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Dry Fire Training: Effective Practice & Drills

80 Percent Arms   |   Apr 5th 2021

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What is Dry Firing?

No ammo? No problem! Training during an ammo shortage doesn't have to be hard. Instead of firing ammo, you can dry fire your pistol — meaning you're not shooting any ammo and are still able to train just as effectively. Dry firing is the simulation firing a gun without using live rounds. There are several products that can serve as useful tools for dry firing such as snap caps (dummy rounds), laser cartridges, replica airsoft guns or training pistols like SIRTs.

How Does Dry Firing Help You Practice

Shooting without ammo is easy, free, safe and will help you improve your skills if done consistently and correctly. Dry fire drills allow you to practice a variety of skills and are very useful when it comes to firearm safety training. Whether you are learning and improving on the fundamentals of shooting or teaching firearm safety, it's by far the safest and most cost effective option. Some of these fundamentals include trigger control, drawing from the holster, speed, proper grip and recoil anticipation. All you need is your handgun or a GST-9 and a safe place to practice in!

Dry Firing Safety Tips

In this section, we list out some quick tips for ensuring that you’re dry firing effectively and safely:

  • Tip #1 - Make sure your firearm is clear and unloaded. Rack that slide back as many times as it takes for you to feel comfortable and confident that the gun is empty but visually inspect as well.
  • Tip #2 - Do not practice dry firing publicly or in open spaces where you could be easily misunderstood by members of the public. Do this at home or at private ranges.
  • Tip #3 - Incorporate snap caps to aid your dry fire training.
  • Tip #4 - Practice picking up your gun from various surfaces and setting it down in an efficient way so that you won’t fumble when quickly grabbing your handgun.

    Will Dry Firing Harm My Gun?

    Now, you may have heard someone say that dry firing will break the firing pin in your pistol. That is an old myth that only applies to rimfire rounds and guns However, if you would like to dry fire a rim-fire firearm, feel free to use snap caps to help prevent damage. The only other reason you might hear someone say that today is that it bothers gun store employees when customers handle firearms on display. They might tell you, “it’s bad for the gun,” but in reality that is not true and they’re really only speaking to their own insecurity (or store policy).

    How Often Should You Practice?

    Training must be done daily and on a regular basis because these repetitions also have to be as perfect as possible every time. In order to perfect a skill set, you have to know how to do it without fault. Practicing dry fire exercises 15 minutes a day for 5 days a week will not only improve and perfect your skill set, it will also improve your marksmanship overall. Frequent practice will result in major improvements with general shooting skills, safety habits, fundamentals, sight picture and sight alignment.

    Dry Firing Drills

    Not sure how to go about doing dry fire drills? Try one of these exercises with us that we often do. These drills will help you to improve your muscle memory for when you draw and present your gun, trigger control, when reloading magazines and when under physical duress. After all, you can’t always be standing still and shooting in a static fashion if you expect to become a proficient shooter. You’ve got to be able to shoot on the move too.

    Drill #1 - Presentation

    For this exercise it’s important that you know how to properly grip a pistol. Grip your firearm with your dominant hand and make sure you have a high grip just right under the beaver tail of your pistol. Your last 3 fingers should wrap just under the trigger guard and around the base of your pistol. Your thumb should be resting just right under the slide and in the grip area on the left or right side (depending on your dominant hand). Always make sure your trigger finger is resting on the frame and not the trigger unless you are ready to shoot, even while dry firing. Finally, take your non-dominant hand and wrap your index, middle and ring finger over your dominant hand with the dominant hand’s thumb resting on top of the supporting hand’s thumb. This is the ideal grip to have while handling a handgun.

    Hold your handgun while gripping it as if you were ready to shoot and partially extend your arms out to your preferred distance then bring it back to a resting position. Do this slowly and fluidly while pointing in the direction of your target. While pointing in the direction of your target, do not shift your eyes’ focus from the target to the front sight. We want to keep the target in clear focus while the front sight is still visible in our peripheral vision, although slightly blurred.

    When pulling the trigger after ‘presenting’ the pistol you might notice your sight isn't perfectly aligned or that the front of the barrel moves around a bit. Keep doing this slowly until you are able to align your sights comfortably with a target. You’ll notice immediate improvement when you can pull the trigger and there’s no dipping or sideways movement in the front of the gun. Once you’ve got the hang of this exercise, try doing it faster. Doing this will help make handling handguns feel more natural and help with sight picture/sight alignment.

    Drill #2 - Draw

    One of the major advantages to practicing dry firing from home is that unlike an indoor range, you are able to draw from a holster and practice drawing from concealment. Practicing a quick draw is very identical to the presentation exercise but instead of drawing your handgun from a resting position, you pull it from your holster.

    As you get started, make sure that you’re in a good stance that favors balance of movement. Place your handgun in the holster (don’t remove it) and check that you have a firm grip on your handgun meaning that you firmly grasp it and your dominant hand is right under that beavertail. Now, pull your pistol out slowly and as you are pulling it out watch your grip and movement as you bring your pistol up to sight level. You may notice your grip slipping, a flinch or that your sight picture needs to be improved. If that’s the case, repeat these steps slowly and only increase the speed of your repetitions as you gradually perfect this action. Before you go fast, it's important to go slow to catch any mistakes that you may be making.

    Drill #3 - Coin Balance

    The coin balance drill is a dry fire exercise where we balance a coin on the front sight of your pistol and pull the trigger. Our goal is to let the trigger break and not cause the coin to fall off of the front sight. While dry firing you may notice that you're moving the hand gun slightly during or after every trigger pull. To help eliminate this, grab either a casing or a quarter and balance it on the front sight of your handgun and practice grip control.

    Any movement or error will cause the item to fall revealing that either your grip or trigger control is off. That being said, once you get good at this it becomes kind of a chore to reset the trigger and needing to place the coin back on the front sight for each trigger pull. So there are definitely better methods of spending your time while practicing dry fire.

    Drill #4 - Reloads

    What do you do when your car runs out of gas? You fill it up right? Well it’s the same with guns and magazines. Except this action should not take as long as Costco gas lines do. If we’re continuing this painful analogy, then reloading should be even quicker than the bee line I make to the back of the warehouse to grab my favorite Costco loss leaders like the pie or rotisserie chicken.

    Dry firing can get a bit droll after you do it a hundred times. So one way to multitask and train multiple skills at once is to incorporate magazine reloads while dry firing. Improve your speed reloads with a shot clock timer or practice your tactical reloads without dropping any mags on the floor. There’s quite a few ways to do it.

    Here’s one: start with the gun racked and holstered. Set a delayed start on your shot clock. At the beep, draw your pistol and present it with speed and precision. Pull the trigger; when you hear the click fling that ‘empty’ magazine out like you’re John Wick himself and slap a new mag into the gun. Rack the slide to simulate the gun chambering a fresh magazine with new rounds. Pull the trigger for a second dry fire with good control and check the clock to see how much time that took you. Rinse and repeat until you feel comfortable increasing the speed of your movements and see how hard you can push yourself.

    Drill #5 - Target Transitioning Drills

    One of the most integral skills in shooting is being able to transition between targets quickly, smoothly and accurately. We can train this with dry fire using training aids that reset the trigger for you such as the Cool Fire Trainer. Or, you can also opt for training pistols like SIRT guns that are not firearms and strictly laser training tools.

    If you can tape up some small targets on your wall somewhere in your house or garage, cool. But if not, simply select a few different objects around the home as your targets (I like to use three mugs sometimes). So think of this like when you were first learning how to drive a car. When you’re practicing turning for the first few times in a car, you’re told to look where you’re going and not to look only directly in front of you. It’s actually the same with guns and shooting.

    After your first dry fire pull at the first target, shift your focus on the next target and allow your hands to follow where your vision is going. You’d be surprised at how fluid the movement is. Continue practicing this going between each target while exercising good trigger discipline and control. You can aim at each target from left, middle, right — then go in reverse, or skip around the targets and aim at the center target first, then right and left. If you want to really challenge yourself you can set up multiple targets spaced out quite far from each other in the room you’re practicing in and time yourself with a shot clock.

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