We often hear that dry fire is the way to go to become a better shooter, but it is not all that some people claim it to be…
Truth is that dry fire practice helps the shooter master trigger control and that is a very important element in shooting. However it does NOTHING to stop recoil anticipation. Recoil anticipation is without question the most common technical error for most shooters. It is a “subconscious action” that most shooters do not realize they are initiating.
Let me explain. Once your eyes see an acceptable sight picture, your conscious mind sends the signal to your finger to begin the trigger press process. Once you have shot the pistol a few times, your subconscious mind is aware of the process and has realized that at the exact moment of ignition, the gun will move. The subconscious mind knows the pistol will generate rearward energy (felt recoil) pushing the gun rearwards. This will push the gun up and push the sights off the target. So with the goal of assisting YOU the shooter, your subconscious mind sends a countering command / action to make your body (wrist generally) push down at the exact moment that the trigger is pressed. This inevitably pushes your shot low and left (for right handed shooters) or low and right for left handed shooters.
The easiest way to demonstrate this to students or have them check themselves for recoil anticipation is to mix some snap caps or dummy rounds into the magazine (without knowing exactly where) and shoot slow and accurate shots. The anticipation will be obvious to all around, if it’s a dummy round instead of a live one in the chamber. There are some tricks and techniques that a good instructor can help you with including multitasking the brain, or decreasing the lag time between shots etc. You would be surprised how much a couple of hours of professional coaching on this will help.
So back to the initial point: When you are in your home conducting dry fire exercises with your pistol, you are really just practicing trigger control and sight alignment… because on a subconscious level you know the gun isn’t actually going to recoil and as such you will not try to compensate for it.
Managing recoil is part physical and part mental. Physically we need good fundamentals such as grip, body position, weight distribution and sight picture. Mentally we need to convince our subconscious that we WANT the gun to recoil, that we DON’T want to fight it. Gun on target, press trigger with no additional body / muscle movement…and hey presto…bullet goes where you want it. In reality it does not matter where you aim the gun… it matters where the gun is pointed when it goes off!
What techniques do you use to help with recoil anticipation?