Editor’s Introductory Note:
Three important points should be kept in mind, while absorbing the following valuable article:
- While quite useful, dry fire practice should only be conducted in a room with a suitable safe backstop, such as sandbags or several thickness of thick metropolitan phone books in a large box atop a desk at chest and head level. And, of course, the weapon should be completely unloaded and ALL ammunition should be absent from that room to prevent negligent discharges. Double check all of this before conducting any dry fire practice. If you want to practice clearing stoppages, then do so ONLY with dummy cartridges! Commercially made snap caps and dummy cartridges are fairly expensive and often fragile, but any competent handloader can make you large set of dummy cartridges quite inexpensively. The protruding projectiles on these dummys should be painted a bright color, to avoid any confusion. If you can afford it, buy a SIRT laser trainer.
- Perfect practice makes perfect, but imperfect practice merely reinforces bad habits through repetition. So it is important to get some professional training before you then continue to train on your own. Repetitively practicing a bad draw stroke, a bad stance, a bad grip, and/or a bad trigger pull just makes you a thoroughly badly-trained shooter. (I speak from experience on this. I spent 16 years practicing a lousy “teacup” grip before I finally got better training from a pro. That was a lot of muscle memory to retrain.)
- We live in the age of widely distributed body armor. Accordingly, all training should stress the need for quick follow-up shots to the Occular Window. Train like you’ll fight, and then you can fight like you’ve trained! – JWR
This is a guide for finding time, saving money, and training properly.
As preppers the immediate survival need will be security. Without security, every other aspect of survival preparedness could be for nothing. It would be wonderful if everyone had thousands of hours of hands on training with live fire drills to instill an instinctual perfectly rehearsed response to a variety of situations.
The key here is, what is the best training you can have for your circumstances. How can you develop high level warrior skills? You have a number of obstacles to this– time, money, and knowledge.
Time. Unlike military folks you don’t get paid to train to kill people. You have a normal job, pay the bills, pick up the kids from football or track, and cook dinner.
Money. Uncle Sam does not fund your training with thousands of rounds of ammo and professional instructors. This comes out of your general fund, which is supposed to pay for mortgage, car, kids, and food, all of which are immediate priorities and understandably so.
Knowledge. So we want to go training. That’s great, if we have the time and the money, but do we know how to train properly? Is what we are training preparing us for reality? Are we training to build specific skills, like speed and accuracy, or do we just waste ammo by endlessly punching holes in paper with no improvement and no goal in mind?
The great danger that exists, which I see all the time, is time and money wasted on training for the wrong thing. Your average person will not touch their gun unless it is to go to the range once every few months. They set up paper targets at the 10 yard line and punch holes in paper from a comfortable position, none of which will help prepare them to fight and kill an adversary who is intent on killing them.
SAVE TIME AND MONEY – DRY FIRE TRAIN
I have found that a cross between dry fire training at home and then live fire test at the range under stress (timed situation) works great. Just like with working out, dedication, focus, and understanding of how and why you train will lead to rapid gains in a short period of time.
Dry fire training is when you practice with an unloaded weapon. You practice all the techniques associated with firing the gun, except you spend no time at the range, money on ammunition, or feel the distraction of loud muzzle report, or the recoil of the weapon. If you think about it, everything that you do that will decide where the bullet will go is all done before there is a “bang” of the gun. You can master your draw, seeing the right sight picture, pressing the trigger, speed reloading, etc etera. All can be mastered dry.
At home, this can be done during any time you have available. Unload your weapon and place the ammunition in another room (so there are no accidents). Create a safe backstop just in case. A bookshelf with tightly packed books is a good solid stop. Place a realistic humanoid target up to aim and “fire” at, for practice. Get used to aiming your gun at a bad guy and pulling the trigger.
You first need to create a schedule of the skills you intend on developing. For example, it could be for carrying and using a pistol.
Monday – The Draw from concealment
Tuesday – Speed Reloading
Wednesday – Malfunction Clearing
Then Monday – Drawing from concealment – This would be further broken down into a process of every single movement that must be practice for maximum efficiency and consistency.
The drawing from concealment process:
- Clearing clothing
- Grip position
- Presenting the firearm
- Obtaining Sight Picture
- Trigger Press
- Clear and Reload.
This might seem overly detailed for “drawing and firing” practice, but purposefully and consciously dissecting each part of the process is going to make you consistently perform better and faster.
To give an example, when you pull the trigger how many times have you been conscious that the front site was perfectly centered between the rear site, because you could see an equal amount of light on either side of the front site? And did you feel your trigger finger pressed perfectly flat against the surface of the trigger, ensuring an even press? Did you feel any edge of the trigger being pressed?
When you have drawn your pistol, are you aware of the point your elbow is bent when you draw? Which part of your hand contacts the holster first as a reliable index point? All of this is how you breakdown every part of the process to master efficiency and consistency.
Eventually you will instinctively know and feel the proper positioning of your body, the weapon, and your mindset.
It’s the details like that that separate the average shooter from someone who aims to be a warrior. A warrior becomes a student of every aspect of their equipment, their training, and themselves. Whether you are practicing with a pistol, a rifle, or hand-to-hand, break down the process into the smallest possible parts, and start evaluating for consistency and efficiency.
HOW MUCH TIME?
This is subjective. Ideally you must have enough free time for practicing to make progress. I find it takes a good 30 minutes to really get into a good groove of dry fire practice and get enough repetitions done perfectly to have felt my technique has been sharpened. Start training slow and focus on form. Speed will come with time.
AT THE RANGE
Have a plan to test specific skills and chart your progress. You’ve spent countless hours dry firing and mastering the fundamentals, so use your precious range time to test yourself with live fire and setting up realistic type shooting scenarios.
For example, use realistic targets that look like bad guys. Some should be obvious and some not so obvious. Set up an environment. You can use boxes as fake barricades/walls to use for practicing using cover and shooting around corners/cornering. Have a buddy place dummy rounds in your magazines to induce malfunctions. You have already mastered your fundamentals with dry fire. Use range time to integrate everything. For example, your primary goes down to a malfunction your buddy induced, so did you have the presence of mind to immediately go to pistol, or did you try to clear a double feed while 10 yards from a hostile?
Live range practice is your dress rehearsal for the real deal. Wear all of your gear. I mean all of it. You need to learn what works for you, what doesn’t work for you, what will fall apart, or what needs tweaking, by testing it out. The time for your gun to jam up on a certain brand of ammo is at the range, so you can correct the problem. The time for you to realize that your range of motion is impaired by that fancy doo dad is at the range. I have had seemingly awesome gear set ups really cause issues when used. Your life depends on everything working together properly.
Two simple and effective range drills that I use to save money and improve skills are:
- Accuracy drill. Dry fire nine shots at the bullseye. Then fire one live round. If you score a bullseye, then you dry fire eight times and fire two live rounds. Continue doing this until you do not hit the bullseye. If you miss bullseye you have to start back over at nine dry fires and one live round. This drill will force you to do tons of repetitions and hardly shoot any ammunition.
- Speed drill – You and a friend must draw and fire on a target. One variation is, whoever gets a shot on the target first wins, or whoever gets X amount of shots on the target wins. Say you have to get off five shots, and all must get into the 8, 9 or 10 ring. Any misses take a second off your time.
Who are you learning from? There are too many myths about gun fighting from training to ammo selection. There are three people who greatly added to my understanding of what fighting was all about. The all-important and hardly emphasized part of fighting is the mindset, and these three all help me understand that.
Jeff Cooper – Color Codes of Mental Awareness
Jerry Peterson – Creator of SCARS fighting system and The Offensive Mindset.
I can sum these up very well, boiling it down to everything you need to know. You must accept the fact that at some point in life, someone may give you a really good reason to kill them, maybe with a firearm or your hands. That is irrelevant. You must know is that if you must fight and kill, you will do exactly that. You have to decide that you are absolutely going to do whatever it takes to survive and win.
Here is a scenario to show the difference between your average person’s mindset and a warriors mindset.
SCENARIO – HOME INVASION AT 3AM
- Average Joe wakes up and grabs his pistol off his night stand. He thinks to himself, “Oh no, I might die; some people just broke in.”
- The Offensive Mindset – “Those jerks woke me up; they are all going to die.”
See the difference? The offensive warrior mindset has already decided that it will defeat the enemy. There is more of a focus on doing whatever it takes to win than of being afraid. Fear will cause hesitation, and hesitation causes inaction. Inaction causes death.
Aggressive intent to kill your opponent is what makes you move quickly, fight heroically, and survive. That is not to say you will act foolishly and put yourself in undo danger, but it is to emphasize immediate violence on the enemy, as severely and brutally as possible to end the threat.
This is a term I first heard while reading a must-read book, On Combat, by Colonel Dave Grossman. Stress is like a virus that can kill you. We protect ourselves from deadly viruses with vaccines that strengthen our immune system against it, creating specific antibodies ready to kill the virus so we can continue functioning.
Creating stressful training scenarios where we must think, decide, and act with weapons inoculates us to the stresses we will face in real combat. It helps us perform better. It won’t remove the excitement, but it will keep you from becoming unable to think, decide, and act.
Here’s a short word on how you will function under high stress. Think of your brain like a computer. In order to handle any problem, you have to pull the appropriate program into memory and use it to address the problem.
Under high stress levels, you will do one of four things (in order of best to worst):
- You have trained for this situation. You load an appropriate program and function as you were supposed to. Maybe it’s with a pistol, or a rifle, or a blade that you’ve prepared yourself, and you act.
- You run away as fast as your legs will carry you. Maybe you get shot in the back.
- You are overwhelmed and freeze (blue screen of death). Your brain computer has crashed, and you end up killed.
- You load the wrong program and do something in a panic, unrelated, unhelpful, and end up getting killed.
When it comes to the hands-on aspect of running guns and shootin’ and scootin’, I have to say Travis Haley has been my favorite instructor to date. Travis Haley has made a number of excellent training videos produced by Panteo Production, from AK47 to AR15 to pistols. He also partnered with Chris Costa to make the Magpul series of training videos, which are also fantastic. Travis Haley also worked in conjunction with sports medicine experts to get at the science behind every aspect of running guns, from proper body alignment of your spine and hips to the way you should position your trigger finger for consistent rapid firing.
The man is a humble professional who loves to teach. Anything I write here is a poor substitute for the fountain of knowledge that comes from him in his many training videos. Of course, seek others and get as much information as you can, but I would dare say that Travis Haley would be the best way to establish a firm foundation and get shooting like a professional on day one.
Gather information. Read the works of Cooper and Grossman, and then watch the instruction from Haley. Develop your training plan. Dry fire often at home, and then monthly or quarterly (whatever you can afford) live fire tests at the range, testing gear and skills. And always maintain your warrior mindset.