Using Dry Fire as Part of Your Training Regimen

Dear Fellow Survivalist;

If you go to the shooting range regularly, you’ve probably noticed three things:

  • Your shooting has improved
  • It’s a lot of fun
  • It’s expensive

I’ve encountered all three of those in my own practice time, as well as a number of other profound observations, like it’s great stress relief. But I really go to the shooting range for the first of those. I feel that if I’m going to carry a gun, then I should be able to shoot as well as possible. That way, if I am ever forced to use it, my chances of hitting the bad guys, rather than some innocent bystander, are improved.

But I just went through a period of some months, where I didn’t manage to make it to the range for my weekly practice time. I was just too busy, and the free time I had, coincided with my wife’s free time. Since I consider my relationship with her more important than my shooting, I chose to spend that time with her, rather than on the range.

That’s not to say that I didn’t practice at all though. I just did my practice at home, rather than at the shooting range. Obviously, this means that I had to modify my practice considerably, as I don’t have my own shooting range in the backyard and it’s against city ordinances to discharge a firearm.

What I did for those months was dry fire practice. This consists of firing the gun, without ammunition in it. Most guns can handle this, without problem. As best I know, only rimfire firearms can be damaged by dry fire. For those, it would be best to use snap-caps or some other form of blanks.

So, how can dry fire help your shooting?

To start with, all of the basic elements of shooting can be practiced with dry fire. The two most important, trigger control and sight picture, might actually be practiced more easily with dry fire practice, than they are on the shooting range. Eliminating the recoil from the shot gives you a much clearer picture of whether you are keeping your gun on target, or whether you are moving the sights off when you pull the trigger.

If you really want to see how well you do at dry fire practice, put a laser sight on your pistol and watch what happens to that laser dot while you pull the trigger. You might be surprised, finding that you’re jerking the trigger or pushing the gun out of alignment with your target.

Dry fire is especially useful in working on trigger control issues, clearly the number one problem that most shooters have. Unless and until you can pull the trigger smoothly and quickly, you’ll never have a tight group. The most common error that most of us have is jerking the trigger. That will cause the shots to go low and to the left. You can eliminate jerking much easier with dry fire, than you can on the range.

You can do all this without spending any money or wasting the time traveling back and forth to the shooting range. I was able to continue my dry fire practice, even though I was having trouble finding time to go to the range, because I could fit my dry fire into odd bits of time. When you figure that you only need a few minutes per day, it makes it much easier to fit in your practice time.

But there are other areas where dry fire can help your shooting. That is in helping you with gun-related skills that you can’t practice on the range. Most shooting ranges have rules against drawing and firing, moving and firing, practicing building clearing exercises, and a long list of other useful skills that we all need to have. After all, defending yourself in an active shooter situation is worlds away from just shooting at a black dot on a white target.

All of these skills, and more, can be practiced in dry fire. I’d recommend starting with how you draw and present your gun. Carrying concealed can make it difficult to draw in a timely manner, as your clothing gets in the way of the draw. You’ll want to experiment with different ways of getting your clothing out of the way as you draw. Once you find one that works, you’ll want to hone your skills, so that you can draw and aim in one smooth movement, as quickly as possible.

From there, you’ll want to work on shooting offhand, instinctive shooting, shooting one-handed, shooting with your off hand and shooting from a number of different positions. If there’s one thing you can count on when things get real, it’s that you won’t be able to take your time, getting a good stance and a perfect sight picture. You’ll much more likely end up shooting while sitting, with a table in the way and your hands filled with other things.

Another important skill to work on with dry fire is gun manipulation exercises. More than anything, this means reloading drills. I’ve practiced reloads thousands of times, usually while I’m watching a movie. The movie helps with the practice, as part of the goal is to be able to do the reload without looking, while my eye and my mind are occupied with the target.

Finally, you’ll want to move on to more complex dry fire drills, such as clearing your home. This is a complex operation, which is normally carried out by a group of shooters, working together. But if you ever face a home invasion, you’ll probably find yourself having to do it alone. That’s not ideal by any means; so you’ll want to figure out the best way to go about it, starting from a variety of different places in your home.

How will you move? What blind corners will you have to deal with? How will you make sure that the bad guys can’t get past you, into a part of the house you’ve already cleared? What can you do to minimize the risk of entering rooms? Where will you need to use a tactical light to see? All these, and many other questions, can be dealt with during dry fire practice of clearing your home.

So, there’s actually a lot you can do to practice, even if you can’t make it to the range. Be sure to take advantage of whatever practice time you can get and keep improving your skills. That goes hand-in-hand with keeping your powder dry and your survival gear close at hand.

Dr. Rich

That’s 30 rounds of 9mm at 7 yards, timed rapid fire.
Sorry about the flyers. I guess I was out of practice.

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