The hands sank deeper into the pockets of the jacket. Trying to find the warmth hidden somewhere inside and escaping the cold. This is the average person in central Illinois in bone chilling months of winter. Dressed in the stocking cap, scarf tight around the neck, big goose down jacket (doing the best imitation of Randy from the “Christmas story”), tying to keep Jack Frost at bay.
You then make you way to your vehicle, head down to keep the bone chilling wind away from your cheeks. You have to turn your head to see the lock for key to go in, because your hood keeps getting blown. Then you hear a faint dull thump then a scream, “HELP”! You turn and see a masked man tugging at a lady’s purse, as he repeatedly kicks her on the ground. Seeing you, he then begins to run toward you. You then access your personal protection, but wait the gloves and jacket, you can not get to them in 1.5 seconds, and then _ _ _ _!
Sounds like a nice piece out of literature, doesn’t it? This was not, but a real incident that was shared to me after a class. She described, “How I thought, I was ready”, and you could see the fear replay in her eyes. Not just fear of injury but fear of being helpless, as the man ran past her pushing her to the ground. Thank full, that she was without injury, and the other lady recovered fine, she vowed, “to not let that happen again”! Below, are some points to think about as you carry in these “Arctic” conditions.
Prevention begins at Home
Am sure you have heard this one before but this is so true around personal protection. Let’s start with “lube”. Your lubrication that you use on your firearm changes as the temperature changes (why motor oil is designed around 5wXX, the w is winter weight, and so it starts less viscous oil). So, are you going to be out in the “elements” for long period of time? If so, you may want to think of a better lubricate than normal carry. Around lubrication, we need to understand that we are going from cold to warm climates through out the day. Though it should not effect the cycle of operation of the firearm, this will cause more “sweating” of the firearm, which in turn, should be inspected/cleaned more often (at least once a week). Pay attention to your holster as well. Certain material of a holster will change with temperatures and/or screws might need to be tightened (one tip, take the screw out, roll in bar soap, then reinstall, will assist in keeping them tight).
If you have attended I.S.C.A.P.E. training, then you have heard this before. Practice before you leave the home! Find a safe place in safe direction, ensuring all items are clear and safe. Then place everything on that you will wear in the cold climate and practice. This is the time to see if you can access it. If not what can I change? What can I do to make it more efficient? You may have to change the location; you may have to change the clothing option. You will have to find what is correct for you in the garment situation. This is why we practice it, to ensure muscle memory as well as find any “issues” before they become “injuries”. A lifestyle change, yes.
“Layering” is more than just clothes
I am sure that you have heard about layering your garments to keep more warmth for survival. Well, survival doesn’t just stop with heat, but protection. As the temperature drops, we add layers, but that doesn’t mean we need to have all our tools on one “utility belt”. You will notice above I did not specifically mention firearms. As our personal protection plan has layered to the means of last resort, we can layer then on ourselves the same way. A set of car keys in our hand, a Kubaton in one coat pocket, helps diversify. What about having “pepper spray” in another pocket (does the cold affect it?). How about having a tactical pen, in a sleeve pocket, again options. Key thing is to have defensive item layered in different locations, layered with different access points. It does not help having cell phone, firearm, knife and “pepper spray” all on same side. Tip- A cell phone being carried in your “support” side pocket, allows you to call for assistance and still leave a hand for last resort access.
“Cold makes thing’s shrink”, like 21 feet.
I am sure that all C.C.L. holders have read about or heard this in there training (if not, look to more training in spring). As the Cold creeps in, it makes us naturally “hunker” down or “turtle” into our shell. Which in turn means what? Our Situation awareness drops dramatically as well as the ability to read “threat displays” of criminals. Which in-turn means we need to be to put extra effort in being in “condition Yellow” and keeping time/distance on our side. In today’s world rushing is a more common way of getting more done. But, as will all things, there comes a price. Your state of awareness drops and you become more susceptible and/or increase your chances of being a victim. Look at it as you are constantly driving your vehicle in state of rushing, the “I am late, just drive faster” syndrome. The statistics and odds are that you will either get a ticket and/or Lord forbid, you get in a serious car wreck. We need to “self-trigger” on the fact that being in a rushing state will not save us time, but in the end possibly cost us everything.
Look at it this way, we spend 3 season’s of our lives, going in and out of residents, vehicles and stores. Only one season do we stop and “glance” at the pavement to see if it is “slick” do we don’t get what? HURT! So, after we ensured that the walkway is safe and clear, wouldn’t it be just as easy to raise our gaze and “scan” to ensure nothing else to HURT us?
“Tis the Season”
A few more things that you must consider around these “cold” conditions. What percent of shooting’s happen in Low Light situations? The cold season means what also? Perhaps, less sunlight, more darkness (in Illinois). This is why having a flashlight and knowing how to use it comes into play. For many this time of year has us wearing things we don’t normally wear (not the pink nightmare bunny suit), gloves. Can you get to and/or manipulate the trigger with a gloved hand? Can you reload with gloved hands? Why are you wearing gloves anyway? Your hands are cold. What happens to dexterity with cold hands? Usually, less feeling of sensitive touch with our fingers. Would it be safe to say having a “Double-Action only” firearm be a little safer than that 4-5# trigger in cold weather? Think back to the “16” hours of tedious training you had for your Conceal Carry License. You should have been taught that you have a responsibility to keep firearms from whom? Unauthorized personnel, especially when legally carrying concealed. Earlier, I mentioned that we watch for the “slick” spot, to take time to “scan”. Well, what happens if we “hit” that spot and slip/fall? Will your holster retain your firearm, or will it “pop” out? If it does, we have not fulfilled our responsibility as Armed Citizen’s have we. Interesting fact, this author learned just the other day from a conversation with a living legend in this field. What type of holsters do Alaskan State Troopers carry? One with a quality thumb break retention device. Not just against criminals, but in the event they do take a tumble. Again, Lifestyle change right, have to always be thinking.
These are just a few points that I have scratched together to hopefully help you with the “Arctic” temperatures. I know as well as you, that there are more, but I am trying to keep this short and informative. I hope everyone has a great holiday and enjoy your precious time with family and friends. Stay warm, be aware and stay safe.
Todd R. Mendenhall
Todd R. Mendenhall