If you listen to Al Gore and his convenient untruths about Global Warming, then this installment of Street Smarts is a must skip. When most people think of the effects of clothing on concealed carry, they typically think about guns and the wardrobe that can be used to hide them. However, for those of us who carry edged weapons for personal defense, clothing—especially the heavy or multiple layers worn in winter—can impact both our carry and tactics even more dramatically.
If you carry a knife with even the thought of using it as a defensive weapon, you should have not only invested the time to train in its proper use, you should have also practiced the skills necessary to draw it quickly and reliably. Let’s say you carry a tactical folder clipped to your front pocket on your strong side. If you typically tuck your shirt in, drawing a knife carried in that position is pretty simple and straightforward. However, add a sweater or fleece over that and your drawstroke suddenly gets a bit more complicated. Add a winter jacket and a pair of gloves on top of that, and your ability to draw your knife quickly and reflexively is now significantly compromised—unless you change your tactics.
Rules Of The Cold
The basic rule I like to follow when it comes to concealed carry of a knife—or any other weapon—is that you should never have more than one layer of clothing between your hand and your weapon. This way, even if you have to clear a jacket or sweater to get to the weapon, you don’t have to fish through multiple layers to find it. So with this rule in mind, what do you do when you dress in layers in cold weather?
One solution is to choose all your fleeces, jackets and over garments so that they are waist length only and don’t extend more than a few inches below the top of your pocket. In this way, they can basically be treated as one collective layer and cleared together. Unfortunately, this isn’t always practical or comfortable in really cold climates.
Another approach is to ensure that all the outer layers of your clothing are of open-front style and are left open to allow easy access to the knife. The outermost layer, if closed at all, is only secured by Velcro, snaps, or some other type of breakaway fastener that allows it to be immediately “ripped” open with one hand. With this approach—even with multiple layers—you really only need to clear the outer layer to have access to the base layer and your weapon.
Like anything else you’re willing to trust your life to, if you choose these methods, you need to invest the time to practice them to make them functional under stress. On the positive side, they allow you to maintain the same basic drawstroke you’d have without the outer layers of clothing. However, on the negative side, you have to work a lot harder at clearing the garment to achieve the same basic function.
A more direct way to ensure access to a weapon when wearing heavy outer clothing is to carry a second knife in the outside pocket of your coat. By choosing a coat with large, warm pockets, you can keep your hands warm and literally have your knife in hand at all times. The knife can either be left loose in the pocket or, to ensure consistent positioning for a more reliable draw, fastened to the pocket interior with Velcro. Just apply a small piece of the “wooly” side of self-adhesive Velcro to the knife itself. Then stick, pin or sew the “hook” side to the inside of the pocket so you can position the knife for a quick draw and immediate opening.
Alternately, you can sew a small piece of nylon webbing into your pocket and use the clip on your knife to secure it in the pocket. Similarly, a Kydex panel can be cut to fit the pocket and form a platform to which you can clip your knife.
If the weather is very cold and you must wear gloves, remember that they constitute another layer of clothing between you and your knife. Since drawing and opening a folding knife with gloves on is not a high-probability tactic, you either have to remove your gloves or consider placing a folding knife inside your glove. Place the closed knife in your palm and hold it there with your thumb. Then slide the glove over your hand so it holds the knife against your palm. In this position, the glove can be quickly removed with your other hand or even your teeth if necessary, leaving the closed knife in your hand and ready to open. It can also be used as a “palm sap” impact weapon, offering a potent, loaded slap as well as keeping your knife instantly accessible.
Heavy clothing can make drawing a weapon quickly more challenging, but with proper planning and plenty of practice, you can ensure that your knife is always there when you need it.