A lot of good lessons yesterday during our Practical Carbine Skills 1 class held at the Ontatio Rod & Gun Club hosted by Allstar Tactical. Temperatures and conditions varied greatly throughout the day from somewhat sunny and 36 degrees to near white out conditions and a low of 22 degrees by day end. Wind chill added to the lower temps although being surrounded by berms reduced that a bit. During debrief most agreed that training in the cold is something everyone should do once in a while. The cliche “If it ain’t raining, it ain’t training” is a bit overused in my opinion. While rain presents its own set of problems, cold rain, cold wind and snow present an even greater set of challenges to deal with. One big issue was the “bulkiness” of clothing such as coats and gloves and how they effected mounting, manipulation and firing of the carbine. Another observation was several guns acting kind of sluggish. I have heard from numerous sources that cold won’t have any effect on weapon lubricant. This may be true for the shooter going out hunting and firing maybe 1-5 rounds or a casual range day of target practice. However, after the first 200 rounds we observed guns that were well lubricated having cycling problems… something to consider and look into if you live or operate in colder environments.
Having watched the weather I had a good idea that conditions would be less than optimal so I picked up a few cold weather pieces of clothing to test out:
Headwear– – Smartwool Reversible Training Beanie Keeping warmth in the body with good head protection is essential. I like the smart wool training beanie because its not bulky like many winter beanies but still keep the head well insulated. Most thicker beanies tend to give me a headache after 9 hrs of continuous wear, with this one it isn’t an issue. Highly recommended.
Gloves – Mountain Hardwear Torsion Glove
– The Torsion glove worked great, not once were my hands or wrists cold. These gloves are also very form fitting to the hand so I didn’t have any loose material to get snagged in a mag well or on other pieces of gear. Highly recommended.
Base Layer– Icebreaker Tech T Lite Long Sleeve – I cannot say enough good things about Icebreakers gear. This is the second base layer I have purchased from them and without a doubt their merino wool is the most comfortable to wear directly against the skin. No itch, no irritation or discomfort, you forget its on. I cannot say this about other brands. A little pricey, yes, but it’s an item I find myself going to more and more during colder months so I have gotten my moneys worth. Highly recommended.
Mid Layer– Smartwool NTS Midweight Crew and
Smartwool Midweight Bottom – Smartwool is a well known base layer brand and they have a good reputation for a reason. While I am not a fan of wearing their tops as base layers, as mid layers they are perfect when worn over the Icebreaker Tech. Highly Recommended.
Top Layer/Shell– Outdoor Research Ferrosi Hoody – I picked this up this week and this class was its first test. The Ferrosi Hoody is extremely lightweight and very thin. It offers an excellent level of wind buffering and protection for being so minimalist. Not once did I feel the wind and being down on concrete and in the mud and snow didn’t touch the durable outer shell. It is simply a shell though and does not have a layer of insulation so not recommended as a stand alone winter garment. For what I used it for, as a top layer meant for wind and wet protection it is highly recommended.
Footwear- Smartwool socks and Lowa Zephyr Mids – Smartwool has some of the best cold weather socks out there although I will be testing some of the Darn Tough Boot Socks soon. Lowa Zephyrs have been my range boot for several years now. I have tried Salomons, Asolos and others but keep coming back to the Zephyrs as the best all around terrain and weather boot. Highly recommended.
Overall, I was very happy with this set up and will continue to test it. My goal was to avoid any type of bulky, puffy coat in lieu of multiple layers. In the past, those bulkier outer garments got in my way too much inhibiting my ability to move and manipulate my firearms. Being ready for any potential personal protection threat isn’t just about the shooting. It’s about mindset and having the ability to endure uncomfortable conditions and situations. It’s about training in varied conditions whenever possible and it’s about having the right gear that you can rely upon to give you an upper hand against those potential threats. Get out there, train, practice and test.