There are a lot of autoloading pistols which have a double action (DA) pull for the first shot and a single action (SA) pull for all subsequent shots. Training for that transition is important, and here’s one way to do so.
I’ve been pretty outspoken about my dislike for what we call “traditional double action” autoloading pistols: pistols that start with a long, heavy double action shot and then present a short, light single action for all the rest of the shots. They’re inefficient in the sense that they require more time, effort and attention in both training and use: you need to master the transition between double and single action, you need to get used to the manipulation of the decocker each time you finish a string of fire, and if your gun has a combined safety/decocker you need to remember to leave it in whatever position you’ve decided is best for your use (which is a discussion in itself.)
Lots of people have such guns, though, and it’s important to learn to handle them properly. To that end, today we’re going to focus on training for the transition between double action and single action shots.
Too many people gloss over this part of using the traditional double action (TDA) pistol; they dismiss it as an easily mastered task. From my experience, and watching both students and other instructors, I’m not convinced that it is! I’ve watched very experienced shooters, people who are amazing marksmen, drop a shot low on that first DA shot or have the first SA shot after the transition end up a long way from the rest of their group.
Problems with the DA/SA transition typically don’t appear when the shooter has lots of time or can concentrate on handling the change. Put them into an exercise where they can’t predict what’s coming, one where they need to shoot a realistic string of fire at a realistic pace, and the problem almost always shows up (in fact, I can’t remember a case where some transition issue didn’t present itself in an evaluation drill, regardless of the amount of training done up to that point.)
Now I’m not normally a fan of choreographed range drills for defensive shooting, but when we’re talking about sheer gun manipulation — the physical skills of marksmanship — they can sometimes have value. It’s with interest, then, that I took note of a shooting drill found over at Todd Green’s Pistol-Training website.
It’s a version of a drill he calls the Dot Torture, adapted for ingraining the DA/SA transition. Simply print out the target and follow the instructions. I think it may have some value for those who shoot a TDA gun and need more time to master that transition between the trigger pulls. It’s a drill designed to give you some very concentrated, very specific practice for that particular task.
Some caveats and explanations from my perspective: shoot at whatever distance you feel you need to make the shots. I’m not big on the concept of shooting at small targets all the time, as I believe it results in a level of deviation control that isn’t appropriate for all targets. As I’ve said many times in class and in print, your job as a defensive shooter is to recognize the level of precision dictated by the target and then deliver that level of precision as quickly as you can. It’s that recognition which is important, and the notion of always shooting at a small target to make you a “better” shooter short-circuits that learning.
Shoot as quickly as you believe you can get the hits.
The drill has some swinging between targets as you shoot. Again, if you’ve taken any of my classes (or read my book) you’ll remember the discussion about the “swinging transition” technique, its origins in competition shooting, and the context mismatch with defensive shooting. In this case it’s not the transition itself which is important; it’s the separation of your shots between DA and SA that the transition allows you to make, giving you a good visual of where you’re having issues. It’s a diagnostic target transition, not a tactical one.
Finally, the mandated reload on the last two targets is just silly. I believe that the reload should come as a learned response to the stimulus of the empty gun, not as a pre-planned and choreographed step in a drill. For a competition shooter, where reloads are often mandated and controlled, it may make some sense to practice such an anticipated move; in the context of needing to reload in the middle of an attack because you ran out of ammunition, not so much. I recommend that you shoot the last two targets as indicated but without the reload.
Again, just so we’re clear: the purpose of recommending this drill is to give the DA/SA shooter an opportunity to master the deviation control necessary to have consistent shot placement in both DA and SA; nothing more. It’s not tactical, it has nothing to do specifically with learning to defend yourself, but it has a lot to do with helping you deliver the level of precision dictated by the target with every shot regardless of the trigger weight/travel — and with a minimum of cognitive thought.
This is one of the few instances where I endorse such a specific kind of drill, but in the case of the traditional double-action semiautomatic pistol I think it’s necessary. It also clearly illustrates the inherent inefficiency of that type of gun, because it requires this intense kind of practice to work around the inherent difficulties of the design. In other words, mastering the DA/SA transition uses more time, effort, and ammunition that any other type of pistol action.
If you have such a gun, however, it’s important that you do spend those resources to become proficient with it!
-=[ Grant ]=-