What Are Sustainable Accuracy Standards

Lightweight rifle for better performance

Too often people, especially new to the shooting world will perceive a short cut towards developing accuracy in high dollar equipment. The thought process begins with this widget is capable of producing “x-level” performance and therefore I should see something similar.

The Cart Before the Horse

Before you can truly appreciate any piece of gear or equipment, you need to be skilled enough to see the benefit…literally. Think of it like having a high performance racing machine, but you’ve never felt g-force going into a turn. You will not be able to exploit the higher end attributes. You can still drive the racing machine on the streets, but that’s about as far as it goes. However, when you take the time to develop your driving skill, say through an advanced vehicle dynamics course now you have been exposed to what the machine’s capability are under your control. We can see the same thing in the shooting world when it comes to levels of precision for your equipment.

Rifle System

Repeatable Performance Is the Goal

During our rifle classes I get the chance to really expand on this subject. I talk in depth about the system you are employing. The system being the environment, rifle, optic, ammunition and the most important part of the system…you. What are you capable of repeatedly performing. That is the key, repeatability. Another way to look at it is consistency is accuracy and accuracy is nothing more than being consistent. I like to start by exploring the means to measure your accuracy and the most common method is through measuring the overall spread of your shot group in inches then converting that into another measurement referenced minute of angle.

Defining a Minute

Minute of angle is nothing more than angular measurements. There are plenty of other resources that do a great job of diving deep into the subject. For our purposes we want to understand what is commonly referenced as a “shooter’s minute”. Since a precise minute of angle measures 1.047 inches at 100 yards we round down to an even inch. So, one inch equals one minute of angle at 100 yards. This measurement is proportionate so as the distance increases so to does the measurement. For example, at 200 yards one minute of angle (1MOA) equals 2 inches and at 400 yards it equals 4 inches and at 800 yards it equals 8 inches. The precision of a rifle is usually measured in the shot group spread at 100 yards expressed in MOA. If your rifle is capable of shooting a shot group that is 1 inch, it is said to be a 1MOA rifle.

50yd. 4MOA shot group

The Relevancy of Accuracy Standards

This might be the true potential of the rifle, but what are you capable of doing on command consistently. The standard of accuracy for both the student and equipment in our classes is 4MOA. What that means is I’m asking the student to consistently and on command shoot to within a 4MOA shot group when demonstrating their accuracy such as when zeroing the rifle. Going back to our earlier formula, we know that at 100 yards, 1 inch equals 1MOA, but what is it at the 50 yard line? If you are good at math, you would’ve calculated ½ inch. So, at 50 yards, trying to shoot to a 4MOA group means your shot group is no more than 2 inches. If you are capable of achieving this level of performance then theoretically you should be able to hold this shot group at various distances.

The 4MOA Factors

At the 100 yard line, the shot group size would be 4 inches and at the 200 yard line the shot group would be 8 inches. That to me is the best distance to evaluate performance. If you can maintain an 8 inch group or better at 200 yards then your understanding of the marksmanship fundamentals are pretty solid. I know what you are thinking, at this point in the article why am I content with 4MOA. To be honest, I’m not. However, what my experience has shown me is most shooters are not skilled enough to repeatedly shoot a tighter group. The goal, therefore slightly shifts to more about repeatability rather than precision. If they can repeatedly produce groups at the 3MOA that is great, if they can do it at 2MOA, even better. The 4MOA standard gives everyone a start point as they work towards refining their marksmanship fundamentals.

Adding Maintenance to the Equation

This again is where consistency comes into the equation. When you can consistently demonstrate a 4MOA shot group at various yard lines you start to understand what it takes to accomplish this task. You realize it is definitely the indian and not as much the arrow. I love seeing students repeatedly meet this standard. It is a huge confidence builder. It also paves the way for improvements. Because when the shooter is consistent, they start to see their shot group get tighter and there is where precision comes into the equation. It becomes easier and easier for them to maintain this standard. If you are not on the rifle as often as you want, but you can still deliver the 4MOA group in my opinion you are good to go.

Careful Investment into the Art

The other benefit to the 4MOA accuracy standard is it allows new shooters to wade into the game at a more reasonable upfront investment. An off the shelf rifle from a reputable manufacture with a decent optic properly mounted and zeroed firing reliable ammunition can accomplish this task with relative ease. We have seen this demonstrated in our Rifle 3 classes on a pretty regular basis. I even have had my doubts about some rifles, but the shooter steps up to the plate and delivers the 4MOA group. It is only when they consistently perform to this accuracy standard they can see the value of “upgrades”. Upgrades like rifles built for precision. Ammunition made to match standards and optics that are ultra fine in their adjustments.

Start With a Basic Rifle and Go From There

What I see in classes oftentimes the reverse of the process described above. The idea high end upgraded equipment can substitute for lack of skill has been costly to many. I mean costly in the literal terms. Instead, take the equipment you have and invest in quality training and regular practice. You will see far greater return on your investment. There is also a better appreciation for the process of developing the skill and how to exploit said skill. Don’t mistake what I’m saying for meaning you won’t see any improvements with high end upgraded gear, the problem is you probably won’t see it for a while.

I love shooting rifles, I love the precision they allow me to demonstrate. I love the discipline needed to demonstrate said precision. I invested in a quality rifle, then use the most precise ammunition I can afford in bulk and practice, practice a lot. That is the secret to really being a rifleman.

Dry Fire Doesn’t Work Unless…

Dry Fire 2

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?

Dry Fire
Deep practice and concentration are key…

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.

Dry Fire Effectiveness

Dry Fire Practice

Have you ever wondering the effectiveness of dry fire practice.

Like many people these days I have implemented a more dedicated dry fire program to augment my live fire training. In this process, I have discovered a few positives and a few negatives about dry fire effectiveness.

Does Dry Fire Really Work

First, let me tell you about my experiment. I dry fire a lot already, but to be honest I haven’t thought to evaluate whether it has a positive effect on my live fire performance. It became obvious I would need a means to validate my belief dry fire is helpful. I have talked about dry fire in the past and I know it is heavily recommended to many shooters of various skill. The real question is has anyone done anything to provide tangible results on this recommendation. How do we know it really does produce results.

What About Those With Skills Already

Dry Fire PracticeMy approach was pretty simple, but not easy. As I mentioned, I currently dry fire practice a lot. What is a lot, how do I define a lot. It averages about 100 minutes a week. Family and travel can impact my weekly quota, but in general its really close. One could argue that I already perform too significant an amount of dry fire to evaluate whether it has a good or bad effect. This could be true, but one other element to consider is sustainment. Does dry fire work at sustaining current skill level. Is is an effective replacement to live fire training for the maintenance required to sustain your skills. With an already establish routine I can say it did make it somewhat easier, but I still needed a method to measure and track my progress.

A Battery of Tests To Evaluate Dry Fire

There are a few commercially available dry fire tools you can purchase. Many of them claim to be the answer to your shooting problems, but at best they are only one piece of the puzzle. The question is how big a piece of the puzzle. This question will revolve around your perceived return on investment for dry fire effectiveness. For this experiment I purchased the Mantis X dry fire module. Then I needed a means to measure live fire performance. I could have picked a single shooting drill, but to do so would have been too narrow in scope. Both for this experiment and in real life. No single shooting drill is an adequate measurement of overall skill. Instead, I used a battery of drills to test and evaluate on a much broader scale. I shot them all cold and recorded the scores before I started. I took all of them, seven in total and averaged them for my overall score. Having so many measurements seemed good, but it also opened the door to a single poor performance having a negative effect on the overall score. But, isn’t that why I’m dry firing in the beginning.

Breaking Down My Experiment

In an effort not to jade my live fire results, I did not practice the selected tests during dry fire. Aside from it being very hard to do this, I did not want to show bias to these drills. I have been conducting this little experiment for a while now. Here are some initial observations. I say initial because I don’t think I’m ready to complete this experiment. I feel like more time is needed to gain any useful information. However, here is what I can tell you now. Yes, it does help. I started out establishing my baselines then put my professional development on the back burner.  I wanted any live fire training to be evaluated for this experiment. That was harder than expected for a lot of reasons. Performing demonstrations in classes is live fire practice, however I do it in a manner than is not 100% authentic. Meaning, I explain the drill as I’m shooting the drill or illustrate high points for students. Then there was the aspect of worrying I would let my skills degrade too much. Since I had no idea if this would work, did I want to risk loosing too much of my skill set. I feel and the results show I’m at the very minimum breaking even.

Dry Fire Observations

After the baselines, I took a hiatus on my professional development for six months. The only live fire I completed was for this experiment. I then performed dry fire only for the first three months. This gave me a chance to let the dry fire routine get established and what I hoped was enough time to allow my live fire skills to be more authentically evaluated. The last three months I went to the range to retest my baselines. My score for the first month was a 3% decrease from my baselines. Then the second and third month I saw 5% and 4% increases respectively. Not the huge numbers I was expecting, but it does lend credibility to my notion as a valuable tool for sustainment. I’m thinking I will do another three months of live fire retesting then take the final three months off and perform dry fire only. See if there is anything significant to report.

Overall, I’m happy with these results and while 5% may not be a huge return on my investment it is at least safeguarding my investment. I will look forward to seeing the results at the end of another six months.

Trident Concepts
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