Cold temps.


January 3, 2014, 03:43 AM
Running a High Power / F-Class match Sunday that's starting to look like it'll be a re-enactment of the Russian Winter of 1941....

Weather forecast a few days ago was 32F with partly cloudy. Yesterday it showed 26. This morning, 19. Now... it's showing a high of 10 degrees, snow, 25 MPH wind, and dropping...

You guys will get a chuckle out of what I sent the people on the notification list.

I will *probably* be the only one that shows up (which is fine, because I have some load development to do if no one shows for the match). But if not, I wanted to prepare them. :)

Accuweather shows 10 for a high sunday. 21MPH wind gusts. Snow. With a low of .. gasp.. MINUS 18. Yes, that's right. NEGATIVE 18.

The high is expected to be around midnight with the temp dropping all day. By the time sight in is done and the match starts at 1 PM the temp (current forecast) will be *4* degrees with a wind chill of -18F.

(By the time we're done and it's dark the temp will be 2 degrees with a windchill of -17.)

If you ARE crazy enough to come .. some advice. I shoot rifles in the winter, year round, so here's Trent's cold tips:

Clean ALL oil out of your firearms. Gun oil will solidify at these temperatures and your firearm will quit functioning.

DO NOT bring your gun in to the warm shoot house or a warm car. Condensation will form on all parts. Then when you take it back outside it will freeze up SOLID.

WIPE DOWN moving parts on your gun with a dry rag after shooting a relay (often). It will warm up, then as it cools, moisture will condense on the gun. Then when the gun cools fully, it will freeze up.

DO NOT touch bare metal with bare skin when it is subzero. You can freeze your skin to the gun, especially if you just pulled your clammy somewhat-sweaty hand out of a warm glove. (And definitely don't lick the damn thing, your tongue will stick to it).

COLD can become all you think about, when you are cold. This distracts you from what you really need to be concerned with at the moment - the lethal device in your hands. You have to be super-conscious of muzzle discipline and safety when it is this cold.

Cold fingers, or GLOVED fingers, can't work complicated equipment or feel things. Be ESPECIALLY wary of putting your finger on the trigger when you are cold. You will NOT feel the trigger, or feel how hard you are squeezing it. This can lead to negligent discharges. YOU MUST KEEP YOUR FINGER OFF THE TRIGGER AT ALL TIMES UNTIL YOUR SIGHTS ARE ON YOUR TARGET. More than EVER, you have to consciously do this. Because otherwise you WILL have a negligent discharge.

Your COAT is a CUSHION. Make sure you squeeze the rifle in to your shoulder with more force than normal. Especially if you have an automatic. Otherwise you might find that one shot you meant to fire turn in to a three round burst as the firearm rebounds off your coat, causing your finger to actuate the trigger accidentally.. and repeat a few times...

Things HURT more when you are cold. Be careful loading magazines, loading rifles, checking if they are clear. If you smack your hand, it will be REALLY damn painful. Meanwhile you have a (potentially loaded) lethal device in your hands that you are not paying attention to because you are jumping up and down cussing at yourself for being so stupid.

SHOOTING IS LESS FUN IN THE WINTER. It is far more uncomfortable. It is even painful at times. But it can still be done. And it can still be enjoyed, if you take the time to prepare yourself.

Two hours before the match, go sit outside with what you plan to wear to the match for 30 to 45 minutes. As parts of your body start to chill, take note. When you go inside add more clothing there (double up on socks, get a scarf/tshirt/balaclava to wrap your head, etc). I'll even double up on blue jeans on top of thermals when its real cold. It don't matter if you look liked a stuffed sausage, if you are warm and the other guy is freezing you'll be much happier than them.

Finally; BE SAFE. This sport is much more dangerous to humans, when the temps get this low. Accidents, negligent discharges, frostbite, hypothermia, slipping and falling with a gun, all of these things which are normally very manageable risks, can become elevated risks, when you are dealing with loaded firearms. Cold is a distraction, so keep yourself focused.

Take your time, and prepare, and you'll be fine.

You can stay home and be warm - or you can come out and learn how to survive harsh Illinois winters properly. (This shoot will focus more on winter rifle tactics than score, so we'll have fun too.)

If you enjoyed reading about "Cold temps." here in archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join today for the full version!
January 3, 2014, 05:37 AM
When the chance of rain gets to more than 50%, my local IDPA shoot gets cancelled. Not often but it happens in So. Cal.

Why in the world would you take your guns out in this weather to possibly do harm to them?

be safe

January 3, 2014, 07:35 AM
Good advice! If we avoided shooting just because it was a bit chilly, we'd spend half the year on the sofa. I get what you mean about the cold :) - a frozen thumb slipping and grazing across steel feed lips......ouch!

January 3, 2014, 08:09 AM
COLD... at steel challenge, we put the paint cans in coolers to keep them from freezing up.

WET... target pasting can be a problem at IDPA, and the score sheets get too soggy to write on. Does not hurt the guns.

I guess some folks like to shoot indoors.

January 3, 2014, 11:34 AM
(the above advice was mostly aimed at rifles but a lot crosses over).

Sauer, cold and wet will not hurt your rifle/handgun in any way. It may not get cold in SoCal, but if we didn't shoot in subzero temps here we would lose about 25% of our year. (Not to mention, if we fail to practice with winter gear on we put ourselves at a serious disadvantage in self-defense for 1/4 or more of the year!)

Rifles and shotguns aren't so bad, but don't get me wrong, I absolutely *hate* shooting handguns in the cold, and only do it when I'm compelled to do so.

Usually "Hey Trent, want to go shooting tomorrow?" compels me to do it. :)

I'm always miserable afterwards, but I've learned a few tricks with handguns in subzero weather too.

First and foremost is buy extra magazines and load them before you leave, because then you don't have to remove your gloves as often. :)

Next, if you drop a loaded round in the snow fumbling a magazine insert (e.g. from clearing a chamber of the last round at the end of a stage), and you manage to FIND the round, put it in your pants pocket and not back in the magazine. That'll melt the snow and your pocket liner will absorb most of the water. If you brush off most of the snow from a fresh dropped round, and put it back in the magazine, you risk it re-freezing to the mag wall and binding the magazine up.

The other thing for handguns is (after removing all ammo from the area), practice draw and dry fire indoors extensively with your winter gloves on. Both techniques (draw and fire) feel vastly different with gloves. The risk of a negligent discharge with handguns goes *WAY* the hell up if you aren't used to gloves. If you change winter gloves (e.g. lose a pair, use a different pair), re-practice because every set of gloves feels and works differently.

I do not believe one can practice enough with gloves on. You reach a level of proficiency at a certain point but by next winter it always seems the skill is lost again and it feels alien.

Watch for bad habits. Stuff that's acceptable in summer months is NOT in winter months. I caught myself on Thursday, trying to put my finger on the trigger at point 3 on the draw (joining of hands). Part of that is because of retention-distance practice from last year, firing from point 2 or 3. It formed a bad habit I had to break. It wasn't an issue (from a safety perspective) because the gun was pointed downrange at the time my finger started moving to the trigger, my sights were roughly aligned for point shooting, and my brain said "FIRE" already - but it could have became one, if my thick gloves hit that trigger before I meant to. (Even if the gun is pointed down range, any inadvertent fire is still a negligent discharge, even if your intention is to fire as soon as physically possible.)

With gloves on the indexing of the trigger finger on the trigger itself *must* become a conscious act instead of an *unconscious* one, which (for most of us), it does truly become an unconscious act at some point in training (brain says I'm going to shoot, finger moves without thinking about it). Not a bad thing under normal conditions, but a thing you have to un-learn for winter shooting, when the simple act of putting your trigger inside the trigger guard may trip the trigger, if you are wearing gloves.

Even on handguns designed for thick gloves (H&K, Glock, pretty much anything modern with a big open trigger guard), your muscle memory will move your finger to the wrong spot; not taking in to account the thickness of the glove. This will push the trigger back - possibly enough to discharge the firearm - unless you train to open your finger up more when you are wearing gloves.

(Yes, I will admit I have put rounds in to the backstop on accident before, just by putting my finger inside the trigger guard with thick winter gloves on. Which is why I've gone through such a long description here; With the right practice you can make it far less likely to inadvertently fire before you are ready).

Our southern brothers have it so much easier. :)

January 3, 2014, 08:38 PM
I made that post just for getting some riled up! :eek:

I lived above the 49th parallel for a time and you just get used to it! Up in the Northwest, you get rain 200 days of the year, and you still go out and shoot and play golf, etc.

But when I came to my senses, I moved back to So. Cal. Where this New Years Day it was about 75!

I understand if you want to stay in that weather, me I like staying thawed out, and in the sun.

Happy New Year! be safe

January 3, 2014, 08:53 PM
I kind of figured you were yanking my chain. :)

I get that all the time on Facebook from friends in Texas and Florida. "Hey Trent, here's a picture of me swimming in the ocean today!" or "Hey Trent, here's a picture of me riding my motorcycle today!"


I might actually have to call this shoot.

Revised forecasts are now pushing below -27F windchill. It's even worse Monday, base HIGH for here is negative 7, with a windchill of -30F.

The part that will cancel the shoot, is now the forecast for weekend snowfall is 6-8" which will make the range inaccessible to 2wd vehicles. I don't want to spend the day dragging people out of the snow...

January 3, 2014, 11:11 PM

My 1911's are not safe queens, but I dont even like getting them wet!;)

Glad you didnt get all twisted up at my jab.:neener:

Be safe.:)

January 3, 2014, 11:29 PM
Hey Trent, that's some very good advice you posted here.

I totally agree with your:
"Cold is a distraction, so keep yourself focused"

January 4, 2014, 12:00 PM
twofifty, thanks.

Sometimes I feel like a paranoid nanny when writing stuff like that, but at the same time, we don't get second chances sometimes with "accidents."

So it's always good to err on the side of caution, and make actions with firearms deliberate. Especially when there's "real world stuff" happening around us; rain, cold, whatever.

The other mindset is if we train in extremes, then everything else will seem easy. :)

As my SWAT buddy out in Kansas is fond of saying, "You don't really get to pick the place and time."

January 4, 2014, 01:56 PM
trent, that's a great OP. you should repost it in general as it really applies to a lot more than competition

January 4, 2014, 02:10 PM
Another thing is to avoid breathing on your firearm. You breath will condense on it. And if you have a scope you can fog it very badly or even ice it up. Practice handling your firearm without breathing on it. The cold itself doesn't affect the firearm unless you have moisture in it or oil or grease that gets thicker in low temps. We expect temps of -25, wind chills of -45 here Monday. Colder further North.

January 16, 2014, 05:22 PM
Trent, thank you for your thoughts shooting in cold weather. There are couple points I will bring up to our range safety officer to highlight on our January 25, annual Frosty Iron" which is open to the public. Safety has to be above all else! I expect it will be in the 20's, Jan 25.

My 2 rifle mechanisms are lubricated with Mobil 1 Transmission Fluid, which I think is good down to -65F. Also, does not attract dust. :o

Good topic worth mentioning. I am not a cold weather person for shooting and the annual January Frosty Iron is it! Last year, we had the most with 25 competitors at our SB Metallic Silhouette Range. This year we expect more or at least the same. Will see.

January 16, 2014, 07:11 PM
I'm going out Saturday for a 1,000 yard shoot down in Logan County, IL.

Forecast isn't so bad, temp wise, but that wind call is going to be tough. :)

I'm actually HOPING for snow so I'll have some indicator of what the wind is doing. We're shooting southeast across a farm field, so we'll have a shifting headwind and crosswind component. There's zero vegetation in the field - just a big flat tilled under surface. So it's dang hard to tell what way the wind is blowing, and how strong.

At least the field will be frozen so mud shouldn't be an issue. Always worried about getting stuck out in the middle of nowhere. :)

Snow likely after noon. Cloudy, with a high near 31. Wind chill values between zero and 10. South wind 8 to 17 mph becoming west northwest in the afternoon. Winds could gust as high as 28 mph. Chance of precipitation is 60%. New snow accumulation of less than a half inch possible.

January 16, 2014, 11:58 PM
Good post, we don't get into subzero temps often. Or at all, really. But it's good information that I'll definitely file away.

February 16, 2014, 11:00 PM
Dropped from 28 degrees to of 17 degrees during the shoot, and we had 14" of snow on the ground at our NRA High Power / Smallbore / F-Class match today.

I had to dive in and show the guys how it's done after everyone else was done shooting. :)

Only had 4 competitors show up today. Hard core group. :)

One of our younger shooters Colin, showing off textbook form.

Damn long walk today; too much snow to drive, and no pits at our range.

The snow drifted in some places almost 3' high; another group that was on the line before the match started, tried to make it to 200 yards with a lifted 4x4; got stuck at the 100 yard line.

So march we did. Often. (This is looking back at the firing line)

Brass melts snow and freezes to the ground. Real PITA.

Another target change. Cross country ski's would have come in handy...

February 17, 2014, 10:18 AM
Trent, nice pictures. Your group was the bravest of the bravest!

Our January 25 "Frost Iron Tournament," or would be normally called NRA SB Metalic Silhouette, produced 7 competitors, with about 7 inches of snow, 11F, with wind gusts of 20mph, with wind chill of -14. I think our conditions will go down in history as the coldest in club history. My boots only had a rating of 800 and needed at least 2400 for our conditions. I had to bow out as feet were frozen and warmed up in the car off and on between doing the calling and them setting the targets. I had my camera with me, but left it in my bag exposed to the elements. Batteries were dead from the cold.

All the other fellows are hunters with all the cold weather gear, and I just run the show at the club during the summer. We would normally have 25 competitors, open to the public, but was just unseasonably cold this year. Tom Nieworth, from IL., won the match with 16 out of possible 40. Last year, he did 23 out of 40 in 25 degree weather with slight wind.

Again, nice to have you share your pictures with such brave soles!

February 17, 2014, 12:59 PM
The people who didn't have good boots and warm socks sure found out the hard way what a little gear will do.

I was wearing Carhart 8" leather "waterproof" boots; leather boots that claim to be waterproof aren't REALLY waterproof but they'll stand up to a day or two of elements; after that the leather soaks through and all bets are off.

Also wore nice thick insulated long socks. When I got home I found my jeans under my snowsuit were wet up to the knees; snow got packed between my suit and jeans, didn't even know about it until I started stripping layers off at home. Could have been a serious problem in extended outdoor conditions though, eventually the socks would have soaked through and I would have had a bad time of it.

The camo snow suit I picked up at Farm & Fleet for bow hunting, if I wear normal jeans and T-shirt under it, it's good to about 20F, if I add a layer of thermals and hoodie under it, it's good to at least -15F (coldest I went out in it this year).

The Carhart gloves I wore are good to at least -15 as well.

I only wore my RSO cap; but when it gets REAL cold I'll double up on the stocking caps; and if it's windy, I'll put a poncho over the whole affair.

If you add an outer layer rain suit (poncho) as a windbreak it eliminates wind chill effects completely. I went hiking in -15 temps with wind chill of -40F this year and broke a sweat, poncho outer layer made all the difference in the world.

February 17, 2014, 01:01 PM
At -15F causes breath to freeze on the beard. This isn't long in to the last hike I took in subzero; I'll spare everyone the "snot-cicle" selfie I took later with 2" snotcicles hanging off my face. :)

February 17, 2014, 01:41 PM
One of our fellows gave me instructions on what insulated footwear to buy next year! So noted and accepted! :)

February 17, 2014, 04:34 PM
Trent thanks for the report.
Did you guys find that adverse conditions can drive individual or group scores down?

Lower scores is what happened to my group the other day when 30 people shot a position match during a snowstorm. About half the time there was a 10 to 15mph wind, so blowing snow would fuzz up the sight picture for some of the shots. Air temps were 28F so we got off easy in that respect.

We had a big wood stove going, behind a windscreen, so it was possible to warm up some.

I think that my low magnification scope ended up helping rather than being a handicap...less blowing snow mirage. What's been your experience with that?

February 17, 2014, 06:41 PM

Absolutely, scores drop.

I'm not allowed to shoot in the match (I'm an official) but after the match was over, after a day of busting my butt humping through snow up to my knees, missing lunch, etc, when the temp was at it's lowest point, I rattled off a 20 round string of slowfire at 300 yards.

I put down a whopping 148-1x.

My *lowest* score of over a dozen 20 shot strings over 8 months of competing in 2013 at 300 yards prone was 196/5x!

Guys were consistently shooting 10% below where they normally were, some even lower.

Mirage was bad on my 308 after about the first 8 shots. I actually put my head down and napped for about 5 minutes to let it cool, fired another 7 or 8 shots, put my head down again to rest.. then finished off the string with a few minutes to spare.

Worst problem we faced were guys who didn't know to "breathe down!"; once a scope is fogged up with breath water vapor, it forms a sheet of ice; scope is done for the day at that point.

We didn't have much of any wind on Sunday so blowing snow wasn't a big concern. It was actually one of the calmest days we've ever shot under there.

Most guys were hitting way low on the targets - not taking in to account the difference in velocity on cold powder, and denser air.

Blowing snow is a boon for wind reading! Without leaves or grass or anything to show a tell, it's devilishly hard to read the wind in the dead of winter, if you don't put out flags.

We try to keep our shoots austere, and don't use flags or wind indicators of any kind. :)

February 17, 2014, 07:20 PM
Oh and for the record.. I still really dislike shooting in the cold.

But I dislike sitting around on my butt indoors all winter even more.

March 2, 2014, 10:30 PM
Another NASTY cold shoot today.

Had 1 person show up for Smallbore and 2 people show up for High Power, so I was obliged to run a match. :)

*HIGH* temps were 10 degrees. Wind peaked at 20mph. At one point I measured a -9f windchill on the wind gauge.

Wind was erratic and would stall to 0, pick up to 12-15 mph, stall out, switch directions, pick up to 5-10 mph... stall out, switch directions..

Very uncomfortable and difficult day for competitors to shoot.

March 3, 2014, 02:16 AM
Something worth mentioning:

Scores rose this month for everyone, over last month, even though the conditions were far worse than the last shoot.

Everyone knew what to expect, knew how their equipment would respond, knew how THEY would respond, and were a lot more relaxed about things.

It's possible to shoot good in extreme cold. One guy (Chris) put down a 187/200 in F-Class despite the challenging wind conditions and *complete* lack of wind indicators on the range. No blowing snow (frozen), no leaves, no grass, nothing except his breath to tell what the wind was like (and then, only on the firing line, which was somewhat sheltered, and no indication at all on what was happening down the course). He just stuck to his plan and shot the prevailing condition only.

Another smallbore competitor (Kevin) nailed an 89.25% on the DEWAR (prone) 40 shot course.

While shooting in the cold is never truly enjoyable, it is possible to do so, and do very well doing so.

March 3, 2014, 05:19 PM
Gawd...y'all are some tough hombres. :cool:

March 3, 2014, 05:32 PM
i wouldn't hesitate to shoot f-class in the cold/snow/wind, but small bore? screw that!

March 3, 2014, 07:47 PM
What's the diff? Bipod vs sling? Scope vs aperture? Bang vs pop? You could use snowshoes instead of x-country skis to check your smallbore targets. ;)

How 'bout biathlon? Seems a good use for cold snowy weather.

March 3, 2014, 09:54 PM
Hard core indeed. Looks fun.

March 4, 2014, 02:22 AM

We only did an 800 point aggregate on NRA Smallbore this time. The smallbore aggregate we shoot, does 3-Pos conventional; 10 shots each standing, sitting/kneeling, and prone at 100 yards. Then we do the DEWAR course, which is 40 shots prone. I work people up through the NRA Marksmanship program to get them "broke in" on it, which culminates in the DEWAR course specifications at the Distinguished Expert level. (By then they should be putting down master scores in the national rankings).

Even so, it's kind of a drawn out, brutal, short range match to shoot in these temps. You don't get the benefits of any artificial support except a loop sling (except light rifle; slings are banned on light rifle).

F-Class is much easier on the body, as you get both bipod and rear rest. Shaking arms from cold don't affect you as much, although chattering teeth do. :)

Chris shooting NRA High Power Midrange Prone (F-Class, or, more specifically, F-T/R)

Kevin shooting NRA Smallbore (Kevin is shooting Any Sight with his Anschutz)

March 4, 2014, 02:35 AM
BTW, I have a lot of respect for anyone who can put down an 89.25% on a DEWAR course in these conditions. :)

Makes running these events a little less of a pain in the butt for me, when I can watch shooters progress and grow like that.

(I didn't even bring a rifle this time, I'm prohibited from competing in my own matches now that they are NRA approved, and scoring is "official".)

Heck I don't like getting up early on a Sunday. Let alone going out and standing in single digit temps with negative teen windchills to make sure guys follow the rules.

Good core group of shooters we have. It's worth it. :)

THIS Sunday is my play time though. Going to stretch my 300 win mag out to 1k+ on a private field. Temp is forecasted at 39F... which is muuuch better.

Field Tester
March 4, 2014, 03:31 AM

What kind of handgun was that in your earlier post surrounded by your 1,236 magazines? :D

March 4, 2014, 01:37 PM
LOL Glock 21 left, FN Five Seven top, and Taurus PT92AFS right. That Taurus is like a Beretta 92 except it has a rail. Which I wish it didn't have, because finding a holster that fits properly is very difficult, and I don't USE the rail on it.

March 4, 2014, 01:46 PM
Also do the same with my Glock 19, and other handguns when I go shoot in the cold.

Living in IL, we're always under the shadow of threat of an idiotic magazine ban, or assault weapons ban. So I ... "stocked up."

In the winter I take advantage of it when I go handgun shooting so I don't have to fumble with loading magazines in single digit temps, with single digit temp ammo, and fingers that are painfully cold.

Doing that once or twice, you'll be "done" shooting.

I like shooting and I like not having to stop and reload magazines when I go to do it.

This also lets me "focus my range time on the task at hand."

I don't go to the range to practice loading rounds in to magazines. I go to the range to practice SHOOTING. So why burn the valuable time at the range practicing a skill that isn't relevant to the task at hand?

Field Tester
March 4, 2014, 04:31 PM
Adopt me?

March 4, 2014, 09:54 PM
Already have 5 kids. :)

If you enjoyed reading about "Cold temps." here in archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join today for the full version!