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Very Pretty… But Can They Fight? - (permalink)

If you're learning and practicing to defend yourself in a lethal-force confrontation involving firearms, a quote from The Dirty Dozen, "Very pretty ... but can they fight?" is a good one to latch onto. I have come across too many shooters who have an unmarked, unscathed and pristine weapon that they coddle and protect from blemishes as if it were a Fabergé Egg.

Now I have no problem with this, as it is their choice, not mine. If it were my choice, that weapon would be worn yet clean; cut, dinged and scarred yet operational. In other words, it's been used and it shows.

I know it. I know what it can do. I know what I can do with it. I know every nuance, every idiosyncrasy and everything about it that I need to know to make it run. It has battle scars. It is smooth in some places and not in others. The bluing and surfaces are worn from working it--not looking at it. It is a working gun and nothing more. The weapon and I are kindred spirits of a sort. Both of us are worn and dinged, but we can still work if push comes to shove. I like that.

You may limit your progress if all you do is train with live fire. Dry practice is invaluable. You don't always have the ranges, the time nor the ability to live fire when the mood strikes you. On the other hand, dry practice can be conducted just about anywhere--day or night. Some will avoid dry practice just because. Others find it mundane, pedantic and beneath them. Others see no sense to it. Others are just plain lazy.

Perhaps the most common excuse for not dry firing is that it will damage the weapon. If you feel it will damage the weapon, purchase dummy proving rounds or snap caps. When you clean the weapon, check for fracture lines or worn edges and irregular surfaces on parts you think could fail as a result of dry practice. That's a simple fix. If you really question the results of wear due to dry practice, then walk it into an armorer and have him check it.

Shooting skills are perishable--much more perishable than your weapon is.

What you could pull off on the range at the end of a training day or qualification course 30 days ago you might not be able to pull off now. Your finite feel for the trigger might not be quite there. Your grip may not be as firm as it was 30 days prior. The sights may not line up as readily. The pistol or rifle or shotgun simply may not "feel" as it did when you were really into it.

Dry practice keeps all of this on line. You can still work the controls, find the sights, press the trigger, work the action, conduct malfunction drills and reloads and yet you haven't fired a single shot.

We get a lot of students who are in shape and work out on a regular basis. I did and still do as well. Weights, running tracks and the like are one thing, whereas a live fire range is another. So here's the dialogue:

"You work out?" "Yeah." "Why?" "To stay in shape for the streets." "You dry practice?" "Not really." Why not?" "I don't know. Maybe because it'll screw up my gun." "Who told you that?" "I'd rather not say.""Okay."

Ostensibly, we work out and stay in shape to meet the threat of non-lethal confrontations. Lethal confrontations require working out as well. Somehow this has been overlooked through the ages. You probably won't get a chance to warm up your trigger finger, feel the break, find the sights or practice malfunctions or reloads prior to a lethal-force confrontation. If you do, I'd like to hear about it. Really, I would.

Dry practice keeps you in the loop. It maintains a feel for the weapon and what you can do with it. And it doesn't take much time. A few minutes every other day would be fine with me. It just needs to be more than live fire every month, every other month, or only twice a year--in some cases even less.

As a young officer, I made small hard cardboard silhouettes and spray painted them flat black. They were graduated in size to replicate everything from ten yards to 50 yards or thereabouts. I double and triple redundancy checked the weapon and conducted draws and dry practice shots on each of them in varying order. When I went to the range, the dry practice manifested itself in live courses of fire. It was a simple yet viable fix for not having 24-hour access to a live-fire range. You might want to think about this.

To paraphrase "the General": "Pretty pistol, kid. Know how to use it?" £

[Scott Reitz is a 30-year veteran of the Los Angeles Police Department and the director of the highly acclaimed International Tactical Training Seminars. Course information and schedules are available at their website at www. internationaltactical.com. Looking Back, a free monthly newsletter, is available by email at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).]

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