As a cold rush of air hits my face as I leave on another chilly February morning, I’m reminded about how seasonality can affect carrying a concealed handgun. Here in Colorado this is particularly relevant because we can experience a 40 degree swing in temperature in the same day.
One day, I literally went from carrying a light-weight, single-stack 9mm, clipped to my gym shorts in the morning, to carrying a much larger pistol/holster combo underneath multiple clothing layers that night. When my clothing and activity allow me to carry a gun with larger capacity, I usually do. As I bundled up last evening before going out of the house, the last thing I did was practice a few holster draws – having to clear around a heavy and long winter coat. While many of us may be diligent enough to practice holster draws occasionally at home and while we are at the range, how often are you practicing getting at your gun when it’s underneath that bulky winter coat while you’ve got some fleece gloves on? This winter we’ve had frigid temperatures and heavy snow impact many parts of the country, so I know I’m not the only one who’s bundled up while carrying.
Getting quick access to your firearm through a jacket or coat may not always be that different from drawing while wearing an untucked shirt or sweatshirt. However, we must realize if we put a bulky or long coat on, our typical clear-and-draw technique may not go as smooth as we would like. If you haven’t already tried drawing your pistol from concealment while wearing a coat you frequently wear during the winter, now’s the time to do it! You may notice that your typical method of lifting a shorter/lighter jacket or shirt doesn’t work so well with your jacket. If your method is working fine, carry on.
Let’s say that you have an undershirt and a buttoned-up, un-tucked flannel shirt on underneath your coat. For starters, try to get your undershirt tucked in behind your holster – this will help keep that layer of clothing out of the way and give us one less layer to clear through. Things can be a lot easier if your coat is unzipped. In that case we can sweep our coat out of the way and then pull up our flannel to gain access to your pistol grip. There are a couple methods of doing this, just find something that works well for you and practice, practice, practice. I like to sweep the jacket with my firing hand, reach across with my support hand to the base of my shirt and then pull up with my support hand while my firing hand now moves to get a good purchase on my pistol.
Another layer of difficulty gets added in when your coat is zipped up, you can no longer sweep the coat to the side. Realize that your specific technique may alter depending on the size and fit of the coat. A looser fitting, zipped coat may be able to be cleared with just one hand, while a tighter fitting coat may take both hands to pull up in order for it to not cling to your body. A general technique that will usually work well regardless of your style of coat is to move both hands to the bottom part of your coat outside wherever it is you are carrying – if appendix carrying grab the front bottom part of jacket, if side carrying grab the side bottom part of jacket etc. Grab the bottom edge of your coat and pull up with both hands, hold with your firing hand while grabbing your untucked shirt with your support hand. At this point you can release your jacket with your firing hand and your support hand holding the shirt will also keep your jacket up. This will then allow your firing hand access to your firearm. Multiple steps may seem like a bit much at first, but if you practice repeatedly you will start to get the steps down in a smooth process. Like most other things, start very slow and focus on being smooth – then speed it up as you maintain fluidity.
Thick gloves of any sort add one more layer of complexity. The winter gloves we wear to keep hands warm while scrapping windshields aren’t the same as our shooting gloves. Don’t forget to practice shedding at least your firing hand glove or even both gloves. A quick throwing off of your gloves before reaching for your coat will be easier and faster than realizing you need to take a glove off after grabbing for your gun. Forget trying to retain your gloves, which could be a natural thing for you to want to do if you don’t practice this regularly.
The main point here is to get you to think about gaining access to your firearm no matter what your clothing is, and then to practice doing so. If you are the type that already does a few draws each day before you walk out the door, with the clothing that you are going to be wearing out the door, you are ahead of the game. For everyone else; realize that if the moment comes when you need to gain access to your pistol in a time-sensitive fashion, it’s not likely to happen in a quick, smooth, controlled fashion if you haven’t rehearsed it often.