Letter Re: Keeping Firearms Functioning in Extreme Cold Temperatures

Hi Jim,
Greetings from Ohio. As a former NCO in Her Majesty’s Canadian Forces, and a Winter Warfare instructor to boot, I’d like to suggest some additions to your excellent post regarding extreme cold weather firearms.
While having the proper lube is of high importance do allow me to suggest that some basic handling techniques are of equal importance.
Most importantly never bring your weapon near a heat source while operating in the deep cold. This is the most common mistake we would repeatedly see on operations. If you seeking shelter in any heated building/tent or so forth – leave the weapon outside. Properly covered up to protect from the elements.
This may seem contrary to all good tactical sense but any weapon brought in from the cold to the heat starts to sweat immediately, and unless you can guarantee you will have hours with no possibility of needing that weapon it will stop functioning the moment you return it outside.
The second suggestion I would offer is while you are outside in the deep cold unload your weapon and work the action at least once every hour if at all possible, given of course the tactical situation. There’s many I time I saw soldiers being forced to unload their weapons and beat them against trees to free up the action. Not through any negligence regarding lube but simply from the fact that most parts are metal and we were in -70C conditions.
Following these two simple suggestion, along with proper lube as you’ve pointed out, in my experience working from 700 miles north of the arctic circle south to the border keep your weapons in working order the vast majority of the time.
One last tip is regarding your magazines. While metal mags can freeze if left attached for prolonged periods you should be very careful changing to plastic as extreme cold often causes feed lips to break very easily; always of course at the most inopportune moment.
Thanks so much for your work on the site and God speed. Cheers, – David