If you would like to know how an experienced warfighter gears up to be able to shoot in the cold and freezing weather, then you have got to see these tips.
Kyle Defoor is a former Special Mission Unit combat decorated Navy SEAL and sniper who served in Afghanistan. These days, Kyle teaches firearms, marksmanship and tactics to military, law enforcement, and civilian personnel in the United States and worldwide.
I recently saw he had a multi-part series on shooting in the cold on his instagram page. Here’s what he had to say:
Shooting In The Cold Part 1
Shooting In The Cold Part 1- My experience operating in the cold started in the military both in training and real world. I’ve worked in -25 up to just below freezing for long stretches (days not hours) of time. When I came into the military there was not a lot of good gear to be had. This changed later with consulting from Mark Twight via Natick Labs. Today we have more quality choices from more manufacturers but there is also more confusion in some areas. Hopefully this series of articles will help out those who are looking to buy quality gear for training in the elements for extended duration. While you’re reading remember that exposure time is a major factor. A lot of students I see miss this important fact when showing up to a class. This happens with our military contracts too. I’ve heard comments early on about how we (instructors) are overdressed or that they (student) “don’t get cold”, “I’m from the North”, “I’m used to it”, etc. Somewhere around the hour mark completely exposed with no break is where most people realize basing your needs for shooting and training in the cold on the jacket you go get the mail in or take the dog for a walk with was a huge mistake. Lastly, physical conditioning plays a huge role in staying warm. This mostly concerns circulation and over very long stretches, metabolism. Bottom line is the better shape your in both cardio wise and strength wise the easier your body can adapt to an unusual environment. I’ll leave you with the words of the Norwegians who’ve been training and shooting in cold conditions a long time arguably as good as anyone- “there is no bad weather, only bad gear”. #defoorproformanceshooting #cold #shooting
Shooting In The Cold Part 2 – Base Layer
Shooting In The Cold Part 2- Base layer This is the layer that touches your skin. For years the standard was Patagonia’s capilene, over time I have come to appreciate the qualities of merino wool more than capilene. Merino wool is warmer, doesn’t stink after weeks without washing, performs when wet and is softer against the skin. My choice is First Lite. Theirs is super soft and fit is supreme. Above 60 degrees- personal choice. I typically use nothing. 40-60 degrees – First Lite Red Desert Boxer and Llano short sleeve. Below 40 degrees- First Lite Llano long sleeve and Alleghany bottom #defoorproformanceshooting @firstlitehunting #cold #shooting A photo posted by Kyle Defoor (@defoorproformanceshooting) on
Shooting In The Cold Part 3 – Socks
Shooting In The Cold Part 3-Socks Most people will not argue that wool socks are the only way to go. I use Darn Tough because I’ve never worn the heel out, they’re made in the USA and they’re incredibly warm. 50 degrees and above – 1/4 Tactical PT non cushioned 35-50 degrees- 1/4 Tactical PT cushioned Below 35 degrees- Tactical Boot Sock Below 15 degrees- Tactical Boot Sock but I will switch to Sorel Boots with an inner boot. #defoorproformanceshooting @darntoughvermont
Shooting In The Cold Part 4 – Gloves
Shooting In The Cold Part 4-Gloves The glove conundrum has plagued the mil and LE for years with the biggest problem being the ability to operate a pistol safely in real cold weather. Rifle hasn’t been such an issue since the trigger guards are generally bigger and they have mechanical safeties. To shoot pistol effectively in cold weather remember these three things; one, you will have to overheat your head with a really warm beanie, and two, you’ll have to overheat your torso with some type of down. This a situation I would recommend the wearing of a thin, synthetic down vest under the uniform/armor- something like Black Diamond’s Access Hybrid Vest. This will keep the blood warmer before it reaches your fingertips. Although you might sweat into the vest, it will still provide warmth when wet and you can control temps inside some rooms and vehicles. The third thing is to remember to never touch metal guns in extreme cold with bare hands, ANY GLOVE is better than none at all, BUT, TO SHOOT PISTOL SAFELY AND EFFECTIVELY YOU MUST HAVE TIGHT, RELATIVELY THIN GLOVES In my opinion Black Diamond has the glove thing mastered. Almost all their gloves come with touch screen tips and when they say waterproof it’s not an exaggeration. 25/30 degrees and above to shoot pistol and rifle- Black Diamond Crag glove, Mechanix Gloves, and some Outdoor Research Gloves BUT, you will have to be wearing a good beanie and keep your trunk warmer than what you think. For pistol and depending on time exposed you will have to use the pockets of your jacket every so often to warm your fingers to remain safety. 15/20 degrees- 25/30 degrees to shoot rifle- Black Diamond Wind Weight Glove or Black Diamond Guide Glove. Power Weight Liner can also be used with the guide glove. Shooting pistol around these temps requires mandatory warm up times and you’ll need an external heat source to do so. Below 15/20 degrees rifle only- Black Diamond Guide Glove with Power Weight Liner. In my experience pistol training below these temps is extremely dangerous without the proper warm up times and an external heat source. #defoorproformanceshooting @blackdiamond @mechanix_wear @outdoorresearch A photo posted by Kyle Defoor (@defoorproformanceshooting) on
Shooting In The Cold Part 5- Mid Layer
Shooting In The Cold Part 5- Mid Layer Fleece was and is the standard for mid layers and once again Patagonia and their R1 is the original and most copied mid layer and for good reason. Most all “good” mid layer fleece pieces will have some type of waffle pattern on the inside. That said there are a few other choices out there now based on Patagonia’s design and there is also many wool alternatives. I use either Black Diamond’s 1/4 zip Co-efficient or First Lite’s Halstead Fleece. The BD piece has cuffs that are tight enough to not allow wind through, a chest pocket and a oddly high collar- which helps immensely in keeping your neck warm- another key in real cold weather. The First Lite piece also has a very high collar good for keeping the neck warm. It’s worth noting that here in this stage of dress I will sometimes use a super lightweight synthetic down piece instead of fleece particularly when it’s really cold (under 25 degrees). There are a number of these pieces out there; Arc’teryx Atom LT, Patagonia Nano Puff, Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer, etc. My choice is again with Black Diamond and their Access LT Hybrid Hoody. Its uses Primaloft Gold insulation (more on insulation to come), packs into its own pocket with a carabiner loop, has a hood big enough for ear pro or helmet or both, and has amazing pockets on the chest and in the hand warmer area. THIS IS THE ONE PIECE I ALWAYS TRAVEL WITH NO MATTER THE LOCATION OR THE TEMPERATURE. 55-65 degrees- Black Diamond Co-Efficient 1/4 zip with t-shirt base layer 45-55 degrees- Black Diamond Co-Efficient 1/4 zip with t- shirt base layer and rain shell or replace Co-Efficient with Black Diamond Access LT Hybrid Hoody with only T-shirt base layer 25-45 degrees- Black Diamond Co-Efficient 1/4 zip with t-shirt base layer and insulation jacket. Below 25 degrees- replace Black Diamond Co-Efficient with Black Diamond Access LT Hybrid Hoody with t-shirt base layer and insulation jacket. #defoorproformanceshooting #blackdiamond #patagonia #arcteryx #mountainhardwear
Shooting In The Cold Weather Part 6-Insulation
Shooting In The Cold Weather Part 6-Insulation I wear only synthetic insulation for two reasons. First, it will always be a thinner garment than goose down. Second, and most important, it will still keep us warm when wet. Unfortunately in today’s market manufacturers have made some really bad synthetic insulation, Primaloft Synergy for example, that turns a lot of people off once they really get in the elements for considerable time or harsh conditions. I personally have had the best luck with Primaloft Gold (formerly Primaloft One) and Silver. There is the new Polartec Alpha which I do believe breathes better than PL Gold but I personally don’t thinks it’s warmer. Arc’teryx still makes their own proprietary synthetic insulation called Coreloft which I used for years and can’t say it’s bad but again for me Primaloft Gold or Silver is substantially warmer than Coreloft. When it comes to this insulation piece I highly suggest a adjustable hood which will go over ear pro and helmets. Hoods along with a high mid layer collar make neck gaiters not such a mandatory item. I also look for chest pockets as well as the standard hand warmer pockets. Inside pockets are useful for drying out gloves, socks, etc. And finally a zipper that will stay in position. My fav right now is the BD Stance Belay Hoody. 25-45 degrees- Black Diamond Co-Efficient 1/4 zip with t-shirt base layer and Stance Belay Hoody. Below 25 degrees- replace Black Diamond Co-Efficient with Black Diamond Access LT Hybrid Hoody with t-shirt base layer and Stance Belay Hoody. #defoorproformanceshooting #blackdiamond #arcteryx #cold #weather #shooting A photo posted by Kyle Defoor (@defoorproformanceshooting) on
Shooting In The Cold Weather Part 7- The Beanie
Shooting In The Cold Weather Part 7- The Beanie Probably the easiest purchase to make but still some key items to sift through; I look for a fleece lined interior for comfort, but I’m bald so maybe not a biggie for most. I also like a thicker merino wool exterior. I do not like the “wind proof” or soft shell type beanies. Although good for alpinism they are too thick to allow electronic ear pro to work correctly and do not allow a helmet (ballistic) to be worn over top. Additionally the merino/fleece combo can get soaking wet and still warm your brain bucket appropriately. My go to for the past 4 years has been the Patagonia Lined Beanie. Be advised that current ones are not as thick as the original was. I’ve been down to single digits with it often. #defoorproformanceshooting #patagonia #cold #weather #shooting
Shooting In The Cold Weather Part 8- Outer Layer/Shell and pants
Shooting In The Cold Weather Part 8- Outer Layer/Shell and pants The shell layer is mostly for precip of any kind and blowing wind. Again, like with the insulation layer pick a climbing company that has hoods designed for use with a helmet. I look for chest pockets since if I’m wearing this I have a belt over the top for my pistol and other gear and there is no way you’re getting to any other pockets. Draw cords for the hem and hood need to be readily available and the hood needs a crown adjustment as well as the typical neck adjustment. Solid Velcro cuffs are mandatory as is pit zips to vent when moving in the rain. For the pants I look for a zipper from cuff to hip so I can don with boots on and I will use two layer GoreTex for the pants since legs aren’t as exposed as the trunk. Here’s the gold dust- BUY ONLY A 3 ply or 3 layer GoreTex jacket. This will be a one time purchase and will not leak unlike two layer GoreTex jackets which will leak after a few hours (6/8ish). There is a reason two layer is cheaper and easier to find (Department stores, Dick’s, REI sometimes too). Arcteryx, Mountain Hardwear and Black Diamond are the ones to look too. I use the Black Diamond Sharp End Shell and Liquid Point Pant. Use during rain, snow or heavy winds with base layer, mid layer or insulation layer either together (below 25 degrees) or as separate pieces throughout your temperature spectrum. #defoorproformanceshooting #arcteryx #blackdiamond #mountainhardwear #cold #weather #shooting A photo posted by Kyle Defoor (@defoorproformanceshooting) on
Shooting In The Cold Weather Part 9- Boots/shoes
Shooting In The Cold Weather Part 9- Boots/shoes Simple things I do with footwear; has to be waterproof, decently flat sole, good fit. Biggest key here is don’t tie the laces so tight- probably looser than you think. Any interruption of circulation to the foot by having too tight an overall fit or too tight laces results in cold toes. Also, heavier boots doesn’t mean warmer generally it means just heavier. Standoff- meaning height off the ground is a huge factor in keeping warm in real cold weather. This can be done while maintaining a relatively flat sole. We did this for years with the Lundhag boots. Lastly, boots/shoes with insulation are an absolute no go. Once you sweat into the insulation that boot will be “cold” the rest of its life IMO and experience. Built in insulation is not the same as an interior bootie ala Sorels. I e been asked about the best all around boot…tough answer but the Salomon Quest is hard to beat because of its temp range. I wore them for years but I typically only get a year out of them and they can’t be resoled very effectively, this is why I switched to Danners and a welt type sole plus they’re made in USA. Salomon XA Pro GTX- 32 degrees and above Salomon Quest- 20 degrees and above Danner Mountain Pass or Mountain Lights- 20 degrees and above Ranch Wellingtons (Muck or Double H)- 20-65 degrees Sorel Caribou XT with liner- below 15 degrees. #defoorproformanceshooting #danner #salomon #sorel #doublehboots #muckboots
Shooting In The Cold Weather Part 10- Extreme Cold & Final Thoughts
Shooting In The Cold Weather Part 10- Extreme Cold & Final Thoughts Twice a year I do mil scoped rifle in purposely cold temps. Last year our 5 day high was 6 degrees and below zero was the common daily temp. For these conditions I use the Mountain Hardwear Chillwave Parka, a soft shell and fleece Gator Sports mask, Black Diamond Guide Gloves with liner, Sorel Caribou XT boots with liner and shell pants. With this setup I’ve been fine for 6-8 hours a day with base and mid layers. The Chillwave is the warmest down jacket I’ve ever owned. There’s pics on the net of a Kentucky class from years ago where the first day high was 14 or so. I had the Chillwave on and was golden the whole time while a lot of students were hurting. If you want to train year around in anything you’ve got to pay to play and total cost for this series setup or something close is $2500-$3000 depending but it all comes down to how seriously you need it or want it. During downpours and frigid conditions on the range I always ask who would pay $500- $1000 right now to be warm/dry? Never heard a no yet….. #defoorproformanceshooting #mountainhardwear #blackdiamond #arcteryx #patagonia #dannerboots #sorelboots #darntough #salomon #firstlite #doublehboots #muckboots
A photo posted by Kyle Defoor (@defoorproformanceshooting) on
Try These Navy SEAL Tips Next Time You Need To Shoot In Freezing Cold Weather!
I, personally, hate the cold. But I like to train, so I’ll be trying some of these out. I love hearing from guys with a LOT of experience about what they actually use and have found works for them.
It saves you a lot of time by short-cutting the “trial and error” method to at least get you in the ball park to start testing things for yourself.
What about you? Any tips for shooting in the cold?