One of the best concepts that I have found for keeping my training simple and easily repeatable is the use of index points. Index points are simply a way to break down any technique into smaller, easier to focus on, chunks that indicate whether or not you are reproducing the technique properly or not. They are sort of sign posts that indicate that you are on the right path.
If you have taken part in any training, you have likely already been exposed to index points that you may not have thought about as index points. The typical 4 or 5 position draw-stroke is perfect example. The 4 or 5 individual positions serve as tactile reminders that you are properly executing the complete draw-stroke. The draw stroke is a large fluid movement but it is broken down into several smaller index points. The “nose to charging handle” technique is another example of a tactile index point that makes the action of shouldering an AR-15 repeatable. This technique allows the shooter to place their head in a consistent position each time the AR is shouldered.
Why Are Index Points Important?
The most important reason to incorporate index points into your training is to enhance how consistently you can execute a skill. If you look as a skill as a single, fluid movement it can be easy to lose details along the way. If you break a skill into important individual index points and systematically execute each index point, you are far more likely to maintain consistency in training.
This is especially important with dry fire where there is no immediate feedback on a target to tell if you are you executing a skill properly. Dry fire practice can be just as dangerous as it is helpful. I have talked in the past about how poorly executed dry fire training can ingrain bad habits rather than improve live fire performance. By incorporating index points, you can greatly reduce the risk that you are forming bad habits.
How Do You Incorporate Index Points?
Thankfully, it is pretty easy to incorporate index points into your own training regimen, though it does require some attention to detail and forethought. Even if your instructor isn’t teaching index points, you can glean them yourself. The key is to distill a technique down to the most important parts and then assign an index point for each rather than just trying to remember how properly executed skill looks or feels in totality. I’ll step through how I build a set of index points using a two handed, thumbs forward grip executed during a draw-stroke as an example…
A proper grip starts when the strong hand reaches to the holster. The first index point that I am looking for is where the center of the backstrap hits the web of my hand between thumb and forefinger. I have the feeling of the position memorized so that when I hit it, I can simply wrap my hand around the grip and be reasonably assured that my strong hand is now in position. This is a key index point because it is where my hand first contacts the HG and it sets the stage for my strong hand grip.
The next grip building index points come when the support hand comes together with the strong hand to form the two hand grip. At this point, I have a few index points that I need to hit. The first and most important is getting a specific spot on my support hand index finger as high and back as I can on the underside of the trigger guard. Once I hit this spot, I know that I basically just close my hand into a proper grip.
I am also looking for the feeling of good contact between the palm of my support hand as far back as possible on the side of the grip. This index point allows me to consistently get even pressure all the way around the grip.
With just those three index points (and really, the first two are the most important), I can execute a fairly consistent grip and draw in live and dry fire training. All three are very tactile and easy to feel when you are moving at speed. All three happen at pivotal points during the formation of the grip (first contact of the strong hand, first contact of the support hand, and final formation of the grip).
Training is most efficient when all facets of that training are repeatable and measurable. Index points allow you to break down larger skills into repeatable sign posts that serve as a dynamic checklist of sorts to give you immediate feedback about how well you are executing a skill.