Staying Sharp

Don’t lose your hard earned skills 

I don’t know about you, but the smell of gunpowder just creates a huge goofy grin on my face.  I have to admit that I can have a crappy day shooting a match or working on live fire drills, but the fact that I had a chance to shoot always makes up for it.  

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The difficulty of today is that finding ammunition and components to reload new ammo is really limited.  It always seems that I am at work when a company stocks the shelves, or I log in and immediately items are sold out seconds into the drop online.  This is something that we have to deal with for the moment.  

We are very lucky that for most rifle and pistols (the exclusion being rimfire guns), we have the ability to perform an incredible array of differing dry fire and enhanced fire techniques that will truly hone your skills and keep your fundamentals sound while we find ourselves not able to shoot nearly as often as we would like.  I will briefly discuss several types of products, that are only a few examples of what is available on the market, to perform drills and run through hunting or shooting scenarios while at home.

I must preface this entire article with the obvious.  Before you begin any dry fire or drills at all, double and triple check that you do not have any mags that are loaded, the chamber is clear, and that all ammunition is in another room.  There is NO such thing as being too safe in moments like this.  I work as a therapist for Hand and Plastics Trauma Surgeons, and I see a large amount of accidental shooting victims in the clinic.  Taking painstaking precautions in the beginning will ensure that you achieve the results that you want, and no one gets injured.

In essence, live fire gives you the entire enchilada. This refers to the fact that you get the chance to work on grip and hand placement, stance or shooting positions, transitions from one shooting position to another, and then mag changes after you have fired your shots.  The only difference that dry fire offers is that you have no BANG.  Without the firing pin striking a primer, you simply get the learning opportunity to work through the advancing mechanics of the entire sequence without a price tag attached to each trigger press.  I literally was picking up brass at the range the other day and did a mental tally of how much it cost to shoot those rounds.  After I wiped away the tear from my eye, I pulled up my big girl britches and let that smile out.

From the safety and comfort of your living room or any safe area in your home, you can dry fire.  This allows you to perfect the art of making shots as reproducible and mechanically sound as possible.  The greatest benefit is that you save all the ammo that would have been decorating the floor, and the tears that would need to be mopped up from giving up the ammo supply.

One thing that I love the most about dry fire is that I can build a mock stage at home or even choose a few objects in my home such as a light switch or a door knob to make individual targets.  I can run through my home designed stage and work as though I were truly running a USPSA match.  On the other hand, I can have my rifle ready and take my shot on the door knob “animal’ and then make a follow up shot on the light switch because my animal was moving.  These are real life scenarios that can be well handled with sufficient dry fire prep and completion.

If you want a little more pizazz or detailed training, then there are several fabulous products that provide some really insightful data on your shooting.  My absolute favorite for diagnosing shot mechanics is the Mantis X.  It can mount onto most pistols, rifles, and even onto my compound bow to detect the slightest of movements in my grip, trigger press, or even if I flinch or torque my wrists during a drill.  It takes you through several shot sequences using an app on your phone that reads the mounted device on your gun and then breaks down your shot placements along with troubleshoots of your potential mistakes.  Not only does it pinpoint some fundamental errors, it provides cues and detailed information on how to retrain and correct these issues.   Mantis X is a critical dry fire trainer, it also works with live fire training.  It will provide just as much detail and information from dry fire as it does live round fire.

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There are also single cartridges that will go into the chamber of your gun and produce a laser light when the firing pin strikes the cartridge upon your shot.  There are several brands such as Laserlyte and Laser Ammo.  I really enjoy using these for training, but my biggest hesitation in reaching for these is that your have to rack the slide every time on the pistol to activate the firing pin upon trigger press again.  This slows down some of the progress that I want to see from attempting successive shots, however it is amazing to see how your first shot is revealed.  If you are working on drawing from a holster or attempting to quickly raise your rifle and fire your first shot quickly, then this will be a solid way to train.

Next up is one of my personal favorites.  It is a SIRT laser pistol from Next Level Training.  It comes in several different handgun platforms and is also now available in rifles as well.  It truly provides a distinct laser light projection with every trigger press.  Even the cartridge for the AR is auto resetting for the trigger so that every press provides the education opportunity.  I have a SIRT pistol in the therapy clinic that I use often to retrain law enforcement, hunters, and any shooting enthusiast so that they can retrain how to shoot safely after trauma or injury.  It makes for fabulous work days in the clinic when we get to pull out the laser pistol.  I do have to send out a message to neighboring departments not to call security on us though.  Just to be safe ☺

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One of the most critical points to shooting is building a relationship with the trigger.  I frequently teach women how to shoot pistols and many are terrified of that first trigger press.  These techniques listed above are just a few of the ways that I teach most people how to begin shooting.  The magic lies in the experienced shooter using these same principles and products to maximize their skills as well.  Especially in these times of limited ammunition to replace what you use on the range.

By utilizing these options you get the moment to truly find your most stable and comfortable shooting positions.  You can work on smoothing out your entry and exit from each shooting stance or position to ensure that if your target changes or moves, you are not lost on the shot opportunity completely.  You get the chance to create and reinforce good hunting and target mechanics while following the exact steps that you would if you actually had a round in the chamber.  Building reproducible technique will make ammo that you do get to shoot much better executed every time.  

If you have a room to yourself, take the time to set yourself up and get in the zone.  You can pull out your bipod and go prone, prop up over the couch and make a kneeling shot, or even get your tripod out and make shots from more upright to prepare yourself for the real deal.  You will be glad that you did.  As always, safety first. Chamber check EVERY time, and stay safe.

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