Tips for Better Shooting in Cold Weather
In the winter of 1939/40, Simo Hayha killed over 500 members of the Red Army. The Finnish sniper is known by history as the most effective, prolific sniper to ever live, and he made his entire legacy in the frigid snow of a Finland winter. He had a supreme mastery of cold-weather shooting knowledge.
While you may not be looking to best this record, you need to know how to shoot in the cold. It can apply to hunting, sport shooting or just hitting the range for a little practice. A couple of tips can help you considerably.
Hopefully, you already know how to wear warm clothes in the winter. That’s not enough to get your shooting in top shape. You also need to cover your equipment. Even if it’s dry, the cold temperatures can lead to condensation, and that can wreak havoc on everything.
A waterproof cover for your rifle is invaluable. You can help it along by trying to keep the weapon in a steady temperature. Going from cold to warm to cold air will almost certainly inundate the weapon with condensation, and if it’s cold enough, mechanisms (like the firing pin or the trigger) can freeze.
If you’re short on waterproof equipment, a simple trick can still keep the bore dry. Putting electrical tape over the muzzle protects it from water. If you apply the tape inside, while it’s warm, then the tape will stick in very cold environments.
You also don’t have to service the tape. You can shoot right through it when you’re ready to fire. As long as you clean the rifle when you’re done, it’s a harmless, cheap way to keep the cold weather from wreaking havoc.
Condensation is also a problem with optics. Keeping them covered whenever possible will reduce the problem and help you see clearly.
Cold temperatures do a lot to the trajectory of a bullet. For starters, cold air is denser. This might not affect your running speed, but for supersonic ammo, it’s going to slow the projectile. You’ll get a sharper drop and shorter range as a result.
The cold temperatures can also do weird things to gunpowder. Moisture aside (your ammo needs to be kept dry too), sub-freezing temperatures reduce the explosiveness of the power. During WWII, the Brits ran experiments to see just how big a deal this could be. They found that every three degrees below zero lowered range by three percent.
If that’s not intuitive enough, you can think of range this way. If it’s 0-degrees Fahrenheit outside, you can expect a typical .308 to lose between 200 and 300 yards of range. That’s roughly a 25-percent shorter range just because it’s cold outside.
Range and condensation are the biggest changes to cold-weather shooting. Everything else will mostly depend on how you do in the cold. Gloves, hand warmers, finger exercises and anything else cold-weather athletes use can help you with your shooting. If you can stay warm, you can probably stay accurate too.
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