TALKING TO STUDENTS ABOUT COLD WEATHER CARRY GEAR
Students who carry their concealed handgun on their waistline whether on the hip or in the appendix position need to know that the ability to quickly draw and shoot accurately with a concealed handgun may be critically important if a criminal offender is armed with a handgun, and that they are more likely to be attacked by assailants using hands, feet, and edged weapons than they are with handguns. What many students may not realize is that their presentation may be greatly impeded during cold weather if they are wearing a fully zippered or buttoned coat so as to stay warm. Are they going to be able to access a handgun quickly enough to save their life if it is buried under a closed overcoat and perhaps additional layers of clothing like a sweater or vest?
Coat pocket or trouser pocket carry is my preferred concealed carry method during cold weather in Texas. While the temperatures here are mostly moderate, we still experience our share of arctic cold fronts where the temperatures are well below freezing and both humidity and wind speeds are high. Successful pocket carry is based upon the correct combination of a small user-friendly pistol or revolver and an intelligently designed pocket holster. A proper pocket holster will stabilize the handgun when carried in the pocket so it does not move around in the pocket and fully covers the trigger-guard. Companies that make pocket holsters are Don Hulme, Galco, Sticky, DeSantis, and Simply Rugged. I currently use a pocket holsters DeSantis pocket holster for my Ruger LCR and S&W J-frame revolvers and a beautiful Simply Rugged holster made of ostrich hide for my Glock 42.
Handguns capable of being carried in one of these holsters will typically be small frame revolvers and subcompact autoloaders. Handguns that may be good choices would likely include pistols such as the Glock 42 and 43, the Sig 365 9mm and .380 ACP, and revolvers like the Colt Night Cobra, Ruger LCR, and Smith and Wesson J-frame enclosed hammer series such as 442 and 642. Revolvers that have exposed hammers are prone to snagging in the pocket when drawn, however, a gunsmith can grind off and polish the hammer spur in order to address this problem.
Most small semi-automatic pistols and revolvers are not as easy to shoot as well as the larger compact and full-size semi-automatic pistols and revolvers. This is especially true when it comes to small revolvers, which typically have heavier trigger pulls and recoil that many students would find unpleasant when loaded with anything but the lead wadcutters that are popular with target shooters. I have found my Glock 42 to be imminently shootable and surprisingly accurate. Probably my favorite “out of the box” small-frame revolvers are going to be the Ruger LCR in .327 Federal Magnum loaded with Magtech .32 S&W Long lead wadcutters and the S&W 442 Performance Center loaded with Black Hills .38 Special lead wadcutters.
It is not realistic to expect students to not wear gloves during cold weather, which makes selection of insulated gloves important. There needs to be enough room between the face of the trigger and the trigger guard to easily insert the trigger finger while wearing an insulated glove. I typically wear lightly insulated gloves in public and, if need be, I can keep hand warmers in my coat pocket. This allows me to keep my hands in my pocket during extended times in which I am outside and not around other people.
Regardless of the weather or time of year, I think running the students through a few shooting drills while wearing their insulated gloves is smart. Some students may be shocked to find that they are not able to shoot as well as they did while bare-handed. Much of this can be corrected by encouraging the students to firmly grip the buttstock of the handgun with both hands.
Another consideration is the size and location of the pockets on the winter coat as well as the pants. I find pocket carry with denim jeans awkward even when I am not wearing gloves. Pocket size can vary widely as can the location of the pocket opening. Some pockets in coats and jackets open at the top and some do on the side. Students need to find the best combination of handgun, holster, gloves, and coat pockets.
Students should be urged to engage in dry practice several times a week during the winter months in which they practice drawing the handgun and getting two hands on it safely. Otherwise, they may allow the support hand to get in front of the muzzle when drawing from what is definitely an unorthodox position.
Some students will find coat pocket carry problematic. In that case, pants pocket carry is an option. The biggest disadvantage to pants pocket carry that I see is that it is difficult to access the handgun when seated. I know some instructors that actually wear an ankle holster in addition to the holster carried in the pocket holster who will discretely transfer their small frame revolver to the ankle holster prior to being seated and then discretely return it to the pocket holster when they are ready to start standing or walking.
I would encourage students to not leave the larger handgun at home just because it is cold and they decided to use the pocket carry method. Whenever I pocket carry my Glock 42, I also carry my larger Glock 48 or 43X in an appendix holster. I think that there is always going to be a possibility that a violent criminal actor plying his or her trade on a cold winter day might think that I appear especially vulnerable if I am observed wearing a down jacket and gloves. Pocket carry might be the one thing that proves to that person that they may need to rethink some of the life choices they made in the past and perhaps get into a different business.