If Its Worth Doing, Its Worth Doing Right
There are many general truths in this world that I follow on a regular basis. One of my favorite maxim is “you get out of it, what you put into it.”
Winning Means Sacrifice
During the pandemic we all had to suffer and many things changed. We changed the way we see the world and we changed the way we see many of our politicians. Some not in a good way. One thing that didn’t change for me was the drive to train. It might have been modified a little, but at its core it did not change. When I say drive to train I’m talking about the urge to improve or what I sometimes reference as an insatiable act to win. Winning can be defined differently for many people, but I define winning as in some way, shape or form related to victory. Consistency putting in the effort to improve is about a lot of things, one thing often overlooked is sacrifice.
No Such Thing As A Natural
If you want to be better at something, anything it will take practice. No amount of natural skill will ever replace hard work. So, what happens when you don’t want to put in the hard work, well is is pretty simple. You continue to suck. I put a lot of clout into the importance of live fire training, how it is irreplaceable for shooting skill development. What happens when you cannot conduct live fire training. Like during a pandemic when not only did we have to deal with lockdowns, but an ammunition shortage. I know I’m not the only one who saw a dramatic decrease in their live fire training during the pandemic. It seemed to me a perfect time to evaluate how well dry fire really works. Nothing like a semi-forced experiment to shed some light on a subject.
What Reality Really Looks Like
Before the pandemic it was quite normal for me to shoot around 200 rounds during each range trip. I would often get one maybe two range trips in per month. A low end average was approxmately 3,000 rounds per year, per weapon system. This excluded the rounds fired for demonstrations during training or insturction. This was my own private professional development. The number dropped to maybe 800 on the low end, 1,000 on the high end during the pandemic for my an annual expenditure of live fire training. That is about an 65% decrease for those wondering. This could have incredibly important implications. My experiment was simple, is there a way to sustain your current skill level or better improve your current skill with dry fire training only?
The Heart Of The Experiment
One of my pet peeves is when someone who really cannot help a student, presumably an instructor will tell the student to just do more dry fire practice. They make this suggestion partially because they don’t know how to solve some of the stubborn shooting errors. In this case, I wanted see how much dry fire would sustain my skills. I purposely went to a specific dry fire routine to discover for myself what was really going on with my skills. Then, when I spoke with a student about dry fire I could put something more tangible other than “because” as to the why. The length of the experiement started at six months. It included a live fire baseline assessment of various shooting drills in the beginning. The baseline was designed to have a wide scope of evaluation and was only 50 rounds total. This live fire along with the dry fire routine was repeated for three months, then for the remaining three months dry fire only.
Confused By The Data
Some very intersting things happened. First, my dry fire was daily and consisted of approximately 50 dry fire trigger manipulations from a variety of conditions. On target, at a ready position and from the holster both open and concealed. Once I had my system down it took 15 minutes from start to finish. Some drills were timed while others were subjectively based as to whether I considered it a good repetition or a “no rep”. At the end of the six months I shot the baseline drill again and I saw a 3% decline in my performance. Well, that wasn’t what I expected, but there was still a nagging question.
What The Numbers Really Say
What if it was more about sustainment. In other words, I only lost 3% of my observed skill level over a six month period with dry fire and 200 rounds fired. I don’t know about you, but I see that as a big win. I extended my experiment for another six months without any interruptions. These next three months were again dry fire only bringing the total to six months. At this mark, I saw something interesting. I was looking at a 2% improvement, I had somehow made up a 5% increase in the nine months of this experiement. I’m not going to lie, I was giddy as all get out and I could hardly wait to see the end of the experiement a full 12 months to see what would happen. At the end of my experiement my total rounds fired was 400 rounds and I saw 5% improvement for a grand total of 8% over the period of the experiment.
Easy Come, Easy Go
What did all this mean in the end for me. Consistency. Let’s face it a 5% improvement is not that big a deal. Or is it? When you realize I was not training nearly as often nor to the same volume it is pretty damn impressive to see the improvement as far as I’m concerned. It also puts to bed the question “does dry fire help.” I don’t think anyone doubted it, no one had any data or figures to help show a tangible benefit or justication for your time, talent and treasure. Now, here is the bad news. Shortly after this past holiday I got a nasty case of bronchitis. Add to that my voluntary time off from training, all training and it was about 30 days. I literally threw all that work out the window in 30 days. My skill level dropped significantly in that time period. I believe that is more telling than the 5% improvement. I wish I had shot the same baseline but I didn’t. What I observed instead was a massive failure. Five out of the eight drills I failed to meet the standard. Those who know me, know that is huge.
The lesson to be learned here is don’t go crazy, keep it short and simple, but above all else…be consistent. Dry fire can at the very minimum help sustain your skill and depending on the individual even help improve over time.