One of the components of NOT producing buckshot targets with a pistol is pressing the trigger smoothly and straight to the rear. With Double Action handguns, either revolvers or autoloaders, this is especially true but it applies to any handgun or rifle. Revolver shooters must master this skill if they want the wheelgun to be anything more than an “arm’s length gun.”
Now that the weather is turning colder and, for some folks, snowy, we have the opportunity to work on our trigger press in dry practice. Here are two drills that can dramatically increase your ability to manipulate the trigger correctly.
Dot Torture is a well known practice regimen among skilled shooters. Its origins and evolution are less well known, however.
Shooting on dot targets, i.e., small filled in circles from 1.25 to 5.54 inches in diameter, as a speed shooting training and practice exercise, was originated by John Shaw, a World Champion shooter, in the early 1980s. In his book, You Can’t Miss: The Guide to Combat Pistol Shooting, he explains the training standard he established for his students. Until they could consistently hit the black bullseye (5.54 inches) of an NRA B-8 bullseye target from the holster in two seconds at seven yards, he didn’t allow them to move on to more advanced drills.
Shaw’s school, the Mid-South Institute of Self-Defense Shooting evolved the concept of dot shooting to a high level. Combined with shooting at steel targets, as originated by Bill Rogers, founder of the elite Rogers Shooting School, dot shooting became a standard component used in the practice regimens of knowledgeable shooters who aspired to a higher level of competency.
The concept of dot shooting was so effective at teaching shooters to hit the target, it quickly became part of military counter-terrorist pistol training. The US Army Special Forces developed a course called ‘Special Operations Training’ [SOT] during the 1980s to train its personnel to use the 1911 pistol at a level not seen before that time in the military.
The Woman’s Gun Pamphlet came up in conversation during The Mingle yesterday. Since the original source is no more, I’m republishing this post for interested parties.
Through an oblique reference, I recently found a link to The Woman’s Gun Pamphlet.Edit: The link and the server appear to be gone. A PDF of the Pamphlet is available at the edit of this post.
It’s a very interesting publication that was written and published by a colloquium of radical feminists in 1975. The intent was to provide information about both guns themselves and about personal protection attitudes to women of that era who knew nothing about guns or personal protection. As such, I consider it an historically significant document. There’s quite a bit of political rhetoric in it but also a goodly amount of information. Even dry practice is touched on. Some morsels of dry wit are quite entertaining.
Especially interesting to me is that it was written from the perspective of self-taught women of the time with some input from men and by doing primary…
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There’s currently a lot of Internet stink about some limitations imposed in the NRA Carry Guard training. I’m not going to comment about Carry Guard in general because as an Instructor certified in numerous disciplines through the NRA Training Department, there’s a possible conflict of interest.
What I will comment about the equipment limitation is:
They’re staying in their lane of competency.
Looking at the background and resumes of the instructors, running a striker fired autoloader or Sig 226 is mostly likely all they’ve ever been trained with, practiced with, or used. Revolvers and 1911s have a different manual of arms and idiosyncrasies that these instructors, with the exception of Jarrett who was briefly with the LAPD decades ago, are probably not familiar with.
They are probably expert with the weapons they have used and the possibility is they are either inexperienced or ignorant of how to operate other weapons at any professional level. I see that a lot now. The number of young police officers who literally cannot open the cylinder of a revolver is stunning. There are numerous firearms trainers who can operate one or two weapons and provide good training, as long as it’s confined to those weapons
Why would we then encourage these Carry Guard instructors to teach students how to use weapons they are not experts in the use of? How often has the meme ‘Stay in your lane’ surfaced lately? To his credit, when Rob Pincus wanted to make a DVD about Snub Revolvers, he brought me in to do it, just as he did with Dryfire. I’m an expert on those topics and he is not.
We can’t have it both ways. If we want instructors to ‘Stay in their lane,’ then we’re going to have to accept that just like lanes on the highway, the lanes have limits. In this case, the limitation is that NRA Carry Guard probably needs to say “Training for a limited subset of weapons but not all.” Describing itself as ‘the Gold Standard’ is probably a bit of a stretch. That is not to say I accept what Carry Guard provides is, in fact, the ‘Gold Standard.’ I mean that if Carry Guard is unwilling to provide training for two extremely common weapons, revolvers and Browning pattern pistols, then, by definition, it can’t be ‘the Gold Standard.’
Perhaps it could be ‘the Silver Standard.’ Without seeing first hand what actually takes place at the training, there’s no way for me, or anyone else, including NRA Carry Guard, to say. What they are going to provide remains a prototype, unlike the training provided by NRA Certified Instructors, which are proven training processes. How well Carry Guard’s training prototype will translate to the Instructor candidates being recruited also remains to be seen. At least as long as you’re not using a revolver or 1911. Then you don’t have to be concerned with it.
I’m taking the NRA Personal Protection Outside The Home Course this week. Taking the Course is a prerequisite to becoming a PPOTH Instructor but I also like to get back to Basics periodically.
Yesterday, I did the Range Exercises for the Basic level of the Course. PPOTH has Basic Level range exercises of 100 rounds. The Advanced Level range exercises total 112 rounds. The exercises are detailed in a Condensed Reference Guide available from the NRA.
The exercises are nothing fancy or ‘high speed’ but they emphasize fundamental skills that everyone who carries a weapon should be able to execute flawlessly. Most are shot at seven yards.
- Presenting the pistol and firing one shot (that hits) while not wearing a concealment garment
- Presenting the pistol and firing one shot (that hits) while wearing a concealment garment
- Presenting the pistol and firing two shots (that hit) while not wearing a concealment garment
- Presenting the pistol, moving to a position of cover and firing two shots (that hit)
- Presenting the pistol and firing one shot (that hits) using the Shooting (Dominant) Hand Only
- Presenting the pistol and firing two shots (that hit) at close range (2 yards)
The exercises are done dryfire first and then live fire. Generally, 10 to 20 repetitions of each exercise are done. Accountability for the rounds is stressed. I like that. I’ve used the NRA Marksmanship Qualification Program in a number of classes. What my students found was that getting 100% hits on a 12 inch circle at seven yards wasn’t as easy as they thought it would be.
Repetition and performance measurement are the midwives of skill development.
The standard I established for myself yesterday to get all my hits in the 10 ring of the NRA AP-1 target. This is an eight inch circle, which is a relatively well established standard for defensive accuracy among those who can shoot.
I’m looking forward to taking PPOTH and doing the exercises with someone else watching. That’s another of my standards; being able to perform on demand while others observe what my results are.
Although this sign was at a church, it’s applicable to many aspects of our lives. Interestingly, I saw it while thinking about the 1,000 Days while driving a surveillance detection route I don’t usually take. Synchronicity, as Jung would say.
Working the 1,000 Days has brought a clarity to me about the value of following through on what we start. One of the things that I have noticed is that training classes frequently don’t include a followup program for students to follow. Insights Training Center and Mid-South Institute of Self Defense Shooting are the only two I can recall that gave me a takeaway. I include the NRA Marksmanship Qualification Program Defensive Pistol I course of fire as a followup for people who take my short classes.
I want to make sure that the students who come to our Violent Criminal Actors and You course have a followup program also. Since it’s not a physical skills class, I have to approach the followup program in a different way.
This is how I’m going to do it: the next 10 people who sign up for the class will get a personal one hour telephone consultation with me about how to develop their individual program. Since everyone’s situation is different, each consultation will be personalized. I ordinarily charge $125/hour with a two hour minimum for training and consultation, so I think this is an offer that has value.
Those who have signed up already will also receive the one hour consultation. I want to get the consultations finished within a month after the class, so that will probably be as many people as I can accommodate. This will be an interesting way to me to followup on what the students gain from the class and how they plan to implement their education.
James Yeager‘s philosophy that training is just a down payment has always appealed to me. So, I’m going to put my money where my mouth is and help our students follow-through.
What have I gained from the second run of 1,000 Days?
Purely on a mechanical level, lots of reps. The average number of repetitions I did each day was somewhere between 30 and 40. Some of the regimens I have used frequently in the final year are:
- My 12 shot drill; two hands, primary hand only, support hand only – 36 reps
- The LAPD Bonus Course – 40 reps
- A two target adaptation of the Federal Air Marshal Tactical Pistol Course (pre-9/11) – 30 reps
- An Enhanced Standard version of the State of Illinois Police Qualification Course – 30 reps
- Defensive Pistol I of the NRA Marksmanship Qualification Program (through Sharpshooter) – 80 reps
- Tactical Performance Center dots – two hands, primary hand only, support hand only – 75 reps
- The Georgia Security Guard Qualification Course – 48 reps
Let’s say the average is 40, which might not seem like a lot on an individual daily basis. However, by the end, I will have seen the sights and pressed the trigger smoothly 40,000 times. Dryfire provides feedback on the quality of those movements in a way that livefire cannot, simply because of recoil. Even if I didn’t already know how to the see the sights and press the trigger smoothly, 40,000 deliberate repetitions of them with quality feedback would go a long way to learning them. Not to mention the difference in cost between firing 40,000 dryfire repetitions ($0) and 40,000 rounds livefire (~$10,000 for the ammunition alone).
Since I religiously check the status of my pistol each day before dryfiring, I will also have completed 1,000 repetitions of correctly determining the load status of my firearm. My procedure for doing that has become completely automatic. I notice it when I go to the range or a gun shop and someone hands me a pistol; I don’t even think about checking it, I just do in a sequence.
On another level, I learned to plan ahead, develop a list of options, and then decide which option to implement in the moment. All of the above regimens have some training aid readily available in my dryfire practice area. For example the TPC dot target and 12 shot drill are two of the targets I have hidden behind a novelty sign in my practice area. The LAPD Bonus Course, Ill-Annoy Police Qual, and FAM TPC are recordings on my phone and in my computer. Defensive Pistol I is a sheet I have on a clipboard in the area.
For each regimen, I developed the material ahead of time. Then I set it up so I had immediate access to the target, the recording/sheet, or both. This is John Boyd’s true legacy to us about tactics, drawn from the Aerial Attack Study, not some nearly incomprehensible diagram and touchy-feely misinterpretation about outwitting our enemies in the moment.
By having an already developed group of options, we can pick from them and execute immediately even when we are tired, stressed, or simply don’t know what else to do. Getting into the habit of thinking ahead of time, developing options, and then simply picking from the list when needed has been a powerful learning experience for me.
Having a list of options doesn’t preclude me from adapting and improvising for the situation. I don’t have a set regimen for practicing with my flashlight. Instead I pick one of my regimens and do it with a flashlight.
Philosophically, making the commitment to follow a daily process of repetition and desire for excellence has been the most valuable part of the 1,000 Days. Periodically, people ask questions like “Are you really planning to do this for 1,000 Days straight? Although I generally respond with a simple ‘Yes,’ there’s a lot more to it than that. Aristotle said:
We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.
That applies in many areas of life. While I was developing some sales tools for real estate agents and other salespeople, a friend commented that her firm already had a training program and tools for their people. She said that many of the salespeople didn’t use them though and were always looking for something new or ‘cool’ or simply improvised on their sales calls. Doing so tended to produce mediocre results because they were always improvising.
Improvisation is overrated.
The really successful salespeople followed the company program and used established tools. As a result, they closed a lot more sales using a limited set of tools and techniques. They had practiced extensively (every sales call is a practice) and could use a small set of tools and techniques to a high standard of excellence.
Bruce Lee is reported to have said:
Colonel Boyd provided us with an example of how right Lee was. Boyd’s reputation as ’Forty Second Boyd’ [Coram, p 88] was gained through his ability to perform one single aerial maneuver with the F-100 fighter better than anyone else in the world. During his years as an instructor at the USAF Fighter Weapons School, he was never bested and only was only flown to a ‘dead heat’ once. He had pushed and tested the F-100 to its absolute limit on one aerial braking maneuver over and over again until he could slow the aircraft several hundred miles per hour in a matter of a few seconds. His opponent, unable to replicate or defeat the maneuver, would then unintentionally fly past him. Boyd would then regain his speed and get on the opponent’s tail, radioing the kill signal “Guns! Guns! Guns!”
There’s a lesson for us from ‘Forty Second Boyd.’ The real estate phrase ‘location, location, location’ can also be paraphrased as ‘repetition, repetition, repetition’ when we need to prepare ourselves for action and achievement.
An implied task, the first time of the 1,000 days, was simply devising a way of getting through it. To avoid boredom and make the process efficient, I recorded cassette tapes of several different regimens. The regimens were all based on my needs at the time, which mostly consisted of improving my competitive performance in IDPA and other shooting sports. I limited them to 10 minutes duration so I had compact practice blocks. When I wanted more practice, I could do more than one in a day, sometimes consecutively and sometimes one in the morning and one in the evening.
Having a specific structure for my practice also helped avoid ‘grabasstic gunclicking,’ which as a friend said, is what dryfire often devolves to. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I had inadvertently incorporated one of fundamentals of tactical decision-making; have a plan ahead of time. My decision-making research of the past few years made the value of having several practice regimens available quite obvious to me. John Boyd’s Aerial Attack Study was instrumental in providing me with this moment of clarity.
My regimens of the second 1,000 Days are considerably different than those of the first. Several of the regimens are based on higher level police qualification courses, such as the Federal Air Marshal Tactical Pistol Course (pre 9/11) and the LAPD Bonus Course. While most police qualification courses are easily cleaned by a competent marksman, a few are much more demanding and I prefer that.
In other cases, I took police quals that had a good basic structure but mediocre standards and enhanced them. My favorite is the State of Illinois Police Qualification Couse. For the armed private citizen, the distances and round allocations are good but the standards are so low that some of my friends in Ill‑Annoy can literally pass it with their eyes closed. The enhancements I made were to make the target smaller, cut the times in half, and do parts of it Primary Hand Only and Support Hand Only.
Being a fan of the NRA Markmanship Qualification Program, I developed dryfire versions of both Defensive Pistol I and Defensive Pistol II. The time limits set for these courses are quite generous but they have an accuracy standard of 100 percent. Since we’re accountable for every round we fire, I like the idea of a strong accuracy standard, in general.
In a defensive encounter, every bullet you fire that doesn’t hit its intended target is headed straight for a bus full of nuns and orphans being followed by a limousine of personal injury lawyers on a conference call with the District Attorney.
There are also some improvisations I like to make. My research into Serious Mistakes and Negative Outcomes made me a believer in the absolute necessity of verbalizing and being able to use a flashlight in conjunctions with a handgun. I usually dryfire something like Defensive Pistol I using a flashlight at least once a week.
One of the concepts I retained from my first 1,000 Days was making a good hit with the first shot. There’s too much emphasis placed on shooting fast in the community and not enough on making sure the first shot counts. Based on the incidents in my databases, I came to the conclusion that making a solid first hit above the diaphragm is the way to gain the initiative in an armed encounter.
Then I told myself, ‘Hey, I need to slow down and aim better.’
What if your situation or job precludes you from having access to a firearm every day? Some thoughts about that in Part III.
As many of you know, I’m currently working on my second set of doing 1,000 consecutive days of dryfire practice. The first set was done during 2000-2002. This second set started on March 3, 2014 and the 1,000 days will be finished on November 27, 2016, during the week after Thanksgiving.
The original inspiration came from a friend who was working on his Yoga instructor certification. His final requirement to complete his certification was to do 1,000 days straight of meditation. This represented true dedication to excellence in my mind. Being a strong believer in the value of dryfire, I decided to make the same commitment to dryfire and immediately started my own 1,000 Days program. Just as with his meditations, it doesn’t have to be any particular drill or set of drills. Rather, it’s the commitment to do dryfire each and every day, without fail, for 1000 straight days. If I missed a day, I had to start again at the beginning.
Reflecting back on both times I’ve done the 1,000 Days, I have to say they were different experiences and I achieved different things from them. This isn’t surprising, given that they started 14 years apart and a lot went on between them.
The first time was largely a mechanical regimen devoted to further development of my skill level at seeing the sights quickly and pressing the trigger smoothly. Those two skills are fundamental to being more than a mediocre shooter. Unfortunately, shooters who insist on doing only livefire practice rarely learn them well. Recoil masks too many flaws in technique, especially when performance measurement, the third key fundamental, is omitted. Dryfire provides a superior method for learning those key fundamentals.
There is no doubt in my mind that doing the 1,000 Days was instrumental in the successes I had in my competitive shooting career at that time. It was also one of the things that led to my becoming the Chief Instructor of the elite Rogers Shooting School because dryfire is an integral part of the School’s program.
The second run of 1,000 Days had a broader conceptual focus than the first. In between the two runs, I had individually read and created two databases of Armed Citizen and Officer Involved Incidents. Combined, they total over 7,000 incidents. This gave the second run a different perspective on the skills, tactics, and techniques that contributed to success or failure in the context of personal protection.
In addition, I did extensive research about:
- the decision-making process
- instructional design
- performance measurement
- incident analysis
- wargaming and decision exercises
- proxemics, and
- human communication and interaction
These all contributed to my perception of what and how to practice, both dryfire and livefire. Some of the skills I practiced the first time remained important while others became either less significant or even irrelevant.
As I approach the end of the second 1,000 Days, several questions that hadn’t occurred to me the first time arose.
What is the focus of the next 1,000 Days?
Is 1,000 Days necessary?
Am I limited to only one focal point?
Does my focus have even have to relate to personal protection?
In answer to the last two questions, I resolved to get back on a daily blood pressure monitoring scheme, which I’ve neglected for a while. Since I don’t care much for apps and found the array of paper based products unsatisfactory, I developed my own blood pressure diary. It’s a printable design that’s more compact and organized than the other products available and gives me a better basis for discussions with my cardiologist. For those who are interested, it’s available here.
More in Part II.
Over the years, I have designed dozens of different dryfire drills for my practice sessions. The first was for a dryfire VHS tape that I produced almost 20 years ago. Frankly, the session and the tape weren’t that good but it was a start. I just kept creating and refining more of them. Now I have a menu of options to choose from each day. Most of them are recordings that I have on my computer and/or my cell phone.
Having a library of pre-made sessions accomplishes a number of things for me.
- Keeps me from getting bored. Since I’m close to finishing my second run of 1000 Days of Dryfire, that’s really important. Let’s face it, having to do the same thing for 1000 days would make it hard to complete the 1000 days. It’s human nature to get bored and we need to accept and anticipate that.
- Having some short sessions makes the 1000 days manageable. A number of my regimens are less than 5 minutes, including setup. Otherwise, I’d probably end up missing a day due to scheduling, fatigue, or other factors. If you want to design some longer sessions like Ben Stoeger or Steve Anderson, that’s great. It’s good practice and I encourage it. However, you should have at least two ready sessions of five minutes or less duration that you can fall back on when you’re busy or tired.
- If you’re a little fatigued, doing a short session helps prevent practicing bad form. Better to get 30 quality reps and end it there rather than doing a longer session and overlaying 70 bad reps on top of 30 good ones.
- Designing short sessions helps me re-focus my long term goals periodically. I shot IDPA heavily for over a decade and a half. During that time, my dryfire sessions were designed around that activity. Doing a lot of dryfire was one of things that helped me win six State Championships. When I became the Chief Instructor at the elite Rogers Shooting School, I created sessions that were more in tune with the skills I demonstrated and taught there. Now that I have become focused on Decision-Making and avoiding Serious Mistakes, my sessions revolve around those objectives.
- Two or three short sessions can be combined into a longer one. For instance, I could combine a timed accuracy oriented session, such as the one I created based on the LAPD Bonus Course, with a Serious Mistakes session, such as flashlight practice.
Think about your goals and what the skills that relate to them are. There are numerous references about dryfire on the Internet and YouTube. My colleague Greg Ellifritz made some very pertinent comments to me recently.
It’s so easy to be good at shooting in today’s world. It takes so little effort to obtain knowledge that was completely cutting edge (and not disseminated outside a very tight knit group of professionals) 25 years ago. A simple google search will provide all the information that took me 10-15 years of constant study to learn.