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April 10 : 2014  
Skill Set: Bad Habits?
by Tiger McKee

It's dry fire practice time. You bring the weapon up, obtain a sight picture, and smoothly press the trigger, concentrating on making each step of the process as precise as possible. The front sight is steady throughout the press. You set it up and run it again, knowing that repetitions are important. Practicing the fundamentals is essential. But, this practice of pressing the trigger, which results in a click instead of a bang, may actually be counterproductive when it comes to developing your combative skills.

When I first began seriously studying firearms the method of dry firing a shot was to get the sights on target, hold steady, and press the trigger. After pressing you held the trigger to the rear, cycled the action, then released and reset the trigger, maintaining contact between the finger and trigger. This was great practice, reinforcing the basics through repetition. But eventually, after years of doing this, I realized it was creating bad habits.

For example, when you press the trigger in real life - live fire practice and especially during a confrontation - and you get a click instead of a bang it means you have a malfunction. The response to this, clearing the stoppage and getting the weapon running again, must be immediate. In a fight time is a precious commodity. There is no time to stop, think or assess the problem and then correct it.

When a semi-auto weapon doesn't fire, and you know the safety is disengaged, Step I is to remove your finger from the trigger and clear of the trigger guard. You do not want to be working the action and such with the finger on the trigger. Next, you ensure the magazine is seated, then cycle the action to load the chamber. (If this doesn't solve the problem you unload and load.) Now you're ready to assess the situation, firing if necessary. With practice this sequence should become a subconscious process.

Pressing the trigger and getting a click instead of a bang, which in real life indicates a malfunction, and not working the weapon to get it running again or transitioning to another weapon, is developing a bad habit that could have dangerous consequences during a confrontation.

Now a days, I have different ways to work my dry fire practice. One option I use is to come up on target, finger on the trigger, taking the slack out of the trigger if it's there, but I don't actually press the trigger. I'm ready to press, but in my mind I'm thinking "O.K., I don't have to shoot," and I come off the trigger, off the target, and begin scanning. Or, I load a mag with dummy ammo so after the click I run my clearance sequence. Another option is to remove the follower and spring to create a practice mag. (The practice mag should be marked, like painted neon pink so there is no way you make a mistake.) I press the trigger and get a click. Immediately I'm thinking "finger straight," to get my finger out of the trigger guard, "tap," to ensure the mag is seated - on rifles I also tug for insurance - "rack," or "cycle," to chamber a round.

Practice is mandatory. Just make sure you're practicing and programming the proper mental and physical responses.

Tiger McKee is director of Shootrite Firearms Academy, located in northern Alabama. He is the author of "The Book of Two Guns," writes for several firearms/tactical publications, and is featured on GunTalk's DVD, "Fighting With The 1911 - Website:

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