As the North East is experiencing record breaking lows I thought it a good idea to remind people that temperature has two primary impacts on weapons. We will give a cursory glance at ballistics, which is a complex subject and is or will be explained in detail in Howard’s Ballistics Series. Mechanical functionality is the larger concern for most defensive engagements.
If the temperature drops below 20 degrees, you can safely assume that most every day gun lubricant will be affected. You have a couple of choices. One is buy cold weather gun lubricant.
FP – 10, what we generally recommend for every day use is functional down to about -50. Artic Brake fluids are another option, which may well make it to -75. Eventually everything freezes… CLP Break Free, a decent inexpensive preservative, and moderate gun lubricant work fines down to about 25 degrees at which point is starts to gum up. Problems increase from there. The alternative to cold weather lubricant is to completely strip off all gun lubrication and preservative from your firearm.
Striping gun lubricant off completely means you will have excessive wear if you fire a lot of rounds through the gun, so this is not really an option for training in cold weather. For defensive purposes, this option is fine, but does not deal with the issue of moisture. Moisture is in the air, even at very cold temperatures. When you take metal from a cold environment to a warm one, you can see the moisture start to sweat out of the pores of the metal. This is where cold weather lubricant is a benefit in that it keeps the moisture out of the pores of the metal.
Regardless of your choice, in a defensive pistol engagement, taking a pistol from concealment, to a sub zero freezing conditions can and is likely to cause problems, very quickly. You have some time, depending on temperature and gun lubrication choices, but the faster you can either get your shots off, or get out of the situation, the better your chances. The same is true of bringing your shotgun out of the house or car and into the cold.
Cold temperatures also affect ammunition functionality. Many primers do not function well in low temperatures. Some ammunition manufactures have tested their ammo at a range or temperatures and some have not. Do the research on the testing done by your manufacturer, or take 100 rounds out and test it yourself. Hornady Critical Defense is my defensive carry ammunition of choice. For hunting in cold weather, you should strongly consider loading your own.
Ballistics are also temperature dependent. For defensive pistol engagements, you can ignore it. If you are hunting or shooting a rifle at range, you need to zero your gun at the temperature you are shooting (or a reasonably close range). The colder the air, the denser it becomes. This increased air resistance translates to less distance (more bullet drop) over a given range.
If you want more practical advice on things to consider and training for defensive engagements in cold weather, read Winter is Coming from November 2012.
Stay warm and safe this winter!
~ Chris White
#gunlubricant, #coldweatherfirearms, #guncare