By: Greg Chabot
Photos By: Sasha Steadman
With winter upon us, many complain they cannot or will not go out and train due to snowy conditions. I am here to tell you that is no excuse to be a slacker during winter months!
If you want a real challenge and some kickass cardio to boot, try running and gunning in snowshoes. For this article, I am only going to cover the basics. Shooting in snowshoes will require you to do things differently from what you are used to on a flat range. Getting out of your comfort zone will prepare you for real-world situations. My training philosophy is based on my experiences in Iraq, fighting in various environments.
Snowshoe Buying Tips
I recommend going to a retail location with knowledgeable staff to get fitted properly. Snowshoes come in various sizes and buying the right size is important. The bindings are the most important part of snowshoes; cheap ones will come loose or break. The snowshoe bindings I recommend pivot, which makes for a more natural movement while walking. I also recommend adjustable trekking poles, as they can help you keep your balance. Many brands of poles come with changeable baskets for summer or winter use. If you hit a soft spot in the snowpack, they will help you to climb out. Many ski areas and outfitters also rent snowshoes if you want to try snowshoeing before committing to buying a pair.
After buying snowshoes and gaining confidence in them, it will be time to hit the range or public land. I believe in the crawl, walk, run method. Starting off with an empty weapon, slowly walk to your target while aiming your weapon. You will notice some bounce and side-to-side movement of your sights. This is normal, as we cannot walk heel to toe for stability. Having to lift your legs more causes the side-to-side motion. With practice, this can be cut down, as shooters refine their technique. Then add live fire and increase speed as you progress.
Shot groupings will improve as you get used to the snowshoes. Take time to practice going from standing to kneeling, then prone. It won’t be as easy as you are used to, so take your time. In prone, make sure the snowshoes are horizontal to the ground, so you don’t give away your position to a threat.
When engaging multiple targets, you will have to turn at the waist and blade your body. Due to the crampons on the bottom of snowshoes, lateral movement is difficult to do and could cause one to lose his or her balance or injure a knee. Through trial and error, I have found blading to be the best method. The wider stance while wearing snowshoes should provide decent stability. I also use this method while running to engage targets with good results. While moving from one target to another, I keep my muzzle up to prevent snow from getting into the barrel in case of a fall.
Do not overlook trekking poles as a training tool. They can be used as a shooting rest for both rifles and handguns. I recommend practicing shooting with your poles hanging from your wrist, as you might not have time to drop them when facing a threat.
Winter Weapon Tips
1) Go light on weapon lube. In cold weather it can thicken and possibly cause malfunctions. I have used both Gun Butter and SEAL-1 CLP in sub-zero temperatures with no issues. Less is better for winter shooting.
2) Use a holster with good retention. It is not fun to try to find a lost handgun in snow. Regardless of conditions, please invest in a good holster.
3) Use a dump pouch for mags if possible; snow is like sand and gets into everything.
4) Gloves or finger mittens are a must. It can be challenging to find gloves or mittens that keep your hands warm and still allow you to operate your weapon safely. I prefer finger mittens, since we know hand protection is a personal choice. Experiment and find what works for you. For my range sessions, I bring both in case of changing weather conditions.
Training in snowshoes is both challenging and rewarding, but it does come with some hazards.
1) Falling or sinking into low spots: I am blessed to be able to train in an area with varied terrain. Depending on snowpack, there is always a hazard of sinking into a soft spot without warning! Be aware of your terrain. You will fall down! I recommend carrying high ready when you are moving around, as it will keep snow out of your barrel. If you drop or fall on your weapon, take the time to make sure it is clear of snow.
2) Dehydration: Snowshoeing is very strenuous. Even in sub-zero temperatures, you will work up a good sweat. Good rule to follow – if you are not going number one while training, you are not drinking enough.
3) Know your limits: If you are getting cold, take a break to warm up. Know the symptoms of hypothermia. If shooting as a group, check on each other. Dress in layers. If you get hot, you can take a layer off. I also recommend an emergency mylar blanket as part of you kit.
4) Wear tinted safety glasses to prevent snow blindness.
Running and gunning in snowshoes can be challenging both physically and mentally. It will force you to rethink how to shoot and move effectively. Physical fitness is just as important as shooting accurately. Snowshoes are a good test of endurance and leg strength.
I hope this article will inspire readers to go train in snowshoes. Even with the China virus and election theft ammo shortage, you can still get a good range session in regardless of weather or terrain. The world is not a flat range with nice weather, so train accordingly and train to win!
Big thank you to my Beta readers and Vigilance Elite.
Greg Chabot is an Iraq Combat Veteran freelancer, writing from New Hampshire.