Monday, June 2, 2014

Dry-fire drudgery...and why it is necessary

Dry-fire is one of those things that sometimes I like to do, but most of the time I get bored with. It requires such an intense mental focus to do correctly that I fatigue quickly, and once I start to mess it up, it becomes negative training. So why is dry-fire even important to improved performance? I know there are instructors who fall on both sides of the issue. Some say it is bad, some say it is good…I tend to fall in with the guys who say it is good, and this is why.

If you ever attend a Mike Seeklander class you will do a lot of dry-fire, but before you start Mike does a demo with a volunteer from the class. Whoever is brave enough to volunteer (or more typically elected by the class to volunteer) will be asked to stand as still and strong as possible. Mike relates it to being a telephone pole standing against the wind. Mike will play the wind. When the wind blows, telephone poles typically don’t move, and that is the goal for the volunteer, not to move. Mike will push against the shoulder of the volunteer gradually increasing pressure until the volunteer eventually starts to move. Mike is not exactly a weak guy; it would take a pretty stout person to stay put completely. He will repeat the process again, and then maybe a third time. The volunteer is not allowed to push back, they just have to try and stand as straight as they can. On the third or fourth time being the “wind” Mike will actually stop his hand just short of the volunteer’s shoulder and invariably the volunteer will lurch forward anticipating the pressure. When you ask the volunteer if they consciously began to apply pressure forward they will typically say “no”. I have seen this demo done three separate occasions, one in which I was the volunteer, and the result has always been the same.

The point that is being illustrated is that in order to do something correctly, we sometimes have to remove all the stimuli from the process. A small explosion at the end of our hands and the resultant recoil through the handgun certainly qualifies as a significant amount of stimulus. I have seen countless new shooters and in some cases “experienced” shooters try to pound through a skill plateau by putting more and more rounds downrange when really what they need to is to save the ammo and do some dry-fire, as boring as it may be. I call it “bending the nail”. We have this tendency to hit the nail harder or with a bigger hammer when we start having some difficulty and it just bends the nail, which then requires straightening before moving forward again. Like the old saying goes, “work smarter, not harder”. It certainly applies here. Sometimes the best way to move forward is to stop actually shooting bullets, plus it is free.