When a person’s actions are restricted to what can be defined as self-defense, the assailant controls many of the variables they face. Time; place; daylight; dark; cold or hot are many of the variables one must consider. Therefore, the variables that we can control must be mastered if we are to have a chance for survival if ever faced with a do-or-die situation.
Those who own firearms and practice with them enough to be considered proficient in their use, most likely choose good weather in which to practice; light conditions are optimal and a good comfort level is maintained. Sure, you can hit that silhouette at 25 ft with both hands the majority of the time with optimal conditions with your favorite handgun. You can also hit that target at 300 yards with your battle rifle, sometimes putting all your shots in a small group when conditions are great; fine indeed if your attack occurs only during the daylight with no wind and the temperature hovering around 72. How many know how they will perform these tasks when faced with darkness, heavy wind, freezing temperatures or blowing snow? Better yet, how many know how their equipment will perform in less than ideal conditions?
If you can be 100% certain you will only be faced with a life-or-death self-defense situation when conditions are ideal, stop reading now; the following will be of no interest to you.
Monday and Tuesday here in the Rockies witnessed blizzard conditions with 1–2 feet of snow, blowing winds sometimes reaching 50 mph and temperatures near zero. While most folks thought this the best time to hunker down with a good book or movie, I got together all of the firearms, ammo and equipment that I might have to use to defend my life and/or the life of my family and headed for the range. I’m sure any who witnessed me entering the range that day were comforted in the thought that I was totally insane. When the 5-hour session was over, I was very cold and miserable, but I knew how both my equipment and I would function in that environment. I viewed the experience as a variable somewhat mastered.
The things that can be learned about ones firearms and equipment in terrible conditions could be the edge one needs to stay alive at some point in time and most useful when it becomes necessary to provide food for the table. Calculating for point of impact with projectiles down range in a 50 mph wind with numb fingers and blinding snow presented a real challenge. Then, to try all of the tactical sights on targets at less than 100 yards was quite an experience. Which ones work and which ones do not was a question that was answered for me along with what reticle performs best in blizzard conditions. Which action on what rifle actually froze up and would not function at all? What firearms lubricants held up in those conditions? What trigger guards were of adequate size to handle a gloved finger? All questions I had answered for me that would not have occurred had I not taken the time to train in those conditions.
Some time back I spent equal time in training in the desert around Tucson Arizona in the month of June. Again, not everything performs as advertised in a 100-degree plus environment, most of all the owner of the equipment. Taking the necessary time to train in all environs in which one could possibly find themselves is vital. Equipment, physics, physiology and how they relate to your ability to function in a stressful situation are invaluable pieces of knowledge. Once you possess this knowledge, you increase your confidence to deal with any situation ten fold. Confidence and mental preparation will see one through many situations where the ignorant will fail to survive.
Training with your chosen equipment in optimal conditions is fine and should be done on a regular basis to become as proficient as possible and to understand exactly how your equipment functions.
This should include being able to make adjustments and repairs as might be required and assembly and disassembly of your chosen firearm. Having necessary spare parts is also a must. Say you have a bent charging handle on your AR platform; do you know how to replace it? What about replacing a broken firing pin?
Equally important is knowing and understanding how you and your equipment function in extreme environments. Once you understand how everything works, take it all out during extreme cold and heat; try them in a pouring rain and windy conditions; disassemble and assemble in low-light situations without giving away your position. All of the above could be the determining factors in whether you and your family are able to survive an attack or able are to provide food for survival if/when the situation demands.
Michael Gaddy, an Army veteran of Vietnam, Grenada, and Beirut, lives in the Four Corners area of the American Southwest.