One of my favorite rifle exercises that can be safely performed on the Odin Mountain Compound (OMC) is the practice of dry firing dummy rounds at imaginary targets.
In this article I will discuss my take on the importance of Dry Fire Practice, especially as pertains to learning how to use your magazines. The magazine portion is not trivial and I hope to convey to you something of its importance.
Why Dry Fire Practice?
Dry firing a rifle while taking aim at targets is a proven method that increases both speed and accuracy in real-world situations where both are of the utmost importance.
Cycling thousands of dummy rounds through a bolt action rifle while dry firing will also cause you to encounter and learn to quickly and efficiently overcome various problems such as jams or not moving the bolt with authority, etc.
What’s more, repeated aiming of the rifle and cycling the bolt creates “muscle memory” that will automatically kick in during situations when adrenaline and the accompanying narrow focus and loss of fine motor skills takes over.
But there is even more to it than that. And most people miss this in many things they do.
Learning to Load Rifle Magazines
In general when dry firing is discussed there is nothing said about the importance of peripheral aspects; one of which I will cover today: the loading and unloading of magazines in a variety of conditions including weather, clothing worn against the elements, and the riflemans state of mind.
For many of us loading rounds into magazines is not a particularly enjoyable pastime. It can be a clumsy process and difficult on the hands and fingers when more than several magazines have to be loaded.
But this is important:
It’s one thing to load and unload magazines in the comfort of ones own home, but something different when loading magazines in the field under the variety of adverse conditions you may encounter there.
This morning (October 11) the temperature is about 25-degrees at the Odin Mountain Compound with a heavy frost.
Metal conducts heat very quickly and bare hands can become very problematic in the cold. As the season turns more wintery with each passing day, handling a rifle that is partially composed of metal, metal cartridges, and metal magazines means I will probably have to be wearing thin gloves on my hands.
Many people tend to train only in ideal conditions. If they do train in adverse conditions they often leave out important supporting details.
For example they will load their magazines in the comfort of their warm, dry homes. Then head off to the range for rifle practice. Everything has been pre-packaged, so to speak, under ideal conditions.
This is a mistake because real life in the field isn’t like that.
You Need to Practice Loading Magazines in All Conditions
I need to experience loading and unloading magazines in all weather conditions. Cold, hot, wet, dry, snowing, sleeting, raining, windy.
I need to practice when my hands are cold and difficult to use. I need to practice when rain is pouring down and I am trying to keep my magazines and ammunition as dry as possible while still performing the task. I need to practice when I and my gear are covered with mud in the middle of a beaver swamp. I need to practice in a blizzard with winds, blowing snow, and temperatures that benumb the hands and bite any exposed skin.
Only then can I learn magazine skills across the situations I am likely to be in while scouting.
For example, you will discover that loading and unloading rifle magazines is a bit different with gloved hands than with bare hands.
Perhaps your favorite pair of gloves makes it difficult to do these tasks even though they work very well for holding the rifle and pulling the trigger at the range. At the very least you lose some of the tactile nimbleness with gloved hands and fingers as compared with bare hands and fingers.
I find that wearing my thin gloves while loading magazines slows down the process considerably. For one, excess fabric at the finger tips tends to want to go into the magazine along with the round. Another is that I tend to fumble the rounds more often as I pick them up one by one.
An easy fix for that glove problem is to immediately pull the gloves on as tight as they will go so that the fingers of my hand extend all the up to the end of the fingers on the glove.
Sounds simple. Sounds obvious. Not really so.
Learned Skills and Muscle Memory are Your Friends
You want to automatically do this when you prepare to start loading – NOT discover you have to do this when the chips are down and rounds are zipping past your head.
Imagine it is 0-degrees F and you are fumbling rounds and magazines because you are not accustomed to reloading them with gloves on your hands.
In training if you find that your gloves make it difficult to load magazines in cold weather conditions, perhaps you can look for a different type of glove that allows you to both fire the rifle and change and load magazines while in adverse conditions.
Then, you will want to practice diligently with the same gloved hands as you would be using in “real life”, so that you have a muscle memory built up and the details of using gloves for the task at hand has become second nature.
In the field, in an emergency is not the time to be fumbling rifle rounds and magazines because you have gloves on your hands and did not use them during training!
General Winter is Generally More Difficult
There are other important factors. For example metal parts tend to shrink as temperature drops. This can make it more difficult, or easier, to do such things as insert rounds into the magazine or insert the magazine into the rifle.
How does the rifle bolt cycle when it is nearly 100-degrees F as compared to minus 30-degrees F?
Do the springs in your magazines function at that temperature? Maybe they break.
Do your magazines even insert into the rifle? Are they difficult to remove?
These extremes of temperatures over the course of the year are normal here in the Great North Woods. The wrong time to discover problems is when your back is up against the wall and survival depends upon your rifle and complete rifle skills.
Practice Loading Magazines in All Conditions
What it boils down to is I practice loading and unloading my magazines on a regular basis and in all conditions.
A good way to do this is to make a schedule. For example, on a certain day every week no matter what the weather you go out into the backyard to practice loading rifle magazines and dry firing your rifle. Training for both rifle and magazines go hand in hand to make a complete session.
Over the course of a couple years you will have practiced in most weather conditions you will encounter during an actual field operation. An advantage to doing this is you can easily correct errors and clean and dry out your gear back inside your home before taking another try at it – a luxury you won’t have when on an extended scout.
Bottom line: get yourself some dummy rounds and practice continuously in all conditions you may find yourself in.
Today’s Odin Mountain Links
“Not certain of the exact location of the Confederates in his front, he ordered Smith’s battery to fire a single shot toward the trees on the ridge line where he supposed the enemy to be.
He later described this revealing shot: “As the shot went whistling through the air the sound of it reached the enemy’s troops and caused every one to look in the direction of it. This motion revealed to me the glistening of gun-barrels and bayonets of the enemy’s line of battle, already formed and far outflanking the position of any of our troops; so that the line of his advance from his right to Little Round Top was unopposed.
I have been particular in telling this, as the discovery was intensely thrilling to my feelings, and almost appalling.”
Noting that the Confederate line extended further south of the Emmitsburg Road than he previously thought, and realizing the damage that could be done to the Union left if the Confederates controlled Little Round Top, he immediately sent for troops to occupy the hill.“
Who Really Saved Little Round Top?