Announcements, News, & Thoughts

Announcements, News, & Thoughts

Dry Fire: A Valid Training Method?

Posted by William Dalpe on

For purpose of definition, the terms dryfire and dry practice, in relation to firearms, means squeezing the trigger and manipulating a firearm without the presence of live ammo. The term “dryfire” specifically means squeezing the trigger without live ammunition. In times of an ammo drought people tend to gravitate towards dry practice for a training method. is it though? We will cover dry practice from 3 different perspectives, new shooters, competition shooters, and defensive shooters.  


Novice or New Shooters:


For anyone brand new to shooting, we suggest they start by enrolling in our level 101 pistol class such as the NRA Basics of Pistol shooting or a USCCA course where we start off in the classroom before heading to the range. We discuss topics such as safety, storage, transportation, the anatomy of various pistols, operation, action types, and how they work.

At Patriot, we set up a “mock range” in the classroom where students can dry practice with real pistols without the presence of live ammunition. When we are using semi-automatics, our students load snap caps and/or dummy rounds into magazines, insert them into a variety of pistols, and rack a snap cap into the chamber. In addition, we will also step students through grip, sighted fire, stance, and other fundamentals as well.

We find this process is particularly useful because it teaches how to load/unload a pistol and often alleviates the first-time jitters of a new or still novice shooters before heading to the range for the live fire portion of the course. Having a new shooter be comfortable with a pistol and reviewing administrative topics prior to experiencing live fire is essential and key to assuring a positive range experience. Some instructors utilize SIRT (Shot Indicating Resetting Trigger) pistols or dummy guns during this process, however, we think using the real pistols the students will be shooting on the range more beneficial for our students.

It is important to note how I mentioned having the student load a snap cap into the chamber but did not have them squeeze the trigger. Squeezing the trigger on the mock (classroom) range sets unrealistic expectations. I mean, they can do it, but this results in just a click which offers no “bang” experience and therefore offers little-to-no training benefit. Sure, you can see where their finger placement is on the trigger and fix it in the classroom, but a student needs to expect recoil when they squeeze the trigger. Putting the time, effort, and energy in the classroom using dry practice can be greatly beneficial to both the instructor and student.


Seasoned or Competitive Shooters:


I remember when I used to be active in USPSA (United States Practical Shooting Association) competitions. I would put sticky notes all around my house and troughout my office to serve as multiple little targets. When no one was home (or at my office),I would holster my competition pistol (with no live ammo of course) and draw my pistol for first shot sight acquisition. I would do this countless times throughout the day. For a competition shooter, this kind of dry practice can be beneficial but only to a point This was only good for first shot sight acquisition but nothing else of any benefit. Again, without the “bang” there is little benefit.

I would also practice magazine changes which, from a pure repetition standpoint, was beneficial I suppose This dry practice was conducted without “context” - Without the recoil,muzzle rise, gun malfunction, competitive adrenaline, mental blocks, environmental conditions, lack of comfort, etc... This dry practice routine was performing isolated skills in a super controlled bubble without live fire “in context” competitive shooting.

Achieving sight acquisition after a gun malfunction in a competitive atmosphere is not the same as gaining sight acquisition on a sticky note in your house. The same goes for magazine changes. Changing a magazine in a competitive atmosphere while your adrenaline is going, and hands are sweaty (or bloody) is not the same as changing magazines in your kitchen or living room. I would often wonder if my dry practice routine was really making a difference or was it the competitive matches and live fire practice that was improving my skills. Today, I really believe that this dry practice contributed little to my skill development and that the live fire competitive training (in context) truly improved my overall skills, but it is difficult to quantify. I am sure some reading this may disagree but dry practice without context really does have little benefit aside from first shot acquisition and maybe mag changes.


Defensive Shooting Training:


Is dry practice suitable for defensive shooting training? I see this all over the web with instructors advocating for dry practice as a viable solution for defensive training. In times of an ammo drought, devices such as a SIRT, laser systems, blue guns, dry practice and so on are proposed as a viable defensive shooting training option, however, nothing could be further from the truth.


Let’s take a moment to talk about a worst-case defensive shooting encounter: Something grabs your attention and you “react” to that “something” – a stimulus. By the power of recognition (warrior export theory), you recognize the need to shoot and move off the X while drawing your firearm and then you shoot to stop the impending threat. After you have neutralized and assessed the threat (making sure the threat no longer exists), you assess your environment, etc. While a very simplified defensive shooting encounter, it speaks to the complexities and training for this type of encounter makes it very different from marksmanship or competition training.


The only way you can effectively put all this into practice is in a live fire format called Reality-Based Training or RBT. There is a lot to unpack here, however, we will concentrate on the shooting part since after all we are talking about live fire vs dry practice in a defensive shooting context. Isn’t it fair to define shooting as squeezing the trigger with live ammo loaded into the chamber? How can you practice defensive shooting without the use of live ammunition? You simply cannot. All these dry practice products, although good intentioned, can create training scars when used under the guise of defensive training.


So, let’s think about this for a moment. How can we stimulate a gun’s recoil without shooting live ammunition? Well, you cannot. Managing recoil during a multiple string of fire is one of the most important aspects to solid defensive shooting. This entails your kinesthetic alignment (utilizing your body’s natural bio mechanical locks), your grip, and body position. Doing this in your living room offers nothing in the way of meaningful training.


How can one react to and simulate a malfunction? Sure, you can stage a stove pipe or double feed in your living room, but this does not offer any benefit without it happening in the context of a string of live fire shots. What does the mean? Well, when staged in your living room, you have an extremely high anticipation that you are going to clear the issue after all you just set it up in your mock scenario. It just does not make sense without live fire context. When practicing on the range in a string of live fire, you are not going to have a great deal of anticipation in the event that a jam occurs which is more in context to a real-life defensive encounter.


Another aspect to this is performing an emergency reload. In a defensive encounter, whenever you press the trigger, and it goes “click” without a bang you “tap” and “rack.When you press the trigger again and you get another “click,” you will need to perform an emergency reload. An emergency reload is dropping the magazine from the magazine well and putting another one in. You would also perform an emergency reload if at any timeyou go to slide lock. Seems complex? It is. Setting this up in your living room offers no benefit.


Some will argue they can sit in their living room and just load and unload mags, call it a day, and call that training. Training for what exactly? A competition? A carnival (i.e., seeing who can load and unload their mags the quickest)? Doing this can create those training scars we mentioned earlier and has no relation to realistic defensive shooting practice. It’s practicing a skill in abubble.


Additionally, in a competition, you know what you must shoot and exactly how many rounds to shoot. However, in defensive shooting, you have no idea what you must shoot (or not shoot) until you recognize a threat (thinking). Furthermore, you don’t know how many rounds it will take to stop the threat – we don’t have a crystal ball after all. None of this can be simulated in dry practice.


About the only aspect to defensive practice, we recommend to new defensive shooters is drawing your firearm fromconcealment. This is more about negotiating garments than it is anything else.


Think of it this way, how much driving can you realistically practice while your car is in park from your driveway? Sure, you can start the car, step on the gas, hit the brakes, manipulate the directional signals, wipers, horn, etc. but without putting the car in gear and getting on the road, you will be doing all those tasks without any real driving context. Driving in context can mean weather conditions, road conditions, kid running out in front of your car, driving on the highway during rush hour, etc. Practicing these lifesaving firearms skills in your living room (a bubble) is like operating a car in your driveway without context.


In conclusion, there are some benefits to dry practice for brand new and/or the novice shooters. They can learn the basics like grip, stance, loading, unloading, etc. Competitive shooters will find little benefit in dry fire practice aside from drawing and first shot sight acquisition. Dry fire practice offers virtually no benefit to realistic defensive shooting practice.

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Slide Lock vs Slide Release

Posted by William Dalpe on

This topic has been at the center of many (sometimes heated) debates among the gun community for decades. I am tackling this debate head on: In this article we are looking from two perspectives, the mechanical engineering/design intent and the effect on training aspect. Those who know me know that as well as being a firearms trainer I am an active mechanical engineer so I can speak with some experience on this.


When I was a new gun owner, given my mechanical engineering background, I took apart every gun I owned and studied how it was designed and operated. Almost immediately I noticed that the “slide stop to slide” interface was incredibly susceptible to wear. In that observation I decided early on that “racking” the slide to put a round in the chamber would put less wear and tear on my pistol. At that time, it was a decision made without effect on training considerations.



Whenever you have two surfaces scraping against each other wear WILL occur. Even if the materials of the slide and slide stop are the same, some material transfer will occur. Although minimal the fact is, it will occur. The time in which wear will occur depends on materials selected and the frequency in which the two surfaces are interfacing (scraping) against one another. If you are not familiar take a close look at the relationship between your slide and slide stop and you will see exactly what I am talking about.


Glock calls the component a “slide stop lever,” Smith & Wesson calls it a “slide stop,” Sig Sauer calls it a “slide catch lever,” and Heckler & Koch calls it a “slide release.” I picked these four manufacturers because they are by far the most popular among my students. Notice that all but the H&K call it a stop. In full disclosure the manuals for both the Glock and Sig say you can use the slide stop/catch to release the slide, Smith & Wesson does not specify, and H&K says to use the slide release, well, to release the slide. I needed to dig deeper, and so I did.


I needed to hear it from an engineer, that is, suggesting that it is a good idea to make two metal surfaces scrape against each other while there is “spring” force keeping the two surfaces together.



I made some phone calls to all four companies. I asked the individuals if I could reference their names for purposes of this blog, but all declined, understandably, I guess.  I would have preferred to site the specific source (name of the individual) to add validity to this, but I am sure they did not want any of this coming back on them, just in case, CYA. Glock, Smith & Wesson, and Sig all said it was suggested NOT to use the slide stop/catch to release the slide. Yep, you heard that correctly folks. It was not an opinion; they were all adamant that it was NOT the intent for that component and one of them said the words I was looking for and that was “NOT designed for that use.” From a purely mechanical engineering perspective those were the words I was looking for and those words again were “is NOT designed to release the slide.” I felt like I struck gold from a mechanical engineering standpoint and validated my suspicions; but does that settle the debate… not even close.


From a mechanical standpoint, you heard what the manufactures said, three out of the four did not recommend you use the slide stop to release the slide. Some people will say “well, I use the slide stop to release the slide anyway.” My answer to that is if the manufacturer does not suggest using it that way, then you should not. Others, “well, that’s an under engineered gun if I can’t use the slide stop to release the slide.” My response to that is “purchase a gun that recommends you use it that way” or “express your concerns to the manufacturer.” The fact of the matter is there are many things out there that are recommended to be used a particular way, but people do another. In the end, do what you want but know it IS a wear item. If you are a fair-weather shooter, then using the slide stop to release your slide probably will not be a big deal and it may take a long time for the slide stop to wear given the frequency that you shoot. If you use your gun frequently (weekly), then wear will happen much faster, but no one has a crystal ball to know exactly when. Either way the manufacturers will have no problem sending you a new part. Okay, I think we beat the mechanical aspect up enough… Now, let us move onto the effect on training.


In context to defensive training principles, we discuss effectiveness (ET), Efficient (EC), and Consistency (C). Refer to the image below:


Patriot Firearms School - (ET), Efficient (EC), and Consistency (C)


Effectiveness (ET) is simply getting the job done. Example: Shooting to slide lock, taking the mag out with your teeth, putting the gun down, spinning in a circle, clapping your hands, getting a fresh mag, and seating it in the mag well, sending the slide forward, and then taking a shot. They call this the Mag-a-rana. This funny (my attempt at humor anyway) example WAS effective, meaning, I successfully loaded the gun and fired a shot. Obviously, this is not the way to load a new mag. So, it is not enough to be merely effective especially when time or urgency is of consideration. So, how does this relate to slide lock vs slide release, we are getting there. Efficient (EC) can be defined as achieving a goal with as little time, effort, and energy as possible.  Clearly, the example above was NOT efficient. So, let’s clean that up shall we. You recognize the stimulus of slide lock, as you bring your pistol to your body drop the mag while at the same time reaching for a fresh mag, follow the contour of your body with the new mag, insert the mag, then send the slide forward and take the shot. All can agree that this method was far more efficient then the “mag-o-rana” method. Notice how I just said, “send the slide forward, nonspecific on the method, yet.


There are many schools of thought that say (from the point after you insert thee mag) “as you start to extend the pistol into the shooting position and your weak hand finishes the 2-handed grip use your thumb on your strong hand to press the slide stop to release the slide.” Is this the most effective and efficient method? If you are competition shooting on a square range, I would say sure, for that circumstance. What if you rode the slide lock with your grip and instead of the slide locking back indicating your empty, you squeeze the trigger and you get a click? What then? Well, you would change your mag and then you would perform an overhand rack to the slide to get a round chambered. So, in competition shooting you have two methods of getting a round into the chamber. Having two methods for getting a round into the chamber is inconsonant and makes the process more complicated than it needs to be. In competition shooting the only penalty for having two methods of chambering a round would maybe be time, No biggie.


When you are in a fight for your life things are quite different.


Read my previous blog post on the difference between competition shooting and defensive shooting.


In the Intuitive Defensive Shooting Program, not only do we stress effectiveness and efficiency, but we also stress consistency, see diagram above. Consistency means doing the same thing in the same way as often as possible. In relation to our “slide lock vs slide release” debate this means always performing an overhand racking of the slide to chamber a round. Having two methods to achieve this in a defensive context overly complicates the process and allows more room for error when your life is on the line. We want to keep things as simple and consistent as possible. There is another reason why as well.


In a defensive situation there are things your body (and mind) will do naturally. In the IDS program we define these as external and internal body natural reactions. For the purposes of “slide lock vs slide release” debate we will cover reduced blood flow to the outer extremities.


In a dynamic critical incident, your cardiovascular system will shunt blood flow from your outer extremities to the areas where the body needs it the most (heart, lungs, etc.). This is a survival positive, but you will lose dexterity in your fingers in result making it more difficult to perform fine motor skills. (To know what that feels like take your gloves off on a 30-degree day for about 15 minutes and you will feel what losing dexterity in your hands can be like) manipulating a firearm requires fine motor skills, but we want to train to use the “lesser” or “grosser” finer motor skills and in the case of our debate performing an overhand rack on the slide to chamber a round is without a doubt a “lesser” or “grosser” fine motor skill. Yet another reason to perform an overhand racking of the slide to chamber a round.


In summary, mechanically there is reason not to use the slide stop to release the slide especially when the manufacturer suggests not to use it in that manner.  The effect on training certainly supports not to use the slide stop to release the slide. So, there you have it, I hope this article will help you decide which method you will use.

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Training Decisions… Red Pill or Blue Pill?

Posted by William Dalpe on

Training Decisions… Red Pill or Blue Pill


Most of us are familiar with the pop culture movie trilogy the “Matrix”. In the first installment of the three movies, the main character Neo (played by Keanu Reeves), is faced with a life changing decision.


Neo was a character who was always yearning to learn more and seek the truth in life. He heard of the Matrix but was not sure if it was real or just a folk tale. In our story Neo is seated before Morphias (played by Laurence Fishburne) and is presented with a decision. The decision simply (or not so simply) was to choose ingesting the “red” pill or the “blue” pill. Morphias indicated to Neo that if he took the blue pill, he would continue life as he always had living within the Matrix. If he decided to take the red pill the truth of the Matrix would reveal itself. Morphias goes on to say that before Neo makes his decision, that the Matrix cannot be explained but rather experienced and all he was offering Neo was the truth. Well, if you saw the movie then you know what happens. If you have not, go see it to find out what happens. Let us just say Neo does in fact find the truth.


Patriot Firearms School - Red Pill or Blue Pill image


So, how does this tie into firearms training? For decades most defensive training was modeled after law enforcement and military qualifications. These qualifications were measured by using shot timers and achieving a minimal score. This method of training was mainstream defensive training for decades (and still is in many schools and by trainers). This training model is based on performance in a controlled environment. The shooter knows exactly what they are going to shoot, exactly how many shots to take, and all with a high level of anticipation to shoot. Training based on “performance, control, and high anticipation, is a game or competition shooting and does not evaluate the application of your skills in a defensive context. Compare this training model with USPSA or IPSEC competitions and you will see a striking resemblance. Training with this model and labeling it defensive training is like taking the blue pill, living within the Matrix. It is not reality based defensive training.


After you take your first Intuitive Defensive Shooting class and are exposed to the counter ambush training model you may feel like Neo did after he ingested the red pill. You may feel that you were fooled and mislead for so many years. The veil will be lifted, and the truth exposed. The IDS training philosophies and methodologies really flies in the face as to what has been considered the gold standard training methodologies for decades. 


Patriot Firearms School student utilizing the balance of speed and precision target


The Intuitive Defensive Shooting program is designed to help the shooter become more efficient in the context of a Dynamic Critical Incident and focuses on teaching and developing skills that work well with what the body does naturally. A dynamic critical incident (DCI) is defined as chaotic, threatening, and surprising therefore applying your skills under these conditions is in context to the counter ambush training model and is training for the worst-case scenario.


As humans we want control over any situation or circumstance, but the reality is, we very rarely will have control in a DCI. Let us break down the DCI. Surprising means you did not expect it to happen another word no anticipation whatsoever. Chaotic can be defined as the never-ending surprise and is not predictable. Threatening is, well, threatening the life of you or your loved one. You can see right away how using this training model differs from the “high anticipation“ and “full control” aspect of the gaming training model.


In IDS you will learn the skill development cycle, which is to Learn a skill, practice a skill(s), and then evaluate the application of your skills in context to a DCI in a counter ambush simulation. Evaluating your defensive skills in a counter ambush simulation is a crucial aspect to the skill development cycle. If you merely practice your skill and not the application of your skills (in context to a DCI) then you are merely “performing” skills in a bubble which will yield no real value in determining the real application of your skills in the worst-case scenario.


Another aspect to the IDS training model is deviation. The target dictates the amount of deviation we can have in our bullets impact on the target. Deviation is defined as where we want the bullet impact to go and where it can go. Developing the skills to achieve defensively accurate hits while applying minimal deviation control needed to stop the threat faster is key to realistic defensive training. A defensively accurate his is defined as any hit that significantly impacts the targets ability to pose a lethal threat.


Taking the “red pill” reveals that the Intuitive Defensive Shooting program works well with what the body does naturally and goes way beyond the competition “performance, control, and high anticipation” training model and has to do with applying your skills in “context” in a dynamic critical incident- a worst case scenario.


So now I have to ask you…. Red pill or blue pill?

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