Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Combining Dry Fire, Ball & Dummy Drills, andTrigger Reset to Cure Off Center Groups

Combining Dry Fire, Trigger Reset, and Ball & Dummy Drills to cure a flinch isn't hard, but it isn't as widely known as I had thought it was. It is one of those things where to do something right, you have to write over millions of years of instinct that has been hard wired into who we all are. It is so natural to flinch in anticipation of an explosion going off in your hand that it is a universal problem that every shooter deals with at some point. But it can be eliminated over time, and here is how it is done.

When shooting, it is common for shooters both new and experienced to have issues with groups centering low and toward their support side (left for a right hand shooter and right for a left hand shooter). This is often caused by one or both of two things:
  • Slapping the trigger
  • Flinching in anticipation of the recoil
Fortunately there is a form of practice that addresses both of these issues. First I will discuss briefly the three training methods separately before combining them.
  1. Dry Practice. You can do it pretty much anywhere that having a firearm in your hands is acceptable. You don't load any ammunition. For some dry practice drills, dummy rounds are needed, but for most of them you don't even need those. The purpose of dry practice is to practice the motions of using a firearm perfectly without being distracted by live fire. It is also useful because you can do it in your own home. For safety, you need to be certain that you are completely unloaded and do not have ammunition on hand that you could accidentally load while practicing. You also need a target with a backstop capable of stopping a live round if somehow you still manage to get a live round in your firearm. I usually use an old body armor panel. You can buy expired panels for about $50. Other things like safes, brick walls, filled bookshelves, etc can work. Just know where a live round will go if one were to be fired and be prepared to take responsibility if it happens.
  2. Ball & Dummy Drill. This is a live fire drill where preferably somebody else loads magazines or revolver cylinders with some live rounds and some inert (dummy) rounds. If you don't have an assistant you can load multiple magazines differently and shuffle them or spin a revolver cylinder so that you still don't know what is up next, but it is easier with a partner. The purpose of the drill is primarily to diagnose and monitor flinching and to practice clearing a failure to fire malfunction. To a limited degree, it is also to cure flinching.
  3. Trigger Reset. Trigger reset is a technique that maximizes speed and efficiency while minimizing sight picture disruption while shooting. It can and should be practiced both with dry fire and live fire.
  • To practice dry, you take a fully unloaded firearm without dummy rounds or a magazine. For semi-auto handguns, cock the action. For revolvers leave it in double action. Point in at your target, focus hard on the front sight while maintaining the best sight picture you can and slowly apply rearward pressure to the trigger. Keep focusing on the front sight, and watch for any drifting in the sight picture. If pulling the trigger is causing any disruption to the sight picture, stop and adjust your trigger finger until you find the position that you can pull the trigger from without disrupting the sight picture. This is usually the middle of the pad of the last segment on your trigger finger, but it can vary depending on the person and the firearm. Once you are able to pull the trigger all the way to the rear and trip the sear without disrupting the sight picture, hold the trigger to the rear. Make trapping the trigger to the rear a conscience part of the trigger pull. Since you are dry firing, you will need to re-cock the firearm at this point for semi-autos. For revolvers this is not necessary. Keep the trigger trapped to the rear while re-cocking. Point back in on the target and acquire the best sight picture you can. This is to simulate re-acquiring the sight picture after recoil. Now, slowly release the trigger until you hear and feel a click. This is the trigger resetting. Once you are comfortable with finding the trigger reset, you should practice releasing to trigger reset as you are re-acquiring the sight picture. Once you are at this point in a live fire situation you would make the conscious decision to either not fire and relax the trigger the rest of the way and remove your finger from the trigger, or pull the trigger again and fire. Since this is dry practice you will generally just keep repeating the firing cycle until you are done practicing.
  • For live fire it is basically the same. The difference will be that the rounds fired will cycle the action for you so you don't need to re-cock in between shots. You still need to focus hard on the front sight while maintaining the sight picture as you pull the trigger to the rear, consciously trap to the rear before releasing to the reset position while re-acquiring the sight picture, and either firing again, or releasing your trigger finger the rest of the way and removing your finger from the trigger.
Now that each of the three methods have been discussed we can see how they work together. First there is the diagnosis. The screening so to speak is the that groups are low and or to the support side. In very rare cases a shooter may flinch upward, so in a sense, groups anywhere but center are a potential indication of some combination of trigger control and flinching. The best diagnostic tool is the ball and dummy drill. Prepare a magazine or cylinder with live rounds and dummy rounds mixed in such that you as the shooter do not know if the next shot will be live or inert. Fire slowly and methodically using the trigger reset technique. If you feel yourself or a bystander can see you shake or twitch your firearm when you pull the trigger on a dummy round, you have a flinch. I've yet to meet the shooter that hasn't had a flinch at some point so your not alone, and there is no reason to beat yourself up over it. It is a mental issue and the solution is pure mind over matter. The combination of these three techniques are designed to help you eliminate your flinch, and monitor for when it re-occurs. These techniques simultaneously reinforce very important marksmanship habits that translate to all forms of shooting.

Once you have determined that you are flinching, drop back to dry fire for a bit. Practice several cycles of the trigger reset technique to remind your muscles not to flinch as the trigger breaks. Feel the sensation of the smooth trigger break with the trigger trapped to the rear and the sight picture undistributed while focusing hard on the front sight. Allow that sensation to be ingrained into you and mentally mark that sensation as what it feels like when it is done right.

Then load up a magazine with one dummy round followed by three or four live rounds so that the live rounds will be fired first. Fire them slowly and methodically using the trigger reset technique. For each shot, remind yourself what it should feel like and that there is no reason to flinch. When you get to the dummy round fire exactly the way you did for the previous shots as if you were expecting a live round even though you know it isn't. Again allow that feeling of breaking the trigger without flinching sink in.

Now go back to the ball and dummy drill. Take it nice and slow. You will feel a world of difference from the first time. For each fire cycle allow yourself the time to recall the feeling of doing it right. Then go back to your other training drills. With a bit a practice, you will feel the difference if a flinch starts creeping back even without the ball and dummy drills. Any time this happens during training or practice, stop and take the time to remind your muscles what a clean trigger break feels like and then resume your training. With time your muscles will remember what they are supposed to do, and shooting without flinching will be instinctual. Your muscle memory will have written over your natural born instincts, and be it at the range, in your home, on the streets, or at some distant battle field, you will be able to put metal on target as naturally as you blink your eyes.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

To a cancer cell, heathy tissue is the cancer.

Comparing gun control to an addiction or a cancer wouldn't be very original. It has been done. For anybody not familiar, the idea is that the desire for gun control stems from some belief that it is a solution to violence and crime. A common effect of gun control however is an increase in crime and violence as law abiding targets disarm. The result is a greater call for more gun control and so on. That is the addiction portion.

Once an area has reached the point of imploding on itself due to violence despite an extreme gun control / ban that area looks outward and determines that it is the outside world not adopting their gun bans that is causing their problems. They then seek to force their surrounding areas to do the same as they have. Then the cycle continues. That is the cancer portion.

So what brings this up? Well I came across an article that tried to make the case that the cancer in this debate is the belief that people have a right to keep and bear arms at an individual level. To quote:

America has a cancer, an interpretative error originating in our government’s DNA, the Constitution. On June 26, 2008, the Supreme Court handed down an errant interpretation in District of Columbia v. Heller, exacerbating the misconception that the Second Amendment grants individuals the right to own firearms.

So to counter the plain wording on the second amendment, the author falls back on an interpretation that has never been supported by the supreme court, is completely at odds with the reasoning used to protect the first amendment, and is contrary to the spirit of the amendment made clear in every discussion had about it during the drafting and ratification.

To make the case that the second amendment was never meant to be individual, the author offers the following:

One needn’t be a Constitutional law professor to discern the Founding Fathers’ intent in the Second Amendment. The original draft as presented to the first session of the First Congress read:

”The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed; a well armed and well regulated militia being the best security of a free country; but no person religiously scrupulous of bearing arms shall be compelled to render military service in person.”

Clearly, the Constitution’s drafters placed gun ownership solely in the context of organized military service. Even the Amendment’s final version retains and begins with the phrase, “a well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State.”

This makes me wonder if the author has any concept of what the term militia means in the constitutional sense. He claims to be former military yet clearly has no understanding of the militant structure that existed at the time the second amendment was ratified. The militia was every able bodied male over 16. More over, the framers abhorred the idea of a standing army existing while the populace is disarmed. Those two facts run contrary to the authors entire article.

The author then tries to legitimize his viewpoint with the same old emotional appeal:

Before the advent of firearms, becoming dangerous meant years of training if not a lifetime’s upbringing in a warrior caste. Using his credit card, Virginia Tech madman Seung-Hui Cho paid $571 for a Glock 19 pistol and a box of fifty bullets. A Glock 19 weighs slightly less than a quart of milk; it measures under seven inches long. Its operation is simple: load, point, shoot fifteen times, reload. In nine minutes, Cho killed 30 people, wounding dozens more.

First off, being dangerous without a gun is quite simple. Nut jobs in regions where guns have been banned and largely eliminated have quite effectively committed mass murder with knives, axes, and things like that. The difference is before guns, you had to find an area where you could physically dominate each and every person in an area since you would be attacking them face to face. With guns in the picture a 90 year old grandma who still has decent vision could stop such an attacker if she is armed. So simply finding a physically weak populace is no longer sufficient. Now the attacker has to find something else: a population with little to no chance of a law abiding victim having a gun.

In the authors emoting rant, he forgets to mention that mass shootings not only occur by and large in gun free zones, but account for only a minute fraction of the violence law abiding people risk even in their homes, but also going about their lives outside the home.

If it were possible to simply wish away every gun in existence and erase any concept of how they can be made, that might be a decent solution. Even then I would make the case that the physically frail deserve the level playing field that firearms have made possible. But at least it would be a partially viable solution. But seeing as governments have no intention of disarming (and happen to collectively be the greatest firearm-using-murderers for as long as firearms have existed), and criminals can make firearms in garages with hand tools even if the normal black market channels went dry, the argument that stripping the civilian populace of arms is for their good falls flat.