Let’s talk D.R.I.F.T.!
I know if I use the perfunctory name for this training technique about 70% of you would never start reading. I have a morning routine and it has occurred to me in the past, many times, that what most shooters are missing in their repertoire is, DRIFT, (Dry Run Intensive Firearm Training.) I coined this acronym just as I was thinking about this blog in order to wrangle your attention to this very decisive practice of the shooter’s game. It also aids in my aim to avoid the dryness that can be associated with this topic.
Train like a professional.
During my time in the Army I was very successful in the application(s) within the art of shooting. I am not bragging, just giving some background so you, the reader, will understand where I am coming from. There was one central theme to the training that I and others in my unit employed with utmost relentlessness. We constantly performed dry runs or dry fire exercises. There is one school of thought that dry fire is bad for your weapon, false! We would spend hours, thousands upon thousands of trigger squeezes, and hours still including the maneuvering aspect of dry runs, but I will get into that further along.
When I left the Army I was teaching the use of firearms in the civilian sector with some former DEVGRU guys. We, would ourselves, once again spend a lot of time doing dry runs before teaching a class to civilians or LE professionals. We would preach the use of dry fire to them echoing especially to the LEOs the importance of dry fire and its connection to muscle memory and how that can make the difference between them coming home at the end of their shift or not.
There is a stigma surrounding the use of dry fire, I have even heard “professionals” say it can be a waste of time, or too hard on the equipment. There are two types of naysayers, those who think it is an exercise in futility and secondly there is the abominable animal who thinks they have nothing else to learn or they are simply too good for such pursuits. Then there is the real animal that will dry fire every day, to the point when the wife is yelling for them to “Stop playing with your gun!” Dry fire exercise is not a horrid onus and should be used often when discussing training. What we will start calling DRIFT is, to your greatest pleasure, your new modus operandi. Let this be your mindset about the task of “playing war,” just as you used to when you were a kid with a stick, the difference here being, now your stick can shoot real bullets.
What you need to focus on is advancing your skills, if this does not interest you, then stop reading, you are wasting your time. This article is for those who wish to better their shooting abilities. You will learn how to shoot with scientifically verified procedures, yes, I mean that, theorized in the class room and proven in the arena.
Choosing the right Tools
I have been known to do my daily DRIFT with no weapon at all, call it shadow boxing, but it never leaves me, as I write this article I’m shooting squirrels out of my window, throwing in a mag change just for fun. This is one example of a tool you have, your imagination. Another tool is your actual firearm, this is crucial when practicing the manipulation of your weapon. Other scenarios you do not need a real gun, you can use a blue gun or one of my favorites is the NLT SIRT Performer Training Gun. This can be paired with a LaserLyte Score Tyme Target that gives you feedback on your hits and your hit time, great training aid for the office too. There are also laser bullets available and don’t forget Airsoft. What you need to bear in mind her is what are you trying to accomplish with a particular DRIFT session? Your maneuvering, your weapon manipulations… mag changes, etc. or are you wanting to focus on target acquisition? What tool will work best for that specific instance?
Some meat and potatoes
- A shooting guru once told me that you can never watch enough videos to be a competent shooter, oh… wait that was my common sense. My first point will again go towards safety. Make sure you are working with a professional to learn proper firearms safety before going off on your own with the techniques I’m about to cover.
- If you are using a real weapon, clear it, clear the magazines, if you’re training with any equipment, clear it of any live rounds. When I instruct I even go as far as making sure everyone has their ammunition in another room. The caveat here is, to follow all the safety rules as if you were handling a live fire situation.
- Never point your weapon at anything you are not willing to “kill, shoot or destroy.”
- Know your target and what is beyond it.
- Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot
- All firearms are always considered loaded.
- It helps to have an observer and controller (OC). They can critique your techniques whereas they will have a good 360 of your stance, presentation, etc. There is one thing worse than not doing DRIFT, that is doing it incorrectly and not knowing your mistakes, this will just compound into a soup sandwich.
- Some people say to find a good training place, like your garage or a room in your basement. I say this is not ideal, I train everywhere! Walking in the store to get milk, going to the gas station, driving down the road, camping, skiing, you name it, I’m training. Why not? To avoid distractions? I have some news for you, if you are in a situation and you need to use your firearm there will be distractions. Even if all you want to do is be a great shot, live fire iterations will have distractions. There is more to DRIFT then actually holding a gun and practicing, you need to work your situational awareness, slicing the pie, as I mentioned before, use your imagination.
- Find a good warm up DRIFT drill that works for you and do it before you fire any live rounds… every time you go to the range!
- Visualize yourself training, close your eyes and watch yourself do it.
- Videotaping any training session can be very beneficial. If you have the capabilities to do this don’t exclude your DRIFT because you think it is trivial. It’s not trivial; it’s monumental to your success. If video is not available try doing it in front of a mirror, remembering two things. If you’re not SF the number one rule does not apply to you (always look cool) and number two be honest. The added benefit from using a mirror is it helps you train to keep your eyes looking where the threat is.
- The most important step in this process it to actually do it. You have to build it into your daily or weekly routine. I personally do DRIFT every day, technical movements as well as visualization. DRIFT also enhances your mindset.
Now you’re asking, “What are some cool DRIFT drills?”
I can make this real easy. Train everything! Think outside your box. Consider target ID and acquisition, shooting and moving, barricades, malfunctions, positional training, etc. Here is a way I’ve heard it said before; dry fire includes everything except picking up your brass and cleaning your weapon.
I will highlight a few things to get working on, from there, work with others and use your imaginations.
- Find your natural point of aim
- Barricades, corners, over/under
- Shooting and moving
- F/B/Lateral, oblique a good addition here is to move in little circles or figure eights, also do a box drill.
- Acquire multiple targets
- Concealed, open, sitting, standing, in your car, primary and support hand only, etc.
- Mag changes
- Different positions, one handed support and primary, etc.
- Malfunctions; employ the use of snap caps or dummy rounds here.
- Positional training.
- Standing, sitting, kneeling, prone, etc.
- Manipulating lights
- Scanning for targets after you shoot
- Primary and support hand only
In conclusion you have to remember that this is not a complete list of DRIFT tactics techniques and procedures (TTPs). Next time you are at the range, dry fire everything you are about to do then add to it. Get a shot timer, get the SIRT pistol, and just try to make DRIFT a part of your training. This next part is the easiest of all; it not will take years and thousands upon thousands of repetitions. You will notice an immediate change in your performance when you start your DRIFT program. The not so easy part, it will take years and thousands upon thousands of repetitions to make it muscle memory. So now ask yourself if you are going to start DRIFT. If you don’t know or think that you won’t, why not?