Student or Dry Fire Hero?

Dry Fire. It is both proven to work and often misunderstood. It applies to competition and to concealed carry skills. Many swear by it and some (foolishly) scoff at it. Many times we hear people mention dry fire without actually explaining what it means so let’s get on the same page with regards to what dry fire is and isn’t.

Maggie Reese

Simply put, anything you can do to practice with your firearm that doesn’t require live ammo can be performed in dry fire. Dry fire is NOT aiming at the TV and pulling the trigger. It is not lying in your bed and aiming at the ceiling. You can use dry fire to improve your trigger with the proper regime. Check out the White Wall Drill for more information.

  • Want to get your draws smoother – practice in dry fire.
  • Want to speed up your reloads – practice in dry fire.
  • Want to improve transitions – practice in dry fire.
  • Want to improve recoil control – LIVE FIRE, NOT DRY FIRE!

Dry fire allows us to work on a great many skills without expending any ammo or driving to the range. However, dry fire is not a replacement for live fire.

I dry fire roughly 4 times a week for 30-40 minutes per session. Some will see that as a lot and some will see that as too little. In all honesty, I should be dry firing more to achieve my personal goals in competition. Although with those dry fire sessions, I try to get in one live fire session a week. This isn’t always possible but it is important. It keeps your dry fire honest. It is really easy to fall into the trap of dry firing exclusively and becoming a dry fire hero. In all likelihood, you go to the range and realize the skills are not as polished as you thought.

You might have a sub 1.0 second draw time in dry fire but if you have never got up on the 3 yard line and actually practiced it with live ammo and a timer, you don’t really know. Likely, you won’t be as fast; your conscious mind (see, there it is again) will take too long getting the perfect sight picture vs an acceptable sight picture.

It is easy to dry fire your way to speed, but you must still look for every weakness in live fire and find a way to execute it better. If not, you will be quick in your dry fire dojo but in live fire and/or a match, you will be stuck at your current level.

Don’t mistake this to mean dry fire isn’t important; because it is.  Dry fire without live fire confirmation, in the form of mini-drills against a timer, will not take you to the level you desire.

Are you a competitive student that looks for ways to improve using both dry fire and live fire or are you a dry fire hero; burning down drill after drill in your basement but never verifying a thing at the range?

Are you overlooking some easy improvement in the name of a quick dry fire par time?

Where are you and where do you want to be?

Photos from Bianchi Cup 2015

2015 Bianchi Cup: Day 2

Yesterday was better – a lot better. The sun was shining, it was absolutely beautiful out. And I made all my shooting times. And there were definitely holes in all my targets. It was a good day.

Rob Leatham shoots the Barricade stage at the 2015 Bianchi Cup.

In the Production race, Rob Leatham cleaned up on the Barricade, while Enoch Smith and Dave Sevigny both dropped points. If Rob can clean the plates today, the Production championship will be his, but we’ve seen Rob Leatham drop plates in the past, so the match isn’t over yet.

In the Women’s race, Jessie Duff shot a flawless Barricade, Tiffany Piper only dropped a couple 8s while Maggie Reese shot some 5s. Maggie will have to clean the Practical today to get back in the running, while Tiffany and Jessie battle it out on the Mover. Vera Koo is also shooting well this year, I’ll be keeping an eye on her today as well.

Tim Yackley appears to be leading the Junior shooters just ahead of Colton Cerino. Louis Surgi had some major points down early in the match (to be honest, I don’t remember what happened, I believe it was a gun malfunction) and is essentially out of the running.

Bruce Piatt had some extreme gun problems early in the match, so Doug Koenig and Kevin Angstadt are battling over Xs. Right now, my money is on Doug, but in this game you never know what’s going to happen.

Bianchi Cup 2015: Day 1

There’s really only one word for Day 1 of Bianchi Cup 2015: Miserable. I love this match, but sometimes Missouri is downright cruel. It was cold and rainy yesterday – Columbia saw a high of only 55 degrees. When you come out to this match expecting sunshine, being faced with pouring rain and 50-degree weather is a little disheartening. Of course, that may just be me, I had an impressively bad day. I got lost on the way to the range, missed my shooting time, and shot my worst Plates score on record, hitting only 17 plates. The rain also made it difficult to get good photos, Becky Yackley and I were both struggling with focus and lens issues throughout the day. Fortunately, Michael Voigt spared me some hand warmers, and that was the best part of my day. (Okay, it got better in the evening when I left the range).

That’s not true for everyone though – Dave Sevigny and Maggie Reese were among the shooters I spoke to who were feeling incredibly positive after the first day of the match. Maggie cleaned the Plates and then, after last year’s devastating time-out, dropped only one eight on the Mover for a score of 478, putting her in an excellent standing in the Women’s championship. Dave only dropped 8 points on the Practical, leaving him feeling positive about the Production match. There could be some interesting upsets this year, and I’m excited to keep following the progress. I haven’t seen scores yet, but I’ll look for them at the range today and keep you all posted.

Until then, some photos:

Bianchi Cup – Day 1

It’s the first day of Bianchi Cup! I have some work to do this morning, but will shortly be headed out to the

Julie Golob prepares to shoot the Plates at the 2014 Bianchi Cup.
Julie Golob prepares to shoot the Plates at the 2014 Bianchi Cup.

practice range to test out the gun I’m using (you may recognize it as belonging to the lovely Brooke Sevigny), then it’s off to the range to sort out my press pass and registration and I start shooting at 12:30 with the Falling Plates event!

The Plates have always been a source of conflict for me. They were my best event the first year I shot and my worst event last year. I haven’t been shooting much at all lately, so I have no idea how this Bianchi Cup is going to go in general. I have the opportunity to medal in Ladies’ Metallic, which is a fortunately small division, unless all the other girls have figured out it is a fortunately small division in which case I may be in trouble…

Wish me luck, lots of luck, and a little divine intervention to get through this week! I’ll keep you all updated as the week progresses.

The best I’ve ever shot

We all have that moment – the sun is shining, birds are singing, your sights look good, the trigger feels just right, and you shoot better than you’ve ever shot anything before, or maybe ever again. I’ve seen guys at that moment, and I was fortunate to capture my personal experience with that moment on video.

To this day, that Tanfo Stock II in .38 Super is the best pure competition gun I’ve ever shot.

The business of the shooting sports: NRA Action Pistol and ICORE

Today is our final installment in the business of the shooting sports series. Previous articles covered 3Gun, USPSA, IDPA, and the general trends in the sport. In our final piece, we’ll have a bit of a double feature, covering two sports. NRA Action Pistol and ICORE. NRA Action Pistol is the sanctioning body for the Bianchi Cup, and ICORE is the International Confederation of Revolver Enthusiasts.


NRA Action Pistol
NRA Action Pistol is one of the oldest shooting sports; its championship the Bianchi Cup recently celebrated its 35 anniversary. We have covered Bianchi Cup extensively here on Gun Nuts, and will recap that coverage very shortly here. The Cup went through troubled times, but has recently reasserted itself as the premiere pistol championship in terms of sponsorships and media coverage. Attendance has been up for the past five years, and the Cup is showing no signs of stalling out.

But the sport of NRA Action Pistol is largely sustained by this one match. There is a world championship held every two years, with the most recent one this year in Rockcastle, KY. There are also a few regional matches, with the most well known being the Flagler Cup, which goes down the week before Bianchi Cup each year and is often used as a tune-up for the big match itself. There are also regional and state matches in Michigan and Virginia. There are almost no club level NRA AP matches, which for any other sport would be a problem, but not necessarily for NRA Action Pistol. As long as the Cup itself is successful, the sport as it is will continue to be successful.

The success of the Cup is also its greatest weakness for the sport, because NRA AP without a robust and successful Bianchi Cup would simply disappear. As long as the Cup continues to prosper and attract new shooters, the sport will prosper. While I would love to see more clubs putting in NRA AP matches, it’s actually not necessary for the sport to be successful. Because they’ve defined success as having a few big major matches, it’s really all about a successful Bianchi Cup each year.

ICORE is also an interesting animal, in that it’s an all volunteer organization defined largely by its biggest match, the International Revolver Championships held each year in the prettiest place on earth, the Central California coast. Unlike NRA AP, ICORE does have established club level participation, with 59 clubs scattered across the USA. They have a classification system, and various regional, area, and state championships. The truth is ICORE isn’t really in any kind danger or flux – there is a steady and consistent population of wheelgun shooters and dabblers that will likely continue to support the sport for times to come.

Really, the greatest danger to ICORE is the fact that it’s an all volunteer organization. Burnout, aging volunteers, and a lack of suitable replacements is a huge concern for all of the shooting sports, but especially an organization that’s entirely dependent on volunteers. But on the flipside, ICORE’s been making it work since 1992, and because it’s such a niche sport the volunteers tend to be passionate enthusiasts about it. I do have an ICORE life membership, it’s worth noting, and yet I’ve never shot the IRC. One of these years…

As we wrap up our look at the shooting sports, there’s really only one conclusion to that I can arrive at. Despite the challenges facing all of the major games, we are absolutely in a golden age for shooting sports right now. There are more matches, more dollars, more media, more coverage, and just more opportunities to get your trigger finger going nationwide than there have been in the past. If you want to shoot a traditional concealed carry rig, you can. If you want to race your guns, you can do that. If you want to shoot a Glock 19 with an RDS, a tactical shotgun, and a Colt 6920, you can. That’s the great thing about this time – there is a sport that will take you, no matter what your gun and gear is. So get out there, and go shooting. There are few things more fun than running around with a gun in your hand shooting at stuff.

Shooting a stock Glock 34 at Bianchi Cup

Normally that's my "shooting" face, this time I'm making that face because I'm missing so many plates.
Normally that’s my “shooting” face, this time I’m making that face because I’m missing so many plates.

This year, I shot Bianchi Cup with a Glock 34 – absolutely stock. Stock trigger, stock sights, everything fresh out of the box. I only put about 50 rounds through the gun before heading down to Missouri.  Continue reading “Shooting a stock Glock 34 at Bianchi Cup”

Training Notes, 05/29

Hit the range yesterday for my first post-Bianchi Cup training session. I wanted to get into some of the issues I had at the cup with long range pistol accuracy and see if I could diagnose what caused me to drop such a large number of points on the Practical at this year’s match. To do this, I shot the entire COF twice, but removed the par times allowing for maximum accuracy. By removing the par, I can take all the time I need and focus on getting good clean hits on target.


To set this drill up, you’ll need a range that goes back at least 50 yards. Your strings of fire happen at 10, 15, 25, and 50. At each yard line, you’ll have three strings that repeat: 1 on each target (2 shots), 2 on each target (4 shots), and 3 on each target (6 shots). The total is 48 rounds. At the 10 yard line, the 3 per target string is shot weak hand only by drawing the gun and switching it to your weak hand. 10 and 15 yards are relatively easy in the untimed version of the drill, although it’s easy to get tempted to rush your sight picture and go too fast. Remember, the goal is maximum accuracy, which means you want to shoot as many 10X as possible.

Running this yesterday, I was clean at 10 and 15, with a total score of 240-20x. All of my first 24 shots were 10s, and most of them were X’s as well. So I moved back to 25, where I dropped my first 8 of the day, but still show mostly clean. After 25 yards I was sitting on a 358-28x. I recommend changing the targets or taping after the 25 yard string so you can get a really good idea of what you’re doing at 50.

The 50 yard part is the hardest part, for a lot of reasons. Small shifts that would be the difference between just a 10 or an X at 15 yards become the difference between a 10 and a 5; you need to do everything right to get a good hit. At 50, I was very happy with my sight picture and trigger pull, and in fact I didn’t pull or yank any shots. However, out of 12 rounds I shot six 5s and one additional 8. That gave me a total score of 446, which is in the ballpark for how I shoot this during practice on the clock.

Because I’d shot so well through 25 yards, I needed to figure out what I’m doing wrong at 50. I don’t go prone at 50, which is a bit of a disadvantage because the gun isn’t as stable, but with the par times the match gives (7, 10, and 15 seconds) I have all the time in the world to make a clean shot at that range. What I noticed on the range yesterday was that my sight picture at 50 is harder to verify than at 25. I have my guns set up for a six o’clock hold on the x-ring, so the top of the front post should be directly under the X. At 25, even with a hard front sight focus, it’s easy to align the top of the post with the blurry x-ring. At 50, the X-ring is halved in visual size, and with a hard front sight focus becomes little more than a fuzzy dot. My operating theory is that because of that, I was letting the gun wander a little higher than my hold should have been.

The groups on target and match results back this up – all of the 5s I shot in practice yesterday were high, and most of the ones I shot at the matches were high as well. Now that I think I’ve diagnosed the problem, the only way I really know how to fix it is to spend a lot of time shooting at 50 yards and refining my sight picture until it’s perfect. Hooray for doing things are difficult.