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Old December 12, 2013, 12:18 PM   #1
8MM Mauser
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Weather and shooting

Hey guys. I had a range trip with my dad last Sunday, and here in Michigan it was about 10-15 degrees. I expected some of the usual problems with cold: it was a pain to load our .22's and I was not as comfortable say, assuming a prone position in the foot of snow. However, another couple of issues cropped up while shooting. I was shooting mostly my Ruger MKII target model with a 10 inch (that's right, 10 inch) barrel. The trigger guard was too small to accommodate my thick winter gloves and besides, I can barely feel the trigger through them. As a result, my shooting was awful, shotgun pattern-size groups on a shoot-n-c target at 25 yards (which is abysmal for this pistol.) My hands were shaking and numb, I could barely feel the trigger and I kept short-stroking the reset because I couldn't hear or see it over the wind. In addition, after about 20 minutes, my eyes began to water. Not badly, but enough to cloud my vision.

Thing is, winter in Michigan will continue to be this cold. I need some tips to beat the cold and a realistic way of assessing how much of my performance degradation is due to weather vs. lack of practice. I've shot rapid fire strings, 100 rounds ten at a time and kept them in a 4 inch group at 25 yards with this gun; me and this Ruger are a good combination. So this kind of shooting really got me down. One thought I had was buying a pair of under armor gloves that would insulate my hand but still fit in the triggerguard and allow me to actually feel the trigger. Another thought was to shoot at an indoor range; but my wallet disagrees with both propositions.

Incidentally, my rifle shooting degrades slightly, but not like my pistol shooting. I was able to wear gloves when shooting my rifle and the trigger pull is so light I was about right for accuracy with it. I also did fine with clays. Once again, the cold degraded my performance slightly; but nothing like what happened with the pistol.

So what are your experiences shooting in inclement weather? Am I just beating myself over nothing? Maybe some of our Alaskan members can chime in?

Thanks in advance.
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Old December 12, 2013, 04:47 PM   #2
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You'll have to keep your main body core warm --- especially you're head --- or it will draw blood from your hands and feet. Eat enough energy food before you start to feel cold. Purchase some fingertipless gloves with mitten covers. Check out Cabelas or REI. Buy warm dry heater, carbon based reactive packs.
Buy a portable propane heater so you can warm your hands on the range.
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Old December 12, 2013, 05:01 PM   #3
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i lived in Michigan for years, i can highly recommend wearing heated motorcycle jacket liners, glove liners(good w/o the gloves and very thin), and pant liners, i use liners from a company called First Gear because its not very costly but works, totally worth it if you wanna do anything outoors in the wnter up north

shop around and you can get all set-up for 300-350$ w/ battery pack for the pants, jacket and gloves

i know it seems like alotta cash, but youll end up using it all the time and lasts forever in my case, i sell you mine buti gave mine away since no need here in georgia
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Old December 12, 2013, 05:07 PM   #4
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Try some thin silk or nylon gloves under wool fingerless gloves. Mitts around your neck or coat pockets to park if waiting. I use 'em for working instruments on winter surveys, dexterity is good.
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Old December 12, 2013, 05:44 PM   #5
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If you were shooting at Echo Point, lots of luck, there is no shelter and the wind will surely mess you up in this weather. If not then trees will give you some break from the wind. I've shot there in mildly bad weather and even that was no fun.

I use a pair of mechanic gloves that I picked up at Menards and are nylon that gives some protection from the wind but are not insulated. They are thin enough to let you feel the trigger, I use them as shooting gloves.

Good luck and stay warm.
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Old December 12, 2013, 05:59 PM   #6
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Take a low-dose aspirin about an hour before. Wear layers. I like to wear Gore-Tex snow leg gaiters, Thinsulate boots, Gore-Tex Windstopper pants and jackets, cotton wrist warmers and thin poly-pro gloves.
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Old December 12, 2013, 06:30 PM   #7
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I spent 20 years as a cop in Anchorage, one thing I noticed, bandits don't take the winter off.

So don't slack off on you're shooting when a cold spell hits. I don't.

Now when it comes to rifle shooting I do wimp out a bit. I have one of those pop up shooting blinds. I lay a ground cloth down and set the blind on it. That way I don't have to dig my brass out of the snow bank.

If I'm shooting semi pistols, I use the blind also, but with my revolver it doesn't matter.

I don't shoot with gloves on (at least not on my shooting hand). I got well below zero here (in NE Wyoming) last week, I didn't let it distract from my practice with my carry revolver. Its warm cause it stays in my pocket.

Marksmanship goes down hill pretty fast without practice when you don't practice.

Not a huge problem for plinking but don't neglect your carry pistol/revolver.
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Old December 12, 2013, 06:52 PM   #8
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I grew up in Michigan, but have been living for quite a while in North Dakota. The temps up here require gloves in the winter. It was -21 the other morning and we are still a week away from winter.

I wear my old uniform gloves to shoot with, they are thin leather with thinsulate. I believe they are made by hatch. I also use the hatch kevlar frisk gloves as a layer between my hands and anything I touch. When it is -20 and colder you stick (freeze) to any metal objects you touch. Frostbite and hypothermia can be killers. Dress in layers, I like polartec, thinsulate and gortex.
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Old December 12, 2013, 07:25 PM   #9
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Thanks for the tips fellas! Thin gloves seem to be the order of the day. I might even know a guy I could borrow the fingerless/mitten gloves from to try them out.

Cover would be good too. The spot I was shooting was very exposed and windy; it is not my preferred shooting range but my usual place was really busy; which I thought was very odd for a freezing cold day with heavy snow. I know a spot where I can shot pistols, shotguns and .22s (but no center fire rifles) that is more heavily wooded and probably not as brutal.

A propane heater is a good idea too; if I could afford it I would get one. Last winter when I used this range we had a fire going in the background where we warmed up between sharing a lane. That was nice but honestly a pain to maintain and control in the blowing wind.
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Old December 12, 2013, 07:27 PM   #10
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I think I found a pair of under armor over for $25 on amazon.

This might be step #1 in staying warm. I already run in an UA base layer every morning. With my base layer, carhartt, and thin gloves I should be good to go. Maybe
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Old December 12, 2013, 07:43 PM   #11
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Cold weather is definitely a challenge. I dress in layers and I wear long Johns. 90% of my shooting is done at outdoor ranges and I find that if my feet and legs stay warm, I'm fine. Long underwear, base layer of socks with thick wool socks is the way I do it. My winter boots are one size larger than normal to accommodate the socks.

I don't like large coats but I prefer three or four layers with a T-shirt next to my skin and build up from there. Top layer is usually a fleece pull-over jacket or other material that stops wind.

A propane heater is a good investment and I have the smaller Mr. Buddy. It runs most of the day on a 1 lb. propane cylinder. I have never taken the heater to the range, but now that I think of it, I might. I mainly use it for my deer blind during muzzleloader season when it gets brutally cold. This heater can be bought for about $75 or so. If you can't afford one, maybe cut back on something else to save up.

My gloves are thin and they have the Thinsulate insulation in them. If my hands get too cold, I will put them under my fleece jacket for a minute or two.
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Old December 12, 2013, 10:20 PM   #12
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Wear gloves in between shooting, possibly heated gloves or use heated inserts, and dress in layers which should go without saying. Also not sure how far your car is from the firing line, at my range it's only about 15 ft behind me so ill hop in once in a while and blast the heat while sipping on some hot coffee to warm up a bit.

Back in the day when I wrestled and I had to cut weight I would take Niacin which is Vitamin B3. It boosts your metabolism and increases the blood flow and circulation, and as a result about 30 minutes after taking it heats up your body temp. I remember walking out into the cold and being amazed just how warm I was. One thing I remember though, is if you take it on an empty stomach, or take too much, it gives you a hell of an itch which passes after about 20 minutes. Always a good idea to consult with a doctor before taking a vitamin supplement.
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Old December 12, 2013, 10:49 PM   #13
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Here in Northern OH, we get pretty cold as well, not quite like Northern MI, but still cold enough to cause issues.

The basics go without saying, dress in layers and make sure the outer layer stops wind, I love fleece for the outer layers.

When it comes to the hands at the range, I use Columbia's Omni-Heat Reflective gloves (same idea as the Under Armor cold gear gloves) while on the trigger. As soon as my hand is off the trigger, it is in the pocket of my jacket along with a chemical hand warmer.

The hand warmers cost $1 per unit, and they last for the whole day of shooting. I love them. Just last week was deer gun season here in OH and I was out everyday. When the cold spell came in last week, temps were in the 20's and windchill was between 10-18. I did not even have gloves on other than when walking to the blind as the hand warmers in my pockets kept my hands more than warm enough. When hunting I prefer to not to have gloves on in case a quick shot comes along.
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Old December 13, 2013, 09:46 AM   #14
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Pick a really cold and windy day to go to the range, to ensure you will probably have it all to yourself.
Park your car sideways to the range, keep the heater going full blast, and shoot from the passenger seat.
Don't forget to roll down the window first, though.
No kidding, that's exactly what we used to do during the winter, in addition to shooting indoors.
One enthusiastic and inventive fellow would often bring a little fold up room that he made from storm doors and windows.
With a small heater, it was quite comfy to shoot from on a winter day.
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Old December 13, 2013, 01:48 PM   #15
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Shoot an air pistol in your living room.

I fly R/C slope gliders in the winter here in CA, and yeah, it doesn't get as cold as say, Sleeping Bear Dunes, but it does get down into the 20's and I have to be able to feel what I'm doing on the sticks as I fly. We usually buy abalone diver/snowboard gloves made from neoprene. We cut a slit in the thumb so you can feel the stick.

Michigan really looks like a beautiful state. My wife and I plan on doing the car trip around Lake Superior in a few years.

Last edited by Slopemeno; December 13, 2013 at 01:54 PM.
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Old December 13, 2013, 04:30 PM   #16
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I got the bright idea to shoot at an indoor range on a cold January day. When I entered the range part it was almost as cold as it was outside. They don't heat em! The m1 carbine and lcr are up next to shoot and I will be using gloves. To see the difference.
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Old December 13, 2013, 05:02 PM   #17
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I'm a big panzee

I'm in California; and with it being sunny and 45f, that's colder than I care for.

I don't mind that so much. I've resigned to shooting less in the winter. The problem I have is that my garage is the same temp and so it's too cold to load.
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Old December 13, 2013, 05:26 PM   #18
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Don't forget your feet. I'm a big fan of either Boggs or Muck brand boots. Both have sturdy rubber soles and neoprene uppers. Good socks help too.
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Old December 14, 2013, 04:03 AM   #19
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How often do you get outside year round?

I live in Alaska. I get outside and hike approximately 350 days a year in Alaska. (Go on vacation for a couple of weeks a year or it would likely be 365.) I have been cold once in the last 10 years; it was snowmobiling/machining/going wearing too thin gloves for the day and the back of my hands got cold. I also shoot regularly outdoors year round.

If you go outside on a regular basis, you will acquire the correct mindset and gear over time. You will also become acclimated to your environment. Recently I went on vacation in November, it was -25F at my home and around 70F at my vacation spot. (Almost a 100 degree difference.) A good number of the locals where I traveled to were wearing winter jackets and Uggs, I was wearing shorts and sandals. We do tend to somewhat acclimate physically to our environment over time.

Big proponent of having good/right gear. Just also noting that getting out on a regular basis makes a big difference overall. You learn which gear does work for you. Health benefits to hiking/running/walking and become far more comfortable in the environment.

Good hat makes a world of difference. I have a beaver hat that I don't even think of putting on unless it hits the negative digits and even then only if I am not going to be too physically active (as in only walking slowly); or I end up taking it off. Also, block the wind with good gear.

I shoot without gloves most of the time. I have some camera shooting gloves that I picked up years ago that I use occasionally; during the winter about half of time I wear fleece gloves when out and about (about half of my time outdoors during the winter I don't wear gloves at all - warm from hiking) and take them off for shooting, including hunting when it it cold.

Just some thoughts from someone who sometimes finds himself opening his front door and it is 100 degrees colder in one step.
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Old December 14, 2013, 07:54 AM   #20
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You're learning. What you remembered doing on a warm summer afternoon may not have much to do with what you can do on demand in winter conditions. If you're going to have a long practice session in winter conditions, you're probably going to have to wear some kind of liner glove on your shooting hand, but in a hunting situation I prefer the extra sensitivity of a bare shooting hand. In very cold weather I find myself constantly monitoring the condition of my hands and the amount of heat remaining in my body core. No matter how good you are in warm weather, as you discovered your ability to perform up to your best level can quickly degrade in the cold.

When I have to be out for hours in extreme cold, one of the items I keep with me are a set of U.S. Army surplus overmitts. I can pull them over my mittens and warmth will return to my hands. I can't work with my hands or shoot in these overmitts, but ordinary sized gloves or mittens, while they might keep your hands warm, still lack the insulation to return heat to hands already too cold to function well enough for fine motor skills.
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Old December 14, 2013, 09:32 AM   #21
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Hand warmers are a solid idea. Part of my problem here was simple lack of planning. I hunt, and I have hunted in 5 degree weather before, and dressed appropriately (under armor, shirt, sweater, fleece jacket) with the right kind of gloves and boots. When I stepped out of my house that day it didn't seem THAT cold, so I wore shoes and a lighter pair of gloves.

What I have learned is that I need more practice shooting in adverse conditions. I've shot my rifle in bad weather a fair number of times; but I don't usually shoot pistols in this kind of weather. It is always around hunting season when it's cold and so my interest shifts towards rifles. I need to re-focus, because truly pistol shooting is the most important skill of the three (Rifle, shotgun, pistol.) I need mental focus to beat the shaking hands and feeling the trigger through the numbness.

That said, I need to plan my trips better too so that I don't end up in quite such a situation again. One thing I will say is that I did keep all my shots on an 8 inch shoot-n-c (I think it was an 8-inch) so I was still within the realm of "practical" accuracy for a human size target.

My responses to the thread have been slow, only because I have a lot to think about. Thank you all for your advice.
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Old December 14, 2013, 11:24 AM   #22
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It's probably not that you've become acclimated to cold.
It's that you've become numb and lost all feelings in your extremities.
Being frostbit all over will do that.
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Old December 19, 2013, 10:13 PM   #23
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I have had good experience so far with Under Armour coldgear liner gloves, I shoot with them in 10-15 degree weather with good results. Like others have mentioned, you are "on the clock" so to speak when shooting.. it's only a matter of time before you develop some trembles and your hold control begins to go away and you are just wasting ammo. I do all of my magazine loading and note taking in the pickup with the heater going so I can recharge a bit.

With a rifle I'll always wear a heavier glove on my non firing hand, it keeps me shooting steady longer. I like to do a moderate amount of cold weather target work with my rifles, I deer and coyote hunt with them and it's normally cold when I'm using them.

I agree that keeping the core warm is essential, along with the feet. I'm a fan of my Muck boots (I happen to be a full time farmer/cattleman so Mucks come with the territory), and I have one of just about everything that Carhartt makes I think.
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Old December 20, 2013, 05:43 PM   #24
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Not being able to properly feel the trigger is a safety problem and it doesn't help your shooting !
With an insulated glove I open the finger and remove the insulation just from the first joint of the trigger finger .Then you can feel the trigger but keep the rest of the hand warm. For colder times between shooting use a mitten over the glove.
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Old December 22, 2013, 11:16 AM   #25
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Can you not shoot inside?

Having the right gear for the cold is key. Get a good mat to shoot off of instead of the ground. That will help a lot with the cold and wet. Depending what kind of outdoor range you are shooting at, I've seen people shoot out of tents and cars.
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