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Tips for Concealed Carry and Home-Defense in Winter

Concealed carry and home-defense presents a number of challenges, even in the simplest setting.

Where to carry on your body, what type of holster to use, how to refine your draw stroke, where to stage your gun…there’s a lot to consider. 

But what happens when your regular defense routine changes due to weather? 

Mossberg MC1 SC in the Snow
My Mossberg MC1SC has taken a few trips into snowdrifts during sub-zero temps. For science, of course.

All that practice and attention to detail has to shift because of the dropping temperatures.

We know it can be intimidating to navigate cold weather carry and home-defense, so we’re bringing you some tips and tricks that will up your self-defense game — even in freezing temps.

Table of Contents

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Back to the Basics

This might seem like a dull or redundant place to start, but there’s a reason we start at the beginning. 

A large number of gun owners who concealed carry do so with little to no practice.

If they do practice it’s at the range from the bench or low-ready at the firing line – holster work is a rarity – and typically at a low round count. 

Full Size OWB Carry with a Jacket
Switching to an OWB holster during the winter while you’re wearing a jacket to conceal it can speed up draw time significantly.

Hard truth: if you’re going to own a gun for self-defense, let alone carry one, you need proper training and consistent practice.

Self-defense is a perishable skill, so don’t slack off.

Even during ammo shortages or financial crunches, you can get a lot done with a single box of ammo and dry fire.

Dry fire is your best friend.

Trigger Reset Dry Fire
Look, ma, no ammo.

Spend time working from your holster. But not just any holster, the holster you plan to use for concealed carry.

If you normally wear a hoodie or untucked shirt, practice with in this wardrobe.

Train from the holster dressed the same way you intend to carry, otherwise, it doesn’t do you much good in real life. 

Be realistic about your abilities and start small. Nail down those foundational skills before moving on to more advanced work.

Most importantly, be consistent and don’t give up! Skills take time to build and maintain.

West Coast Cold

For the purposes of being thorough here’s a quick word on cold weather that isn’t really cold…such as in California. 

California beach
Yup, this is what California life is like, all year long.

Years of my life were spent in Southern California so I can confidently say living in mild climates makes carrying a great deal easier (we won’t get into the laws out there, though).

If your winters are mild and cold weather means long pants instead of shorts or the occasional lightweight hoodie, there will be far fewer challenges. 

Changing from shorts to long pants means nothing so long as you already use a sturdy gun belt and good quality retention holster. The length of your pants won’t affect that.

Kat with Revolver and Hoodie
Carrying a full-size gun when the weather cools down doesn’t mean becoming Dirty Harry.

If you add a hoodie or other cover garment to your usual t-shirt, take the time to practice drawing around it. 

That means learning to either lift the hem of your jacket or sweep it back, if it’s an open zippered top, in one smooth motion while drawing your firearm from concealment.

But, what if your outer garment is fancy with drawstrings, buckles, or bling?

Keep reading…

Drawstrings & Buckles, Oh My!

When you carry a gun to defend your life, wardrobe concessions come into play.

Odds are good that, at some point, you’ll draw from under a hoodie or lightweight jacket just to discover…it doesn’t work as planned.

I’ve had thin, zippered hoodies jump in my way while holstering, jam in inopportune and potentially dangerous locations, and even wrap around my wrist as I drew. 

Sometimes a particular garment doesn’t work for concealed carry out of the gate.

So what do you do?

can't put my arms down
You don’t want this in the way of your draw.

Try weighing down the draw-side pocket to make it cooperate when you swing the jacket back. Again your results will depend on the specific article of clothing.

Cut your drawstrings off when you can and watch for loose strings.

The same goes for pants, too. Any object that can get caught in the trigger guard or jammed in the holster is going to do so at the worst possible time.

Snow on Pine Needles
So pretty. So cold. So many layers of draw-inhibiting clothing?

Oh and ditch the long scarf that’s likely to get in your way – or be used as a noose by an assailant. Beware fringe and tassels that may trip up your gun hand.

At the end of the day, try clothing on before wandering into public carrying a gun with it. Don’t just assume or hope things will work out.

The Frozen North (and Other Places)

There are a lot of places in the country where cold weather carry is serious business.

During four years in Wisconsin, which I not-so-fondly refer to as the Frozen Cheese Tundra, I had to re-think my idea of cold weather and how to handle it as a gun owner. 

Layering

Snow Drifts and Trees
You see a winter wonderland, I see a frozen wasteland.

Best tip for sub-zero temps with several feet of snow: skip bulky, awkward layers.

Learn to layer in a streamlined yet warm manner.

Three or four lumpy layers of clothing, plus a long scarf complete with tassels, will leave you struggling to access your handgun. 

Wearing a long-sleeved, close-fitting thermal shirt with a fitted fleece and a jacket works much better.

Of course, there will be times you end up in clothing that is less than ideal. And in those situations, practice your draw stroke – and holstering.

Man Drawing Gun from appendix carry
Concealing a large firearm in cold weather clothing is much, much easier, but those layers can get in the way.

To Glove…or Not?

Another commonly added piece of clothing in cold weather is gloves.

If you wear gloves, does the thickness of the material prevent you from using your fingers well? Are they too bulky for the trigger guard or for you to operate the trigger? Do they severely impede your draw and grip? 

Kat with Gloves and a Pistol
Fingerless gloves may work well for you depending on just how cold it gets during the winter months.

We’re not saying get rid of hte gloves, just sssume you’re going to be drawing and firing your EDC with them on and adjust accordingly. 

Or spend the extra money on thinner, warm gloves that work well with your gun.

Every so often someone will tell you just not to wear gloves. Problem solved, right?

Wrong. 

Kat in a beanie with a pistol
Wear a warm beanie instead of letting a hood attached to your jacket obstruct your vision.

Freezing, stiff fingers aren’t going to do you much good.

All it takes is finding the right gloves.

Editor's Choice Shooting Glove
42
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

The Right Footwear

Finally, let’s talk footwear. What goes on your feet matters more than you may realize.

Just as flip-flops in summer can mess you up royally during an assault, shoes without good traction can ruin your life in winter.

I love my Converse sneakers but once it freezes outside they’re all but worthless.

Converse Sneakers
Maybe not the best for winter weather…

Instead, go for shoes or boots that assist you in staying upright during an attack. 

If you can’t walk normally without extreme care in your current shoes, they absolutely will not work if someone is hell-bent on hurting you.

150
at 5.11 Tactical

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Switch Up Positions

I’ve heard an instructor or two complain about unnecessary movements made by students while drawing their guns or holstering.

Whether it’s lifting a hip or shifting stance those small movements do indeed slow you down. However, when you’re dealing with extra-thick clothing and layers, you may need to find a way to move your body differently.

Sometimes you gotta take a knee.

It’s impossible to predict how you’ll be standing, sitting, or kneeling at the moment you need to draw your gun. 

Practice from different positions and find out what changes must be made to your draw stroke to make it work. Then figure out how to speed things up if at all possible.

Other Carry Methods

So we’ve covered belt-specific carry, but what about other methods of carry that aren’t on your belt?

We got the deets…

Ankle Carry

Ankle carry is never a wise choice for your main carry gun. But when it’s cold outside it becomes an even worse choice thanks to heavy, tall boots and slippery ice. 

What’s going to happen when you’re standing on a sheet of ice or in deep snow? Can you get to your gun at all?

Glock in a leather OWB holster
Your holster matters, always. A well-made gun belt and quality holster are a must for concealed carry success no matter what time of year it is.

Just because it worked for you somehow in the spring or summer doesn’t mean it’ll be okay in the dead of winter.

Pocket Carry

Pocket carry is a method chosen by a lot of gun owners for various reasons.

I try to avoid it, but sometimes it’s your only option.

Whether you feel pocket carry is significantly faster or easier when you’re in layers or you’re pregnant and flat-out can’t carry like you normally would, it might be the best fit for your needs.

Carrying handgun in back pocket
Yeah, let’s not do this…

Whatever the reason for pocket carry, do it correctly. Don’t just drop a naked gun in your pocket.

Use a good pocket holster such as those made by Recluse or Galco.

Stick to stiff leather or Kydex — not floppy nylon.

27
at Galco

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

And find a holster that fits snuggly. A well-fitting holster stays put…instead of escaping the pocket with your gun.

Also, practice!

Purse Carry

Let’s be honest…purse carry, and really any off-body carry, tends to be a bad idea.

Purses are stuffed full of junk and loose items rolling around that might end up in the barrel of the gun or stuck in the trigger guard.

Not to mention, you must keep your purse in your control at all times when there’s a gun in it.

gun in purse
Here for the bling, not so much the fishing around in your bag for your gun.

Putting your purse in your shopping cart and letting your attention wander? Nope.

Hanging it off the back of a chair at a busy restaurant? No way.

Leaving it on your friend’s kitchen counter? Don’t even think about it.

Dangling Purse
The purse will move, so know how.

With a gun inside, that purse equals a holster, so it stays on you at all times. 

And you’d better practice with it, too. Drawing from a purse is often slow, clumsy, and rife with problems.

If you do it, do it right.

Home-Defense

What does home-defense have to do with cold weather? More than you might think. 

While you likely don’t bundle up inside a snow castle (you’re not Elsa), there are hidden dangers that can impact your home-defense plan specific to winter months.

Elsa Frozen
Let it go, let it gooooo!

Inside

For instance, thick socks that slip and slide on a wood or linoleum floor. (Easy solution: socks with rubber grips on the bottom.)

Your home’s layout likely shifts as well with the addition of holiday decorations.

Practice maneuvering around your holiday set-up in daylight and dark, so you’re accustomed to the new floorplan.

Christmas Tree with Presents
Christmas tree changing the layout of your home? Will it hinder your home-defense plan? Better find out before it’s too late.

Also, consider what objects might give away your position to a home invader. 

Jingle bells on interior doors or heavy garlands with or without bells wrapped around a staircase alert intruders to your location within the house.

Cat in a Christmas Tree
Here’s an idea: attack cat in your Christmas tree. A home invader will never see it coming.

Now’s the time to consider the implications of decorations.

That doesn’t mean ditching all your holiday decor though. I love jingle bells on exterior doors. They are a cheap means of alerting you that something is amiss.

Outside

Though home-defense centers on the defense of you and your family inside, you can make improvements to the outside of your home to support your overall plan.

Keep the porch, driveway, and walkway free of snow and ice. Salt or sand, shovel, and make sure they remain passable.

Ice Fall
Don’t be this guy

A waiting assailant may use your slippery sidewalk against you. Or, if something happens inside the home, slippery conditions outside can make it tough for first responders to quickly help.

Keep in mind that out in public, walkways may not be as tidy. Aim to park in drier areas or, at the least, spots closer to the doorway of the business you’re visiting. 

Carjackings also see a spike in cold weather. Thieves notice a car running in the driveway, and take advantage of your focus on your phone or keys.

Call the Ambulance
Don’t forget to practice your witty one-liners!

Maintain situational awareness!

And always, have keys in your hand before you get to your vehicle.

When you’re exiting the vehicle, don’t let your guard down in your rush to get in out of the cold.

Be ready. 

Conclusion

As with everything gun-related, it all comes down to practice. Understand how your clothing interacts with your concealed carry gear and make adjustments if needed.

And definitely pay attention to your surroundings inside and outside of your house– no matter how uncomfortably frozen you feel.

By all means, keep carrying! Cold weather is no reason to go without your gun.

Kat with a full-size pistol
One big upside of cold weather is the ability to start carrying a full-size gun instead of the sub-compact you carry during summer months.

Do you have a plan for cold-weather carry or home-defense? Drop us a comment down below! Wanna learn more about concealed carry? Check out our favorite Concealed Carry Weapons!

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