Since I got my baseline live fire times for single shots at a 4” target at 7 yards and 25 yards last week, I’ve been steadily working to improve. Nearly every day I’ve spent at least a few minutes of dry fire with the Noveske and a target at 7 yards. The day I skipped was an unexpected 17 hour work day. I decided that sleep would be a more effective training aid that day. A few days ago I had to put some moleskin on my right middle finger where it contacts the receiver between the pistol grip and trigger guard, if that gives you an idea how rusty I am. That is with me wearing flight gloves during all my dry fire practice.
I had a few days early in the week when I used the timer for practice, but it was borrowed so I gave it back so I can borrow it again later. Right about that time, a metronome showed up in the living room/dining room area. A metronome is an excellent way to build up steady timing, smoothness and speed for a musician. I have learned that it also works with gunhandling.
Metronome… you’re still alive… my old friend. Ah, Metronome, my old friend, do you know the Klingon proverb that tells us revenge is a dish that is best served cold? It is very cold in space, er, in the living room.
My goal, in terms of speed, for a hit at 7 yards is in the neighborhood of a half second or so from the timer beep. Ideally, starting from a relaxed low ready, muzzle pretty much down, butt only partially in the shoulder, body upright and relaxed, the beep would release me to move like a sear releases a hammer. I would locate the target and begin moving the muzzle to it. My thumb would deactivate the safety and I would place my finger on the trigger. I have a 2 stage trigger, so I’m looking to have the slack taken up as the dot arrives at the top of the 4” circle. As the scope image comes into the view of my right eye, the image of an acceptable sight picture would trigger my finger to apply sufficient pressure to activate the rifle’s trigger.
As I alluded to several years ago here, I don’t believe that it’s precisely true that “slow is smooth and smooth is fast”. Smoothness is necessary, yes, but unless you actively pursue a quick delivery of any given skill, practicing slow is going to equal slow execution. That’s where the metronome comes in.
The metronome can be set for a specific speed of beats per minute (BPM). When I begin to work for speed, I find a baseline setting where I can perform the skill correctly and smoothly every time. After a few reps that are as perfect as I can get them, I might move the adjuster down the pendulum a couple notches to increase the speed. I’m trying to find a speed at which I can perform the skill only about a third to half of the time. At this speed I will be outside my comfort zone and things will be happening faster than I can keep up with, but not so fast that I’m completely lost. After 10 to 20 reps at this speed setting, I’ll back the speed off to a setting in between the original “safe and smooth” setting and the faster “on the ragged edge” setting. What usually happens is that the setting in between is now safe and smooth.
As an example, let’s say I’m working at 2 beats per snapshot. This means two beats of movement, which begins on a “zero” beat (it sounds like “one and bang” each word being a beat- “one” being a start signal). Just starting out, let’s say that I can get a shot off in a second for sure. We’ll call that 120 BPM. After a few reps at that safe speed to prime the movement, I might slide the adjuster down to 138 or 144. If I can do it perfectly there, great. I keep moving up in speed. If it’s too difficult, I’ll back it off to 132 or 126. As I get closer to the next plateau, I might find that I have a bit more trouble moving up in speed.
That’s pretty much how I started my week. Keeping in mind that the staring beat on the metronome is entirely predictable (if you got rhythm, like Johnny Cash), and it seems to be my nature to want to anticipate the beat a little, it’s necessary to get the skill down at a higher speed than I wish to perform it with a timer. There is also the added reaction time to the timer’s beep. I’m trying to get this in less than a half second with the metronome, so that with the reaction time to the beep I’ll be near my goal. The last time I used the metronome I made it to a single beat snapshot at 132 BPM or so, which is 0.45 seconds. This was running not exactly at the ragged edge, but I just had a few nice reps where I was “in the zone”. This was at the end of my dry fire practice and I had a lot of energy to put into the practice. I started that practice in the area of 100 BPM, which is 0.6 seconds.
So how did that work out for me? I came to the range (meaning I walked out the back door a couple hundred yards in this case) on my first day off from work, completely cold, with no dry fire for the day. I had left a paper target on my 200 yard pallet, so I went there rather than putting a new one on the 100 yard pallet. I did not remember to re-borrow the timer, so I used the iPhone timer app. I did not remember to bring writing material, so I used the back of a RifleCraft business card (well prepared wasn’t I?). The 200 yard pallet is at the base of a hill, just slightly up from the bottom, so I was shooting up a slight incline. This was different than in my dry practice. Recollecting my practice up to that point as I walked to the target, my assessment of my ability was that I was faster than the last time out with real ammo and targets, but not as fast as I can be, and “wild”, meaning not as reliable in this skill as I can be.
Here are my times:
12. 0.95 miss
14. 0.86 miss
My mean time for all shots was 1.06, down by .23 seconds from last time. My mean time for hits was 1.07 seconds, down by .25 seconds from last time. There was quite a range of times. I attribute the inconsistency in time to the “wildness” in the technique even in practice to that point. The movement was just not very predictable.
My hit rate was 89%, up 16% from last time. Getting hits is just a mental game. I was determined to do better than last time. After the 2 misses, I resolved not to miss any more. I don’t believe the speed had anything to do with it. I knew I was already significantly faster so I didn’t worry about the speed after that. I probably have another 0.2 seconds I can easily shave in the next week. After that I’m going to really be working hard for minor gains.
I also did a mag of 18 rounds from 25 yards. This I have not practiced in dry fire. One glitch I had at shot 2 was holding at the top of the 4” circle, like I would do at 7 yards. I think I missed that one just high, although my shots are still under the crosshairs at that distance. I cannot see my misses to note them at 25 like I can at 7. Here’s how I did:
My mean time was 1.36 seconds per shot, 0.2 seconds faster than last time. My hit rate was 44%, which is 29% worse than last time. What do you get when you don’t practice something??? I was not used to the increased level of sight picture discrimination that this distance required, and I had worked regularly on something that is much faster and easier to get a hit on. The difficulty in getting practice with this skill is that I don’t have 25 yards indoors with proper lighting (I might have to think about that actually). I could use a scaled down target, but I want to have a hard differentiation between necessary sight pictures at these distances, so I don’t want to be holding POA/POI at 7 yards when I should be holding 2″ over the center of the target. I think it might scramble my circuits while I’m in the process of trying to hard wire them.
I now have 102 rounds through the Noveske and am having fun with it. I’m almost ready to put some scopes through their paces.