I’ll brag a little in hopes of encouraging others.
The low light and cold weather session for members of my agency started when there was only enough light left to barely see a black steel silhouette against the snow-covered berm behind.
Handgun course: 1. night sights only; 2. handheld or WM light only; 3. red/blue overheads illumination only; 10 to 25 yards.
Rifle course 30 rounds, 50 to 7 yards; indirect patrol vehicle illumination only.
Windy, snowing, a low of 2°. My fingers got so cold with light gloves that I had to use my thumb to release the AR magazine.
Three men, four women, all did respectably.
Good stuff with less than two months to my 77th.
One of my favorite range session memories, from years ago, was pulling into our public outdoor range while it was snowing, and finding I had it all to myself. I spent hours shooting in the snow, although I don't believe it was as cold that day as your range quals. Unfortunately, while I was younger and in better physical shape to shoot in those conditions, I didn't know as much about shooting drills, and settled for just hitting targets at a leisurely pace. Looking back on it now, I missed a great opportunity to work on improving my skills in those conditions.
I've been spoiled by years of shooting on mostly indoor ranges, or shooting on the occasional private land in good weather, but I have thought about shooting in difficult conditions such as what you qualled in.
Is this an annual qual or does your agency hold it more than once each Winter?
Were there any stoppages or gear failures during the qual? Any takeaways from the experience?
Heck yeah! I have some memories of unique shooting and weapon manipulations in cold AK weather. Freeing-up frozen or snow-packed weapon controls is a weird thing to have to do.
The cold/dark session is an annual training event for each officer. I hold at least two sessions to help with scheduling, and sometimes makeup sessions. Timing depends on different variables, but can be anytime from late November after DST ends through February; both ends of the period are within our full winter months.
It’s not just the cold that’s considered, but also because it gets dark early enough that it doesn’t require people (me!) to be out too late. It actually works pretty well for all shifts: end, middle, beginning.
As I tell the trainees, the purpose is basically familiarization although the sessions do count as handgun and patrol rifle qualification as well. The intent isn’t as if it were a five-day class from 9:00 P.M. to 5:00 A.M. to turn them into master low light practitioners. That would be nice, but resources simply don’t permit it. What it does is introduce them to or remind them of what it’s like to use night sights and supplemental lighting while dealing with the extra problems caused by not being able to see anything very well and being uncomfortable and clumsy due to the cold. The first time some people are exposed to the “dancing” effect of alternating red and blue vehicle lights they find it disorienting, but a little experience goes a long way very quickly for them to become accustomed to dealing with it.
The courses require clearing failure to fire malfunctions and reloads, and I have seen malfunctions with both handguns and ARs due to improperly cycling slides or bolts. I suspect that’s because hands are cold and shooters are often wearing gloves that interfere with the process. I haven’t ever seen any malfunctions that were evidently mechanical failures due to the temperatures. The Lucas oil I issue seems to be immune to such problems even in our climate, and if they don’t use that I caution them about the type of alternatives to use. More than anything mechanical failures are due to insufficient lube of any type, but that’s very rare, possibly because of the stress I place on the issue.
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We did our monthly training session in the dark this month as well. It was just below freezing, so thankfully not as cold as your session was, but I definitely didn't hear anybody complaining about being hot, lol.
To change things up a bit I got my hands on a dueling tree, painted the paddles alternating colors, set up a couple of barricades as "cover" about 15 yards out, and had them engage all three paddles of a given color on the clock. They also had to alternate their cover position for each paddle that they engaged, so it kept them moving. You could shoot as many times as necessary to neutralize your targets, but any hits on the wrong-color paddles and you didn't get a time for that run.
We did it with both WMLs and handhelds, and I had them try different handheld techniques to see what worked best in different positions. It also forced them to use their momentary switches as they transitioned between cover positions to avoid getting blinded by their own backsplash.
I haven't gotten to play with the dot much in the pitch dark, so it was great exposure to that for me, and I found that I really like it. It's much easier to just superimpose the dot between your eyes and the target and not have to fine-tune your sight alignment in the dark, especially while moving between positions. The flashlight provided plenty of light to offset even my dayshift dot brightness settings. Certain handheld techniques that work really well with irons aren't so great with the dot, though, as they can introduce glare.
Overall, everybody was pretty grateful by the end of the night that we have WMLs and not just handhelds, and it was clearly reflected in the times as well. But the handheld certainly has it's place, and I'd love to do some force-on-force simunition stuff at some point in the dark to really pressure test some of that theory and hopefully make it a little more real for everybody. I just need to get somebody with some sim gear onboard with that plan, as we don't have any.
That is a great idea! It wouldn’t really be feasible here in the winter so we’d have to schedule it later, but we are planning to get optics and WMLs for all handguns and that would be a challenging effort once everyone thought they were up to speed. And I already have a dueling tree.
And as someone texted me just now, it’s good I didn’t schedule the session for tonight. We were out there last night until after 7:00 P.M., and tonight at that time the NOAA temperature was –9°, which would have beat our record of several years ago for a session by 5 degrees.
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Brrr! I've done it myself, and it wasn't enjoyable...I doubt I could get anyone to show up if we were outdoors on a night like that lol.
If I knew that a session was forecast to be that cold, I’d probably wimp out and reschedule—as much of an inconvenience as that would be. Despite my repeated warnings that people need to dress appropriately and giving frequent warm up breaks, I’d be concerned about cold injuries in people who don’t really understand the dangers even though they live here. And of course not everyone has spent many hundreds of dollars on effective cold weather gear (like some of us).
Demanding I am, but not crazy.
That's good to know as I bought up a local store display of it for my stockpile of supplies last year when they were discontinuing carrying it and selling it at a serious discount. I've used it to lube a knife, but I'm using up some older lubes first before trying it on guns.
I once sold some snow shoes to a deputy in a small mountain community, that was a member of their SWAT team and their sniper. After earlier cooperative training with the 10th Mountain division, and especially after one particular call-out in which he struggled to reach a shooting position while carrying his rifle with both hands overhead in chest-deep snow, he became convinced in the use of snow shoes for Winter time call-outs.
sigfreund, I know you get some fairly deep snow in the little slice of paradise you live in. Does the depth of snow factor at all into your agency training? As absolutely miserable as it sounds, do you include any sort of prone or kneeling shooting during your training quals?
We got a new sheriff last spring when the previous one decided she’d had enough fun in the job and up and quit with a month’s notice. He was fortunately elected for a full term last month. I mention that as a “fortunately” because when the previous one came into office four years ago she thought there was no time to keep a SWAT team supported and what had been a decent program immediately died.
With our previous team I devised a drill that required moving through knee-to-thigh-deep snow as quickly as possible to then engage targets. Most team members thought it was a worthwhile challenge, but the #2 SWAT guy said, “No more of that.” He also canceled an after-dark deep snow exercise because he thought it was unsafe. Can you guess I was glad when he left?
Anyway, to answer your question, I’m hoping that we’ll be able to get back into some of that sort of thing in the future. A couple of us team members convinced the powers to start getting stuff like snowshoes and gaiters, but they were never used before the dissolution. At present our patrol rifle qual course does require shooting from the prone, and that involved lying in the snow the other night, but it wasn’t deep. In my sniper practice I did learn of the difficulties posed by even small drifts. Although that wasn’t the start of my efforts to become proficient with shooting from elevated positions, it reinforced the lesson.
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