5 Tips For Shooting in Cold Weather

At the time of writing this article, the USA is going through a wave of some of its coldest weather in recent years. This has never discouraged the most hardcore backcountry shooters however, especially when equipped with weapons specifically engineered for the harshest environments such as the ZeroTech riflescopes range. But the cold can still affect your weapons and equipment adversely, whether out on the field or caring for them at home. Shooting in the field in the winter can also pose some risks and challenges, especially in snow or chilly mountainous terrain.

This article outlines 5 of the most useful tips to keep in mind when maintaining your hunting gear in cold and extreme cold weather shooting, as well as taking them out into the field.

1. Reduce Thermal Stress

Glass, including the glass used in the optics of riflescopes, is susceptible to cracking when exposed to sudden temperature changes such as drops in the weather. This is because the surface of the optic wants to contract from exposure to the cold, but the interior is still hot and wants to expand. This imbalance causes thermal stress which may lead to the glass shattering over time.

High-quality riflescopes, such as the ZeroTech range, are usually designed keeping thermal stress in mind; the Weathershield lens coating prevents easy cracking as well as fogging up in the cold. By purging the tube with argon gas rather than air, the buildup of moisture or dust is eliminated which is usually a high risk in winter. Keeping this in mind, when attempting to warm up your optical equipment do so slowly and gradually, rather than creating stress through sudden warmth; since the metal can warm at a different rate from the glass.

2. Less, not More Lubrication

A common misconception is that keeping your equipment lubricated with oil is a good way to keep them perpetually warm and rust-free, but this may have the opposite effect in cold weather shooting. Some oils and lubricants thicken in cold weather and restrict the gun’s movement rather than help it move smoothly, and may combine with dust or dirt with repeat gun usage to form blockages that are harder to remove. When lubricating your rifle, scope and other accessories, first remove any old lubricant with a scrubber fluid, then either very lightly oil your equipment or skip the lubricating if that’s your preference.

3. Caring for Your Ballistics

It’s harder to maintain a perfect bullet drop in cold weather shooting because the air is colder and denser, and reduces the velocity on your ammunition. If you’re game hunting, you will need to be on target for the potentially larger game that is in season in the winter. A good way to ensure this is by keeping your ammo warm at all times, either by safeguarding in your pocket or a warm holder. There are also tighter chokes and loads designed specifically for colder climates you can consider to compensate for decreased ballistics performance.

It’s harder to maintain a perfect bullet drop in cold weather shooting because the air is colder and denser, and reduces the velocity on your ammunition. If you’re game hunting, you will need to be on target for the potentially larger game that is in season in the winter. A good way to ensure this is by keeping your ammo warm at all times, either by safeguarding in your pocket or a warm holder. There are also tighter chokes and loads designed specifically for colder climates you can consider to compensate for decreased ballistics performance.

4. Reduce Moisture Buildup

This may be obvious advice, but it’s far more challenging to do when in the field or in cold backcountry. If on a long hunting trip, it’s best to come equipped with moisture-resistant coverings such as simple garbage bags or special waterproof seals you can wrap your guns in when not in use, as well as electrical insulation tape to conceal the muzzle and other such exposed openings. If you are camping, it’s usually recommended to leave the wrapped-up equipment outside the tent or cabin, preferably upright against a tree. This is because exposing a cold gun to the sudden warmth of the interiors can cause condensation and aforementioned thermal stress. A backup gun is also handy to bring along just in case.

5. Taking Care of Yourself

A gun is only as good as its operator, and the cold has adverse effects on the human body as much as it does on weaponry. Your hands are particularly susceptible to the cold, since very thick mittens can get in the way of the trigger – but cold hands also lose dexterity and the ability to feel the trigger at all. Aside from your regular cold-weather gear, there are palm sized hand warmers you can buy to conceal within your mittens to keep your hands warm before slipping them off to take a shot. Another good advice is to cut down on activities before cold weather shooting that could reduce blood circulation in your hands, such as heavy drinking, smoking or caffeine consumption. Wear plenty of layers, and keep the circulation in your hands constant with small finger exercises and stretches.

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