For over fifteen years, my sister and I competed in a sport called biathlon, a combination of cross-country skiing and rifle marksmanship. Biathlon was our life for a very long time, and we dedicated a great deal to it, competing in a combined four Olympic Games. Our days of competing in biathlon are over, and we are now focusing on the sport of 3-Gun—something with a little less running and a little more gunning. As we participate in competitions throughout the year, we're looking forward to sharing our stories, lessons learned, tips and a unique perspective from two very experienced competitors, yet beginners in the sport of 3-Gun.
In our biathlon days, most of our competitions took place in Europe and Russia from November through March, so cold and inclement weather was typical. In November, we'd compete in Sweden in bitter wind with humid temperatures well below zero. In December, we'd compete in freezing rain in Germany. Having to ski anywhere from 4-10 miles through blizzards, freezing rain, etc., all while carrying guns on our backs and stopping every couple of miles to shoot, taught us how to handle any weather condition. Trust us when we say that knowing how to prepare for and deal with bleak weather can have a huge impact on your performance.
Our most recent event was the 3-Gun Nation Southwestern Regional held in Marble Falls, Texas. Like our last match, the Western Regional in St. George, Utah, we showed up to find what most would consider horrible weather for a shooting competition: cold temperatures with rain off and on. Throughout the weekend, we heard complaints from competitors about the weather and how it was affecting them, their equipment, and most importantly, their attitude. We can't say we blame them too much as we come from Southwest Colorado where the skies are sunny and blue with mild temperatures most of the year.
When we competed in biathlon, we experienced some of the worst weather conditions this planet has to offer. Don't get me wrong, early on in our career we learned the hard way and ended up with frostbite on a few fingers, toes, and ears, but biathlon either toughens you up or spits you out. It gave us the confidence to compete through any condition and also taught us that if you can look at adverse weather as an advantage, then you will compete that much better.
Attitude is everything, especially in a sport like this. If your competitors have a bad attitude and are letting that affect them, then it will affect their performance as well. This can be to your advantage if you refuse to let it affect you. You will be that much better off, and last I checked, the only person who melted in water was the Wicked Witch of West. So, to better prepare for situations like these, don't pick just the nice days to go outside. Get out there and practice in adverse weather. That way, by the time you get to competition, it will be just another walk in the park.
Despite the rain and cold at this last match, we still saw several "brave" souls wearing shorts and short-sleeved shirts. Their extremely pink skin, constant rubbing of their forearms and stomping in place made quite the impression. Many shooters were complaining about their hands and arms getting so cold that they even lost some mobility and weren't able to manipulate their firearms as quickly as normal.
Now, because most blogs and videos focus on equipment, they sometimes forget important things like clothing, footwear, hydration, and fueling/refueling. We'll talk about some of these another time, but let's discuss proper clothing. Now, we aren't suggesting spandex, like we had to wear for so many years, but don't get caught at a shooting competition without the proper clothing when it's cold or with too much when it's warm.
When you're properly dressed, your body will spend less energy trying to find homeostasis (its happy place), which means you'll have more energy to focus on the targets. You also won't be constantly distracted by how uncomfortable you are.
So, when the forecast calls for inclement weather, just be prepared. If it calls for rain, you should bring a towel, a rain jacket, a complete change of clothes, gloves, warm hat, buff, extra socks and most importantly, arm warmers. Now, we're not talking about hand warmers—the pouches that everyone sticks in their pockets and holds on to while they're waiting their turn to shoot. I'm talking about a type of sock for your forearms and wrists.
If you are from a warm area, you might not know what I'm talking about, so just Google "arm warmers" and check them out. They will keep your hands and arms in proper working order during colder weather.
Another trick you can try is taping a hand warmer to the underside of your wrist. This is where the blood flow enters your hands, so this will help keep the blood circulating and thus your hands and fingers warmer. Just be careful that the hand warmer isn't so strong that it burns you. If it's too much, try putting a layer of clothing between the hand warmer and your wrist.
Anyone involved in shooting sports always wants to perform better at the next match than they did at the last. Knowing your guns inside and out is the biggest part of that, but it's not the whole story. Just giving some thought to how the weather will affect you and preparing accordingly will make a difference you can measure in points on your final score.