Winter is starting to nose under the tent. A few mornings below freezing, dark clouds tending towards “snow clouds”, a slow but steady drop in daily highs. I even broke out the leather flight jacket this week. Seasons are about to change and, with that, so is my range sessions.
Winter wear for me typically is an Underarmor T-shirt, some kind of polo or heavy knit shirt and my leather flight jacket. Really cold days may see a switch to a Columbia multi-layer system, but that is typically during sub-zero period of winter and usually lasts a month at the most. What does this mean – other than bulking up a bit when leaving the house? It means more crap to clear out of the way when you draw from concealment.
If you read my post on “The Draw”, you know I promote what I call the “grasp and clear”. Put the 4-fingers of your dominant hand under ALL the garments that cover your concealed weapon. Grasp them firmly, firmly drag ALL of them well above your weapon’s grip, pin them up by forcing your thumb into your side, drive your hand down and firmly grip your weapon, draw, rotate and engage as required. It is the process of “grasp and clear” that needs your effort during this transition to more clothing. It can be accomplished through dry-fire or range time, but it must be done.
The advantage to range time is that it lets your body adapt to the cold and let’s you notice where you need attention. Feet cold? Hands? Can your function well with cold hands? I avoid gloves when handling weapons like the plague, I simply do not feel comfortable with them. And yes, I have spent a range day with wind chills in the –20s with out gloves – suck it up.
So I worked through my typical drills with both the Ruger 22/45 and my Glock 17. As I have stated before my benchmark is 80% or higher combat effective hits – rounds within the silhouette. Today’s result? down 6 for 80 rounds with the Ruger with 20 rounds each at 15ft, 21ft, 30ft and 50ft. or 92.5%. I’ll take it. The Glock 17 went 100 rounds with 20 rounds each at 15ft, 21ft, 30ft, 50ft, and a repeat at 15ft with a Roger Phelps exercise called “The Zipper”. I was 12 down for 100 rounds or 88%. Again, I’ll take it. A couple things of note while doing these drills.
Today I had on my Underarmor T-Shirt, a 5.11 Shirt and my leather flight jacked zipped about half-way up. I carry at 4 o-clock and ran two 10-round magazines with each drill at each distance to force a mag change. With this much crap between you and your weapon, “firmness” is paramount. A “firm” grasp and a “firm” lift to clear all the garments is a must. A “firm” grip and draw is required to help clear the weapon along the outside of your garment bundle. Once clear, you need to be aware that a bit more space between body and weapon is required for the rotation. After that – rock and roll!!
My typical practice engagements run 2 to 4 rounds. I simply press the trigger “a few times” without really paying attention – my focus is on the threat. I do all of these exercises using Focal Point shooting – there is no aimed fire with the exception of sighting a bit more carefully at the 50ft distance simply because I would have time to do so. Once the 20 rounds are complete I reload the mags, load one into my weapon and reholster. (General note: YOU HAVE ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD TO REHOLSTER – TAKE YOUR FRICKIN’ TIME. YOU HAVE MUCH MORE CRAP TO DEAL WITH WEARING WINTER GEAR). After each draw and engagement, and at the end of the 20-round drill as well, I take the time to completely configure my clothing. My shirt is smoothed, my jacket adjusted to fully cover the weapon. Remember, even though you are drawing multiple times – you are practicing for that single draw and chances are your clothing will be fully “adjusted” at that time.
Today was really the first of the “winter” drills for me. There were some hang-ups with one going sideways enough I terminated the process, reholstered, re-adjusted my clothing and had another go at it. Again, given the amount of crap covering your weapon, it is all to easy to get snagged in layer upon layer of clothing and end up fighting your weapon and the draw – STOP!!! If you are spending more time fighting your clothing and less engaging the threat – reset to a dry-fire mode and work on it a bit more.
If you carry for personal protection, if you live in climes where exposure to air can easily freeze your skin, if you are about to begin to “layer up” – your range practice need to change as well. While your winter gear can keep you nice and warm . . . . failure to adapt and practice drawing your weapon from concealment can lead to a very, very cold and permanent permanent dirt nap.