“As there is no ammunition, every day when they come here for training, the shooters just aims the gun, pull the trigger to hear the ‘tick’ sound, and that’s all,”
-Hoang Xuan Vihn
For Walkthrough Wednesday, we are re-addressing a topic that has been brought up before at the request of several leaders. ‘How do I have my Paratroopers achieve an ‘advanced’ level skill set?’ The answer lies in the judicious application of dry-fire.
In the 2016 Rio Olympics, Vietnam won their first-ever gold medal in ten-meter air pistol. The gentleman who did this, Hoang Xuan Vihn, was at a severe disadvantage compared to most of the other competitors, as he was limited to 100 rounds of air pistol ammunition per day prior to the Olympics.
Hoang incorporated a regimen of dry-fire, practicing thousands of repetitions of his shot process, and practiced honest self-assessment of what he was doing. These things are what allowed him to compete at the highest level and win.
So to do that for our Paratroopers, we need to have an area set up for them to use for dry-firing. Ten-meter scale targets like in picture two are a good resource to start with. Paratroopers can practice drills A-K as outlined in Appendix D of TC 3-22.9, achieving a position and checking their natural point of aim with these targets. They can be set up around the company offices on a permanent basis, or taped to the side of a building like in the example.
Dry-fire doesn’t need scale targets to be effective. It can simply be one-inch squares pasted up as in picture three. This drill will allow Paratroopers to practice sighting their weapon with both eyes open. Leaders can use the sequences and par times as illustrated at http://www.hopkinsshooting.com/drills/ or come up with their own. The intent behind this is to practice scanning with both eyes open with their optics so that the eyes become able to transition rapidly between the dominant and non-dominant eyes. This is especially vital with low-power optics like the M150 RCO, as they are designed to be fired with both eyes open.
Keeping Paratroopers on the clock adds the element of stress to the event. There are many free apps available on phones that allow you to practice dry-fire with a par-time. For those not familiar with what a par-time is, it is a set standard of time to complete a course of fire or action in. Picture four illustrates an android app that can be used for this. As the Paratrooper progresses in skill, this particular app allows the leader to set the number of reps, what the starting par-time is, what the finishing par-time is, and allows for reducing a designated amount of time off between sets.
The important thing for leaders to do is to keep track of what their paratroopers are doing. Picture three illustrates what that this might look like. PFC Miller works through the drills in Appendix D of TC 3-22.9 and achieves the following times with a boresight in ‘pulse’ mode at a ten-meter scale target. Capturing this is important for leaders and for Paratroopers, as it shows them how they are improving over time. It also shows areas that the Paratrooper needs to focus on. For example, four seconds to get a shot off in the kneeling position would be an area of improvement for PFC Miller.
All of this also makes it fun for the Paratrooper. The element of competition is included with their fellow Paratroopers, and as the old saying goes, “competition breeds excellence.” Leaders should recognize and reward their Paratroopers the same way they do soldiers who achieve in PT.
So to sum up, dry-fire is a tool that needs to be implemented on the training schedule at least once a week. There are many things that can be done that will make our Paratroopers more lethal overall, that are not resource intensive: they only cost time and a little bit of effort. Dry-fire can be used to make Paratroopers better by the use of scale targets, drills both doctrinally based and from other sources. The most important thing for the leader to be doing is capturing the data on how their Paratroopers are doing at the various drills. Without that information, there is no way to improve their Paratroopers’ skillset past mediocre.