Shooting in Winter Is Both Challenging and Fun
During a critical incident, several changes take place within the body. The external changes include the flinch response. This is instinctual, and the electric impulse takes the short path through the brain, bypassing any cognitive thought and lowering your center of gravity. When startled or threatened, we lower our center of gravity by bending at our knees and leaning slightly forward. These actions occur before you can process the reasoning for this action.
Orientation to the threat
Next, as a reflex, we will turn and orient our bodies towards the thing that startled us to obtain more information. Lastly, our hands move into the line of sight. They go into a defensive posture, and whether we are looking down at an attacking dog or up at a bad guy, our hands come up to the line of sight or our working area.
The internal changes start with increased heart and respiratory rate, blood pressure, and vasoconstriction. This leads to the increased center of vision visual acuity (tunnel vision). As we find the threat in our field of view, the thalamus kicks in, filtering out about 80% of your field of peripheral vision.
Distortion of time
During critical incidents, how we process what we see and hear may seem to slow down or speed up depending on how your brain processes the information it gathers. Auditory exclusion is the thalamus filtering out auditory data. Sometimes, for example, all sounds may be diminished. Other times the only thing missing is the sound of gunfire.
Because of how the senses and brain function during a critical incident, it is possible for there to be memory distortions and even false memories and the loss of fine motor skills. Vasoconstriction occurs under stress. As the heart rate rises, blood is pooled into the core and large muscle groups, draining blood from the extremities. This results in a loss of fine motor skills. This means that the ability to manipulate a slide release efficiently, rack the slide, reload a revolver, or drop a magazine will be diminished. Therefore, we emphasize using gross motor movements when manipulating your firearm.
This is the time of year, the winter season, to go out and train with your firearm and, more specifically, your defensive or concealed carry handgun. When you get cold, your body will start to shunt the blood from your extremities towards your core. This will cause you to lose some of your fine motor dexterity, causing issues with accessing your firearm from under your warm clothes, as well as making it more difficult to manipulate the controls of your retention holsters and guns. Between doing some calisthenics to get your heart rate and breathing rate up and losing dexterity, this is the closest you can come to simulating the physical stress of a critical incident. Also, when was the last time you shot your gun with gloves on or while shivering?