Which Gun For Below Zero?


January 15, 2005, 07:06 PM
It's five below zero here right now. It got me thinking about what guns would work best in low temps.

My guess is that, without changing any lubes or doing any other prep, my Ruger Redhawk in .41 Magnum and the Mossberg 590 12 gauge would do best. Both are big bruisers without any pretense of sublety.

I was tempted to pick my M1 Garand, but remembered stories of them freezing up in the Korean War.

I don't know why a .45 auto or my BHP didn't come to mind, but they didn't.

Without any preparation, no graphite, no adding new wonder lubes, which of your guns do you think would work best in subzero temperatures?

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January 15, 2005, 07:13 PM
I wouldn't use a squirt gun, it would freeze up solid. Seriously though, I don't know what firearm would function well in sub-zero temperatures. Waiting to find out...

January 15, 2005, 07:16 PM

It's been in the -30's recently here in Montana. Been colder in the Dakota's I'm given to understand.

I'm sorry, but proper lubrication can make it or break it in sub-zero weather. If you don't wish to choose what's gonna work, well that's your choice. Me, I'm sticking to Tri-Flow. It's a Teflon base lube that will accomodate far larger temperature swings than most petroleum lubricants can.

Waterfowl hunter's around here seem to love the stuff because their semi-autos go bang/bang, insteada bwanng - - bwanng when the temperature drops.

Hmmm, I think I might go looking for the applicable U.S. Army manual concerning firearms care in cold weather. See what they have to say.


M2 Carbine
January 15, 2005, 07:32 PM
The Makarov does fine.

I lubed this one with about three times more grease than was necessary and left it (loaded) in the freezer for 24 hours.
I wondered if the grease would prevent it from operating properly.

The only problem was it was a little cold to hold while shooting. :)


January 15, 2005, 07:39 PM
My Makarov functions reliably in the cold. I use CLP to clean/lube it with.

Safe Shooting,

January 15, 2005, 07:41 PM
I would think that most Soviet designed firearms would work well in sub zero temperatures since they have some of the coldest inhabited territory on the face of the earth. Thats just my guess though since I have never fired one in that kind of weather. I have fire a M16A2 in below zero weather without any special lube in South Korea and I don't ever remember it malfunctioning. I don't think that getting just below the freezing temperature of water would have any real effect on most weapons.

January 15, 2005, 07:49 PM
If we're talking about Arctic cold, I wouldn't count on any of them to work without special preparations such as graphite lube. That kind of cold puts incredible stress on metal parts, they get brittle. Think of how stiff your car or truck gets in severe cold. Some mornings the seat actually takes a second before your weight compresses it!

January 15, 2005, 07:51 PM
Lee Enfields come to mind. I'm reminded of the story about the big city professional on the polar bear hunt in northern Canada with a Inuit guide who used a Lee Enfield. The doctor, carrying a high-dollar custom rifle with an equally expensive scope, asked the Inuit guide "why do you carry that peice of junk rifle?" and the guide said "this rifle was my grandfather's, then my father's, and then mine and it's never failed to fire; while to you this is a game, if I don't kill, my people don't eat." Time came for the doctor to make his kill and his scope fogged up and his rifle's action was frozen solid. The Enfield came through.

But, Mosin Nagants and K98k Mausers come to mind too.

January 15, 2005, 08:29 PM
Without any preparation, no graphite, no adding new wonder lubes, which of your guns do you think would work best in subzero temperatures?My Glock, of course! That polymer grip will be easier on my hand as well.

Double Maduro
January 15, 2005, 10:07 PM
I heard that one of the tricks of hunting/shooting in extreme cold is not to bring your weapon inside. The warm moist air inside condenses on the cold gun and when you take it back out will freeze.

I have hunted elk and deer with my springfield 03a3 in subzero temps. Fired qualification with the M14 in freezing rain. Used several of my Rugers, MkII, 22/45, P90, while snow camping with the temp well below freezing, all with no problems.

Hunted ducks with an 870 and a Benelli Nova, hunted grouse with the 870 and a Winchester 101, and going back to my youth hunted rabbits with a single shot 20 in sub zero temps. I don't think I have ever had a firearm not work because of the cold. (Knocking on wood)

The biggest problem is moisture, keep it dry and you should have no problems.


January 15, 2005, 11:47 PM
This question is purely theoretical, I assure you. I'm not going out there until the wind stops rattling the house, the snow stops blowing past sideways, and the temp goes way above zero!

I still think the Redhawk and the 590 would be my best bets, if the driveway was two feet deep with snow, the hardware store had sold all the graphite to the road commission for the snowplows, and I had to shoot something outside right soon and didn't have time to relube a gun.

Someone mentioned single barrel shotguns. After my first post I thought of them too. The simpler and sturdier the better, I figure. Less parts to freeze together, or snap in the chill, eh?

January 16, 2005, 12:21 AM
Your best bet would be combat tupperware (Glock, H&K) for extreme weather. Any pump shottie should be OK.

Taurus 66
January 16, 2005, 01:03 AM
When the round is fired, it pretty much doesn't matter what gun you have. Things are going to move as they are designed to, and heat up as they should, so long as the weapon is in good condition. Accuracy is best with a cold barrel, but this is "1st shot only". Heated barrels slightly expand reducing overall the absolute highest effectiveness with succeeding rounds.

The only drawback I can pinpoint is the quality of propellant. If it is a poor quality and unsuitable for sub-zero temperatures, you're likely to discover this.

Brian Dale
January 16, 2005, 01:30 AM
M2 Carbine, you put your Mak in the freezer? Here in Wisconsin, that ain't cold. I bet that your Mak will do a lot better than just freezer temperatures. So will my Mosin-Nagant, I expect. M-Ns worked at Stalingrad, AFAIK.

I'll have to try my semiauto Remmy shotguns in the cold, just to see. I'll probably try different lubricants, but nothing too out-of-the-ordinary. So far, I haven't had any trouble with a cowboy pistol out there in the cold, but it wasn't all that cold when I was shooting (well above zero F.). I need a couple more weeks to get acclimated.

ACP230, I like your sense of aesthetics: "big bruisers without any pretense of sublety." :D

Matt G
January 16, 2005, 01:32 AM
Your lube really does make or break your gun in the cold.

Cleaned and properly lubed with dry lube or a wide-range teflon lube, I'd have no problem with my Kimber Stainless Classic 1911 in sub-zero.

While elk hunting in CO with my dad at a canyon mouth in a heavy snowstorm one day, I was mighty glad that my Sendero was stainless, due to all the precipitation landing on it while I waited for a bull. But when I got back to the jeep to drive back to our campsite and unloaded my rifle, I found three things: I couldn't take it off safety or lift the bolt until the rifle had warmed up in the car, and after finally unloading it, I couldn't snap it until it had warmed even further; my rifle was frozen solid! Temps were in the low 10's to 0's. I'm mildly surprised, with my luck, that I didn't have a massive 6X6 elk come trotting by at 30 yards while I stuggled to knock off the safety. (I would have had to have pistoled it, I guess. Oh wait-- then it would have been at 100 yards. :rolleyes: ) Moral: stainless or not, bolt action or not, keep your action out of the freezing precipitation!

Few people carry their pistols so openly that they're actually open to the weather in the winter. As a cop, I've carried my Kimber in the open (outside my jacket) for hours in the teens during sleet and snow, with only a retaining strap over the firing pin, but when I came in and cleared it to wipe it down, it function checked okay. (I notice that the carbon steel hammer's gotten a dark patina on it, where it was previously shiny silver-colored.) Days like those make me think wistfully of flap holsters.

January 16, 2005, 04:22 AM
Designed for ANY condition - the large triggerguard is fine for heavy gloves, as well...


January 16, 2005, 05:42 AM
This picture from a 1986 HK catalog points out the guns cold weather capability:

G3s have been used by the Norwegian Army for many years so it is safe to say they are reliable in very cold weather.

Honestly, most combat rifles of the past 75 years are reliable in cold weather with the right lube.

AK types are known to work well in the cold and the Garands that froze in Korea would probably be fine with a modern grease.

January 16, 2005, 10:03 AM
Another vote for the combat tupperware. Glocks are used by Alaskan agencies from the Arctic coast to the Aleutian chain in temperatures as low as -60F and slightly colder. As a former member of the 6th ID (Arctic Light) I've seen military small arms operate in temperatures as low as -50F with few malfunctions. Most of those were due to using blanks.
I've used my Daewoo K2 at -20F and caked with snow (had slung across my back riding a snowmobile) while chasing wolves and never had a malfunction with it. I've shot qual courses in sub zero temps with M-16's, M-9s, 1911s and Glocks without a hicup. Properly maintained pump shotguns don't know the difference between hot and cold weather.
Proper lube is the key. Break-Free CLP, Eeezox, Tetra, MPro-7 CLP and synthetics with low pour temperatures work fine in extreme cold.
Condensation caused by bringing a gun inside from the cold could give you problems, but this is easily fixed. If you are going to use it again in a short period of time, say a long weekend, just leave it out in the cold. Cold induced malfunctions occur when condensation forms and the gun is taken back outside and freezes. If you bring it in, place it near a heat source (not too hot) so it can warm up to room temperature or slightly warmer quickly minimizing condensation dwell time on the gun. When it warms up, field strip and wipe it down and run a couple of patches down the barrel.
CCW pieces are usually not affected even in extreme cold since they are covered and carried close to the body.


5 below you say? Why that's just an average nice day in Fairbanks. :D

Zeke Menuar
January 16, 2005, 11:14 AM
Don't deal with extreme temps here. Lots of rain.
For real cold I would pick my Yugo SKS. If I needed a high powered bolt action for cold weather I would get one of my 91/30's or one of the SMLE's.

And now for something completely different:

I remember an episode of "Tales of the Gun" where Charles Cutshaw was recalling how US soldiers actually took a leak on their M1 Garands to stop them from freezing up in extreme cold weather.


Jeff White
January 16, 2005, 01:10 PM
Any reliable firearm will function if it's properly lubed. Use just a touch of a real light oil. In the Army we used LAW (Lubricant Arctic Weather) in Alaska.

The key to keeping weapons functioning is keeping them the near the same temperature as the surrounding air. If you take them in and out of heated enclosures or carry them under your clothes close to your body, the natural condensation will freeze when you take them back outside. This can cause the action to lock up tight.

When you go into a heated area you need to let the weapon sweat, then wipe it down and relube so you don't run into the freezing problem when you go back outside.


January 16, 2005, 01:39 PM
Military guns are tested for functioning in the cold so pick one of them. The biggest problem in cold is condensation . This is why arctic cabins have two rooms, the first where you live is heated. The second , for equipment is un heated .A cold gun brought into a warm moist room will condense moisture . When brought outside that moisture will freeze , jamming the gun. Good gun oils are designed for about -30F. Use oil sparingly.

January 16, 2005, 02:26 PM
AK-47 works fine and doesnt jam.

Ala Dan
January 16, 2005, 03:21 PM
Greeting's All-

In sub freezing conditions I will take my beloved .45 ACP, SIG P220A.
It has never missed a beat; but then again, it hasn't had to operate in
extremely cold climates.

Best Wishes,
Ala Dan, N.R.A. Life Member

January 16, 2005, 04:09 PM
In sub zero conditions a good quality bolt action would be my choise. As always, what you are going to use it for it was matters. I do not lube my gun with anything, i wipe it completely dry before I take it out in zub-zero conditions, when I hunt or for polar bear protection.
As someone else stated it will be a good idea to leave the gun out in the cold, espacially if there are optics on it, if you plan to use it in the same conditions the next day.

As for my own experience after Norwegian army and home guard experience with the G3, I never realy thought about wheter it will function or not in cold weather, it always worked. Then again we wiped it completely dry, on the internal parts and very light film of oil on the outside.

With the MG-3 which we used, as they do not operate well whitout oil, we added denaturated spirit into to the oil. the colder it got, the more denaturated spirits got into them mix.


January 16, 2005, 05:20 PM
We pin shoot .22 this time of year. No brass to pick up and we can use the steel targets instead of real pins.......pull the string and they re-set, no having to run in the snow to get the pins.
I mention this because there were quite a few days last year when it was sub-zero while we were shooting. Yes, we did ask ourselves why we were doing it, but there we were. :rolleyes:
A S&W model 41 doesn't seem to like those temps, even after I've cleaned it and NOT lubricated it. Somtimes it just won't cycle.
OTOH, my GLock ran all morning on the ConTact range without a glitch. We're talking temps where you must be careful what metal you touch.... makes reloading interesting too!! Skeet gun works fine also, but that is an over/under.
Sometimes I think about what I am doing (seeing how I feel about the cold), but most times I really am enjoying myself enough not to notice.

January 16, 2005, 05:26 PM
I had 5 participants today in the ND Permit test that I give. We just finished shooting the proficiency test outside...and the temp is at -9. But, it is sunny and really not bad shooting weather since there was no wind.

All shooters passed. The gun's performance was interesting. Two were using Springfield 1911 MilSpec .45's; they performed fine in the cold. Two used Glocks...and of course worked fine; one had a really nice Browning Buckmark .22 (for the ND test you do not need to qualify with the gun you will carry.) The format is load 5, shoot 5; load 5 shoot 5. The first 5 were fine; but the cold must have caused a problem as the next five the slide would not cycle properly. Took quite a while to get the shots off. But, all worked out.

After all the paperwork was done, a few of us loaded up several magazines in the warmth of inside and then went back out and shot for about 30 minutes. My that is invigorating in the cold!

January 16, 2005, 05:43 PM
I've had some experience with guns in the cold, having lived in Canada's Northwest Territories for 35 years as well as serving a stint with the Canadian Army ( back when the C1 FAL, Sterling SMG and Browning Hipower were the issue weapons....all fine guns). During my time in the NWT I worked and lived in the bush and Barrens in tent camps year-round in temps into the sixty-below-zero range, although more-typical winter temperatures were in the -30 to -40 area. We worked and hunted on days where the temp was down to maybe -35, depending on the wind....below that was too miserable and dangerous.

As a genuine gun-nut, I used rifles and handguns of wildly varied sorts, including most of the common military rifles and bolt-action sporters. I used NO LUBE WHATSOEVER for best results. Once a rifle was cold, it stayed cold until the need for it was over. If it's necessary to bring the rifle into the warm living quarters, keep it in a case to allow it to warm gradually to room temperature, and the condensation will be greatly reduced due to limited contact with the warm, high-humidity air.

I normally keep large-capacity mags loaded only to 90% capacity for long-term (loaded) service, but on one occasion I had some 40-round Sterling-made steel mags for my 5.56mm AR-180 rifles and wanted to give them a sort of "endurance test". Loading a full forty rounds into each of two mags, I left them in that condition for six months. On a brisk -40 morning I placed a bone-dry unlubed AR-180 on the hood of a truck to cold-soak for several hours along with two of the loaded mags. Result: the rifle gobbled up all 80 rounds with perfect function.

For the very limited number of rounds which are likely to be needed, I didn't worry about the miniscule amount of "wear" inflicted on my non-lubricated Garands, FALs or (REAL) M-14s. Even the M-1 carbine with its limited mass of moving parts works fine like this. Bolt actions just need complete lube removal from the INSIDE of the bolt and the trigger, as well as the receiver, to be reliable in the cold.

As mentioned here earlier, handguns were carried under clothing where body heat keeps them functional, and also free of "condensation", since the gun was warm enough to prevent the formation of moisture. I degreased them too, in case the gun had to be exposed for more than a few minutes.

I must say that I do NOT miss the extreme cold.....Nevada is a whole lot kinder to my aging bones.

January 17, 2005, 02:08 AM
None too safe in my opinion... and nothign to do with lubrication. Extra credit for those of you who already know what this is.

January 17, 2005, 02:15 AM
Cold weather trigger for a M1 Grand

January 17, 2005, 05:12 PM
My experiences in Alaska have draw me towards firearms with fewer parts and lots of slop. Deep cold isn't as big a problem in my experience as freezing rain conditions. I'd go with the AK-47 action for semis or the Mauser or Mosin action for bolts. Very simple, few moving parts, lots of steel and wood. I'd stay away from plastic guns. I would also think simple blow-back semis would perform well. For lube, less is more. I avoid all grease, as it tends to gum up in the deep cold. Instead I use CLP, which does just fine in all temps and doesn't leave enough film to get cloggy.

January 17, 2005, 07:51 PM

That's a link for the above picture of the frozen HK USP.

That website discusses a lot of the testing that has been done on the USP. I am confident that it is one of the better choices for any environment, and will, at the very least, function reliably.

January 17, 2005, 08:52 PM
I live in the South ...it does get below freezing here. Granted not to the extremes some of you are exposed to.

I am a big believer in Zippo Lighter Fluid. Degreased many a firing pin. The tin can doesn''t break in freezing temps like the plastic lighter fluid containers do...left in a duck blind for the next guy who has a gun go "click" instead of "bang".

Nylon 66 , always worked, no lube needed. Ditto for the Marlin 60 .

Bolt and lever action rifles worked, as did pump shotguns.

I did heed the warning mete and others pointed out, "cold rooms" , leaving the guns outside, etc.

Didn't have the fancy lubes or spray cans so popular back growing up. Not as concerned with wear as I was the gun going bang. Lubed many a gun with lighter fluid only - or the faintest film of ATF.

January 18, 2005, 06:50 AM
In extreme cold, would an auto be more reliable than a revolver? I would think so, since it seems that the cylinder could freeze up more easily than a slide.

What say?

January 18, 2005, 07:48 AM
Ask the folks from Minnesota since it was -54 F there yesterday !!!!

January 18, 2005, 10:47 AM
I don't think our Temp gauges go that low here in AR. :p

I think I'd just have sit on the stove, amidst the logs in the fireplace or something...Brrr...just thinking about that much cold.

January 18, 2005, 11:14 AM
If I remember correctly, Chuch Taylor did some extreme cold weather handgun testing several years back, with a variety of handguns. As I recall, the test involved shooting until empty, then dropping the gun in a snow bank. Three guns passed: Smith Model 27, Colt 1911-A1, Glock 17.

Personally, my cold weather gun varies a bit, depending upon the gloves I'm wearing. When it is really cold, and I have on the heavy gloves, I like my Sig Sauer 239. It's got the biggest trigger guard among my guns.

January 18, 2005, 11:18 AM
Any "sub-machinegun" should work. :rolleyes: :evil: :D

We don't hear that term much anymore.


January 18, 2005, 05:46 PM
IRC, the High-Power passed Chuck Taylor's cold weather test as well.

January 18, 2005, 06:10 PM
We had -6F here on December 24th. An old Army buddy home on leave came over and brought his WWII Ithaca 1911A1 and a G19. I took my Colt Officer's ACP and we headed outdoors with 300 rounds of ball and 230g lrn. Outside temp was 0 when we were finished shooting. Had no problems at all. The Ithaca was lubed with Rem Oil, and just for grins, I had the Officer's ACP lubed with old-fashioned Hoppe's gun oil. By the way, the Glock performed 100% too through the 100rds we fired. No real surprise there. The interesting thing was how well the guns performed without using any of the modern "super lubes" like FP-10, Militec, or TW-25.

January 18, 2005, 06:40 PM
M2 Carbine:

What brand of grease did you use? I've read accounts of people who say their greased pistols wouldn't function because the grease got so viscous in the cold the slide would just stay back.

I've been using TW-25B from Mil-Comm. It says the temperature range is -90 to 450 degrees F -- I guess I should test it out sometime with the freezer. :cool:

January 19, 2005, 01:49 PM
Updated: 8:54 AM AKST on January 19, 2005
Observed at Willow, Alaska (History)
Elevation: 220 ft / 67 m
-33 °F / -36 °C

Looks like its time to do some more testing :D

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