0.99 Second draw from a retention holster

While working on draws the other day with my Safariland ALS 1911 holster I spent some time working on raw speed, trying to get the gun out as fast as possible. I managed a few 0.99 draws; this one happened to be my very first rep. Mobile users view the video here.

The point of this kind of practice is that it’s part of a progression. I don’t do a lot of single shot draws because it’s easy to cheat your grip or other things in the hopes of going a little faster if you’re chasing a number on a timer; however there are times when you need to chase that number. Last night’s practice session I was working on 2 shots to the A-zone at 10 yards, and my draw was consistently a 1.40-1.50 on the first shot. In order to get faster, I needed to go faster. So I moved the target in to 5 yards and did a few of these one shot reps just as fast as I can move the gun. Consistent times in the 0.99-1.05 range, but accuracy was awful. After a few reps, move the target back out to 10 yards and then apply the same “go faster” mentality but allow myself enough time to pick up the sights and make good hits. All of a sudden my first dropped to the 1.15-1.25 range from the retention holster.

Whenever you do “max speed” work like this, it’s important to remember the point. Pushing sub-1 second draws is where my accuracy starts to really suffer, but if you don’t sometimes push your speed to the point where the wheels fall off, you’ll never be able to go faster.

Setting (and Tracking) Realistic, Attainable Goals

As a shooter you might have watched some videos of other shooters and thought, “man that was fast, I could never do that.” I am here to say you can!  With this post I want to discuss goals, but from a different perspective than you might be used too. Whether you are only concerned with CCW, only competition, or both CCW and competition, we should all have realistic goals that each person reading this can work toward and attain. Goals allow you to judge yourself and your improvement against yourself and not just other shooters; this is a good thing.

Anyone that has listened to Dave Ramsey discuss his baby steps to get out of debt understands the concept. Realistic attainable goals keeps us motivated and excited. If we look at all of our debt at once it can be overwhelming, but if we start small and build momentum we stay focused and the task is less daunting. The same thing applies to weapons training. Someone that just learned to shoot last week should not have the immediate (or only) goal of competing on the same level as Max Michel or responding to a threat like Frank Proctor or Mike Pannone. Those might be your ultimate goals, but temper your enthusiasm with realism; depending on your skill, disposable income, and spare time you might gear there quickly, but it will still take steps and a plan.

We should judge ourselves, with in our own skill level, with different baselines that match our goals.  For instance, using distance to target as one example, we might have close range skills, medium range skills and long-range precision skills. I will elaborate on my range/skill parameters in a bit, but being fast and accurate at 3 yards does not automatically mean you will be fast an accurate at 25 yards.  You might be accurate at 25 yards doing sloooow fire, but that doesn’t equate to being fast at that distance.  Remember, everyone can be fast and miss at any distance.

In a nutshell, this is how I identify skill set weakness and set goals for practice, and in the future I will post some drills I use at each distance.  I try to choose drills, which reinforce skills, that are transferable between my CCW and my USPSA Production gear. The biggest difference between the two is the quickness of the draw from concealment and the need for a more refined sight picture with the shorter CCW weapon. But for this post, the actual drills aren’t important, the methodology is.  The concept of tracking and measuring improvement against yourself is the what I hope you take away from this post – the need for realistic goals.

I want to clarify something before moving on; I am not implying you need only work one skill set to perfection before moving on, but I do feel it is best to decide what your range practice session will entail and stick to one skill or goal set.  We can all agree that at times a trip to the range is for fun and noise, no practice or excuse needed; but when you set out to actually get better, make sure you are clear on what your range trip is for.

I mentioned different distances previously, so let’s break those down now while considering our pistol skills.

I believe the close range skill set is for distances of 7 yards or less. Some readers may find this appalling and they may consider that medium or even long-range. I understand! Once upon a time I considered 7 yards medium range, then I got training and shot my first match. Equally, if you say 7 yards is far away, it tells me two things; one, you need to practice more and two, you have never shot a competition – any competition. If you can’t keep slow fire 10 rounds into a 2 inch circle at 7 yards you need to work on fundamentals. That 10 inch group you just shot at 7 yards is pathetic! Quit getting positive reinforcement by comparing your group to other shooters that fling similar sized groups onto the target.

Yoda

Medium range skills, in my world, would be anything between 7 and 25 yards. For those bad at math, 15 yards is forty-five feet; and while that may sound like a long distance, what is the furthest shot you might have to take inside your house? Not just across a bedroom, but maybe out of one bedroom and down the hall into another room. 25-30 feet is possible, isn’t it? Now imagine that shot, in low light, while drowsy, and under stress? Suddenly the 15 yard shot, in broad daylight, while wide awake, and possibly wearing corrective lenses, seems easy. Competition shooting aside, if you can’t slow fire a full magazine’s worth of ammo and keep them on a humanoid silhouette target at 15 yards you are NOT a good shot. The truth hurts, sorry.

What about long-range? I view that as anything over 25 yards. The likelihood of needing to make that shot in self-defense is extremely low; but it still exist. With no time limit, can you draw your weapon and put one shot into a 8 inch pie plate at 25 yards? If you have the fundamentals down, your answer should be a resounding yes. If you shoot USPSA you are already familiar with the requirements you must meet to successfully make the 25 yard shot. What about 40 yards? 60 yards? I am not saying you will need to make a 60 yard shot to defend yourself – although you might.  I am saying people who can make the 60 yard shot with no time limit have a much greater chance of making that 7 yard shot under stress.

Time limits are the one thing I haven’t discussed. I am a big fan of a shot timer (no secret there) and I believe you should use it in all of your training outside of static slow fire sessions. You can use a timer to get some baseline numbers for common drills, and while you could compare the times with your peers or even your hero’s on the internet and YouTube, the real value is when you can go back and compare with yourself on previous runs.  It doesn’t matter if you can’t do a certain drill at the same speed as your training hero; it only matters that your times are dropping!

Tracking my skill development is why I keep a log book. With the proliferation of smart phones there is literally no reason you can’t open a notes app and write down your times for review later. If you shot some Bill drills, write down the best time and the average time. Alternately, you can use a written log book like I do. There are several available for purchase, but I made up my own in Microsoft Word and put together a binder.  The one unspoken benefit of the timer is for when you don’t train for extended periods of time.  You can go back and see how much skill you have lost and identify the low hanging fruit.

Like Dave Ramsey’s baby steps, setting realistic goals and then achieving them will help you track your improvements, and the realization of improvement is what keeps things interesting.

CCW Dry Fire?

IMG_4820There is a common misconception about dry fire and what it can do for CCW holders; a misconception only compounded by gross misunderstandings of what dry fire is.  It seems many CCW holders believe dry fire is nothing more than cocking their unloaded gun and firing it at a light switch or the TV.

Dry fire can include that, but it is so much more!

With the belief that all CCW holders should be ever increasing in skill level, I decided to write this as an example of how quickly tangible gains can be made.

In my post “When Reality Hits Back”, I wrote about my concealed carry draw being  ridiculously slow and my desire to improve it. That post was actually written on November 25th, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. I started dry fire practicing draws using my concealed carry rig the following Saturday, and made it back to the range on Thursday, December 3rd.  During that week I practiced roughly 15 minutes a day for five days.

Folk’s that’s only an hour and fifteen minutes of practice over the course of a week; even with a family and full time job everyone can find that much time in a week.

So what happened on my second attempt at the Wilson 5X5 Drill?  A measurable improvement is what happened!  I used the S&W Shield, configured the same as when I had ran it the week before. I ran it three times to get an average and when I was done I had dropped my time by about 2.2 seconds. I am still a long way away from where I want to be, but I didn’t expect perfection from only an hour and half of dry fire. As you digest this, keep in mind that I did not practice mag changes or trigger presses; I only practiced the draw stroke! In the 5X5 drill the gun is drawn from the holster four times, that means I improved my draw stroke roughly 0.5 seconds.

If you were faced with an attacker, what would you give for a half second quicker draw?

My suggestion, turn off Netflix for 20 minutes this week and practice some draws with your concealment rig. Who knows, you might learn something.

When Reality Hits Back

Irony – a state of affairs or an event that seems deliberately contrary to what one expects and is often amusing as a result.

The day after I wrote my last post, Student or Dry Fire Hero, I went to the range with nothing but my two carry guns and requisite concealment holsters. Since discovering competition in August 2014 I have been directing all of my practice towards that, so I felt I was past due getting in some reps and drills with my carry gear.  I wasn’t really expecting much and when I was finished I had realized even less.

qualification target - you suck

I set out with the goal of shooting Bill Wilson’s 5×5 drill. I had never shot it before and wanted to run it with my S&W Shield from 4 o’clock IWB and my new to me CZ PCR also from 4 o’clock, but OWB. I ran it twice with each gun, alternating Shield – PCR – Shield – PCR. The second time I shot both guns was obviously better, but still shockingly slow. In the end I got mid 28 second times with both guns. I had good hits, but my draws could have been timed with a sun dial.

For reasons unknown, I found this shocking. After all, I can rip 0.8 second dry fire draws and realize 0.9 second live fire draws at 5 yards using my USPSA rig.

Prepare yourself readers, here comes a DUH moment.

I had discovered how glaringly different drawing from concealment is compared to my competition rig. I had issues with my cover garment getting caught in my hand and I couldn’t get a decent grip at any sort of speed. My concealment draws were beginner slow. In a word: pathetic!

The overall experience was as eye opening as it was humbling. Clearly I need to take my own advice and practice with my concealed carry rig. The take-away is simple; everyone needs practice with their carry gear, lest they get killed in the streets.

As I generally don’t have the time to compete during the holidays I have set the goal to improve my concealed (real concealment, not a fishing vest) draw between now and January. I am using my mistake as a stepping stone to improve my CCW fundamentals.

How about you? When did you last draw from your concealment holster?

Now, someone please pass the salt; I’ve got to eat my shoe.