Whether you are a tactical professional or an outdoorsy type about to go hunting, there are a few things you should know about how the elements impact your body. When it comes to temperature, it is one of the major forces of the outdoors that every shooter will contend with at some point. Here are the major effects of temperature on tactical performance you need to know.
There are a few ways heat can play a role in how you perform in a tactical situation. For starters, an overexposure to heat can lead to such impacts as confusion, dizziness, headache, unclear vision, and fainting. There are also a few signs you have overexposure to heat such as muscle cramps because they are unable to receive the natural electrolytes of the body, red skin with a heat rash, and an increased heart rate from the body trying to compensate for the heat effects by pumping blood faster to cool you off.
These effects on the body impact your ability to perform tactical functions such as shooting in a variety of ways. One of the biggest effects of temperature on tactical performance is the way heat can cause dizziness and confusion. These two side effects of heat can make it hard to get the shot or complete the task. Heat can also leave you dehydrated which only exasperates the effects and places you in a potentially life-threatening scenario from heat stroke.
Luckily there are ways to combat these effects for the most part. For starters, drink plenty of water or electrolytes prior to and during prolonged heat exposure. You should also wear protective and cooling clothing as much as possible when permissible. Most importantly, listen to your body and know the signs of overexposure to heat which could become deadly.
When looking at how cold temperatures affect the ability to perform under pressure, especially as it relates to shooting, the answer is in the hands. The hands are perhaps the most crucial part of the making the shot, but they are also the area most vulnerable to exposure to cold temperatures. This is in part because fingers and hands are small in size which makes it harder for the body to trap the heat in said area. The actual temperature needed to begin to feel the negative impacts of the cold on your shooting hand is less extreme than you might think. We are not talking about the temperature of the environment, but rather the temperature of the tissue of the hand and fingers which is closely related to the air temperature. The temperature at which function is impaired is usually around 59 degrees Fahrenheit while loss of feeling is usually around 40 degrees Fahrenheit. With more extreme temperatures in tissue, you end up losing all function in the fingers. The good news is that you can acclimate to temperatures over time the way those who live in colder regions are more used to the cold. You will want to work on cold exposure over time by protecting your shooting in different temperatures. You can also ease the effects to a degree with the right pair of shooting gloves intended for cold temperatures.
Aside from the direct impacts on hands during cold temperature exposure, there is also the effect of what is called cold stress. Cold stress is when the body reacts to cold stressors or a loss of body heat by way of such effects as impaired mental function, reduced motor skills, blood vessel constriction leading to poor circulation, and shivering. While these may seem like something you can just toughen out, they can very easily play a role in the performance of your tactical skills by making you less effective in reaching your goal. These can also be signs you are headed for hypothermia so cold stress isn't something to play around with if you are feeling it.
It is also worth noting that your firearms will perform differently based on the temperature of the surrounding environment. For example, you may need to adjust your trajectory or shot to maintain accuracy. You will also need to take into consideration the effects of the temperature on the firearm in terms of snow getting inside the muzzle. When it comes to shooting for tactical purposes, the temperature plays a big role and you will need to know how to adjust accordingly to get the most out of the performance of your firearm.