One of the most important firearm drills consistently talked about by certified instructors is dry fire practice, an often overlooked primer of safe gun ownership that is also one of the easiest to accomplish.
If you want to hone your skills should they be needed, then the only solution is to practice, practice, practice. While it’s great to train at the range, dry fire practice costs relatively little or, in some cases, nothing.
To learn the dry fire basics, we caught up with some of the country’s top firearms trainers to get their thoughts.
Before diving into dry fire practice, we must discuss safety. Dry fire practice lacks the presence of ammo, but to be on the safe side, quality instructors say its best to take your ammo and place it in a different room.
Clear the room where you’ll be dry fire training of all live ammo or brass
Only aim your gun at a backdrop that can stop a bullet
Turn your devices off and be present in your training
Dave Hartman, Director of Training at Gunsite Academy, told Guns.com that he suggests having a dedicated box or bin for dry-fire materials.
You have your dry-fire can or your bucket where your training magazines and dummy rounds are kept, and you have your little safe space where you do that -- your garage, basement, man cave, den -- find a backdrop that's going to safely stop a bullet.
We recommend, as soon as you go into your dry practice area, you open up that can and take out all your dry practice material. Your live ammunition, live magazines, and cellphone go in [the can]. Recheck yourself and recheck your gun. Close that can, put it in a drawer, closet, or somewhere you have to make a conscious effort to go to.
The barrier of entry into dry fire training is low, with dry fire costing little to no money with verified results. Kevin Michalowski, the executive editor of Concealed Carry Magazine, said practicing basic shootings skills is free and, even better, will improve you as a shooter.
“You can build up all those basic skills right now without ever going to the range or firing a shot with good quality, slow for form, dry fire. Dry fire with good sight picture, sight alignment, and the trigger press," Michalowski told Guns.com. "Then, you can practice clearing you cover garment and drawing your gun and getting it up to a firing position."
If you're looking to get into the basics of dry fire training, then DryFireTrainingCards.com has a 21-day system designed to take beginners from novice to advanced. As the URL suggests, you will receive a deck of cards with a variety of great dry fire training drills on them. These range from basic drills to complex motion and will add variety to your routine.
Of course, dry fire training doesn't have to cost you any money at all. A simple and easy dry fire drill to get you started is the Wall Drill -- all it requires is an unloaded gun and a blank wall. Great for receiving feedback on your trigger pull, it helps fine-tune your trigger mechanics. Check out the video below to see how the drill works.
Once you’ve exhausted all free dry fire practice drills, you may want to step it up a notch and invest in some tools to aid in your training practice. App-based products such as Strikeman or MantisX electronically record your hits on target, giving real-time feedback. Whether you need that instant validation or want to nerd out over data, these products will help you achieve better shots when it comes time to head to the range.
Of course, advanced dry fire training doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. Competitive shooters know time dedicated to dry fire separates middle-of-the-pack shooters from champions. Often, these drills abandon the static movement of basic dry fire training for a more dynamic approach.
Taylor Thorne, a competitive shooter and Guns.com contributor, lays out some advanced dry fire training in her video below. These drills are great for any shooter looking to up their game with more accurate and quick shots on target. While you’ll need to spend some money on a shot timer and proper gear, the cost is relatively little compare to the lead you could be putting downrange.
Frequency of Training
Dry fire training needs to become part of the overall training solution for most gun owners. Remember, you are responsible for every bullet that leaves your gun, so having accurate and judicious aim is required in a defensive use scenario. If you're not practicing defensive skills at home, how reliably do you think you can perform under stress?
Dave Young, Co-Founder of Vistelar Training, described dry fire training as the responsible thing to do. “If you’re responsible, that means you practice at least once a week drawing your weapon. How many times do you practice drawing during the week at home? If it’s less than 100, you’re out of whack,” he said.
Gunsite Academy's Hartman gave concrete directions to make the most of your dry fire training. He recommends 10 to 15 minutes a day with a specific training goal in mind. Whether you’re working on presenting the pistol, pressing the trigger, or speed loads, work that one skill for 10 to 15 minutes and then be done with your dry fire training for the day.
“I think [10 to 15 minutes] is probably the attention span of getting something done,” he said. "After that, you get to the point of diminishing returns -- people get sloppy and take shortcuts. There’s the saying out there ‘practice makes perfect.’ No, it doesn’t. Perfect practice makes perfect.”
The value of dry fire cannot be overstated, and it should become part of your routine as a responsible firearms owner. Following some of the above advice will provide a good starting point on your journey of becoming a dry fire champion.