Many shooters frequent the range often during the summer, but when the cold weather hits don't make it out for months at a time--especially those who shoot mostly outdoors. Braving the snowy weather to shoot a few rounds may not seem like the best idea. But going all winter without shooting can leave you rusty in the event that you need to use your firearm for self-defense. So how can you maintain your shooting skills during the winter? Here are a few tips.
1. Find an indoor range. Obviously going indoors is one way to beat the cold weather. You can send bullets downrange and improve your shot without getting cold. This helps you stay sharp with shooting your gun, but most indoor ranges restrict you to shooting in a straight line and will not let you practice drawing your firearm from a holster or adding any movement to your shooting. You can improve trigger control, precision shooting, and see patterns in your shots on paper, but you won't improve your ability to draw your firearm or move while shooting. Indoor ranges are often much more expensive so if you have a limited budget that can restrict how often you shoot at indoor ranges.
2. Dry Practice Indoors. Working with your unloaded firearm can help you improve your trigger control, increase speed and smoothness while clearing malfunctions, drawing from a holster, and more all from the comfort of your own home. These drills will help you improve your skills without spending any money in just a few minutes each day. Be sure to set up a safe environment, including a safe backdrop and removing ALL live ammunition from the area. It can also help to have visual and/or audible triggers for starting and stopping your dry practice. This could be stating out-loud that you are beginning and ending your practice, or having a unique target that you use during your practice that you don't use/see any other time. These triggers help your brain separate your practice time with the time you have your loaded firearm on your person.
3. Bundle up and go outdoors. While braving the cold may not seem like a good idea, consider how different you carry your gun in the winter compared to the summer. You've probably added multiple layers and possibly even changed how/where you are carrying your concealed firearm. If you need to go through a coat and other layers now to get to your gun, it's going to take practice to get proficient. You aren't doing yourself any favors if you pretend like you are still wearing a short sleeve t-shirt. You can practice this indoors with an unloaded firearm to start, but it's always good to get some real practice in drawing and firing your handgun as well. While outdoors, practice with your coat on, put gloves on and work on drawing your firearm to make sure that you could access your gun if you need to. If you are going to have gloves on (or just have cold hands) when you need to draw your firearm for real, it's always better to have some experience with it before it counts. Here in Utah we have public land close by almost anywhere you go where you can shoot.
4. Consider adding some concealed carry clothes to your wardrobe. A concealed carry coat allows you to carry your firearm in your outer-most layer. There are pros and cons to this, but if you will be outdoors for extended periods of time this is a great way to increase accessibility to your gun while dressing for the cold weather. A coat like the Kakadu Hoover is a great choice to provide warmth and accessibility to your gun.
As with all exercises with a firearm, safety is the primary concern. You should start practicing with an unloaded firearm and work your way up to live fire drills to make sure you can perform the drills safely. These tips will help you adapt to your current environment and maintain/improve your skills during the winter.