Dry Fire like a Winner
What if I told you that you could become a good shooter without going to the range and without spending lot of money? Sound too good to be true? I thought so too, until I tried it and improved dramatically and quickly. It’s called dry fire and it’s one of the main methods of training used by many top shooters.
Dry fire is practicing without using any ammunition. Not only is it a great way to learn almost all of the skills you’ll need when you shoot real bullets, dry fire is also low cost and can be done almost anywhere in as little as five minutes for each session. It’s appropriate for all levels of shooters, whether you’re learning how to operate your gun or trying to shave hundredths of seconds off of your competition or drill times. You can benefit from dry fire whether your focus is defensive shooting, competition, or even just plinking at the range.
Because much of dry fire involves pressing the trigger, it is especially important to observe rules about safe direction. Many of the walls and other objects in a regular house would not stop a bullet if you were to make a mistake and fire a live round during dry fire. Therefore, you should only dry fire into backstops that can prevent a round from going somewhere unsafe – something that would count as cover and not concealment in your home, even if you have to improvise one.
In addition, you must be extremely careful to ensure that there is no live ammunition anywhere near where you are dry firing. If you dry fire a gun that you normally keep loaded because it is your defensive firearm, then you must not go back for “just a little more practice” after reloading the gun. It can help to have a specific ritual in place to start and end dry fire sessions, such as saying aloud three times, “dry fire practice is over”. Tools such as barrel blockers or laser-based trainers such as SIRT pistols can also be part of ensuring that live ammunition is not in your gun during dry fire.
Other tools that help set you up for dry fire success include targets and a shot timer. Scaled dry fire targets are smaller so they appear further away inside your limited dry fire space. You can make them yourself too, for other sports. A shot timer won’t allow you to time how fast you’re working in dry fire, but with a delay function they can give you a discrete start signal, and with a par time function, you can work on dry fire skills within measurable and improving goal times.
After getting set up for safe dry fire, you can use it to perfect your gun handling skills. The only things missing from practice on the range are the recoil and noise, so you can work on pistol draw, reloading of any firearm, positional shooting, and engaging multiple targets. Depending on your gun, your trigger might not ‘click’ with every press during dry fire, but you can work around that.
If you’re not sure what you can do in dry fire, there are many resources available online. For a more structured approach, I recommend the books by Ben Stoeger, Steve Anderson, and Mike Seeklander. They are largely focused on competition handgun, but the principles and ideas work across all shooting disciplines.
While as few as five minutes on an occasional basis can be helpful, you will likely find that you improve more quickly if you dry fire three to five times a week, for about 10-15 minutes in each session. Don’t make the mistake of jumping in and over-training, though – longer sessions can be counterproductive to your learning and become unsafe as your mind fatigues.
Just remember: brutal honesty with yourself is one of the most important principles of dry fire. You will cheat yourself of dry fire’s benefits if you aren’t carefully assessing your performance, since there are no holes in targets to tell you differently.
As you can see, the concept of dry fire is simple but there are a lot of directions you can go with it depending on how much time you want to devote to improving your shooting. Tell us in the comments about your dry fire routine, or what you plan on making your routine.