Shoot Better: A Target That Teaches

Out of all the steps you have to take in order to fire a perfectly accurate shot, I contend that properly pressing the trigger is the easiest of them all to screw up.

It’s fairly easy to point sights at a target. Keeping those sights from moving off target is less easy, but not particularly difficult. Pressing a trigger with three and a half to twelve pounds of force, without moving your gun at all, is an entirely different matter. That’s difficult to do, and it takes practice. If you have any hope at all of executing this skill while under a little bit of stress, as in a competition, or under a mountain of stress, when fighting for your life, you need to ingrain this skill into your subconscious. It has to become as natural an action as breathing or eating donuts.

Dry-fire practice is an excellent way to improve your trigger control. You can do it thousands of times, for free, in the comfort of your own home. There’s no bang or recoil to make you jump and flinch. You can take your time, focus, and practice slow, deliberate, and perfect trigger presses until you become an expert trigger presser.

The author puts the cartridges from his practice gun near the LaserLyte targets for extra visual confirmation that the gun is unloaded.

Dry fire is so easy, you can do it every day—except hardly anyone does, present company included. Why? It’s totally boring. Yeah, I know, some of you out there practice dry-firing religiously. Thanks for making the rest of us feel guilty and inadequate. The rest of us can benefit from figuring out how to make it more fun. As the great philosopher Captain Jack Sparrow said, “The problem is not the problem. The problem is your attitude about the problem.” He’s right. If we can improve our attitudes about dry-fire practice, we will be more successful.

Good Times With No Ammo

Recently, I found a way to make dry fire not only tolerable, but fun. After an education session at the LaserLyte booth during this year's National Rifle Association Annual Meeting, the kind folks there sent me a couple of Reaction Tyme Laser Trainer Targets.

Reaction Tyme targets give you the chance to quietly practice while engaging multiple targets.

As the name implies, you shoot at the targets with lasers. That's where the variety of options comes in. You can get blue inert laser trainer guns for the practice, or you can use muzzle inserts for your own gun. You can also use Laser Trainer Cartridges, which are like snap caps with a built-in laser, for your own handgun (rifle versions are available as well). As the firing pin strikes the laser cartridge, it emits a laser pulse through the bore of your gun. The Reaction Tyme targets detect and respond to the beams from blue guns, bore inserts, or cartridge inserts.

The Equipment

To comprehend all of the training possibilities, it’s important to understand the equipment. While I could have chosen a dedicated blue LaserLyte gun or a muzzle insert, I opted for the Laser Training Cartridges so I could practice with my actual carry guns and holsters. The miniature lasers are currently available in .380 ACP, 9mm, .40 S&W, and .45 ACP, and are powered by three 377-type batteries. LaserLyte includes one set of batteries in the cartridge and a spare set in the package, so you’re off and beaming immediately.

The company offers a variety of targets. I chose the pair of Reaction Tyme targets. Each freestanding target has an “impact” area of 2 ½ square inches. Powered by three AAA batteries, the targets have two modes of operation. Simply turning them ON gives you feedback on hits--the target flashes and beeps. A Reaction Tyme mode tests your speed and accuracy. In this mode, the target blinks and beeps in random intervals from three to seven seconds. You have three seconds to get a hit before the random cycle starts again.

LaserLyte Cartridges are available in .380 ACP, 9mm, .40 S&W and .45 ACP.

Enough about the gear. What can you do with it? I’ve been experimenting with some different drills.

Plain-Jane Dry Fire

I set up the targets in the “on mode” on a dresser across from my desk. The goal is to practice my double- and single-action trigger control on various handguns. Double-action guns are perfect for this method, because you don’t have to reset the slide or hammer between shots.

Draw and Hit

Using the “on mode” with a single target, I slowly draw the gun and bring the sights to target, completing a dry fire when I choose to make a “shoot” decision. For this drill, I’m focusing on developing a perfect and consistent movement, not speed. The goal is to develop the muscle memory of a draw, aim, evaluate and fire sequence. Speed will come when the motion is burned into my brain and muscles.

React and Draw

I use a single target in Reaction Tyme mode and start the drill with my gun holstered in a normal concealed-carry position, including cover garment. When the random signal starts, I focus on a smooth draw, aim, and hit. Three seconds is more time than you think, so don’t rush! It’s more important to focus on good technique.

These are Reaction Tyme targets with 9mm and .40 S&W laser cartridges.

To add challenge as your skills improve, use both targets. Each target operates on its own random timing cycle, so you never know the interval between each target. One target may even light up twice before the other does once.

React and Draw on Multiple Targets

Try placing one target close and the other farther away and off to on side. You’ll be surprised at the challenge of hitting a 2½-inch target from across a room.

To mix things up even more, start from unusual positions, not just facing the targets square on as if you were at the range. Assuming you’re applying all safe dry-fire habits (see below), try starting facing to the side or even away from your target.

A No-Fail Safety Check

For any and all drills with a real gun using the Laser Training Cartridges, it’s critical to use all safety procedures for dry fire. I like to line up the cartridges that I’ve removed from my gun near the LaserLyte target. As I’m firing the laser cartridge, I have visual confirmation that my bullets are not in the gun I am using: a group of cartridges (which is the ammo from the magazine) and one set off to the side (the single cartridge from the chamber).

These modern systems are a very good way to create a little excitement with an otherwise boring practice routine—and help you become a better shooter.