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Thread: Dry Practice Misconceptions - Updated 01-22-19

  1. #1
    Site Supporter Jay Cunningham's Avatar
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    Dry Practice Misconceptions - Updated 01-22-19

    I have come to a reckoning when it comes to dry practice. I've found it helpful and my students have found it helpful.

    Everyone has opinions and if you don't agree with mine, I'm quite fine with that. I'm not the best shooter in the world, but I'm not bad. I'm also pretty good at helping others to become better shooters. If you require either GM ranking or 100 confirmed kills as credentials before you consider what I have to say, then move along because I possess neither.



    If you aren't achieving a full firing grip during dry practice, you're screwing yourself. You know the gun isn't going to recoil, so you hold the gun like a dead fish. However, your hands interact with each other and with the gun differently when your full firing grip is achieved. It's especially tempting to shortcut your grip during dry practice with striker-fired guns because you continuously remove your support hand to reset the trigger via the slide. DON'T SHORTCUT YOUR GRIP. SET THE TENSION IN YOUR HANDS BEFORE YOU OPERATE THE TRIGGER, DON'T ALLOW IT TO HAPPEN *AS* YOU OPERATE THE TRIGGER.*


    If you are staging the trigger during dry practice, you're screwing yourself. A long, slow trigger manipulation almost never increases your chance of getting a hit. In fact, what it tends to do is significantly contribute to the anticipation that leads to jerking the trigger. You all know what that looks like; for right-handed shooters it usually manifests itself as hits low left. You are better off operating the trigger straight through decisively, regardless of trigger characteristics. This short-circuits mental agony which helps mitigate jerking the trigger due to anticipation. Commit!


    If you persist in using "just the tip" of your trigger finger because you were trained that way, you're screwing yourself. If you're reading this you've likely taken formal training and you've likely been told to use just the tip of your finger on the trigger. I'm telling you to use how much ever finger you need to minimize movement of the gun. This requires experimentation. You may only need just the tip of your finger. You may need to jam your whole finger in up to the second knuckle. You need to figure it out, and now is the time. You'll know when it's right, because the sights won't move. Note that this is an even more important consideration for SHO and WHO dry practice and shooting, which typically (but not always) require more trigger finger than usual.


    If you are worried about trying to simulate "catching the link" (riding the reset) during dry practice, you're screwing yourself. BANG-CLICK is something I wish I could purge instantly from my students, but instead I need to rely upon 3,000 to 5,000 repetitions. Such is life. If you've been trained to "catch the link" (operate the trigger, hold it to the rear, gun cycles, sights back on target, let the trigger out to reset point, operate the trigger again) you've been taught a technique that isn't particularly helpful. You're far better off simply relaxing your trigger finger during the recoil of the gun and being ready to fire that next shot when the sights fall back down on target. So with all that said, quit trying to simulate catching the link during dry practice. It's not doing anything useful.


    If you think lots of live fire means you can skip dry practice, you're screwing yourself. Dry practice allows you to look at things differently than live fire. If you have a mentality that you "shoot all the time" therefore you don't need to dry practice, you're depriving yourself of a very simple and effective methodology for improvement. Don't view dry practice as something to do only when you can't get to the range.



    Operating the trigger quickly without having your sights appreciably move is a much more useful goal for practical pistol shooting than that of having your front sight remain "perfectly still". Obviously the focus of the above is narrowed down to practicing with a normal two-handed grip... SHO and WHO practice has some additional nuance and is more truly trigger control from the lack of a supporting side-to-side grip.


    *Start by establishing the web of your firing hand (between the thumb and index finger) as high and tight as you can get it into the back of the gun. Utilize the bottom fingers (pinky and ring) as leverage to help make the web fit even higher and tighter. This establishes your grip front-to-back. Keep your firing hand thumb out of the way so as to fully allow your support hand onto the gun. Bring your support hand into play, knuckles on top of knuckles (pivot there like the hinge of a nutcracker) to establish a hard grip as high on the gun as you can. Thumb position isn't necessarily important as long as you get the "ball" of your support hand (between your wrist and thumb) up on the gun. This establishes your grip side-to-side. In this fashion, one builds a "box" around the pistol with the firing hand top/bottom on the grip, and the support and firing hands squeezing high near the slide.

    If you find your forearms torquing inward and your pectoral muscles come into play, you're on the right track. If your support arm winds up higher relative to your firing arm, you're on the right track. If your elbows are coming together low, you're on the wrong track because you are breaking your high grip on the gun. Building your grip low on the gun is much less effective because it is further away from both the recoil vector and the reciprocating mass.

  2. #2
    Member Sparks2112's Avatar
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    REALLY good post.
    J.M. Johnston
    Host of Ballistic Radio - Sundays at 7:00 PM EST on Cincinnati's 55KRC THE Talk Station, available on iHeartRadio

  3. #3
    Member Jay's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sparks2112 View Post
    REALLY good post.
    +1 Thank you Jay, I will try this this weekend.

  4. #4
    Thanks Jay. Very helpful-I was staging the trigger during dry fire to minimize movement.

  5. #5
    Site Supporter Jay Cunningham's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nik the Greek View Post
    I was staging the trigger during dry fire to minimize movement.
    How much sense does that make? zolzolzolzolzollo

  6. #6
    Member SecondsCount's Avatar
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    Good stuff Jay.

    When teaching beginners, I always find it better to walk before running. Getting them to do something consistently is the most difficult part.
    -Seconds Count. Misses Don't-

  7. #7
    Awesome post! One of the first practice technique issues I noticed after getting back into shooting was the effect of recoil on your grip and trigger finger position relative to dry-fire practice. This was a pocket pistol and I realized after a couple trips to the range that I was dry practicing an impractical grip for rapid fire after the first shot buried the gun in my hand. I was having to readjust between shots or simply start hunting midstring for a new grip and trigger press which I hadn't drilled on. After accounting for this in dry-practice, I got better and faster.

    While I have shot Glocks and other striker pistols with mid-length pulls and short resets, I've never owned one and so haven't been able to form a thorough, experimentation-based opinion on catching the reset, though it definitely seems to help with Glocks from the times I've played with it.

    I tend to think it's beneficial for speed with precision, and I'm curious if you have a more thorough technical explanation of why you disagree?

    I could see it perhaps being too much of a precision gear change to expect to manage under life or death stress, though I'm not sure if I buy that any more than slapping the trigger being unavoidable under the same situation.

    But as for gaming I figure it's a pretty well used and effective technique with pistols that operate in the relevant fashion. I also see the difficulty in meaningfully simulating catching the reset in dry-fire, but I'm not sure that limitation of dry-fire practice, among others, is justification for discarding the technique vs acknowledging that it requires live-fire practice or a SIRT to really get down.

    A full trigger press while trying to re-align the sights seems more difficult than a partial press from reset and certainly feels that way to me because of the greater trigger travel, but mostly because of the greater weight change from 0lbs to full break weight at speed vs prep to break.

    Also, doesn't it pretty much simulate, on the followup shot, the state the trigger/finger is in at the end of press-out on the first shot from presentation, where the trigger has been prepped during press-out, something I also thought was SOP these days for the sake of speed? Otherwise aren't you negating that speed advantage you gained on the draw during followups? Unless you're saying to let out only to the reset mid-recoil, but that seems like it would be far trickier to hit with the gun still moving and not worth the resulting inconsistency.

  8. #8
    Very Pro Dentist Chuck Haggard's Avatar
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    A very real reason to not train to ride the reset is that under stress it is very easy to short stroke the trigger and end up pulling on a dead trigger.

    It's a stupid technique only really useful for teaching new shooters what a reset is.

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by tpd223 View Post
    A very real reason to not train to ride the reset is that under stress it is very easy to short stroke the trigger and end up pulling on a dead trigger.

    It's a stupid technique only really useful for teaching new shooters what a reset is.
    I can see that being an issue as mentioned, and I guess it's better to train in a consistent enough grip and finger placement that if you do slap it under stress you'll still get the shot off and be pretty close vs a short stroke. Actually the biggest concern I have about riding the reset under stress is how tremors or simple tactile numbing could cause one to have an unintentional discharge while making a threat assessment whether to follow-up as one might subconsciously leave the finger wobbling around in the reset zone. Better to drill on full, decisive movements of either firing/pulling, or fully releasing pressure.

    ETA: This is pretty eye-opening, I honestly haven't noticed anyone making these arguments before regarding riding reset. Thought it was SOP. Like I said, I've only had constant-pull triggered weapons so it hasn't really been something I've had to make a decision on in practice. But I'm planning to get either a G19 or PPS shortly so it's good timing for me.

  10. #10
    We are diminished
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    There's a nice wide happy place between riding the reset to the nearest bilimeter and slapping the trigger with most pistols.

    When you try to ride the reset precisely you're building up a skill that requires precision. In fact, I'd say it requires more precision that a decent trigger press. Given that most people expect their trigger finger manipulation to suffer under stress it seems fair to expect a precise reset to suffer under stress. When my trigger pull is off a little bit, I shoot an inch or two off my POA. When my reset is off a little bit, I can short stroke the trigger induce what is, in essence, a stoppage (pull trigger, no bang).

    I try to maintain contact with the trigger at all times and certainly don't exaggerate the reset but neither do I try to control the forward motion of the trigger so strictly that I run the risk of short stroking.

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