Monday, July 11, 2011

Training tip: Dry fire practice

This week's training tip is going to touch on the basics of dry fire practice, what exactly it is, how to do it safely, and how to get the most out of your dry fire training.

Required Equipment:
  • Unloaded Firearm
  • Shot timer (Surefire provides a free app for iPhones)
  • Snap caps
  • Safe training area free of live ammunition

First off, make sure your gun is unloaded.  Remove magazine, visually and physically inspect the chamber, and remove all live ammunition from your training area.  This could be your back yard, basement, garage, etc.  Find a private place where you can focus and make gains in your shooting abilities. 

Also, be aware of your surrounding environment when you practice.  While practicing in front of the big open picture window of your house may let just the right amount of light in to illuminate your fiber optic front sight, you also need to keep in mind your non-gun owning neighbor who is ghastly afraid of guns and has the local PD on speed dial.  Practice safe, practice smart.

Dry fire practice is more than just relentlessly pulling the trigger on your firearm for a half an hour then putting it away.  Dry fire practice, used effectively, is the most cost effective training that you can employ.  If you really want to get the most out of your natural abilities read on and build a dry fire routine designed by you to meet the needs of your shooting style.

Dry fire practice should consist of practicing anything you encounter while shooting, other than recoil management of course.  If you are an IDPA/ USPSA competitor you should be practicing drawing, reloading, advancing into positions, retreating, target transitions, etc.  If you could come across an action in a match, you should practice it at home.  If you're a hunter, dove season will be here before you know it, you should be practicing mounting your shotgun, reloading, shooting from awkward positions, etc.  Again, if you could come across it in the field you can and should be practicing it at home. Shotgun guys, be mindful of ceiling fans when practicing indoors. ;) 

In order to make any gains with dry fire practice you need to have a structured practice environment.  I really like the approach that Mike Seeklander of Shooting Performance has taken to implementing dry fire.  I strongly suggest purchasing a copy of his book and implementing his routine.

Mike suggests using sets of repetitions at various training speeds when dry firing.  The first set is at a slow speed that you can effectively complete the action you are training completely correctly.  The second set is at your maximum speed that you can correctly complete the action.   The third set is above your maximum threshold, this is where you are pushing the limits.  The number of sets and reps you choose to do, I will leave up to you.  If you start to do too many it becomes easy to lose focus and the quality of your repetitions will degrade.  Poor practice is worse than not practicing at all, don't practice bad habits.  Maintain focus and visualize each rep prior to starting it.

You should break your practice sessions down into logical categories.  Practice drawing exercises one day, reloading another, movement on another.  This helps you keep your focus, and beats the repetitions further into your head.  Come up with drills that accomplish the things you need to train, and keep your eyes peeled on my blog for more drills in the future.

Basic Routine:

We'll run through a hypothetical standing, stationary draw practice session.

First set:   First, actively visualize what you are about to do, grip, unholster, hands meeting at the grip, presenting the firearm, seeing the sights, pressing the trigger.  Using your timer, set a delay and draw at the sound of the beep.  Go slow, make sure you are economizing your motion.  In this set you are laying the groundwork for the subsequent faster sets to come.  DO THESE CORRECTLY, AND SLOWLY.

Second set:  Again, actively visualize the entire sequence prior to starting the exercise.  This set should be performed with a par time.  Start with a par time that is easy to accomplish.  Then bump the par time in .10 second increments, less if necessary until you can no longer correctly perform the drill.  Once you have reached your limit you should complete your pre-determined number of reps, +/- 10, log this time as your new maximum par time for this drill.  This will be the end of your first training session for this drill.

In your next training session you will use this par time as your base par time, meaning you will perform your reps at this par time in perfect form.  Complete your reps correctly prior to moving on to the next set.

Third set:  Again, actively visualize the entire sequence prior to starting the exercise.  This set consists of pushing your limits.  You are trying to go faster than you have ever gone before.  Take your previous maximum par time for this drill and remove .05 - .10 seconds from the par time, less if necessary.  Now push yourself to correctly perform the drill within the constraints of the new par time.  Once you have completed your correct repetitions of this drill you can move onto the next drill. 

Theses are the basics of dry fire, feel free to leave me questions and comments on the blog.

Keep shooting,

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