The What: Dry fire is taking an empty firearm (hence the term, “dry”) and practicing the vast majority of skills that a shooter would practice on at the range. The draw, grip, sight picture/alignment, reloading, trigger control, movement, use of cover, malfunction clearance, and target transitions are all fair game during dry fire practice. Range time is spent doing things that require me to confirm what I have been doing with dry fire practice. The goal is to mimic drills and skills development while doing it in the comfort of one’s own home. Dry fire is free, effective, and the possibilities are endless just as they are at the range in regards to skill development and working on various concepts. Some of the things that we need to keep in mind are as follows:
· Safety is always our number one concern so when dry firing there should be NO AMMUNITION in the room when a person is engaged in dry fire practice. My loaded magazines are left on my kitchen counter.
· Also, a safe direction and muzzle awareness is paramount. If there are children or other people in the building it would behoove you to not practice your trigger control while pointed towards the next room over. For myself, my dry fire room is generally my spare bedroom and I’m aware as to where my wife is in the house.
· Your firearms handling skills should be stricter than if you were at the range. This will only help reinforce good habits, and prevent you from getting sloppy from handling an “unloaded” gun. We all know they are ALWAYS loaded right?
· A good safety tip: I treat my dry fire room like a “sanitized” area. I have a gun that I have already checked, but before I walk in I stop at the doorway I rack the slide several times, lock the action open, visually and physically inspect the chamber and then I proceed in. If I holster up and leave that room for ANY reason, I then repeat that process from the beginning. This is reinforcement of good habits, and to ensure that I maintain that “sanitized” room.
· Dry fire is also an exercise in discipline. In regards to grip: A shooter cannot only work on the consistency of their grip such as during the draw, but anytime during dry fire the shooter needs to make sure they are gripping the gun as hard as they would during live fire. It is very easy to get complacent and then have no recoil control during live fire practice. This will help with discipline, hand strength, and hand muscle endurance so there is less fatigue during live fire.
The How: Treat your dry fire practice just like your range practice. I generally break my practice up into accuracy or speed days with some movement or course work thrown in. If need be I can break these days down even further into something specific that I need to work on. Like many, my time is precious so I try to make my practice as effective as possible…do I go to the range and practice weak hand double feed malfunction clearance drills? No! Why, when I can easily do something like that with copious amounts of dry fire practice? This helps to concentrate on one aspect of shooting that I can improve upon and keeps my practice fresh and new every time. It’s no different than going to the gym and doing legs and back all in one day. It isn’t nearly as effective or fun as doing them on separate days. It also helps to keep a journal to keep track of what was practiced, what you learned or noticed, par times kept, dates, and how long you practiced. Always go by measured progress and not just by “feel”. The numbers on a shot timer don’t lie.
· Just because you are indoors doesn’t mean that you can’t set up courses, set up multiple targets, and once you are at a certain level or are working on speed you bust out the shot timer just like at the range and set par times. With this in mind make sure your repetitions are deliberate and correct versus just going fast to go fast.
· Targets should be at a reduced size. This is to reinforce “aim small, miss small” and remember that most people’s homes are going to be shorter distances than they are used to at the range. Not to mention the complete lack of recoil. There are multiple sources of scaled targets available for free online. They are incredibly useful for increasing accuracy at both speed and range.
· My favorite targets for dry fire are 3x5 index cards with a repair dot from a shoot-n-see target. They are cheap, very small, and can be used for multiple purposes for both dry and live fire. This way my practice stays consistent. It is consistent, disciplined practice that allows people to improve. Rome wasn’t built in a day.
· When practicing target transitions or speed drills…make sure that actions are done deliberately. Make sure that you are actually getting your “hits”. Simply blasting away at your wall to make par times is no different than a simple hose fest at the range.
· Trigger control is paramount! Learning trigger control is probably the biggest benefit of dry fire as it directly translates into not only accuracy, but speed if practiced correctly. If that front sight is moving when there is no loud bang then slow down and make sure the trigger is pressed in a controlled manner. I will outline trigger control dry fire drills in a later post.
· Dry fire is part of the reason why I advocate having multiple firearms of the gun that you normally carry and/or compete with. One to carry and one to train or compete with; or basically beat the tar out of. Dry fire does increase repetitions on the trigger return spring, recoil spring, the firing pin block, and you can beat the gun up depending on what you are practicing. I know what it’s like to break a trigger return spring due to copious amounts of dry fire. It’s a good thing that it was my “training” gun and I could put my other gun in the holster and walk out the door.
· It is also beneficial to have magazines dedicated to dry fire practice. If this is not possible then keep these magazines only for training and practice. During reloading practice and you are pushing hard these magazines will get beat up. The number one cause of a malfunction for a semi-automatic is a faulty magazine, so to reduce the chance of one occurring keep your training and carry magazines separate.
· “You can only do so much with dry fire.” I disagree vehemently. Even recoil control can be improved due to hand strength increasing if the person is disciplined in their grip while dry firing. Not to mention the vast majority of skills that can be improved by dry fire as mentioned above.
· Make it fun! If it is fun you will naturally enjoy doing it more. I enjoy the process of dry fire as it allows me to see what I’m doing, not to mention I’m handling my gun and practicing which I enjoy, and when I see the improvement translate to the range it only confirms that dry fire is working. I don’t always stand static and practice one thing…I mix it up! Add movement and practice two things with one drill such as drawing and then reloading from concealment. Even drills such as the El Presidente are fun to practice dry.
The Why: Because we want to improve that’s why! Shooting is an endeavor that we all have something to improve upon and that is half the fun. Out here at Shootlogic, we aren’t just instructors, we are students first. Fun to us is measured improvement every time we get to the range. We rarely target shoot and since shooting is our passion dry fire helps us improve upon, practice, and expand our knowledge of that passion. The path of self- improvement is a never ending one so it benefits everybody looking to do so to use every tool available to them to prevent stagnation. Struggling with a concept that you learned in a defensive firearm class? Walk yourself through it slowly with dry fire practice. Struggling to get out of a classification in your chosen pistol shooting league? Add in dry fire practice to break through the plateau that is plaguing you. There is a reason that reputable instructors also use it for very advanced classes such as tactics and home defense courses…because it is safe. It is much safer having students walk through a technique or skill with weapons empty than to do it for the first time with a live firearm. It is amazing how much of an improvement that just 15 minutes a day of practice can benefit us. Everybody has 15 minutes a day it is just having the self-discipline of taking that time to practice and improve. Don’t neglect this important tool and allow yourself to wonder why you have stagnated as a shooter.