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Winter Weapons Handling

Winter Weapons Handling

Redstone Arsenal, Alabama

Cold temperatures can greatly affect the maintenance, functioning and employment of infantry weapons. To properly handle and care for your weapon under a variety of adverse conditions, you must take temperature into consideration. Your weapon is only as good as its maintenance. This is especially true when the mercury falls below freezing.

It is very important that you never let condensation form on your weapon. Condensation, often referred to as sweating, forms on weapons when they’re moved from extreme cold conditions to any type of heated environment. When the weapon is reintroduced to the extreme cold, the moisture refreezes and causes the internal mechanisms to freeze together, causing stoppages. For this reason, it’s best to leave weapons outside during freezing temperatures.

When left outside, weapons should be readily accessible, guarded and sheltered to keep ice and snow from accumulating in the working mechanisms, sights or barrel. Because the condensation process will continue for about an hour after bringing it into a warmer environment, wait until the sweating stops before attempting to clean the weapon.  Once you’re inside the shelter, keep your weapon near the floor to minimize condensation. In addition, keeping the interior of the shelter close to 32 F will minimize condensation and also prevent Soldiers from overheating.

Once you move back into the cold, operate your weapon manually by pulling the charging handle to prevent the internal parts from freezing. Charge the handle several times during the first five minutes after leaving a warm shelter, but make sure you don’t inadvertently load the weapon and have a negligent discharge!

When you clean your weapon, completely strip it and use a non-residue solvent to remove all lubricants and rust prevention compounds. Once it’s clean, use a lubricant that won’t thicken and cause the weapon to operate sluggishly or cause it to jam. Use Lubricant, Arctic Weapon rather than Break-Free CLP in all weapons except the M249 squad automatic weapon and the M2 .50-caliber machine gun. Remember to use lubricants sparingly.

Another consideration is your battlesight zero. You should battlesight zero your weapon in the area where you’re going to use it. Temperature, elevation and atmospheric pressure all affect where the round hits and how the weapon operates. A common error is to battlesight zero your weapon at home station and then deploy to a different area, where you’ll wonder why it isn’t shooting to the point of aim.  If you want to accurately engage your enemy with precision, battlesight zero your weapon in the area of operation.

These are only a few tips you should consider when operating your weapon in a cold climate. The Army will continue to operate in cold weather environments worldwide, so we must be able to maintain our weapons in any climate. Including these basic lessons in your pre-deployment training plan will help ensure you and your Soldiers are battle ready!


Have you checked out the Range and Weapons Safety Toolbox? The U.S. Army Combat Readiness/Safety Center developed this toolbox to aid leaders in the management of range operations and safe weapons handling. The toolbox provides a centralized collection of resources to establish and maintain safe and effective ranges and training programs for military and privately owned weapons. To learn more, visit https://safety.army.mil/ON-DUTY/RangeandWeaponsSafetyToolbox. An AKO login is required.

  • 1 November 2014
  • Author: Army Safety
  • Number of views: 11456
  • Comments: 0