by Annette DoerrBaby its cold outside! Winter seems to be in a holding pattern here in New York State and I am not sure it will EVER go away! Perhaps you are lucky enough to live in a more temperate part of the country, or if you are lucky, you may have access to an indoor range.
If you are a shooting addict like I am and you want to shoot even in the dead of winter, you are going to have to brave the elements and rough it a little! Heck, hunters do it all the time, so why not those of us who just want to keep up our marksmanship skills and just shoot? For those who compete, winter is the perfect time to get a jump on your fair-weathered competitors by working on your marksmanship skills all winter long!
Shooting can be more complicated in colder climates. Reflexes and fingers do not always work as fast as we would like (especially in bulky winter clothing). There are many items on the market that can make your day at the range a lot more comfortable this winter.
I like to plan my range time ahead of time so that I have a goal to work toward once I get there. Knowing what you want to accomplish before you get to the range can save some time, and making that plan from the warmth of your home is certainly a lot more comfortable. Load any magazines you may have (if it is legal to carry loaded magazines where you live), before you leave the warmth of your home. Odds are you will need to re-load at the range; having a magazine loader will save your fingers from the agony of doing so in the cold.
I happen to love disposable hand and toe warmers; we buy them by the case at my house. Between spending time with my horse, and shooting, I do tend to spend a lot of time outdoors even in the colder months. Those little air-activated packets stay warm for upwards of 7+ hours once opened. Kept in your pockets, you can grab and hold the hand warmers whenever you feel yourself losing manual dexterity in your fingers because of the cold. As the toe warmers have adhesive on one side, you can stick them to the bottom of your socks (up by your toes), before putting your boots on. Your toes will be toasty for hours. I know with me, if I can keep my fingers and toes warm, the rest of my body does not seem to mind the cold as much.
Have you seen the heated jackets that came out a few years ago? They make them with rechargeable heat sources placed throughout the jacket, which keeps you nice and toasty while out in the elements. They can be pricey, but I love the concept! Keeping it on the cheap (because I love to save money), you can strategically place a few of those semi-adhesive heat patches available in pharmacies, and they will keep your core nice and warm. Pick up a few boxes whenever you see them on sale throughout the year and you will be ready to go when you need them.
I recently purchased a pair of “mechanics gloves” to shoot with. Several of my friends have been using them for a while and love them. Because they are designed to be used by mechanics who need good dexterity of their fingers while working, they seem to work well for shooting. Depending on the brand, they also have a varying amount of padding in the palms, which absorbs some recoil, and the amount of grip they offer is perfect. They are not insulated gloves but they are certainly better than wearing no gloves at all while on the range, especially on windy days. Fingerless gloves are another option, but my once my fingers freeze, I am done. If you haven’t yet tried on mechanics gloves, try on a pair next time you see some, and think about using them for shooting, you might just like what you feel.
It is entirely possible to enjoy shooting in colder weather. If you are working on tactical drills, you likely will not want to be bundled up like the Michelin Man or George Costanza in the puffy jacket, BUT if you feel like getting outdoors for a little “group therapy” there are some common sense ways to dress, to make your range day more enjoyable.
Layering your clothing helps to trap heat between your body and the other layers. Layering is also a bonus if the sun is out and the day starts to warm up while you are on the range. You can adjust accordingly without losing much time. It is a known fact that we lose a lot of heat through our heads, so do not forget to grab a hat on the way out. Make sure it is one that your hearing protection will go either over or under, but do cover your head, you will stay much warmer.
Get outdoors this winter and hit the range, the crisp fresh air will do you good! (And, you just may get a leg-up on your competition for next season!)