There are many different ways to reckon the onset of the season we call “winter.” Weathermen use “meteorological winter,” which is marked by the start of the coldest months of the year, usually around the first week of December here in the U.S. Then there’s “astronomical winter,” which begins at the Winter Solstice.
Lastly, there’s “Handgun Toter Winter,” which begins when the gun forums on the internet fill up with pistol carriers starting threads to discuss why they’re going to switch carry guns for the season. This usually starts somewhere about the middle of Pumpkin Spice season.
One variety of the winter-carry setup is from folks in the parts of the country where it’s hotter than Satan’s stove top during the summer, causing CCW carriers to favor pocket pistols or smaller guns that can be worn in tuckable, inside-the-waistband holsters. Come winter, these carriers rejoice in the fact that jackets, sweaters, overshirts or other garments that will let them carry that full-size sidearm can now be worn without looking like a weirdo in the heat.
For three months out of the year, suddenly they get to carry the double-mag carrier and full-size blaster that spend summer months languishing between IDPA matches.
Sometimes the decision is an obvious one, like switching from a subcompact Glock or H&K P30SK to the full-size version of the same gun. Depending on the particular models in question, not only would the user retain the benefits of the same trigger characteristics and control location and functions, but even the spare magazines might be compatible between warm- and cold-weather guns.
Other times the choice is more of a head-scratcher, like switching from a double-action-only Bodyguard in the pocket to a Condition One, 1911-pattern pistol on the belt. But, hey, I’m not the carry police. If that’s how someone wants to roll, it’s their prerogative.
Another variant on “wintertime carry” is the ammo changeover. This is more often done by folks who live in colder climates, on the theory that an assailant is more likely to be bundled up for winter weather. In the desire for a bullet with more penetration, some people choose a heavier bullet in the same caliber, and others shift over to a larger caliber.
I’m not entirely sure how valid this is, though. It’s one of those things that “feels” right, but overlooks some important details. For one thing, even a heavy parka isn’t much of an impediment to a pistol bullet. For another, the heavy clothing may indeed clog the hollow-point cavity and cause some varieties of bullets to not expand properly, but if that happens, the bullet will penetrate more, not less.
The final factor is that most modern, jacketed hollowpoints designed to pass the FBI’s barrier-testing protocols will probably function OK through heavy clothing. I don’t bother changing out 124-grain +P Federal Premium HST or Speer Gold Dot based on the season, and neither do the various LE agencies that issue them.
I know some people are hardy enough to run around in the middle of a Midwestern winter with their coat unzipped to be able to retain access to a belt-carried sidearm, but I’m not one of those people. A 15- or 20-minute walk in sub-freezing temps is definitely a zipped-coat affair for me.
So during the cold months of zipped-up coats, I put a Smith & Wesson J-frame in a pocket holster and stuff it in an exterior coat pocket. Specifically, it’s a Model 432PD, the Airweight Centennial model chambered in .32 H&R Mag.
Rather than being a backup gun in most circumstances, this makes the J-frame my go-to, since the Langdon Tactical Beretta on my belt is buried under a couple layers of wintertime warmth. It’s especially invaluable when driving in the coldest months, since the holster on the belt is doubly inaccessible under those circumstances. (Although the best defense in a car in winter is simply driving away if possible, same as in summertime.)
So, with Pumpkin Spice season being in full swing at the time I’m writing this, I guess I’d better get my winter handgun preparation on, too. Time to put fresh batteries in the Lasergrips on that little revolver.