I recently asked some FTA members that I know and respect to contribute to an article titled “Dealing with Challenges in Rainy Weather” knowing full well that I would likely benefit from reading the various responses myself. I have not been disappointed. FTA members have historically supported other members when it comes to making sure that students everywhere benefit in classes covering material that might prove to be critically important someday. What follows is advice from some experienced FTA members on lessons learned when it comes to dealing with rainy weather with much of it learned the hard way.
Warren Wilson (www.defensivetrainingservices.com):
Students don’t like standing out in the rain. However, a little water never killed anyone. Lightning is a different story and we don’t shoot when there’s lightning in the forecast. That just isn’t worth the risk and it’s a good idea to be flexible with your live fire/classroom blocks so you can adjust them as necessary. Sans lightning in the forecast, I handle this by sending the students an email with the weather forecast and what kind of gear they should need. I add that we do not get to choose the conditions under which we will need our defensive firearm and if we’re lucky, we’ll get some raining training experience.
Targets are another issue. Cardboard and paper don’t last long in even a light rain. It’s always a good idea to have some plastic backers in your kit for these instances. They are quite a bit more expensive but last a lot longer and are impervious to rain. The next step is to use spray adhesive to secure the paper targets to the backers rather than staples or clips. Glue that first one in place and then immediately apply a product like Scotchgard to seal the water out. It works surprisingly well.
The terrain is its own challenge. No matter how well the grass on a range is maintained, there will always be muddy spots after it’s been walked on by students and instructors. I recently went to a class where the instructor required that we bring a second set of soft-soled shoes so we could change them when we traversed back and forth from the range to the classroom. It worked very well and I have since adopted that practice (stolen the idea). If conditions are particularly bad, having several small squares of plywood cut and ready to deploy for slippery spots is a good idea.
Dave Spaulding (www.handguncombatives.com):
"If it ain't raining you ain't training" has never been something I believe in. If you are trying to learn new skills, the best conditions possible will only help. If the students are cold, wet and feeling "beat down", very little learning will occur. They will be more focused on their comfort. That said, once the skills have been introduced, it is ESSENTIAL the student of combative pistolcraft must practice these skills in the rain, snow, hot, cold, sweat, blood, etc. This is one of the reasons for my fouled hands drill in my Combative Pistol course. For this reason, instead of trying to push through a rain event, I will try to explore what happens to a student and their performance when rain hits.
For example, I am a big believer in "movement with purpose" so working this in the rain and how it affects traction can be an interesting experience. Many popular hiking boots worn to gun classes are quite slick when the soles are wet. Another thing I will work in the rain is reloads and stoppage manipulations. Most students are surprised how moisture in a kydex magazine pouch will actually lock the mag in place...feeling like suction is occurring. In addition, the common "over the top" grip on a slide, utilizing the rear fingers to stay clear of the ejection port becomes problematic when friction is reduced. Rain is an opportunity to explore that should not be wasted.
Ed Monk (email@example.com):
Unless you teach on an indoor range, weather can always negatively affect or cancel your training. Here are a few actions we take to mitigate rain’s effects during training at Last Resort. First, inform students days before the class of the forecasted rain, and remind them to dress for it. This includes a hat/cap with large brim, good rain jacket & pants, good footgear for wet, muddy, slippery ground, and towels to dry themselves during breaks. Have non-electric hearing protection on hand for students whose electric hearing protection squeals or malfunctions when wet.
Since rain causes slippery hands and guns, give extra emphasis in the safety briefing about students not attempting to grab a handgun if they lose their grip on it. Use pop-up canopies, if possible, to cover students while shooting drills. Such canopies are relatively inexpensive (just bought 2 10’x10’ ones on sale for $39 each) and are easy & quick to set up and take down. Prepare the range for use during rain. This can include leveling the surface to reduce puddles, adding gravel, and improving drainage. You may also place cardboard or mats on excessively muddy places where students may walk or train. Lastly, if possible, modify the training to use steel targets as much as possible, in order to reduce the problems that rain causes with cardboard, paper, and tape.
Cecil Burch (www.iacombatives.com):
Probably my major concern when teaching under rainy conditions is that I need to pay extra specific attention to the students. Generally in a typical shooting class, a lot of the students will be reluctant to show what they think might be perceived as weakness. And in doing so, they may start to suffer physical penalties. The wetter and the colder they get the more likely they are to start making mistakes whether that be mental in the sense of not paying attention to safety issues or even physical and that maybe they can't even feel their fingers and they think they flipped that safety on when they actually didn't or they feel that their trigger finger is outside of the trigger guard when they're re-holstering when it isn't.
It is up to the teacher to pay attention and read the signals that the students are giving off, not relying on verbal signals from the students. It is not enough to ask them if they're doing okay but we have to make sure that they are in fact doing okay. That could mean a slower pace of the class or it may mean that all the teaching/explanation/demonstration should be done in dry conditions under top cover. And then the time that the students are actually experiencing the weather conditions is only to do what has to be done on the Range and not standing around listening and getting more dangerously worn out.
Also, keep as much of the gear under a roof or cover as much as possible. Don’t have the students leave too much on the line to get rained on as well. We need to keep gear as well as students in as good of shape as possible to ensure everything that happens is as safe as possible.
Part Two of this article will include advice obtained from FTA members Rob Beckman, Bryan Hill, and Kemit Grafton.
Steve Moses has been a defensive firearms trainer for over 27 years and is a licensed Texas Personal Protection Officer with 7 years of experience performing as shift lead on a church security detail for a D/FW area metro-church. Steve is a co-owner and Director of Training for Palisade Training Group, LLC based in Dallas, Texas. Moses is a retired deputy constable and spent over 10 years on a multi-precinct Special Response Team. He owns multiple instructor certifications, including Rangemaster Advanced Handgun Instructor and Defensive Shotgun Instructor, Red Zone Knife Defense Instructor and Adaptive Striking Foundations Instructor, Modern Samurai Project Red Dot Sight Instructor, and State of Texas Personal Protection Officer Instructor. Steve holds a BJJ Brown Belt in Relson Gracie Jiu Jitsu. He is a content contributor for CCW Safe and writes weekly articles on various subjects of interest to concealed carriers. Moses shoots competitively and holds an IDPA Expert rating. Steve is an annual presenter at the Rangemaster Tactical Conference.