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Dry Practice, dry practice, dry practice

We talk about it all the time but what does it mean? What should you be practicing?

Hey, Captain Obvious, unloaded rifle please. No ammo in the room.

The first thing to master is your trigger/breath control. Sit with your rifle across your lap. Close your bolt (on an empty chamber!) and take your safety off. Put your finger on the trigger.

Your trigger is a lever that is pinned at the top. You get the most leverage the furthest from the pivot point. Put your finger as low on the trigger as possible. The pad of your finger should be somewhere between the tip and the first joint. Too much finger pulls the barrel to the right. Too little finger pushes the barrel to the left (for a right handed shooter). Find that happy point where the trigger is squeezed straight back.

Once you have your trigger finger placed, think about your breathing. The keys to marksmanship are being relaxed and consistent. The most relaxed and consistent point in your breath cycle is the bottom of the breath. Breathe in normally. Breathe out normally. Empty lungs is the bottom of the breath. You have 3-5 seconds before you need to take another breath. In this 3-5 second pause is when you need to be squeezing the trigger. Steady pressure until the shot breaks.

Myth: The shot should come as a surprise.

Horse pucky - your trigger is mechanical. Know your trigger. Know how much pressure it takes to drop the hammer. Close your eyes and concentrate on that trigger squeeze. Feel for any changes in the trigger between the take up (slop before there's resistance on the trigger) and when the hammer falls. REALLY think about it. Concentrate on exactly what it takes to actuate your trigger.

Once the hammer falls - Trap your trigger to the rear of the trigger guard. Don't let go. It takes up to a 1/10th of a second for the bullet to actually leave the barrel. Don't induce any movement in the barrel while the bullet is traveling down the barrel.

Use your support hand to rack the bolt (trigger is still trapped back). While you breathe in, release just enough pressure on the trigger until you feel the trigger reset. Don't let any more pressure off the trigger than you have to.

Breathe out - when your lungs are empty, start squeezing the trigger again.

Learn your trigger. Master your trigger. 65% of marksmanship is in your trigger.

Stage 2 of dry practice is doing all of this while in position staring at a blank wall. A blank wall will train your eye to focus on the front sight (or reticle). Make sure your muzzle isn't moving while you practice your trigger. During your breath cycle the muzzle should be going straight up and down. If there's any wobble or diagonal variations your position is wrong.

You will not be able to practice trigger reset since you will have to break position to cycle your bolt but keep the habit of trapping the trigger back after the hammer falls.

The bulk of your dry practice should be in position, shooting at a blank wall.

Stage 3 would be dry practice with a target. You can use scaled targets or even things like the little screw that holds the cover plates on your electrical outlets. If you're at the range, do some dry practice with a full size target at distance.

How much dry practice should you do? How good do you want to be?

Above all - practice with a purpose. Going through the motions is a waste of time if you aren't concentrating on what you are doing, why you are doing it and leaning from the experience. Practice does not make perfect - practice makes habit. Perfect practice makes perfect.


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