As always, a good day at the range erases the ennui generated by Internet goofiness.
As I mentioned in my post about Structured Practice (Part II), many people have no plan and use no structure when they go to the range. That’s only because they’ve never been introduced to the concept of structured practice in any activity. I always have two or three objectives in mind for a range trip and I write them down to help me keep on track.
Yesterday, I had two principal themes for the trip.
- Test the CMMG .22 Conversion Unit I bought for my AR.
- Test the functionality of the Model 30 Improved I Frame revolver I bought. It had been abused at one time and subsequently reblued so I wasn’t 100% sure of its mechanicals.
For the CMMG unit, I had three things in mind.
- Zero it.
- Shoot the US Army Alt-C Qualification Course with it.
- Shoot the NRA Marksmanship Qualification Program Tactical Rifle Course at the Pro-Marksman level. My gun club rules don’t allow me to shoot the Program with a centerfire rifle caliber so I’m going to use a .22.
Testing the Model 30 was a little simpler. My plan was to shoot the LAPD Retired Officer Qualification Course. The Course isn’t extensive but it allowed me to test the revolver’s reliability and see if it shot to the sights.
Fortunately, the CMMG shot fairly close to the rifle’s current zero. It just shot a little low, so I fixed that. The Alt-C course is a precision course shot at 25 meters. The targets are scaled from 50 meters to 300 meters.
Foxhole supported is simply a benchrest shooting position. There are benchrest positions available at my club so that’s how I shot Table 1. Even though I was using the iron sights, I was still able to shoot Sharpshooter. That made me happy because I haven’t fired a rifle in almost a year.
Next, I shot the MQP Tactical Rifle Pro-Marksman. My plan for that is to shoot one level each time I go to the range. Pro-Marksman has three stages; 7, 30, and 100 yards. The targets are expensive and hard to find but six inch circles are an acceptable substitute for the Program. The lid from a Cool Whip container happens to be six inches.
This was my 7 and 30 yard target. I like to mark the hits with different markers for each distance.
This was my 100 yard target. Any silhouette can be used for the 100 yard stage. The sun was in my eyes during the kneeling and prone shots so I was glad I hit as well as I did.
I write my scores on the sheet and scan it for record and future reference.
Finally, I shot the LAPD course with the Model 30.
Having a plan when I go to the range helps me stay on task while I’m there. It also gives me a feeling that I’ve accomplished something when I leave. Next time, I’ll probably shoot the MQP Marksman level and the .22 Home Defense Course that I based on the old FBI [Sub]Machine Gun Course.
Last weekend, I traveled to Florida to take the NRA Instructor Basics of Personal Protection Outside The Home Course (PPOTH). I was asked by several people why I would want this particular “Basic” Certification in light of my background and training experience. It’s simple,
I like training new shooters.
My colleague Grant Cunningham made a pertinent blog post about this shortly after I took the PPOTH Student Basic and Advanced Student Course. Experienced instructors often shy away from training the newest students. There has been a massive increase in people licensed to carry firearms over the past few years. In addition, several States have adopted Constitutional or Permitless Carry. That market base probably needs experienced trainers and coaches.
And I don’t feel the need to reinvent the wheel. It’s unfortunate that the NRA Training Department’s best marketing statement for its Personal Protection training is contained in the PPOTH Instructor manual. “The NRA Basic Personal Protection Series is based on the building-block approach, moving from the simple to the complex.” The most effective training courses I have taken over the past two decades have used a step by step approach to skill building.
The Training Department sees the progression of the courses for new gun owners interested in learning how to defend themselves and their loved ones as follows.
- NRA Basics of Pistol Shooting Course, the first course, develops the basic skills of handling, shooting, and cleaning the firearm, as well as a thorough grounding in firearm safety.
- NRA Basics of Personal Protection In The Home Course, the second course, teaches:
- the defensive or flash sight picture,
- firing single shots and/or aimed pairs from various shooting positions
- shooting using a center-of-mass hold,
- effectively using cover and concealment,
- employing point-shooting and multiple target engagement techniques.
- techniques for improving awareness and promoting mental preparation,
- methods of enhancing home safety without a firearm, and
- legal aspects of the use of deadly force in self-defense.
- NRA Basics of Personal Protection Outside The Home, the third course in the series, covers:
- Introduction to Concealed Carry Safety and The Defensive Mindset,
- Introduction to Self Defense and Concealed Carry,
- Legal Aspects of Concealed Cary and Self-Defense,
- Carry Modes and Handgun Concealment,
- Presenting the Handgun from Concealment, and
- Presentation, Position and Movement.
- Another offering in the series is the NRA Defensive Pistol Course. This is a shorter course than PPOTH. It teaches:
- How to apply the NRA Rules for Safe Gun Handling when carrying a concealed firearm,
- basic principles of concealment,
- drawing from a hip holster
- levels of mental awareness,
- developing the proper mindset when using a pistol for personal protection,
- flash sight picture
- clearing common stoppages,
- shooting a qualification course,
- use of pocket pistols,
In addition to the Courses themselves, the Training Department provides additional Skill Development Exercises for NRA Instructors to use with students after PPITH and PPOTH.
And the NRA Marksmanship Qualification Program has even more exercises that interested shooters can use to increase their skills and earn awards from the NRA.
Looking at all the topics covered, that’s a really comprehensive training program. Those who are interested in a defensive firearm as more than a talisman to ward off evil can really get a lot out of such a “Basic” program.
There are a number of aspects of the NRA’s series that I really like. First of all, the classes are between 4 to 9 hours long. Because they’re constructed in modules, even the 9 hour classes don’t have to be conducted in a single day. Most people’s lives are quite busy and asking new shooters to take an entire weekend or even week of training is both difficult and sometimes counter-productive.
The NRA’s program is really the only one in the industry that is built around the student’s capabilities and time constraints rather than a trainer’s weekend convenience. Mea culpa; I’ve done both the traveling trainer and hosting trainer routines, so I’m as guilty of it as any of my colleagues. It’s something I want to try a different approach to.
There’s a place for both newer trainers and experienced trainers in the NRA’s Personal Protection Series. I’m very much looking forward to seeing how I can implement that.
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.
At the NRA Annual Meeting this past weekend, the NRA Education and Training Division conducted an update for NRA Trainers. The presentations and discussion rekindled my interest in the standards for students to pass the NRA Basics Of Pistol Shooting (BOPS).
In short, there are four levels of qualification (standards) offered to the students at the end of the Basics Of Pistol Shooting Course. The very first level is Red, for which they must shoot a five shot group into a four inch circle four times at 10 feet. The four times don’t have to be consecutive but the students must be able to demonstrate the skill repeatedly so they can shoot four targets.
Students who meet that standard are then offered the chance to attain three higher levels of achievement; White, Blue, and Instructor. Achieving Instructor level Qualification does not mean that they qualify as NRA Pistol Instructors but rather that they have shot to the same standard that NRA Pistol Instructors are required to.
While many experienced shooters will say this is ridiculously easy, I say “NOT SO FAST!” Having run over 100 shooters of varying skill levels through the NRA Marksmanship Qualification Program Defensive Pistol I course, I know it’s not as easy as it seems. The 100% standard for group is the kicker. Out of my 100 or so testees, only 1 person out of 10 was able to pass the MQP DP I Pro-Marksman test on the first try. That standard is five shots into a 12 inch circle at 7 yards (21 feet), four times. Repeatedly shooting a four inch group at nearly the same distance is obviously quite a bit more difficult.
Moving up to the Pistol Instructor standard, how many people practice shooting groups at 15 yards? Very few in my experience. A six inch group at that distance can be a major difficulty if you haven’t practiced it. Having one try at putting 16 out of 20 shots into a six inch group at that distance can be an eye opener about one’s demonstrable skill level.
To test myself on the requirements, today I shot all four levels with three different pistols; Walther P22, S&W SD9VE 9mm, and S&W 332 .32 H&R Magnum, which is my carry gun. The progression I used was as follows:
- Red BOPS – P22
- White BOPS – SD9VE
- Blue BOPS – 332
- Instructor – SD9VE
I was able to pass all the levels but it required some concentration on sight picture, trigger press, and follow-through. What a concept!
A PDF of all the targets is attached below. Print them out and take them to the range next time you go to practice. Your results may surprise you. Note that the targets print just a little small so if one of your shots is slightly out, as with my Blue #2, you’re still on the mark.
If you can’t pass at the Blue level, perhaps you should consider taking the NRA Basics Of Pistol Shooting Course. You can search for courses local to you at NRAInstructors.org.
Begin to attrit the enemy at the maximum effective range of your weapons.
That was one of the most important things I learned as a young Infantry Lieutenant during the Cold War. We would have almost certainly been facing Soviet forces larger than our own. We had to wear them down as they closed with us in order to destroy them before they could reach us. This is every bit as true today in the context of personal protection.
“Don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes” is a famous saying from the Battle of Bunker Hill during the Revolutionary War. Very few people understand that ‘the whites of their eyes’ basically represented the maximum effective range of the smoothbore musket. That’s the underlying concept of the order.
No matter what our weapons are, we need to understand their maximum effective range. Maximum effective range is sometimes limited by the weapon, as in the case of the smoothbore musket or pepper spray. In other cases, it is limited by the capability of the user. The firearms instructors and SWAT team members of the Los Angeles Police Department are capable of using their weapons at a greater distance than the average patrol officer. That’s not a slam on the patrol officers, rather it is a result of training, practice, and experience.
In order to know the maximum effective range of your weapons, you have to understand them and test them. This testing and understanding is a key component of John Boyd’s Aerial Attack Study. An integral part of ‘Orient’ is knowledge of the capabilities (Previous Experience) of your weapons.
Keep in mind that ‘line in the sand’ is both a chronological concept as well as a geographic point. If a situation goes on for a while, it’s time to put an end to it, one way or another.
My colleague Melody Lauer posted an interesting question on Facebook.
What malfunction to shot ratio would you accept on a carry gun (without said malfunctions being purposefully induced)?
Since this had been a topic of conversation with another colleague only a few days before, I posted the answer we both agreed on.
“How many magazines come with the gun? … It needs to be 100% reliable for the number of rounds in the magazine(s) that come with it or how many a person carries, assuming the person even bought a spare magazine. More than that is superfluous. For many autoloaders now that means one magazine plus the round in the chamber.
The multiple thousand round reliability tests that the ‘cognoscenti’ are in love with are meaningless except in a very narrow context. The desire for those kind of tests is generated by training junkies who want to make it through 2-5 day 1500+ round training classes without having a single malfunction. Their applicability in the real world of peoples’ lives is nil.”
I was unsurprised when many folks responded, in generally polite ways, that I was crazy. Most of the cognoscenti want to run at least 1,000 rounds through a carry gun before they ‘trust’ it. My comment relating to ‘Arbitrary Reliability Assessments’ was pure heresy. There was also a considerable amount of mathematical ‘logic’ in the discussion that I found obtuse. For instance, if a gun could be expected to have 5 malfunctions out of 1,000 rounds, it could also be expected to have 1 malfunction per magazine. That was difficult for me to understand but I was told that I just don’t understand math and statistics. If I’m going to have one malfunction per magazine, I’ll just keep carrying a revolver.
Let’s think about the issue in some depth. My questions are:
- 1,000 rounds of what kind of ammo?
- Under what conditions?
- With which magazines?
- With which guns?
- Number 1 carry gun?
- Backup Gun?
- Spare carry gun?
Addressing those questions in order brings some other thoughts to mind.
- Ball or duty ammo? Often, guns shoot well with some ammo and other ammo, not so much. Because of that fact, running 1,000 rounds of ball through a gun and then a box of duty ammo through it doesn’t seem to me to accomplish any more than shooting the box of duty ammo alone. So, in the case of a Glock 19, 15 times 3 plus 1 = 46 rounds. Three magazines for those who like to carry two spares. That leaves 4 rounds out of a box. Always save the last one for yourself. Some folks are such terrible shots they better save two.
- Under what conditions? Unlike wheelguns, autoloaders are subject to the vagaries of the person/machine interface. That’s largely the crux of the reliability question.
- Is the 1,000 rounds to be shot in casual range shooting with no pressure? I can’t count the number of people shooting IDPA matches who have said to me “I don’t understand it, Claude, my gun never malfunctions when I shoot it for practice.” Even small amounts of stress can have an effect on how the shooter holds and fires the gun. Perhaps it would be a good idea to involve at least some significant percentage of the test under conditions that might induce a malfunction, such as a State or Area Championship? Yeah but shooting competition will get you ‘killed on the streetz.’ Or maybe all 1,000 rounds should be shot under extreme pressure, such as the first two to three days at the elite Rogers Shooting School?
- Is the 1,000 rounds going to be shot with both hands? One of the things I noticed at Rogers was how many more malfunctions occurred during one handed shooting. Should the 1,000 rounds involve some shooting with Dominant hand only? How about the Support hand only?
- Since ‘everyone starts moving after the first shot,’ how much of the 1,000 rounds is going to be shot while shooting on the move? It’s probably a good idea to shoot some Box Drills and Figure 8s as part of the testing process. Perhaps including a 50/25/25 percent mix of Freestyle/Dominant hand only/Support hand only during at least half of that 1,000 rounds should be the protocol.
- With which magazines?
- Magazines are often the weakest link in the reliability of any autoloader. Doing a reliability test with ‘training’ magazines and then switching to magazines ‘reserved’ for carry defeats the entire purpose of the test. It’s completely non sequitur.
- But if a person only has three ‘carry’ magazines, that means the test may involve dumping them on the ground somewhere around 20 times apiece. How comfortable are you with those magazines after they’ve been beaten up a bit? You tell me, it’s your decision.
- Which guns to test?
- How many people who carry a Backup Gun run the 1,000 rounds through it? Especially for those using small autoloaders such as an LCP, my guess is almost none. If you don’t run your Backup through the high round count protocol, do you still trust your life to it? If so, why is the main pistol any different?
- I’m a firm believer that anyone who carries a pistol should have a spare. Regardless of the circumstances of a shooting, the police will take the pistol as evidence. If you don’t have a spare, preferably identical to your carry gun, then you’re going to have to go buy one and run it through the testing protocol before you can ‘trust it.’ Back to Square One.
I don’t understand it, Claude, my gun never malfunctions when I shoot it for practice.
There are other considerations such as the effects of and on weapon mounted lights, lasers, or red dot sights, but that’s gilding the lily perhaps.
For those who only have one gun, such as the great majority of gun owners, how long is it going to take to conduct this 1,000 round test? Even at 100 rounds a week, the test will take the better part of three months to conduct. In the meantime, how do you feel about the gun? Do you want to have that “I’m still not sure I trust this piece” feeling in the back of your head for three months? How will that affect the person/machine interface?
In the end, if shooting 1,000 rounds before you ‘trust’ the gun makes you feel better, then go for it. But if you don’t design and follow a protocol that really relates to how you’re likely to use the gun in a situation where you have to protect yourself or your loved ones, the whole exercise is just an excuse to go shooting. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
In the previous installment, I mentioned that shooters have a tendency to ‘walk’ their rounds into the center of the target. The reason for this is that the most missed shot in shooting is the very first shot. Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States, commented about this in his book The Wilderness Hunter, published in 1893.
No possible rapidity of fire can atone for habitual carelessness of aim with the first shot.
To TR’s comment, I would add ‘and mashing the trigger’ after “carelessness of aim.”
The second most missed shot in shooting is the shot immediately after clearing a stoppage. Stoppage refers to either a malfunction or a reload. As put in the military, “any unintentional interruption in the cycle of operation.”
Both of these shots are missed so often because they represent a transition point from using a complex motor skill (combination of gross and fine) to a fine motor skill. Unless well practiced, that transition is a difficult one to perform well.
Common shooting tasks requiring complex motor skills are:
- presentation from ready or pickup,
- draw from a holster, or
- stoppage clearance.
Those three tasks require the shooter to engage, both concurrently and consecutively, both large muscle groups such as the biceps, triceps, trapezius, etc. in broad movement (gross motor skill) and the tendons of the hands in small movements (fine motor skill). Immediately following the complex motor skill comes the requirement to perform the fine motor skill of pressing the trigger smoothly.
There is also a series of visual transitions that must take place. The shooter initially starts with an infinity level focus on the target and then must bring the focus inward to index the pistol onto the target. More experienced shooters may recognize this step as the inverse of ‘Sight Picture’ as classically taught. Finally, the shooter must quickly transition from a coarse (soft) index focus on the outline of the pistol to a reading distance fine focus on the front sight itself.
When a stoppage occurs, the shooter will, or at least should, bring the pistol closer to the body to perform the stoppage clearance. Most people cannot clearly focus at this distance, so the eyes will shift to a soft focus, either on the pistol, the target, or somewhere in between. Once the stoppage has been cleared, the shooter must shift focus to infinity to reacquire the target. The coarse index of the pistol onto the target comes next. And as a final focus point, the shooter must once again shift to a reading distance fine focus to reacquire the front sight and achieve both a good sight alignment and sight picture.
If this sounds like a complex series of fast breaking events, that’s because it is. Especially for those whose eyes began to lose their ability to accommodate (quickly change focal distance) in their 40’s (i.e., all of us), it’s a difficult series of visual focus events.
The following is a drill that accomplishes two things.
- It provides a baseline measurement of how well a shooter can perform the complex series of tasks involved in making a good hit with the first shot, including a distance component.
- The drill itself is a very structured exercise that can be done on a regular basis to improve the shooter’s ability to perform that set of tasks.
Basic level shooters can use a larger target, such as a B-27 or a Q, and count their hits in the largest ring to establish a baseline. Intermediate level shooters can use the actual scoring values of a target such as a B-27 or BT-5 as their performance standard. Advanced shooters can use a smaller target, such as the NRA B-8, as a very difficult criterion.
The drill is untimed. The object is to subconsciously ingrain the skills necessary to make the hits. Some shooters may find value in talking themselves through the tasks required as they are shooting the drill. For instance, the visual task sequence might be described as:
- Target focus
- Pistol index focus
- Front sight focus
Sequence 1 (10 rounds) – 3 yards
Start with the handgun loaded with five rounds only. Shooting is done with both hands. Starting position is aimed at the floor below the target (Low Ready), below where a subject’s feet would be. The trigger finger is consciously off and above the trigger. Have a spare magazine loaded with 5 rounds available. Revolver shooters use a speedloader, speed strip, or loose rounds.
- Bring the pistol up on target and fire 1 shot at the center of target. Follow through for one second, call your shot, and then return to low ready. Decock, if your pistol has a decocker.
- Bring the pistol up on target and fire 2 shots at the center of target. Follow through for one second, call your shots, and then return to low ready. Decock.
- Bring the pistol up on target and fire 3 shots at the center of target. Note that after two shots, the pistol will be out of ammunition. Call those two shots, reload, and fire the third shot. Follow through for one second, call the third shot, and then return to low ready. Decock.
- Bring the pistol up on target and fire 4 shots at the center of target. After the shots, the pistol will be out of ammunition. Call your shots and holster the pistol or place it on the bench.
Bring your target back and record how many hits you made in the body scoring area. You can write this on the target or a separate piece of paper. Use this format: 3/X, 3 being the distance and X being the number of hits. Intermediate and Advanced shooters record the actual value of your hits; maximum value being 50. Cover all the hits with masking tape or pasters.
Sequence 2 (10 rounds) – 5 yards
Repeat Sequence 1 but with the target at 5 yards. Record the value of your hits and paste or tape them.
Sequence 3 (10 rounds) – 7 yards
Repeat Sequence 1 with the target at 7 yards. Record the value of your hits and paste or tape them.
Sequence 4 (10 rounds) – 10 yards
Repeat Sequence 1 with the target at 10 yards. Record the value of your hits and paste or tape them.
Sequence 5 (10 rounds) – 15 yards
Repeat Sequence 1 with the target at 15 yards. Record the value of your hits and paste or tape them.
At the end of the drill, your record should look something like this.
Now you’ve established a baseline for how well you can shoot a specific series of tasks. Over time, shooting this drill and other drills should allow you to increase your scores at every distance. ‘Getting better’ is a process not a performance.
I don’t know what going to happen on Tuesday but I do know that if The Evil One is elected, a lot of people will be buying guns. Some of them will be your friends and family.
Since many of them won’t be familiar at all with firearms, I’m making a special offer. The Pistol Practice Program and Serious Mistakes Gunowners Make combo set is only $20 now on my webstore. Very few people are interested in training and they often won’t listen to you but maybe they’ll listen to me if you give the CDs to them. I’m discontinuing production of physical products, so when these are gone, that will be the last.
I’ve also reduced the price of Glock 17 ALS holsters to only $20, so if they buy a Glock they don’t have to use a crappy holster.
Maximum shipping for any order is only $10, so this offer is a great way to get some Christmas shopping done and promote firearms safety for your friends and family.
To order any or all of them visit my webstore.
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.