Winter Carry – Does It Make Sense To Change It Up?

Do you change your carry setup in colder temps? Should you?

Winter is here! Do you guys remember Game of Thrones? Man, after season 8, everyone just kind of shut up about it. Anyway, with winter in full effect, the subject of Winter carry has undoubtedly come up. Winter carry often refers to the habits of winter-based concealed carry. A lot of people rotate their weapons when the temperatures drop to something larger. Today we are going to talk about not only why people do this, but we’ll talk about the pros and cons of winter carry.

The Bigger Gun

My favorite joke about winter carry comes from a meme of two dudes talking about their winter coats. One brags about carrying a Glock 34 with Surefire X300U and RMR, and the other says, “I have a freaking FAL under here.” Winter carry brings out the coats, and coats make it much easier to carry larger, more capable weapons.

Sig Sauer P320

A lot of us likely carry some form of teeny tiny carry pistol the majority of the year. Lots of single-stack 9mms, micro compacts, and pocket pistols get a dose of sweat in the spring, summer, and early parts of fall. Most of us likely own something a little bigger, better rarely carry it. Yet once winter comes around, we dust off the bigger gun and get after it.

Winter carry guns are larger and larger guns are more capable, easier to shoot, and often hold more ammunition. Heck, you can even switch from a 9mm to something a bit more powerful, like a 10mm or 357 Magnum. Why wouldn’t you if you could?

The Downsides of Winter Carry Rotations

Winter carry means busting out the bigger gun, which sounds great. That leads me to ask, how often do you train and shoot your bigger gun? Does your 3 season gun vary much from your winter carry gun?

If so, you might be introducing a fail point in your carry. Moving from a Glock 43 to a Glock 19 isn’t a big jump and might not be an issue. Moving from a P365 to a Ruger SP101 might be an issue. If you train almost exclusively with your three-season gun, you might find yourself under-gunned with a bigger gun simply due to a skills and familiarity gap.

Especially if you move up to a more powerful caliber.

You might think you need a more powerful caliber like 10mm or even a 9mm +P load due to heavy winter clothes. The idea is that modern hollowpoints will clog a JHP and cause it to fail to expand. Therefore you need better, more powerful ammo. I don’t blame you for this belief. This used to be a real problem.

Older hollow points used to have this issue and would fail to expand and do the nasty things hollow points do. Luckily, technology advances and modern JHPs won’t fail to penetrate and expand through thick clothing.
The Benefits of a New Winter Carry

It’s Not All Bad

That doesn’t mean swapping to a bigger gun is totally bad. You’ll need to train or use a firearm similar to your 3 season gun. Going from a striker-fired pocket pistol to a DA/SA CZ 75 might create an issue. I’d keep the same action, and if possible, the same manufacturer of my winter carry and three-season gun.

The primary benefit to a bigger gun comes from having to deal with thicker clothes. I don’t mean the clothes a bad guy wears. I mean your clothes. Bigger guns offer you more grip to grab, and when wearing gloves, more is better to grip than less gun. Trigger guards can be bigger and more accommodating to gloves as well.

Winter carry can also make the gun easier to access when you change up your carry method. Once I add on some warming layers, I like to toss on an OWB rig. With the layers, it’s easier to conceal, and it’s also easier to access. Coats, shirts, sweaters, and gloves are layered in place can make it tough to access IWB rigs.

Winter Is Here

A winter carry rotation should make sense. Suppose you want to change things up just because you can, then more power to you. However, don’t forget to train and get familiar with that winter carry gun. Hopefully, you make a change that matters and helps you a more efficient concealed carrier who’s more capable of protecting yourself and your family.

Do you do the winter carry rotation dance? If so, let us know why and what!

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Travis Pike is a former Marine Machine gunner who served with 2nd Bn 2nd Marines for 5 years. He deployed in 2009 to Afghanistan and again in 2011 with the 22nd MEU(SOC) during a record-setting 11 months at sea. Travis has trained with the Romanian Army, the Spanish Marines, the Emirate Marines, and the Afghan National Army.

He serves as an NRA-certified pistol instructor and pursues a variety of firearms-based hobbies.


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