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Tips for Concealed Carry and Home-Defense in Winter

Switching to an OWB holster during the winter while you’re wearing a jacket to conceal it can speed up draw time significantly.
Ready to winterize your self-defense plans? Come in out of the cold and check out our best tips for winter concealed carry and home-defense.
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    Updated October 2023: Added new tips and photos.

    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. 

    5. Exercise Concealed Carry
    Train with the clothes you actually wear.

    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.

    Concealing a Big Gun

    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.

    Staccato C Concealed Carry

    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, 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.

    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.

    G48 CCW

    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 the gloves; just assume 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
    $56
    at Optics Planet

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Available Coupons

    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.

    Converse Shoes Jacki
    Love a good pair of Converse, but they’re not really Winter ready

    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.

    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 drawstroke 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?

    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?

    Womens Concealed Ankle Holster

    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.

    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.

    5.11 Eleanor pocket with M&P Shield
    We don’t mean 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.

    $39
    at Galco

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Available Coupons

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

    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.

    Womens Concealed Purse Carry

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

    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.

    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.

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

    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.

    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.

    Carjacking Distracted on Phone
    Being on your phone makes you a prime target.

    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 out of the cold. Be ready. 

    Final Thoughts

    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.

    Concealed Carry Draw
    Even with snow on the ground, you can still carry!

    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.

    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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