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Setting Par Time for Dry Fire


IVC
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The short version is that I am experimenting with a different way to set up the par time for dry fire practice, where the times are close, but intentionally off. I'm interested in input - anyone else doing something similar, why or why not, etc.? The (very) long version is below...

 

After reading "Path of Focused Effort" I started paying attention to several aspects of training that I instinctively already knew should be done:

  • Identify and assess your weaknesses and work on them by developing your own dry fire routine. No pre-canned dry fire program can address your individual needs, even if it will make you a much better shooter simply because it will provide a well-rounded generic improvement. 
  • Train for the field courses, not classifiers. Classifier work is work on elements of field courses, much like draw or reload is work on elements of classifiers.
  • Vary setups often, it's the first run that matters, not learning a particular setup.

 

So, the first and obvious question becomes: How to set up par time when working on elements of custom dry fire setups? 

 

Clearly some par time must be chosen. Without par time, there is no measurable pressure or ability to track performance over different runs. (Note that I still have to use standard exercises to track progress over time since each custom setup is generally not repeated, so the par time I'm talking about is per training session.) The initial par time is an "educated guess," then I tweak it a bit so that it matches what I'm working on (pure speed mode, accuracy mode, shot calling mode). Except in pure speed mode, what I realized is that having a par time set up correctly appears to be detrimental to the practice. If I am expecting to finish around the beep, it's easy to get sloppy with the sights and mentally convince myself it was a good enough site picture, when realistically it wasn't good enough to call the shot, so it wasn't a good shot at all. I noticed that every time I'm "racing the clock," there is a tendency to cheat a bit with what I really see, instead of seeing what I need to see and then pulling the trigger.

 

In essence, there is this unconscious pressure to have the par time instead of the sights dictate the speed. However, I don't want to train to "chase the clock," I want to train to shoot properly (and transition, move, etc., precisely) so that I can do it faster. It's the old "don't shoot fast, be fast" proverb that I'm beginning to understand. What I found out works well for me, and where I'm looking for input from the forum, is to set up the par time such that the beep is somewhere around the transition to the last target. I don't expect to beat it, I expect to use it as a reference on how fast my run was. I'm only comparing to where I was in my shooting sequence when I hear the beep - was it during the transition (slightly late), at the end of transition (about on time), during the split (slightly ahead of time). There is no need to be too precise - it's a three-state flag of fast/normal/slow run. Of course, I also get a feel for how fast/slow the run was based on when the timer went off since I have a decent feel for, e.g., difference between 20 and 60 splits. 

 

After realizing that I can use par time in this way, I thought about the basic drills such as "draw to sight picture" that is in every dry fire drill book. It always says "don't pull the trigger." The rationale is that you'll be chasing the clock and the exercise will do more harm than good. However, what if you want to practice an actual draw and firing? You can do a bunch of El Presidentes or any other classifier drill where you do have to pull the trigger as part of the drill, but then you're not isolating the actual draw. There was a drill in Stoeger's book about a 1.2 second draw on a blank wall with pulling the trigger without moving the sights, what he called "learning to fire accurate shots in a hurry" (or something similar). It occurred to me that the real problem with working on the full draw (with trigger pull) is that the way par time is normally set up will almost certainly nudge you into chasing the clock and harming your training.

 

So, I tried to combine the two, getting a fast sight picture and pulling the trigger without disturbing the sights, by changing the par time to higher value, say 1.2 seconds. Now I don't try to "beat the clock," but simply look at how much time is left after the click and before the beep. I get the quick sight picture (which is a separate drill), but then force myself to fire an accurate shot as fast as I can see it, regardless of where the clock is. There is no external signal that I am trying to beat, I am just looking at how fast I can (1) recognize the sight picture, and (2) follow up with the trigger pull. I set up the par time at about 0.2 - 0.3 longer than I need, but I don't take my time based on available clock time, I pull the trigger as soon as I can see what I need to see, then use the beep to judge performance "by feel." 

 

This approach seems to work well for some more standard drills too. If I want to measure El Presidente performance, I can set the par time to be around when I'm on my last target so I am hurrying and going as fast as I can go, without getting tricked into sloppy finish just to beat the clock. The beep is there not as a measure of pass/fail, but as a reference point for evaluating how much time elapsed after it until I finished. It also seems to help with runs where I mess up, e.g., reload - I don't worry about beating the time, I pay attention to where the beep happens in the sequence, so I know how much time I lost. If I hear the beep on the first target after reload, I know that I am a "transition and a few splits" late. This way I don't just "trash the run" because I missed the par, but finish it correctly and "see what I need to see" after the boo-boo which is a good drill on its own. 

 

Anyone else experimenting with this type of practice? Any advice or warning against doing it? 

 

 

 

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The idea of par time is to "race the clock"  I understand that you don't want to get sloppy or lazy.  Have you tried to use a pyramid program?  By that I mean break the drill down into pieces and add to it.  For example, you mentioned El Prez.  So develop a par time for your first shot on target one.  Then add another par time for your transition to target two, then another par time for your transition to target three, then another par time for your reload and shot on target 3, then another par time for your transition back to target two and finally a final par time back to target 1.  You will quickly begin to identify where you deficiencies are.  I know you don't ike racing the clock, but if you don't know a time, how can you improve?

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17 hours ago, stick said:

I know you don't like racing the clock, but if you don't know a time, how can you improve?

 

You are racing the clock in a way, just not the final beep. 

 

In the drawing example, the reason every dry fire book requires that you not press the trigger is precisely because the trigger pull needs to be driven by your vision and recognition of the acceptable sight picture, not the secondary sound from the buzzer. If you could measure the "time to click" on a draw, you would practice it directly, much like you would in live fire. There is no need to "draw to acceptable sight picture only" when big part of the "draw puzzle" is early recognition of the sights and pulling the trigger as soon as the visual processing says it's ready. 

 

If you have a split more time than you need, all you're doing is forcing yourself to pull the trigger when you're visually ready. You measure by feel how much below the set par time you are, much like you measure by feel whether you beat the front edge of the buzzer signal. As you get better, you lower your par time (chase the clock) while keeping a small cushion to the second beep. The actual draw time is something you measure in live fire anyways... 

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16 hours ago, IVC said:

 

You are racing the clock in a way, just not the final beep. 

 

In the drawing example, the reason every dry fire book requires that you not press the trigger is precisely because the trigger pull needs to be driven by your vision and recognition of the acceptable sight picture, not the secondary sound from the buzzer. If you could measure the "time to click" on a draw, you would practice it directly, much like you would in live fire. There is no need to "draw to acceptable sight picture only" when big part of the "draw puzzle" is early recognition of the sights and pulling the trigger as soon as the visual processing says it's ready. 

 

If you have a split more time than you need, all you're doing is forcing yourself to pull the trigger when you're visually ready. You measure by feel how much below the set par time you are, much like you measure by feel whether you beat the front edge of the buzzer signal. As you get better, you lower your par time (chase the clock) while keeping a small cushion to the second beep. The actual draw time is something you measure in live fire anyways... 

That makes sense

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  • 2 weeks later...

Whatever you're going to do for a drill, do it on the clock then quickly slap the clock when the drill is finished, then use something close to that time as your initial par time.

 

This isn't great when you're picking a par time for just a draw-and-index (most of us have a good idea what a par time for a simple draw should be), but is good if you have a longer drill like engaging a plate rack, reloading, then engaging three metric targets, two hits apiece.

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That's a good idea on more complex setups - I'll try it out next time. 

 

Setting the "slightly off par time" is for very basic drills, though, where I would be racing against the front edge of the beep. The idea is to still race the clock, but not the sound itself - if I pull the trigger on the draw and the sight picture is acceptable by the end of the beep, did I see what I needed *before* I pulled the trigger racing the beep, or was it acceptable a moment *after* I pressed the trigger and I just couldn't tell because I was concentrating on the sound. If the par time is "slightly off" I get to pull the trigger when I actually see the sights, then I have a split-like moment to the beep and I can judge if it was a .15 or a .35 click-beep split. This way I know that I saw what I needed to see before I pulled the trigger AND I know whether I was fast or not...

 

Anything that involves multiple targets or reloads has way too much wiggling room in various elements so setting up the exact par time is likely the best way. There is also the very interesting suggestions above by Stick to use a Pyramid. I tried it and it works really well as it forces certain level of execution of consecutive basic elements and isolates the ones that are slow - no point in pushing transitions and splits on the second part of El Presidente if it's the reload that is slow. Trying to make up for sloppy reload by doing sloppy shooting is a recipe for disaster. 

 

Thanks everyone for the ideas.

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