What Is Dry Fire?
Dry fire training is using an unloaded firearm or firearm replica to build marksmanship fundamentals and procedural memory for weapon manipulation (weapon presentation, malfunction drills, etc.) Dry fire training is free, except for the cost of the gun, holsters, sling, etc. Dry fire is also a great warm up ritual before live fire training at the range. Dry fire training can be used to break many bad habits developed during live fire training. Bad habits such as trigger control and shot anticipating. These deficiencies can go unnoticed during live fire due to recoil.
This blog post and other posts DO NOT constitute or form an instructor-student relationship between the author (me) and the reader (you). Online education can only supplement in-person formal instruction, it cannot replace it. It is your responsibility to understand the firearm laws in your area and to follow the Firearms Safety Rules.
Why Use Dry Fire?
Firearms training is a perishable skill and live fire training is expensive; therefore, dry fire training provides a great alternative. You can perform dry fire training at home if you take the proper safety precautions. Dedicating only a few minutes per day can maintain and even improve your level of proficiency with your firearms.
Who Needs Dry Fire?
Nearly every (if not every) competitive shooter relies on dry fire training to improve their performance in competition. Moreover, military and law enforcement firearms training incorporates dry fire in an effort to develop marksmanship skills before beginning live fire. Dry fire practice is absolutely crucial for new shooters. Too often, people are introduced to shooting for their first time and not given time to diagnose issues through dry fire training. Instead, their first shots are live, making it nearly impossible to determine the root cause for accuracy and precision errors.
Where To Dry Fire:
Training should be performed in a safe area such as a firing range or a designated training area at home. The backdrop you are aiming at should be safe and clear of people. Do not aim your weapon at a wall shared by another room where someone could be present. Though your weapon, yourself, and the training room should be clear of ammunition, these rules are designed such that if you fail to maintain one of them, the others should ensure that life and limb are not in danger.
Keep in mind, if you accidentally fire a round into a residential wall, the bullet will probably go through that wall, out the other side, then into the next wall, and the next wall. It is very possible for a bullet fired into an interior wall of a house to completely exit the house and continue its flight.
This understanding is not only important for dry fire practice, but for defensive shooting as well. You must always know your target and what lies beyond it.
How To Dry Fire:
Sequester yourself and the gun from the ammunition by keeping ammo in a separate room (unless you are training at a range with a safe backdrop). Physically pat yourself down before to ensure no magazine remain in pockets or pouches. Confirm that you have a safe backstop to aim towards with your firearm. Clear, clear, and re-clear your firearm to ensure it is unloaded.
Then clear it again.
Audibly state out loud to yourself that you are about to start dry fire training before training. Then after training, audibly state out loud that you are ending dry fire training. These rituals are not for the benefit of others, but rather for you to mentally partition yourself in and out of dry fire training.
It is easy to have a long dry fire training session, then shortly afterwards, when your weapon has been loaded, get the itch to practice one more draw-stroke while subconsciously forgetting that you now have a loaded weapon. Therefore, take as many steps as possible to ensure you mentally leave dry fire training in the training area.
Would You Dry Fire At Someone?
I hope your answer to this question would be a resounding, NO! However, consider the following:
For anyone dry firing into a non ballistic backstop, they almost have to be just as comfortable dry firing at someone. It’s as if we can compartmentalize what we are doing and it’s easy to have an “out of sigh out of mind” perspective. However, if someone is in fact comfortable dry firing at an apartment drywall, they should logically be just as comfortable dry firing directly at someone.
You do not know what is on the other side of the wall. I.e. dry firing at a drywall can be just as dangerous as dry firing at someone. It just doesn’t feel like it because you cannot see what is on the other side of the wall.
For all you know, there could be a kid playing in another room next to you. Or you might be aiming at a wall with a family on the other side watching TV.
You don’t live in an apartment? Ok, if you have an accidental/negligent discharge, that bullet will over penetrate many residential walls and your round may end up in your neighbors house.
Lasers All Around Us
Have you ever considered how many radio frequency waves we are constantly being bombarded with? Imagine if we could see all the various radio signals passing through the walls of our house where ever we went.
Now consider this. Imagine every gun barrel had a laser emitting out the bore and each laser could shine through the same number of walls that the gun’s bullets could penetrate. How many lasers do you think you would see sweeping through your house, place of work, or across your body on a daily basis?
Consider if every time your neighbor handled their firearm with poor muzzle discipline, you saw a green laser shining around in your house. Or your neighbors saw it every time you were not mindful of the orientation of your firearms.
I say all of this to help drive home the point that gun safety does not stop at the the walls of the room you are in. You need to extend your muzzle awarenesses and the orientation of your firearm beyond the walls of your house or whatever structure or vehicle you are in.
This is another reason it’s a good idea you encourage your friends and neighbors to get training.
While breaking bad habits from live fire is possible via Dry Fire, so is building bad habits during Dry Fire. Some of these include the following:
- Lowering your weapon as soon as you realize you beat the par timer. Or returning your weapon to its holster too soon in an effort to beat the reset time.
- Assuming an overly aggressive or prepared stance that is unrealistic for a real life scenario.
- Getting accustomed to the weight of the firearm unloaded. As you develop the muscle memory training with an unloaded firearm, it can affect your presentation with a loaded gun, causing you to over or under drive the gun.
- Fully racking your slide after every presentation OR failing to conduct a press-check before holstering.
- Supposedly, dry fire can damage some firearms… However, I am not an armorer and will not pretend to know whether or not this is true. Damage may be mitigated by using snap caps with rubber or spring loaded primers to simulate cartridge primers. Big Boy Rules: I am not responsible if you break your gun.
Remember, dry fire training cannot replace live training, it can only supplement it. Therefore, it is just as important to get to the range and fire live ammunition.
Brilliance In The Basics
Pursuit of a faster “par time” should only be done after you have developed a basic proficiency in manipulating your firearm. Education and instruction of basic manipulation techniques should be learned under the guidance of an instructor and then refined on your own. Do not sacrifice good form for faster movements, or you will have neither.
While it may be frustrating, take the necessary time to execute the movements in a painstakingly slow manner before putting yourself under the clock. Only begin using a par timer after you are able to present your weapon from concealment smoothly and safely in ~5 seconds.
After achieving this relatively arbitrary par time, set the timer such that you have ample time to draw. Try to be on target just as the par timer beeps, not before and not after. I say not before because it is common for someone to rush their draw stroke in an effort to beat the timer and this promotes sloppy technique.
Allow the linear progression of incrementally decreasing par times to drive the faster and faster times. During a warm-up, I will often set a par time for something that I can easily beat, but I will force myself to break the shot (or click) just as the timer goes off. Then, I will gradually decrease the par time until I reach my limit where form starts to break down and back off until I can maintain good form. This is no different from warming up before a workout.
The following are links to various dry fire training aids that can assist with dry fire training. I have personally used both the Dry Practice Drill iPhone App, the NLT SIRT Pistol, and the Blue Guns for dry fire.
- Refinement and Repetition-Dry Fire Drills for Dramatic Improvement
- Dry Practice Drill iPhone App
- Paper plates and post-it notes make great targets to stick on the wall
- Glock 19 “Blue Gun”
- Glock 17 “Blue Gun”
- SIRT Training Pistols
Dry fire training should be a part of every shooter’s training routine. If you are like many firearm owners, you probably don’t train with live fire very often due to lack of time, money, or motivation. Dry fire training requires little time per day (10-15min) and no cost for ammunition or range fees. The motivation part is for you to figure out. If you are already an intermediate or advanced shooter, then you probably already use dry fire training, but I hope you still found valuable information in this post.