Dry Fire Training
My ongoing snubbie experiment has reinforced my belief that dry fire training should be a significant part of any shooter’s training program. Dry firing is nothing more than practicing your shooting with inert or dummy rounds instead of live ammunition. The idea behind it is that it takes us thousands of repetitions to learn a new skill, and dry fire training let’s the shooter get a large part of those repetitions safely and at less cost than live fire training. One thing to keep in mind is that bad habits will be reinforced just as easily as good habits.
Key advantages of dry fire include:
- Can train anywhere. (Remember to practice basic gun safety rules. No live ammo in your dry fire training area and treat the gun as if it is loaded at all times!)
- Saves money. Ammo is only getting more expensive, so the more you dry fire the more you save.
- Saves time. It’s easy to find a ten or fifteen minute block during the day to dry fire, and not always so easy to find an hour and a half to go to the range.
- Develops instinctive actions. Muscle memory, synapse imprinting, visual indexing, whatever you want to call it, it works. A simple action like drawing your weapon from concealment is actually a very complex, fine motor skill. Practicing this skill a couple of dozen times a few days a week will quickly imprint the action in your subconscious so it is instinctive when you need it.
- Improves familiarity with the weapon, the gear, and gear location.
- Bad habits are also reinforced.
- Can not replicate the noise and recoil of shooting. Noise and recoil aversion are very real problems, especially for new shooters. Dry fire practice helps in that you can train the proper grip and trigger control, however to get used to the noise and recoil you just have to shoot.
- Semi-autos will not cycle between shots. Manually cycling the weapon between each shot is itself building a negative habit pattern.
There are pros and cons to any training method, and I believe that the advantages of dry fire training outweigh the disadvantages by a large margin. I generally focus my dry practice in these areas:
- Draw and presentation. One of the most critical moments of a gun fight is bringing the weapon to bear on the target, so this gets a lot of attention. Don’t forget about drawing from unusual positions (seated in your car, lying on your back, etc).
- Grip. I stop frequently during practice to check my grip. Has it shifted? I also experiment with slight modifications to improve retention and trigger control.
- Trigger compression. Trigger control is arguably one of the most important aspects of shooting. Dry firing lets you get used to manipulating the trigger and evaluate whether or not your sights are remaining in alignment.
- Reloads. Reloading is another complex, fine motor skill that is critical during a gunfight, and is especially important for revolvers. I’ve spent hours practicing reloads with my snubbie and I’m a long way from Jerry Miculek’s standards.
- Single hand operations. Have you ever tried to draw your weapon using only your support hand or tried a one handed reload with a snub nose revolver? Operating a pistol with one hand can be a challenge and the best time to experiment is during dry fire practice.
- Gear Validation. The only way to be sure a piece of gear will do its job is to test it. I bought speed loaders and speed strips for my snubbie and worked extensively with both to see which was best for me (I prefer speed strips, but that is another article altogether). I’ve also returned holsters based on their performance during dry practice.
Here are a few tips to help get the most out of your dry fire training:
- Be safe. Clear your weapon and keep all live ammunition away from your dry practice area (preferably in another room). Use a safe backstop for your target and never point the weapon at something you aren’t willing to destroy. When you are done, you’re done. It’s too easy to get distracted and then do “just one more iteration” after you reloaded your weapon.
- Have a plan. Pick one or two things to work on for a given week. This will focus your training and provide the repetition required to reinforce your skills.
- Go slow. Speed comes with efficiency not effort. Trying to go to fast too soon usually leads to bad habits which is exactly opposite of what we want from our dry fire training.
- Use inert training ammo. Snap caps and dummy rounds prevent damage to the firing pin and provide for more realistic training. They are also much safer than live ammo for reload training.
- Train often. Mastery comes from consistent training over an extended period of time. I’ve found that four 15-minute training session are more productive than a single one hour training session.
I encourage everyone to include dry fire practice as part of their training regimen. Feel free to share your thoughts and tips in the comments section.
© 2012, mjshozda. All rights reserved.