In last weeks class we had some great sidebar conversations, one of them had to do with the benefits of dry fire as well as live fire. Was there a ratio one could use to achieve the ultimate experience in skill development.
I don’t know if there is an optimal ratio, but I do know that we love to “rep” things out. It is truly the best way to gain proficiency. However, there are some things you have to consider before you just start dumping a whole lot of effort into a high number of repetitions.
First off, be careful how you practice. As my good friend Tony Blauer says, “you can get really good at practicing the wrong thing.” I’m paraphrasing, but hopefully the point is pretty clear. In the beginning we really want to see folks moving at speeds they can actually think their way through the entire skill. Even the “easiest” drills are a collection of actions and movements. You have to splice them together in order to form the drill, so take your time in the beginning.
A lot of people make the mistake in thinking they don’t need to practice at slow speeds. In the beginning, that should be all you are doing and only increase the speed when you can correctly perform the drill.
Knowing what you are doing is only part of the equation, knowing the why is probably the most important. Why are you doing this over that. This can lead to a whole lot of craziness where folks easily find themselves going down the rabbit hole. Do you really need such and such just because it was used by a super secret death squad who killed more bad guys than the plague. It’s a slippery slope and there is a balancing point for sure so make sure you know the why and it is applicable to you and your own mission.
How much is too much? I get asked that question every now and then and my best answer is it is a balance. If you don’t practice enough to be proficient in the skill then you leave a lot of rough edges. If you practice so much the practice becomes more mundane or you continue to practice the wrong thing it can lead to a false sense of security.
This circles backs to is there a ratio, like anything it really depends. It depends on your skill level and what you are trying to accomplish. In the beginning I believe a good ratio of 5 dry fire repetitions to 1 live round is a good start. It places a heavy emphasis on slow and smooth mechanics without the negative consequences of missing. As you can see by the rep scheme here if you are practicing the wrong thing it is going to be a deep scar.
At the intermediate level I believe a ratio of 1 dry fire to 1 live is a good rep scheme. You are continuing to hone your skills with dry fire, but the live fire rounds are becoming just as important. I find that when you dry fire, you know you are dry firing and thus you sometimes take liberties you don’t take with live rounds. This ratio will help bring everything into balance.
At the advance level I believe a ratio of 1 to 5 is probably the best ratio. By this point in your development you have already performed hundreds of dry fire repetitions, at this point you really need the live fire validation more, at this point you should have solid skill and now pressure testing your technique under a variety of conditions.
So, what does this all mean. If you go to the range with a box of ammunition, say 50 rounds now you have a scheme to whatever you’re going to do based on your skill level. Now you have purpose to your movements.