Surprising results

It has been a tough year for many reasons, all of which curtailed my training, and in addition I got sick, really sick, as in bedridden for 3 weeks. This is one of the few times in my adult life I found myself unable to practice anything physical. I was also in quarantined to protect the rest of our household.

Lots of time on my hands, unfortunately. Occasionally, I would feel well enough to sit up in bed, and work with the SIRT pistol. Grip, trigger control, and reloads from my lap were the extent of my available drills, coupled with visualization drills. Definitely better than laying there watching bad TV.

These drills are a great part of unconscious competency in administrative handling of the pistol during shooting, coupled with visualization of personal protection scenarios, or courses in a match. I was scheduled to attend Gabe White’s class, Pistol Shooting Solutions in April, which was later cancelled due to Covid-19 restrictions. I had been training hard to earn the coveted turbo pin. My draw needed to be at it best, not something I could practice in bed. So I visualized the draw being efficient, repeatable, and explosive.

As I recovered, I was very curious what the lay-off would cost me. Starting with a week of slowly getting strong enough to practice, I set up my MantisX10 using the draw analysis. One of the hardest skills to measure accurately in dry practice is making the par time on the draw to first shot, something this device does remarkably well. Reaction to the go signal, grip, pull, horizontal, time on target, and the press of the trigger are all measured, and broken down on the chart. Luck for me, Mantis also keeps previous results for comparison. I had a low expectation of my performance with the minimal amount practice, also the loss of physical conditioning. So I visualized each repetition, performing each one as best as I could. Gratefully I practiced, enjoying the return to my discipline.

Here are my results before I fell ill:

As the green graph shows, my reaction to the beep is slow, .4 to .5, which keeps my draws above the 1 second mark. Now the graph after the layoff:

I had improved my reaction speed by roughly .2, which allowed the sub second draws. Visualization, and the lack of expectations, in other words tension, allowed a dramatic increase in my reaction time. The results were rather unexpected. I had actually improved during my break. I have noticed with my clients that the perceived drop off in skill is more mental than physical. Usually a 20-25% decrease overall after a long layoff, which only last 2-3 weeks. Once a base threshold is set for a movement it is easy to return to that baseline, despite a stop in training. Often new personal records are set after a lay off. Dry practice is useful for keeping us ready to perform, but is no substitute for actual live fire. Do to health and money issues, primarily my lungs not working 100% and ammo restrictions (not making money with both business shutdown), I was unable to do much live fire practice.

We were hosting John Johnston at our range, which would be my first chance to measure my shooting. While dry practice keeps the administrative skills polished, recoil management cannot be replicated. Basically four months with no matches, classes, or practice. I had also been vetting a new gun, the HK VP 9 long slide, and this would be my first pressure test using this pistol. My accuracy in slow to medium speed was still quite good, but my ability to push the speed envelope had suffered dramatically. I am still not entirely recovered from being sick, which I know also played a role with my performance . My scores and times were down, that is slower, by 25%. John had us shoot a split bill drill, 4 to the body, and 2 to the head with no warm up. My usual time is 2.7-2.9 for this drill, but I shot a little over the 4 second mark in class with good accuracy. That is a big difference, but considering the circumstances, about what I expected. I will be able to practice on regular schedule in the coming weeks, and it is my belief that I will return to my normal times. The good news is I had still had 75% of my current skill. Despite the feeling of losing everything when we are sick, injured, or taking a break, it is good to know that we retain 3/4 of our skill. Some areas can even improve. Now, shooting a new gun definitely factors in to this result, and this is by no means a scientific study, conversely our perceived loss is never as great as we think.

This year has been tough for so many of us, but we will emerge with enough to continue on, moreover to improve. Whatever skills, strengths, and mental fortitude we have earned does not easily disappear, but does require a bit of patience, and faith that we can still continue to get better. Keep up the good work, my friends! I, for one, am glad to be back on the range training, and growing. See you next month.