An observation on my grip

During a recent dry practice session, I noticed something about my grip.

First, I’ve been working hard on ensuring a consistent and crushing grip during my dry work. Since there’s no recoil, it’s really easy to slack off, so I’m working to mitigate that by overly crushing the grip when I do dry work. That will build up my grip muscles/endurance, and when I’m not crushing it’s easier to notice and thus correct myself. Plus anything I can do to make a stronger grip will help with not just recoil control, but it sure does help offset when pressure ramps up and the trigger gets slapped/yanked. It’s not an excuse for poor trigger control, but when you do have a crushing grip it helps mitigate the effects.

During this particular dry session I switched from two-handed to one-handed work. As usual, my weak-hand work needed more work. I strove to really crush things and noticed something I was (and wasn’t) doing in my grip.

I need to back up a bit and explain some things about grip.

Grip the gun in a two-handed grip. Really try to determine the direction of your hand pressure. Sure, there’s a generalized, all-around crushing pressure, but at least in my grip I find that my strong-hand is applying more pressure “front to back”. That is, there’s more pressure coming in on the front-strap and back-strap of the grip than against the sides of the grip. That makes sense given how the hand is working and clamping — the fingers are bringing things together, not your tips and palm into each other. Then there’s the support-hand, which winds up applying more pressure against the sides of the grip (well, your strong-hand since the support-hand is overlapping it) than the front- and back- straps. Again, this is from the same directional clamping force that your fingers are giving (vs. tips and palm into each other).

So when you have both hands gripping, there is 360º of crush force: front-back by the strong-hand, side-side by the support-hand.

As well, because of your hand wrapping/overlapping, with proper technique you wind up with a lot of skin against grip – that contact, that friction plays a big part. Airspace between the grip and your hands gives “wiggle room” and doesn’t lead to the strongest grip. The best grip puts as much possible skin-to-grip contact over as much surface area as possible. That contact, that friction, helps to manage recoil because now there’s more friction (and other resistive forces) that the recoil must overcome.

So understanding that, what did I experience and observe?

While it’s there when I go strong-hand-only, it’s more pronounced in weak-/support-hand-only. That I am only getting 50% of that grip pressure — there’s only the pressure against the front- and back- straps. I’m crushing – or perhaps more descriptively, clamping – my grip against the front and back, but there’s really no pressure against the sides. There’s some light skin contact between sides and palm/tips, but not a lot of pressure into them. But more so, it’s just light contact – I could actually wiggle something (finger) up in there between my palm (specifically, at the metacarpophalangeal joints) and the grip. In light of the prior explanation, can you see how this is not an ideal grip?

So I worked to put more skin in FIRM contact with the grip, and work to try to make a grip that was giving more 360º pressure, than just the front-to-back-pressure, if you will. In a way, it was “collapsing the tent” created by my metacarpophalangeal joints as the hand wraps around the grip. It’s a little awkward, and it does cause some frame rub against my thumb’s metacarpophalangeal joint. I expect there will be some refinement of this, and I’ll have to see how it pans out in live fire. I expect my results will be greatly improved, tho I may wind up with a raw thumb joint.

Take a look at your grip.

Are you maximizing contact? Are you gripping it HARD? How does your grip change when you go 1-handed? Can you adjust your grip (1- or 2- handed) to improve contact and pressure?

Update

I wrote this earlier in the week. I then had a chance to go to the range and try it in live fire.

Results were not good. 🙂

I shot horribly.

Why? I’m not sure. It could be because the technique just sucked, or it could be because it was a change and I need to adapt to the change. There may be other side-effects from it that I have to work through.

Alas, that range session needed to be focused on other issues, so I didn’t investigate this grip work. I just reverted to my old way and everything was peachy. Perhaps something to learn from that as well.

Am I overanalyzing? Perhaps. Again, I went back to my old way and was just fine. But I’d like to think there’s something in this, at least for me. Because for sure as much crush/clamp grip as you can have the better, and for sure when you only have 1 hand you won’t have as strong a grip as 2 hands. So if there’s some way to improve my 1-hand grip through mechanical advantage (vs. just pure strength), why wouldn’t I want to explore that avenue?

Maybe next live-fire session I’ll get a chance to work on it. For sure in my present dry work, I’ll be doing more 1-handed work, and we’ll see where it goes.

Unconventional practice

What do you do when you practice?

Do you practice the good stuff? The easy stuff?

You may be wiser and realize the best thing to practice is the stuff you suck at; to address your weaknesses because that’s the only way to convert them into strengths.

But how much time do you put into the unconventional?

This hit me the other day.

I’ve been fairly regular with my dry fire practice, but my dry practice has been “conventional”. I practice Wall Drills. I practice the press-out. I practice drawing from my concealment holster. I practice reloads and malfunctions. I practice two-hands, strong-hand-only (SHO), and weak-hand-only (WHO). I do all the conventional stuff, especially what I suck at (WHO).

But then the other day I realized I haven’t been practicing the unconventional. I realized this because I found myself in an unconventional situation (nothing bad, but just enough of a situation to make light the bulb above my head).

For example, my concealment draw typically involves my left hand reaching around to my right side, yanking up my shirt, then my right hand goes to draw.

But what if I don’t have my left hand?

What if I have to use only my right hand to make everything go?

Or… what if I only have my left hand to make everything go?

Unconventional.

Now, this isn’t to say we need to make addressing the unconventional a staple of our practice. However, it’s worthwhile to consider and work on these things every so often, at least so that the first time you have to do it isn’t when you need it.

10,000 hours

People often discuss the notion of how long and how much work it takes to master something.

Malcolm Gladwell popularized the notion of “10,000 hours” of practice being needed to master something. I just read an article written by Jay Jay French, founder and guitarist for the band Twisted Sister. Jay Jay writes about The Power of 10,000 Hours.

Recently AJ Pero, long-time drummer for Twisted Sister, passed away. Of course, this caused much sadness and unknown in the Twisted Sister camp. But as they say, “the show must go on”. Twisted Sister has been around since 1973, and with all the shows, all the rehearsals, they’ve got much more than 10,000 hours of practice under their belts.

Jay Jay reflects:

The truth is, these days, we only play about a dozen shows a year, almost always between May and August. It means that we are off doing other things the other nine months of the year. We usually only run over the songs once at a rehearsal. I am always feeling just a little queasy and unsure. That’s why, before we go into our first rehearsals, sometime in April, I’m gripped with anxiety. But this time, I was also anxious about a new drummer who had only three rehearsals to learn not just the music but also the pacing of the show; the fact that we were doing a live recording for DVD; multiple bands being on the same bill with us (their equipment changes can always cause problems); and special effects, flames, sparklers, and explosions that will possibly light you on fire if you stand in the wrong place. Plus, I’m not just a guitar player–I’m the manager of the band, with a long mental checklist. More important, I was really sad that A.J. wasn’t up there with us.

Here is my confession. There were just too many unknowns this time. Too many potential areas of disruption. Too much emotion. Because it was the first show of the year, I just couldn’t get lost in the performance. My mind was overwhelmed by the confluence of information. And I was still dealing with my own emotions about this first show without A.J.

So what did I do? I consciously let go. I set my brain on autopilot and let the songs flow out. I kept in the back of my mind an idea of what I would need to do if something really went out of control. But I tried not to think about it, and instead, I relied on my ability to do something I’d done for more than 10,000 hours.

And … nothing bad happened. The show went on about as smoothly as I could have hoped.

This is what separates the big boys from the also-rans. The confidence–in our case, forged in the fires of the live club circuit — that we could always deliver, no matter what was thrown at us, is burned into our DNA. As long as we want to do it, it will be done at the highest levels.

The same is true for companies and entrepreneurs. For you or your company to be great, nothing can ever present an obstacle to excellence. You need to practice until you’ve got muscle memory. You can’t stop Twisted Sister. And you can’t stop a great company when you have a great foundation.

So, get to practicing.

You won’t get better overnight. It’s going to take a lot of time, dedication, and discipline. But if you really want to master something, it’s what it takes, and it’s worth every bit.

A little each day

Which is better? Practicing something for 1 day once a year? Or practicing something for 1 hour once a month? Or practicing 10 minutes each day?

Granted, this depends what we’re practicing, but for many things we do better if we do a little bit of it on a regular basis.

What makes some things tough for folks is thinking they have to do a lot of it often. Granted, if you’re totally in love with the thing you’re doing, if you are driven to some higher level (e.g. to be a world champion), that’s a different context. But for most of us regular schmoes, we just want to not suck at our chosen thing.

Yeah, you have those gym rats that spend 2 hours twice a day at the gym. It’s probably their social thing and that’s fine as far as it goes, but then their goal is probably social and not performance. I have appreciated the basics of Wendler 5/3/1 because it’s gotten me stronger than I’ve ever been, and it’s about doing more with less, e.g. the most basic template, Boring But Big, has you doing just 2 exercises (tho 1 is done in 2 different ways, so I suppose you could say 3 exercises) in a simple scheme, and you ought to be in and out of the gym in under an hour.

Champion pistol shooter, Ben Stoeger, promotes a dry fire practice routine around the notion of “15 minutes a day”. I recently started doing his 15 minute sessions, and some actually take less than 15 minutes. But you see the point that it’s about manageable chunks, not some massive session that you’ll dread and thus opt to never do. But it also needs a “per day” in order to progress. One 15 minute session once a year isn’t going to cut it.

PoliceOne even talks about how police officers can practice the skills of their trade in just 10 minutes a day. This could be things like dry fire practice, handcuffing skills, or even watching the news and visualizing your own response to reported situations.

The P1 article made a good point:

Do 10 minutes of training a day, every day you work the job.

Doesn’t sound like a lot, but it is.

Assuming you work a four-day week, and you do 10 minutes of training each day you work, you will have done 40 minutes of training per week. Easy math, right?

Assuming you have four weeks off (vacations, holidays, etc.), leaving you with 48 work weeks in a year, and you do the prescribed 10 daily minutes, you will have done 1,920 minutes of training annually.

That’s 32 hours of training.

Every year.

For FREE.

I hadn’t thought about that. I hadn’t looked at the math.

There are schools out there that you attend for a week. You take a week off work (taking the hit to your vacation time and paycheck). You spend thousands of dollars for tuition, travel, food, accommodations, whatever. You get a week of good training. It’s fun. I won’t discount the value of such things. But the above shows you can get a whole lot out of a little each day.

Tom Givens makes a point that you do far better with a little practice more often. That is, better to practice 15 minutes 2-3 times a week than to practice for 1-2 hours once a month. When skills are perishable (and most are, if you want to operate at any level above rudimentary), when skills are ones that must be called upon at any unexpected time, you do better when those skills are more fresh in your mind and body. If the last time you practiced was 3 days ago, that’s less “rot time” compared to 30 days ago; things will be fresher, you’ll perform better.

I’m not perfect about this, but it is something I strive for. And seeing the above math? That really hits it home. A little each day, and it really adds up.

Shooting practice

When I went out to KR Training this past Saturday for teaching, I made sure to go out extra early. Had to get things set up and prepped for classes, and I knew if I timed it right I’d give myself a fair chunk of time to do some of my own shooting practice.

After my last live-fire practice, my big decision was: slow down. My general guide is to be accurate first, fast second. This I know, have known, and is always the case, but the pressure of the line always winds up being on going faster and not being the last guy to shoot. It’s just how you get swept up in things. I’m making the conscious effort to not do that. And so when I shoot, slow down.

So to that end, I thought a good cold diagnostic would be shoot “the Farnam Drill”, at least, as I understood it to be. I’ve read so many variations on it, so here’s what I did:

  • IDPA target, only shots in the ‘-0’ zone count. (I’ve read some that say 8.5″x11″ piece of paper)
  • 7-8 yards. I just paced it off and that’s about where I was. (I’ve read 7 yards, 10 yards, 8 meters)
  • 1 round in the chamber (most agree on this)
  • load magazine with 5 live and 1 dummy round (randomly). (I’ve read some with 4 live rounds; I’ve read some that get specific about where the dummy should be, i.e. not on top, not on bottom; I say let it be wherever because you never know where a failure might be, and if you look at the magazine before you seat it well… you’re just cheating yourself.)
  • spare mag with at least 3 live rounds in it
  • shot timer

then on the buzzer:

  • drawing from concealment (I’ve seen some that don’t specify concealment/retention)
  • shoot until you hit the dummy round
  • clear the malfunction (tap, rack, bang)
  • keep shooting until the magazine is empty (slide lock)
  • reload (generally a slide lock “speed” reload, i.e. no retention of the mag)
  • shoot 3 more (I’ve seen some say to only shoot 2 more, so then the 3rd becomes the setup for running the drill again)

I also make sure to move at every non-shooting portion. Draw? move. Clear malfunction? move. Reload? move. It’s just a large side-step, but it’s still moving while doing “not-shooting” actions. Most write-ups I’ve seen of the drill do not discuss movement one way or the other.

Performance? Well, I’ve seen various numbers as well for what performance should be. I’ve seen students should be able to shoot it in 18.25 seconds. I’ve seen that students should be able to do it in 15 seconds. I’ve seen it said that instructors should be able to do it in 12 seconds. But then, how much of a standard can this be with so much variation in procedure? I mean, if you load the mag with 4 live rounds and shoot 2 after the reload vs. 5 live and 3 after, those additional 2 rounds will consume more time. So…. well…. that’s why it’s just hard to compare this across the board. Regardless of minutia, it’s a great drill that incorporates a great many parts of defensive pistol shooting. It provides a good measure of ability and performance. While I cannot compare so much to others, I can at least compare to myself.

My first run, “cold from the car”, all I knew was I told myself to go slow. I had to clean it, timer be damned. Go too slow, be certain of every shot, and just ensure a clean run. That I did, and ran it in 12.63 seconds. It felt glacially slow to me.

I opted to run it again, speeding up a bit. 11.10 seconds.

Then I changed course. See, I was going to just run that drill twice to get a feel on things then move to other stuff. But I decided to keep running the drill over and over and from it take what I could regarding my speed vs. my accuracy. How fast could I push myself before things fell apart? So I kept running the drill over and over, pushing myself faster every time. A couple times I pushed myself to a level that I felt was certainly “too fast” and I really didn’t care if I did miss because the goal was to find the point of “too fast”. I shot it in 8.56, but with 4 holes just outside the ‘-0’ ring, that was obviously too fast. Interestingly, I did shoot it in 8.84 clean. When I thought about the two runs, what was different? What I saw… or rather, didn’t see. On the 8.84 run I may not have seen perfect “target shooting” sight pictures, but I saw enough and was clearly seeing enough, brain was processing “yeah, that’s good (enough)”. On the 8.56, my brain wasn’t as “there” as the other run; I recall my eyes were just taking in noise, and it was akin to just “blazing away” at the target. Was the speed of shooting really any different? I’m not sure; I wish I had looked at the shot-to-shot times because that would be more telling, because maybe I was blazing away, or maybe I had greater time differences during the reloads or some such? I didn’t look. *sigh*  But I did note that even on the 8.84 run I had fumbled a bit, but still got a decent time. I recall Tom Givens shooting this drill (or whatever his flavor of it was) in about 8.5 seconds, so hey… I can live with this.

Averaging out the strings, I generally shot it in about 10-ish seconds. I’ll analyze in a bit.

After doing this drill a bunch, I decided to do a basic thing from the IDPA Classifier: Mozambique. I stood at 7 yards and fired. All 3 rounds must be acceptable hits. Shot from concealment, par time of 3 seconds. This was not only to nod towards my desire that the first string of the IDPA Classifier is something I should be able to clean on demand, but it was also some time to work on my concealment draw.

Finally, I ran the 3 Seconds or Less drill. That’s another drill that I should be able to do, cold, on demand, and clean every time. Only ran it once, but did clean it.

Analysis

I must remember to forget the timer and focus on accuracy. Even if that means I’m last in the match, if I can show “no points down” I’ll be happy about that. If that means in classes I’m the last guy, fine, because I’ll have no tape on my target. Accuracy is my focus, even if I’m slower.

But on that token, I must keep pushing myself on speed because I have to know where my limit is, and if I’ve improved.

One thing certainly is what I see. Those two 8-second runs were quite different in terms of the visual information gathered and processed, and I have to remember what I saw, and didn’t see. And I’m probably due for a refresh from the Enos book.

The other is “other stuff”. My concealment draws were consistently around 1.7 seconds. Not bad, but certainly room for improvement. But that said, I’m not sure that’s the best place to focus my time. I don’t think it’s so much speed getting the gun out of the holster as it is on my presentation. It’ll go back to the visuals. I need to get on the trigger sooner, allowing the shot to break when I have a “good enough” sight picture. I know I’m waiting a little too long, for more visual feedback than I actually need. Just gotta get on it sooner and allow the shot to break when I have the good enough picture, not after I have it.

It’s even visuals with split times. I actually didn’t look at my splits, but I know I’m going slower than my eyes and brains need.

Plus, reloads. I got caught in my concealment garment too much or had other little fumbles.

But I think the biggest help is my mindset: accuracy is final.

Still, while keeping the mindset is appropriate, if there’s anything to specifically work on it’s “see what I need to see, and ONLY what I NEED to see”.

DIY Airsoft trap

Remember that Airsoft M&P I purchased a few months ago?

If I’m going to have it, I need a place to shoot it. If I’m going to shoot it, I need a way to manage all the plastic BB’s.

It’s CO2-powered, and it has some oomph. I tried shooting it at simple cardboard and that proved to be no match for it. TXGunGeek told of a great solution, getting those big wardrobe boxes, because you can stick one at the end of the hallway and it makes for a great place to catch the plastic BB’s. I think that’s a great solution – if you have the room. Alas, I do not have the room for one of those huge boxes, nor would Wife tolerate it. 🙂

When I was a teenager, I had a pellet gun and had a trap for it. The trap was made mostly out of thick plastic, except for the back and front. The front was a simple cardboard cover, so you could afix a target and of course shoot through it (and easily replace it). The back was made out of a steel plate and angled downward so any lead pellets that hit it would be deflected down. Also, hanging within the box were some curtains, I think made of Kevlar or at least very thick canvas, to help trap the pellets. It worked quite well, and served as my inspiration. (I just found it, it was a Crosman Target Trap).

The rules? To make a BB trap that minimized the bouncing BB’s and cleanup, but also that didn’t cost me a whole lot. Plus if it got all beat up and shot out, wouldn’t be a big deal to replace. So I went digging around the house to scrounge what I could, and was fortunate to find everything I needed. So in the end, this project cost me nothing but a bit of my time.

A box

What was fortunate about this project was receiving a package from UPS, and the box it came in was a nice large cube. That was the perfect way to start this effort. After some work with a knife and duct tape, I had formed the basics of the trap:

 

The basic trap.

Key factors were to put duct tape along every seam and corner, taping down whatever was needed to minimize nooks and crevices where BB’s could become trapped. I also wanted to make the opening as large as possible to accommodate whatever my target was, but still have a lip at the bottom to of course prevent rollout. After having used this trap for a little bit, I could argue having the front being replaceable to be useful. That is, the BB’s still can and do bounce, and having this big wide opening covered up of course helps retain the BB’s. I didn’t want to put a cover in place because it would get shot out and I’m lazy and didn’t want to have to always be replacing it. The paper target works fine covering most of it but well… maybe I might want to just leave a 8.5″x11″ opening, so the paper target hangs just fine, easily replaced anyways, but otherwise there’s maximum retention.

We recently retired some bedsheets from a child’s bed. I also found some carpet tack strips in a corner of the garage. A little measure, a little cut:

Start of the curtain

I cut the strip to fit the width of the box. I cut the curtain to be the width of the box and twice the height. Put the tack strip in the middle, just poking the tacks through the cloth to hold it. Note this cloth is not very thick nor heavy. I actually shot a few things and found that the weight mattered. If it was too heavy, it didn’t absorb the energy of the BB as much as deflect it — the point is to stop ricochet. So this light bed sheet worked fine to catch and cradle the BB as it hit, stopping it.

I applied the tack strip to the inside of the roof:

Hanging the curtain.

Here was a time for experimentation. Where to put it? Should I put the curtain close to the front? closer to the back? I even tried two sets of curtains to see what effect that would have. In the end, I settled on one curtain placed about 3/4 of the way back. First, two curtains ended up acting like a heavier curtain, too much material, too much resistance, and BB’s bounced instead of being absorbed. But also, too close to the front could allow the BB to “shoot through” the curtain and just strike the back and bounce. Positioning the curtain close to the back but with some room ended up working out the best because the cloth would absorb the BB but then all strike the back wall and be enough to make everything stop. It’s just what worked best.

I did play around with a cardboard insert at the back wall, at an angle to angle the BB’s down. That didn’t work out, but I also didn’t experiment with this angle (pun intended) all that much.

Despite all of this, I still had two problems: 1. the tack strip fell down, 2. BB’s could still bounce.

Finished trap

I had used glue and the strip’s tacks to attach it to the roof of the trap — it’s just cardboard. And while that was OK, it wasn’t ideal. So I just cut another section of tack strip, put it on the outside of the box opposite the inner strip, and used the nails within the strip to nail the two strips together. Works like a charm.

I also took the cut cloth from my second curtain experiment and just laid it loose and bunched on the floor. That worked well to provide an absorbing and uneven surface for trapping the BB’s that fell down, and it doesn’t get in the way when you want to empty the trap.

To use the trap? I just print out targets on paper and attach them with a tack from the top of the box. Simple enough.

It works pretty well. A BB here and there still flies out, but overall it works well enough and I’m quite pleased. Didn’t cost me any money, just a bit of my time, and was fun to devise and assemble.

Maybe I need some “damp” fire

I’m taking a small break from the dry fire routine.

I need to fall back and regroup. While following TLG’s sample routine is certainly a good starting template, I have been thinking it’s time to adjust it more to address my specific needs.

I’m also bothered by my performance this past Saturday. Something isn’t clicking, something isn’t happening between live fire and dry fire. I don’t know. But I can say, I’ve got a trigger slapping problem. Maybe I just need a lot more live fire, putting holes in paper, and seeing what happens. That is, do more of my diagnostics in live fire. I do think that’s part of my problem… let live fire tell me what to work on, then work on it in dry. I just need a lot more live…and I need time for that. *sigh*

But I might have a possible solution.

“Damp” fire. 🙂  Or at least, that’s what I’m calling it.

It’s not live fire, but it’s not dry fire either. Basically, it’s getting an Airsoft gun and working with that. My hope is it will be close enough to my real rig and I’ll get the active feedback of a hole in paper to see what I’m doing wrong. I mean, I’ve been thinking how a lot of ball-and-dummy drill is in my future, but that means I need real live fire, which is not always possible for me. But I can do Airsoft at home, and that can be better than nothing. Or so I hope.

It may not solve my problems, but it might. We’ll see. What’s the harm. Plus then I’ll have an Airsoft gun to use in FoF scenarios. 🙂

I have purchased an M&P replica. This one is CO2-powered, which I’m OK with. Supposedly can get 200-250 shots per cartridge. Supposed to be metal and have a good heft. All signs point to being a reasonable attempt at replicating my carry rig, tho we’ll see how the trigger is by comparison.

It’s been shipped and is on its way. Hopefully will be here before the weekend. I’ll report back on it later.

2012-09-10 Dry Fire Practice

Following the TLG 4-week sample dry fire routine.

This marks the start of month 3.

Week 1, Day 1

Basic routine

  1. 20 reps of Wall Drill, from extension 2H
  2. 5 reps of Wall Drill from extension, SHO
  3. 5 reps of Wall Drill from extension, WHO
  4. 20 reps of Wall Drill from press-out, 2H
  5. 5 reps of Wall Drill from press-out, SHO
  6. 5 reps of Wall Drill from press-out, WHO

Again, it’s so simple, yet so useful. It’s about as fundamental as you can get.

My focus? Don’t forget everything else I’ve been doing, like riding the rail of the eye-target line, gripping like hell, etc..  But let’s try to not waste any time. Get the gun out there, allow a “good enough” sight picture, and press off that shot. Minimize the time… don’t rush, just minimize and don’t waste.

on the Eye-Target Line

When we teach people how to shoot, one thing we talk about is this notion of the “eye-target line”.

The “eye-target line” is a (imaginary) line that connects your eye to the target. What should intersect that line are the sights of the gun. So what you have is eye, rear sight, front sight, target, all in a perfect line and all properly lined up in their respective manner (e.g. using your dominant eye, the sights are properly aligned). Kathy Jackson’s CorneredCat website has a great graphic to show this. In fact, Kathy’s article has a fine discussion about sight alignment and aiming in general — highly recommended read. I’m wanting to focus on some specifics about the “eye-target line”, especially as it’s come up in my dry fire practice.

While the above is a good general notion to introduce the concept, it really has to be more precise and specific. Your vision should be focused on a specific target, a precise point. Instead of focusing “on the bullseye”, how about that X in the center? Or even better, how about the spot where the 2 lines that make the X intersect? Or even better, how about the pin-point center of that spot, since the lines have some width? It’s the same problem with having aiming points like “center of mass” because all too often people envision COM as “torso”. Instead, get precise, like the top button on the shirt, or maybe if it’s a button with 4 holes in it, right in the center of those 4 holes. This is important to ensure you aim where you need to aim. That eye-target line needs to go somewhere specific.

From Karl I learned to imagine there’s a string going from my eye to the target. When pressing the gun out, bring the sights up to that string. Literally imagine a string and that the top of the sights comes up to touch the string, to ride the string like a rail.

While I’ve always known to do this, I haven’t been doing it. Or if I did do it, it was too general or I’d lose it somewhere along the press-out. I guess I could say I wasn’t as rigorous with it as I should be. Perhaps I didn’t realize, until now, just how increased rigor at adhering to “riding that rail” would improve my ability.

I’ve really worked to focus on this during my dry practice — to really “ride that rail” when I press out. And there’s a few things involved in this, that I’ve discovered in my practice.

First, you really have to ride that rail all the way. From the moment you start the press out, your eyes and brain have to think about “the rail”. You have to see the rail, it can’t leave your imagination, it can’t leave the “imaginary projection” into your visual field. When you press out, the gun needs to come up to it, and both the front and rear sights need to click into the track, stay in the track, and ride the rail all the way out. When I do this, when I have this sort of mental look and discipline about things, the gun goes right out to where I want it. Yes it’s a lot of thinking about it right now, but I figure a few thousand more reps and it should drill home and become unconscious.

Second, shifting point of visual focus. When you start (no gun out), your eyes are going to be target focused. What has to happen during the press out is your eye focus switches to the front sight. I found I wasn’t doing this soon enough, or that I’d try to find the front sight early in the press out and keep my vision focused on it as I pressed out, “riding” the front sight with my eyes. But that usually wouldn’t work because the speeds would be different, I’d be visually chasing the sight or trying to find it, and losing time. What’s working better? Know the point in space where my front sight will end up when I’m at full extension and just shift my focus there. Thus, everything will converge. But I still have to be careful, because it’s still easy to lose focus and have my eyes just generally staring into space. This is where that precise target focus matters, because it makes me truly visualize the string from my eyeball to the target and “ride that rail”. My body then works to index the movement up to and along that string, really bringing everything to meet at the right spot.

Third, I have to ensure to set this all up before I start, else it’s a “false start”. For example, during my dry practice on reloads, I would click, bring the gun back, do the reload. If as soon as the magazine seated and my hand was back on the gun I started pressing out, I’d likely fumble things. If instead as soon as my hand was back on the gun I took a moment to set myself before starting the press-out, things worked better. Basically I had to force myself to make a distinct reset, both physically and mentally. To get the gun back out wasn’t a part of the reload; the reload ended when the mag seated. Once I finished the reload, then I needed to start the press-out again, and that required a moment of reset. I’d rather take that 0.1 second to reset and get things right, than to skip the 0.1 second and blow it. I believe in time this will consume less time to become almost unnoticed.

These are just my observations from my regular dry fire. It’d been a month and a half of dry firing once a day for 10-15 minutes, 5 times a week. In some respects I don’t feel actual improvement, but I know it’s there because I’m paying more attention to my technique, identifying problems, working to correct them. Next time I’m at the range I want to do some live fire experiments to see how this dry fire is progressing. One thought is to do something simple like the basic routine but from the holster, and time to see how long it takes to get the shot off. It’s a simple measure. My goal tho is to combat a problem I’ve also identified that I need to overcome: dry practicing one way and live practicing another. That dry should have just as much intensity as live, and live should be as laid back as dry. Fundamentally no disparity between the two sessions, but mentally I have to think to ramp up my dry and pull back on my live — to shoot each like the other. If I don’t, it means one needs to be fixed (probably that dry needs to pick things up).

2012-08-24 dry fire practice

Following TLG’s sample dry fire routine.

Week 2, Day 5 (malfunction clearances)

  1. 10 reps of wall drill from extension 2H
  2. 10 reps of TRB, 3/4 speed, 2H
  3. 5 reps of LRW 3/4 speed 2H
  4. 10 reps of wall drill from press out, 2H

After yesterday’s bench press workout… I’m really sore, and working the press out is really hard. 🙂