No matter where you are in your career or on the journey of life it’s good to occasionally take a moment, step back and give some consideration as to how you are progressing. As a student of the gun I have been at this game for going on 30 years now. If you consider that my grandfather put me on the path at age 12 with a Daisy BB gun, that’s a long time.
It doesn’t matter what your field of endeavor, if you don’t get out of your own backyard once in a while you become stale and your training becomes outdated. Yes, I am perfectly aware that every profession has its foundational building blocks. Carpenters, electricians, and even writers need to learn and master the basics.
True professionals understand the importance of in-service or continued education training. Doctors, architects, builders, etc. regularly attend seminars, workshops, and take classes to keep current and improve their skills. Students of the gun can often be some of the most stubborn and resistant-to-change folks you will ever encounter. They may have learned to shoot from Uncle Jim, or in the Army, or they took a class in 1977—and from that moment on they were set for life.
I would submit to you that in the last 30 years there have been advances in the fields of medicine and construction and there certainly have been advances in the way we shoot, both accurately and rapidly. My living is made as a professional small arms and tactics instructor and in the last three years I have attended no less than six different shooting schools and seminars. Most recently I spent some time with a friend and phenomenal shooter Todd Jarrett.
During a two-day get-together Jarrett ran several firearms industry folks through a number of shooting drills and, most importantly, explained the reasoning behind those drills. In addition to getting in some valuable trigger time, this was an opportunity for me to learn a few new tricks and to affirm my own teaching methodology.
In these few pages I want to impart a bit of what Jarrett shared with us. But first, I’ll give you a quick bio on Jarrett. He has been shooting professionally for two decades. He has won shooting championships with USPSA (United States Practical Shooting Association), IPSC (International Practical Shooting Confederation), and the Steel Challenge. His state and local championships number in the hundreds and are too numerous to list here.
Jarrett is a sought after instructor and speaker and has the support of some of the biggest names in the industry, including Para USA, BlackHawk, and Crimson Trace Lasergrips, to name a few. The man knows what it means to shoot and shoot well.
Dry Fire Importance
One of the first questions I had for Jarrett had to do with dry firing or practicing without ammunition. The Marine Corps relies heavily on dry fire or snapping in, and in my school we try to impart the importance of it to every student. The issue that I run into again and again is the misconception many shooters have that dry fire is for beginners only. Many feel that once they learn the basics, their dry fire time is over.
While discussing this subject with Jarrett he related to me that when he had decided to seriously devote himself to shoot professionally, he began a regime of dry fire practice for two hours a day, six days a week for the first 10 years. He still devotes a great deal of his training time to dry fire. So much for the idea that dry fire is for beginners.
A good deal of shooting well consistently and rapidly revolves around body mechanics. After all, a firearm is really a simple machine with various moving parts. How do we make this machine work in the most efficient manner possible?
We need to take a moment and consider physics or, more important, human physiology. When you need to accomplish a physical task with your hands and arms, just how do you do it? Whether you are threading a needle, screwing in a screw, or hammering a nail, most every person will center their body and bring the tool/project in close.
When a college wrestler moves in to take down his opponent he grabs a hold and closes in with him. He understands that his strength and coordination are best in close, not with arms fully extended away from his body. The Power Zone is simply the area directly in front of your chest or sternum. This is where you have strength and your best hand coordination.
Whether you are working with a pistol, shotgun, or carbine, you will have the need to load, reload, work the action or clear a stoppage at some point. Jarrett calls this area the “Power Zone.” You may have heard it called the “work space” or “work area.” Whichever phrase you prefer, the Power Zone is where you can most efficiently and rapidly operate that simple machine called a firearm.
Less Is More
While the phrase “less is more” might be a bit overworked, when it comes to dynamic shooting it has a definite application. Consider Brett Favre, a Hall of Fame-bound quarterback. When Favre is on the field, he makes what he does look easy. It’s not, but any master makes their craft appear effortless.
When you watch Jarrett shoot, he makes it look easy. His gun presentation is methodical and direct. It’s not so much what you see but what you don’t see. When Jarrett is shooting, you do not see a bunch of furtive action or overt, unnecessary movement.
Jarrett’s draw stroke is deliberate and precise. There is no wasted motion. The weapon comes out of the holster and is immediately indexed and punched out toward the target. When he draws, turns, or moves from one position to another there is no wasted or extra motion or movement.
Jarrett competes against the best shooters in the world. Often the difference between first place and second is not a matter of seconds, but fractions of seconds. Complex, extraneous motions or movements only add to the time it takes to put rounds on target. In a competition this could mean silver instead of gold. On the street it could mean the difference between going home or to the morgue.
As we touched on at the outset, if you are truly a student of the gun and serious about growing, you need to get out of your own backyard once in a while. Master the fundamentals, yes, but don’t let your skills stagnate or grow stale. Keep shooting straight and shooting safe.