Much of the United States recently experienced some truly insufferable cold temperatures coupled with strong winds and snow. Only something this miserable could catch the coined phrase of polar vortex from our national weather reporters. If you are reading this, you are likely a hearty individual and survived the (insert cinematic music here: dun, Dun, DUN)… Polar Vortex! This raises an interesting situation though. When you are donning a parka reminiscent of the Michelin man and are buttoned up tighter than Fort Knox, how do you conceal carry? How do you draw? Do you just say, “Forget this, I am not leaving my house!” I was in the heart of the polar vortex in Minnesota and I absolutely changed how I carried. Here are my thoughts.
polar vortex: make small sacrifices in warmth to ensure you can draw
I fell into the category of Michelin men stumbling around MN with poor dexterity and range of motion during the polar vortex. I would have the biggest, puffiest coat I owned on with the warmest gloves possible because when its -50°F all you initially want to care about is staying warm outside. Then, I realized I love apple pie, ‘Merica, and my gun rights so I should probably not be such a sally and devise a reasonable way to still carry. In regards to clothing, I did a couple of notable things.
I switched to a coat that was less bulky, still thick enough to keep me mostly warm, and it had a double zipper (you could zip it open from the bottom or top). The double zipper was important. I unzipped the bottom portion of the coat about 1/3 of the way so I could more easily draw. Instead of being zipped tight and having a 15 second draw time while I undress myself, I could simply unfurl the bottom of my coat and access my holster. Did this let a lot of heat out and wind chill in? You bet. Is it a fair compromise to still utilize my concealed carry sidearm? You betcha! You can still do other things to stay warm like wear tons of sweaters or layers underneath a coat, and add in a scarf.
The other thing I changed are the gloves I wore to shovel my driveway, walk my dog, check the mail, or for whatever delirious reason I left the warmth of my house. Similarly, instead of being skin tight, I changed to looser fitting gloves. Something I practiced around 10 pm at night in the middle of shoveling my driveway was quickly unfurling my coat to expose my Glock while karate chopping the air with my dominant hand so my glove would fly off and hit the ground. I am overwhelmingly sure I looked tremendously stupid to any of my neighbors watching, but in basically 1 to 1 1/2 seconds I could lift my 1/3 unzipped coat, fling my glove off my hand, and draw my weapon (it’s not stupid if it works… I hope).
polar vortex: choose your holster wisely
When picking out your holster, make considerations that will benefit drawing in a polar vortex if its silly cold outside. I normally use one of 3 holsters for the same firearm on any given day of the week. They all hug my body tight, hide well, and are very minimal in size. During the roughly one week polar vortex, I changed out to a Bravo Concealment OWB (Outside-the-Waistband) holster. This holster I would not call bulky, but it fits my chosen pistol on the point of my hip perfectly and is very easy to draw from. Even if I lost feeling in my Polish fingers.
With an open top Kydex design, the Bravo Concealment holster I chose locks in securely, still draws swiftly, and has nothing restricting or covering the top of the holster. I did not want to add an additional step to my draw by having a fastener over the top or some kind of button release on the side. Since I was improvising a draw technique for one week I would hopefully never use, less was best for me.
My biggest thought for carrying throughout the polar vortex was creating an easy draw and making it accessible. Is there anybody in our readership that can lay claim to even more ridiculous weather conditions that believe I just swung and whiffed on this idea of extreme cold weather carry? We have to have some readers from the nose-bleed parts of Alaska, white-out areas of Russia, or maybe the planet Hoth where I heard it gets pretty cold this time of year. Let us know what you think in the Comments below! Criticism, constructive or otherwise, we always appreciate it to keep the conversation going further. It makes guys like me better writers for TFB and hopefully, we all learn something valuable to apply to our own unique concealed carry situations.