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Problem: It’s cold, rainy, snowing, windy. You want to shoot but don’t want to drive to an indoor range a half hour away. Ammo is getting more expensive and you can’t justify the range fee, the ammo price and the gas to get there.
The solution? An indoor laser targeting system. Shoot from your living room couch. A chair in the kitchen maybe. Turn the she shed or man cave into your very own practice area. The ability to shoot, track and train yourself into a better marksman without breaking the bank is a novel idea.
But wait… isn’t dry firing bad for your gun? When using a snap cap - or in this case, a laser bullet, the firing pin hits the hard rubber back of the laser bullet which absorbs the impact. There is no damage to the firearm.
The last mental hurdle in practicing this way is the concern over the lack of recoil. It’s true, recoil doesn’t occur when you dry fire your gun. And no type of training will replace shooting live ammo. These two basic points stop many people from training this way. Dry fire is a proven training technique that will allow you to get more practice between actual live fire and also allow you to spend more time with your gun without breaking the bank.
The reason dry fire works so well as a training technique? Recoil has little to do with the accuracy of a single shot on a firearm. Recoil doesn’t kick the gun until after the bullet has left the barrel. Therefore, aim alone determines where the bullet will go when shooting. Recoil affects your ability to get back on target after a shot, but so does having to re-rack your weapon while shooting.
One of the most common bad habits in shooting actually comes from recoil. Flinching (anticipation of the recoil) is what happens when you expect to feel a kick or a push from the gun. The anticipation causes most people to put downward force on the firearm to prevent the recoil. Others, (especially when using a rifle or shotgun) tend to pull their head away from the gun and jerk to the side. By practicing using dry fire, you can effectively train yourself not to anticipate it. This allows you to focus on sight alignment, trigger pull, and proper breathing.
To track your training, you’ll need to invest in an actual system. A quick google search will pop up plenty of options. LasetHIT, LaserLyte, LASR, iDryFyre… the list goes on and on. You can purchase lasers and targets from different places, and at different price points. Most targeting systems come with an app for your phone (or tablet) while others require a full on computer set-up with a camera. The possibilities are almost endless.
A simple, effective and cost-efficient setup is iTarget pro. Their hundred dollar kit gives you the laser cartridge, a target with a sled to put your phone in, and an app made for the system.
To explain the system simply: The phone is placed into the iTarget sled with its camera pointed at the shooting target. The app monitors the target for hits from the laser bullet and maps the hits onto the phone’s display - showing you precisely where you shot the target. You can download your shot record and save it on your phone to track your progress.
The first time you use the system, you’ll have to do some setup. Understanding the app and making adjustments to the sled will take a few minutes, but both are explained pretty well in the instructional video they provide on their website (www.itargetpro.com/pages/instructional-video).
To get the best accuracy, you’ll have to calibrate the app for the lighting and enter the distance you’ll be shooting from. Once you get all those things dialed in, it’s time to kick back and put your feet up, and shoot. Or, if you’re more serious about it, adopt the right stance, with the right shoulder squaring technique and hone those skills.
With over 4,000 rounds shot through my .380 in the matter of a few months, I can vouch that this system does in fact improve your aim. I learned this week though, that even though my aim is good, it could be better.
Enter the MantisX training system (www.mantisx.com). Apparently, my good shots weren’t as good as I thought. Sure, I was hitting the target, and had a decent grouping, but my movements in aiming weren’t as smooth as I thought, and the way I aimed had a ton of room for improvement.
The MantisX is a simple accessory that would fit on any gun with a picatinny rail system. They also offer other mounting systems that can be purchased to fit the mag on a pistol or different size barrels on shotguns and rifles.
Once it’s attached and you pair it with the app, the MantisX tracks everything. Each shot is scored depending on how much you moved away from your sighted position during the trigger pull. The perfect score is 100 (basically impossible unless locked in a vise). For each shot, MantisX detects the direction of the barrel movement during the trigger pull. If you tend to shoot left, left sector will light up on the wheel. After a few shots, the training device shows the pattern of your movement. Analyzing an individual shot or the group of shots, MantisX provides you with a suggestion that could improve your shooting mechanics.
In the beginning my grip was too tight, and I was using too much trigger finger. Once I was told that by the app, I corrected my hold and tried another round of shooting. My score improved. The app offered a video that I could watch to explain what I was doing, and the easiest way to fix it. After watching that and correcting even more, my groupings got even tighter.
There are drills in the app for shooting with both hands, your dominant hand, and your support hand. The app keeps track of which hand you use, the score, and the date and time so that you can track your shooting trends and improvement. I haven’t had a chance to delve into all the features the app has… there are almost too many ways to shoot and track on this. I spent a good portion of my time reviewing the animated moves on the target showing where I moved my hands as I lined up the shoot and pulled the trigger.
With my dominant hand, my initial shooting scored in the high-60 to mid-70 range. After a few nights of practice my score increased by 10 points on average.
So far, my experience has only included time with a .380 and with a .40 in my living room. However, as hunting season approaches, I’ll be placing this on my rifle to see how I shoot that as well.
If you’re concerned at all with your shot placement, your movement, and being precise in your groupings as well as the ability to take down a target, a combination of the iTarget and the MantisX training systems can greatly improve your abilities through practice. Plus, it’s a great way to kill time in the coming winter months!