Bad Weather Shooting
These days, I’m pretty much over the “If it ain’t rainin’, it ain’t trainin’” attitude and prefer to stay indoors where it’s warm and dry, but if you’re stuck being outside in the elements, here are some tips to make shooting a little more pleasant.
A light breeze is nice, especially in the spring and summer, but heavier winds can be challenging whether you’re shooting tactical pistol or long-range rifle. Target stands and walls often don’t like to stay upright when the wind is blowing, so staking them down is an obvious solution but one that might not work if you have a rocky range like mine. What you can do instead is invest in heavy, steel stands, sandbags, and wall material that has as little surface area as possible (mesh safety fence is great). As for that long-range work? You might want to dial in your wind instead of just holding a little off to one side or the other.
There’s nothing terribly pleasant about standing around while getting soaked in rain. I recommend a full set of Frog Toggs, a brimmed hat, and making sure your shoes are actually waterproof. If they aren’t, a trip to Walmart for cheap rain boots can save you during a shooting event away from home. And speaking of being stuck in the rain while traveling, snag a shower cap from your hotel to help keep your gun from getting completely soaked. When you get back in for the day, don’t forget to unpack your range bag right away to thoroughly dry everything. If the rust has started already, then a light rub of gun oil will both remove the oxidation and help protect against it the next time you are out.
Shooting in thunderstorms is a bad idea. Think about it: you’re standing outside, probably in an open area, holding a piece of metal … a long tube of metal if you’re shooting rifle or shotgun. Probably not a good habit to get into assuming the first time or two goes in your favor. To avoid literally getting struck by lightning, make sure you keep an eye on the weather forecast and consider installing an app that shows local, real-time radar imaging. If radar shows a storm within about 10 miles, or you start hearing thunder or seeing lightning, get inside and resume shooting later.
Snow and Ice
A bit of snow on the ground doesn’t mean you have to cancel shooting activities, though you should consider not only whether you can safely drive to the range but also whether you can get around on the range property itself. Many range roads and pathways aren’t shoveled or plowed, and they can accumulate ice that sticks around for days after a thaw. At the very least, you’ll probably want footwear that can handle slick ground as well as keep your toes warm. Don’t forget to dress for the cold all the way around and consider handwarmers and frequent breaks near a heater. Freezing hands in particular get clumsy, and that can be a serious safety issue when trying to run a gun or maintain trigger control.
At the other end of the year are the heat waves. Even when it’s a “dry” heat, the sun beating down on you can get pretty overwhelming, and it can be hard to feel when dehydration and heat exhaustion or heat stroke start affecting your ability to mentally focus or even increase your reaction time and make you less coordinated. Remembering to hydrate appropriately goes a long way towards keeping you both comfortable and safe. I’ve also discovered that wearing sunscreen isn’t just about not turning red and reducing funny tan lines. It also helps me not feel the sun beating down as hard so I’m less fatigued at the end of the day. Try it out – the worst that happens is that you’ve reduced your skin cancer risk.
Fall weather is about as good as the outdoors gets in most parts of the U.S., but it’s also hurricane season, snow has already fallen in Colorado, and parts of California saw a triple-digit heat wave at the end of September. If you’ve been out shooting in the elements lately, head on over to our Facebook page and tell us how you prepared!