the problem, what are the solutions?
First, remember that you always have to dress around your EDC weapon of choice, whether you carry in shoulder rig, to an ankle rig, what you wear is part of the equation. Winter climate presents the special problem that you also have to dress to stay warm so here is what works for me; Soon as the weather dictates, I must wear multiple layers of clothing, I switch from my typical IWB mode of carry to an OWB mode. I have molded Kydex holsters for my weapon choice however leather rigs would work fine as well. It just has to be a holster that fits your specific weapon, making it secure and comfortable for you to wear on your strong-side hip at the 3-4 o'clock position which is where I have mine situated.
I rarely zip up my outer coat or jacket so that if I need to draw my weapon, I can just simply sweep the lower part of the jacket (that hangs over the weapon) out of the way in a very overt, deliberate manner with my strong hand, then drive my hand down hard onto my weapon to get my master grip, then begin the draw process.
I traditionally wear hoodies with zippers for the same reason stated above. But if you do wear a pullover type hoodie, just simply use your weak hand to pull the garment up passed your weapon, clearing it first before obtaining your master grip and start your draw stroke.
I also strongly recommend getting in some dry practice drawing your weapon from under the 3-4 layers of garments to tune up your muscle memory. About a half dozen practice draws is what I do before walking out the door. Remember muscle memory is a key factor to firearms training and draw stroke is a vital fundamental skill.
On alternative modes of carry, Ankle carry is a non-starter in the Winter months as bending over to draw from your ankle can be significantly more arduous with extra layers and a heavy coat on than what it is worth. And ankle rigs cannot be worn viably if you are wearing heavy work boots that rise above your ankles.
Shoulder holsters can be a viable mode of carry under a coat so long as you're not going anywhere that you might have to take you jacket off exposing your shoulder rig for everyone to see, making you the center of attention which is not what you want to do as a concealed weapon carrier. Carrying in a shoulder holster also requires a serious amount of dry practice to get your muscle memory accustomed to a vastly different mode of carry. You do not want to pat yourself down to find your weapon in bad situation.
I never recommend Pocket Carry for the inherent problems of having a firearm moving about in your pants pocket, good luck getting your weapon out in an armed encounter from a pants pocket that’s under two shirts, a hoodie, and a coat. I do not recommend coat pocket carry either, as losing your gun is a strong possibility. They can easily fall out of a coat pocket (not designed to have a firearm in) while you are sitting in your car, truck, or SUV, you exit your vehicle and enter someplace not even realizing your weapon is not even on you anymore. God forbid you need it only to realize then that it’s not even on you anymore. Yikes!
Remember Murphy's Law - if it can happen, it will happen.
Do not forget that placement of your spare magazine is as important as your weapon, and that includes being able to quickly access and draw your magazine. I recommend not carrying your spare mag in your coat pocket or in your pants pocket under your coat. Spare mags should be carried in a mag holder on your weak side hip. If you choose to carry a third mag there is nothing wrong with placing it behind your weapon on your strong side in order to give you some options in the event you have to do a one-handed reload or an immediate action manipulation. Have your spare mag staged on you where you can retrieve it expeditiously.
To sum it up, wearing multiple layers of garments that force you to have to make too many motions just to find, get to, and get a grip on your firearm so you can draw without snagging it on the garments your wearing is an element of carrying you must give serious thought to BEFORE you find yourself in an armed encounter, because they tend to happen in the blink of an eye... and it is on you to be prepared for it when it does.
Train like you fight - Fight like you train, and Merry Christmas ~ Shark