During World War II, the U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division served in combat for four months, but it had one of the conflict’s highest casualty rates.
The division started out as an experiment to train skiers to fight in the most difficult, mountainous terrains around the world. Some of the men who joined the division were skiers already, while others had never seen a ski in their lives.
Their training at Camp Hale, Colorado included skiing, snowshoeing and rock climbing. In addition, they learned cold-weather survival tactics such as keeping warm by building snow caves.
The men lived in the mountains for weeks, working at altitudes of up to 13,500 feet, in five to six feet of snow and in temperatures that dropped to 20 degrees below zero.
At the end of 1944, the 10th Division was deployed and began the first of many dangerous assaults against the Germans in the northern Apennine Mountains of Italy.
Mount Belvedere was the highest mountain in the Apennines and, at the time, the Germans had prevented the U.S. military from taking the mountain for almost six months.
On the night of February 18, 1945, the 10th Division took Riva Ridge to stop the Germans from being able to continuously watch U.S. positions.
The steep mountain was covered in snow and ice and the Germans did not bother with guard patrols, because the conditions were so difficult they did not believe any American unit could climb the ridge.
But the Germans were wrong and the soldiers climbed silently to the top and secured Riva Ridge with minimal casualties. The next day’s operation, the assault on Mount Belvedere, would prove to be very different.
The American soldiers ended up victorious, but paid a huge price. Nearly 1,000 of the 13,000 soldiers in the 10th Division died.
The actions and heroics of the men in the 10th Mountain Division proved key in opening up an offensive that over the next three months carried the division all the way to the Alps in huge gains for the Allied Forces.
Now, none of us will likely be in the Alps fighting the Germans, but this doesn’t mean that we don’t need to keep ourselves warm and be prepared to fight in the cold.
Where I live in Utah, we just got 8 inches snow and we’ll likely get snow until the end of March. Of course, I carry concealed no matter what the weather is like, so here are some top things to remember when carrying a firearm in the cold.
Layers. No matter how skilled you are, drawing from concealment wearing a t-shirt, and drawing from concealment in heavy or layered winter clothes is completely different.
What I mean is, summertime muscle memory is lifting a t-shirt to expose the firearm and drawing. When you add a winter jacket and a shirt or two, your draw will likely change significantly.
For example, if your jacket is unzipped, the key is to sweep it to the side and away from your firearm, then lift your shirt to access your firearm.
If the jacket is zipped, the motion is to lift your jacket and grab your shirt as you lift them both up. So, make sure you practice your draw however you decide to wear your jacket.
Gloves. If you don’t typically shoot wearing gloves, then don’t wear gloves in the winter. If you have never trained to shoot with gloves, then you don’t want to find out those gloves don’t fit in the trigger guard when you need the gun to save your life.
On the other hand, if you prefer gloves, try on a lot of different gloves and find gloves that are compatible with your motions of drawing from concealment.
And make sure your trigger finger has no problem operating the trigger. The company 5.11 Tactical makes thin gloves that may be a good option for you.
IWB holsters. Some folks like to change holsters in the winter months, from Inside the Waistband (IWB) to Outside the Waistband (OWB).
The problem is, unless you’re practicing drawing from the OWB holster, I wouldn’t change the way you carry because it’s a different draw than from an IWB holster. Especially, if you wear the holsters in different locations on your body.
No matter what your attire is for the winter, make sure you practice drying firing in the clothes you most commonly wear, because in a life and death situation, every second counts.