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How to Dry Fire Practice & Why it is Very Important

It is impossible to get better at something without deliberate practice. Unfortunately in the firearms world, training with live ammunition can get very expensive, quite quickly. That is where dry fire practice comes into play. With dry fire, there’s no range fees or ammo costs. Anyone can practice their shooting technique from home with no additional expense.

What is dry fire practice?

Simply put, dry fire practice is when a shooter goes through the motions of shooting a firearm, but there isn’t any live ammunition in the gun. The biggest draw of dry fire is the cost savings; live fire training gets expensive quickly. Through dry fire, people can “shoot” their firearm thousands of times without spending a single cent on ammo or shooting range fees. Dry fire practice is simply the best way to obtain shooting proficiency. Shooters can practice for hours on end without spending a dime. Grand Master class shooters will put in hundreds of dry fire “shots” to every live fire shot.

The critical component of dry fire practice, like all firearms training, is to start training correctly. Without a good skill foundation, it is easy to drill incorrect technique, which can set back a shooting proficiency goal. New shooters should not jump straight into dry fire without some training to ensure their skills are correct from the beginning. The second critical component of dry fire practice is to validate dry fire training through live fire testing. Dry fire requires being honest with ourselves when we are pulling shots, live fire shows us the truth whether we believe it or not.

Why is dry fire practice important?

Dry fire practice allows you to practice cheaply and safely from home. No need to spend money on ammo. No travel time and setup time. A daily, bi-weekly, or weekly training session of 15 minutes can make huge differences in the skill levels of any shooter. Dry fire is an excellent way to identify (and fix) various skill gaps, particularly for trigger pull.

For firearms enthusiasts who only have access to shooting ranges with static firing lines, dry fire at home allows shooters to practice drawing from a holster, multiple target transitions, moving while shooting and more.

How to dry fire safely and efficiently

Dry fire is a simple task – simply go through the actions of shooting the handgun, rifle, or shotgun but without any ammunition in it.

How to mimic trigger reset on striker fired handguns

For striker fired handguns, the gun only goes click when the action has been cycled. During live fire, this happens automatically. During dry fire, the action must be cycled manually. But we don’t want to have to do this all the time, so we need to take steps to have the trigger pull mimic live fire.

Some striker fire handguns have enough play in them that a dead trigger can be pulled repeatedly with no issue. Some handguns don’t have much play in the trigger, so putting a rubber band between the slide and barrel can create enough movement in the trigger to reasonably mimic a live fire trigger.

How to mimic trigger reset on AR-15s

Dry fire is extremely easy with the AR-15. Simply pull the bolt back and lock it open. This gives the AR-15’s trigger movement allowing for some excellent dry fire training.

How to have a good training mindset

Dry fire drills

Maximizing dry fire requires deliberate practice. Simply clicking the gun around the room is not an efficient way to spend firearms training time. Pick a specific skill, and work on honing that skill. For example, if you want a faster draw time, work on drawing your handgun from the holster. Need to work on trigger pull fundamentals? Don’t even worry about aiming at a target, presenting, or anything else – focus on a blank wall and do nothing but stare at the front sight through the trigger pull.

Alternate the skills you work on to ensure a balanced training schedule to become a well rounded shooter.

Using half size and third size targets

Have a small area to practice in? Try using some smaller targets to simulate longer distance training. Half sized targets mimic shooting at twice the distance, and one third sized targets mimic shooting at distances three times as far.

As the saying goes, “aim small, miss small.”

Dry fire tools

Tools and gadgets are not required at all for dry fire training. But tools can make the training time more effective or even safer. The key is to not exclusively use one training tool. Change up the tools and firearms used in training to become a well-rounded shooter.

Dummy rounds

Dummy rounds are plastic or metal rounds to aid in dry fire practice. They can be used for reload drills and creating weighted magazines. Their bright colors also help keep dry fire training sessions safe and can help reduce the wear and tear on your firearms.

Shot Timer

The shot timer never lies – that’s what makes it such a great live fire and dry fire training tool. Shot timers tend to cost around $100, so they are a bit of an investment, but are definitely worth working into live fire training sessions in my opinion.

A shot timer will allow shooters to set a par time and a random start time. This is great for measuring progress on draw times, reloads, and more. Push the button for a random start, and complete the drill before the par time buzzer sounds.


How do I know I’m dry firing correctly?

Validate your skill at the range! It’s a simple and fun way to check to see if your dry fire practice is creating good habits or bad habits. Videoing yourself and putting yourself on the clock also provides hard evidence of your progress.

Keeping track of these numbers in a notebook is a great way to watch your skills improve.

Doesn’t dry fire hurt my gun?

Depends on the gun and the dry fire technique. If the firearm’s action is not completely worked, then the striker won’t fall, resulting in no damage. If you are going to repeatedly let the striker fall, it is recommended to use a dummy round to help protect the gun.

Brian Purkiss
Written by

Brian Purkiss is a Christian, husband, competitive shooter, firearms instructor, proponent for individual liberty and Second Amendment rights, and a web developer. He primarily focues on USPSA and Run & Gun competitions, but enjoys most other forms of shooting competitions as well.

Categories: Shooting Technique

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