Winter is coming and just like postmen have their creed of "Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds" - the snow can’t get in the way of a legally armed citizen and his delivery of rounds from the magazine in case of danger.
The difference between summer and winter carry is not big, it’s thick. The layers of extra clothing that you have during harsh weather makes a difference in time and mobility that may affect your otherwise perfect and quick draw. Wearing the extra clothing is necessary and a 4.5 second slower draw time is better than hypothermia, but practice makes perfect and you can cut the time and be as fast as possible. There are easy steps on how to do so.
The Right Gun
It’s wise to have a gun and even wiser to have more guns. But do you have a winter and summer gun? Great if the answer is yes and read more if the answer is no. The main criteria is the size. Summer means for most people subcompacts, small guns, guns that can be concealed easily IWB under summer clothing. It’s easier to conceal a Ruger LCP .380 under a polo shirt than a 5” Colt 1911 .45 ACP.
In winter size doesn’t matter, the extra clothing allows for a better concealment. You can fire your favorite full size not only at the range but can carry it daily. The reason to have a bigger winter gun is that it is easier to access under heavy winter clothing. If you wear gloves in winter then the manipulation with a larger gun in your hands is much easier. So, when the temperature drops to really small numbers be sure to carry a really big gun.
The Right Clothing
You can’t avoid extra layers of clothing during winter unless you want to move to a warmer state. So the only balance that can be found here is practice. Simple. Grab your gun and your holster and dress up like you do when you go out in the winter. Then just practice drawing and reholstering your empty firearm hundreds of times. The drawback may be a couple of seconds between your summer / winter draw. Muscle memory is the most important thing here and once you get a hold of it you will be prepared to face a difficult situation under stress.
Don’t forget that winter and bad weather affect you not only in a way that you are cold, but also your mindset is different. This may affect an important part - situational awareness. If you think only about how to get inside your house to get away from the nasty snow you may lose awareness of the environment around you. That may turn out very grim. The best solution is to get used to it. Accept the fact that it’s cold and focus on more important things. The saying goes: there is no bad weather, there is only an unprepared person, so choose the clothing to protect you from cold and use your mind to protect yourself. While choosing clothing have in mind that your vision should not be obstructed by large caps or hoodies. Peripheral vision is important in self defense situations.
The important question with clothing is - gloves or no gloves. Bulky and big winter gloves will be a problem, there are solutions with thin and warm gloves but even if you have the best ones be sure to practice with them a lot. When under stress, you will definitely notice a change in how firm the grip of the gun is and how the gun feels in your hand and in a glove and if you are not prepared this may cause a lot of problems. So just practice as always.
The Right Holster
The last thing you need to take in mind. It’s important to have a proper holster for the different style of carry in winter. If you rock a IWB during the summer than winter may be not a perfect time to wear it too. The extra layers of clothing provide also extra layers of concealment and this can be beneficial. If you choose to have a full size under a large coat you can wear it in a shoulder holster. Keeping the zip or buttons a little loose on your chest can allow a faster draw.
Any form of OWB can be considered depending on your outer layer of clothing. If you have a coat that is not so long and you can draw it up then using a strong side holster is a fair choice. If the coat is longer you may want to switch to cross draw. Pocket holsters can be also an option with a small gun. The coat or jacket will prevent any trouble with the holster inside and the draw is fast and reliable. Try to avoid checking the gun under your coat because that easily gives away the fact that you are armed. Being comfortable having your gun tucked under layers of clothes needs practice and a calm mind.
Magazine pouches or fanny packs also depend on the length of you upper garment and can be used as an option, just be aware that if your are not wearing gloves your gun may be freezing cold.
The material of the holster is also important. Really low temperatures may cause Kydex or polymer holsters to change their retention a bit so be aware of this and re-adjust the holsters retention more often during winter. You can’t fight the bad guys if you don’t take physics in consideration.
Leather on the other hand may be a perfect solution, it’s not influenced by the spectrum of temperature as much as Kydex or polymer. Nylon holsters are probably the best solution material-wise, functionality depends on the gun and of course, on your preference.