How to Dry Fire Practice & Why it is Important
Dry fire is the something every shooter should be doing to obtain proficiency with firearms.
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.
Dry fire is the go to training technique for all of the world’s best shooters.
What is dry fire training?
To over simplify things, dry fire training is when a shooter goes through the motions of shooting a firearm, but there isn’t any live ammunition in the gun. At it’s most basic level, that’s all dry fire is.
Really – that’s it.
Dry fire is going through the motions of shooting without the distractions or expense of recoil.
Multiple shots, multiple targets, movement, leans… everything. Every skill worked on the range with live ammo can be focused on at home, for free, in dry fire.
Don’t forget to check that the gun is empty at the beginning of every dry fire training session.
Why is dry fire practice important?
Dry fire practice allows you to practice
cheaply for free and safely at 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 at home allows shooters to practice drawing from a holster, multiple target transitions, moving while shooting and more. This is valuable for any skill level, but especially shooters who have limited range access. Most indoor shooting ranges don’t like movement drills, or even rapid fire, so dry fire at home can make up for these range limitations.
But the greatest benefit of dry fire is the most often overlooked benefit – no recoil. In dry fire, there is (obviously) no recoil in the firearm. Some people look down on dry fire for that, pursuing gizmos that re-introduce recoil to dry fire. However, a lack of recoil in dry fire provides an incredibly valuable analysis angle. Any disruption to the sights in dry fire is user created and therefore can be worked to be smoothed out.
Even if I had access to infinite free ammo, I would still incorporate dry fire into my raining.
How to dry fire effectively
Dry fire is a simple task – simply go through the actions of shooting the handgun, rifle, or shotgun but without any ammunition in it.
An important step of any form of firearms training, including dry fire training, is to pick a shooting skill, and run drills that work on those skills. Random training isn’t efficient, but intentional work can do wonders. That’s why the drill library on Locked Back Training was created, to help people find methods to train and work on particular pistol skills.
Key skills to work on in practice include grip, trigger control, multiple target transitions, and movement, though all practical pistol skills are important to work on in dry fire.
Multiple shot drills in dry fire
For single action only (SAO) pistols and striker fire pistols like 1911s or Glocks, the hammer/striker doesn’t need to fall on every shot. It is perfectly fine to multiple shot drills in dry fire on a dead trigger, even if the trigger doesn’t move – like on Glocks. Move and manipulate the handgun as if there was ammo in the gun. This is where one of the benefits of dry fire shines – there’s no recoil to mess up the sight picture. If the sights move when the trigger falls, then that’s because the trigger finger yanked that pistol off target.
For double action / single action (DA/SA) pistols like the CZ-75, it is important to not run the full double action trigger pull on every shot. Running the long trigger pull on every shot will train the trigger finger to move the full length of travel even in live fire when it is running in single action – that will slow down follow up shots. Utilize the double action pull on the first shot, but move the trigger a short distance mimicking a single action trigger pull.
How do I know I’m dry firing correctly?
Validate your skill at the range in live fire! Live fire is the best way validate 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. Locked Back Training’s drills have the ability to save par times and live fire PRs to measure progress. Finally, competing against others is a fantastic way to measure progress – plus it’s fun!
Find competitions in your area on Practiscore.com.
How to dry fire efficiently with focused drills
Maximizing dry fire requires deliberate practice. Simply clicking the pistol randomly around the room is not an efficient way to spend dry fire training time.
15min video of me running & talking through a dry fire training session
Login Get All Access Training
Pick a specific shooting skill, and pick pistol drills to 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.
For a particular dry fire training session, work on running various drills that involve the desired skill. But don’t neglect certain skills simply because you don’t like them (like one handed shooting!) Alternate the skills you work on throughout your training sessions to ensure a balanced training schedule. Variety in training is important to become a well rounded practical pistol shooter.
Targets for dry fire practice
Dry fire targets can be something as simple as lightswitches, paper plates, or any other random house decoration. Or… dry fire targets can be dedicated targets such as cardboard targets on hooks with a variety of types and sizes. While it’s awesome to have a dedicated dry fire dojo setup, it is not required. A lot of training value can be had in dry fire with just 3 targets moved around.
The sweet spot would be something more like 5 targets that have some variety.
Have a small area to practice in? Try using some reduced sized 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.
Here’s more info on setting up an at home dry fire dojo.
Doesn’t dry fire hurt my gun?
Modern firearms are very well made and will not induce any real damage to a firearm. It does provide some wear and tear, but much less than live fire. The exception is .22lr firearms – don’t dry fire rimfire guns.
Dry fire tools
Tools and gadgets are not required at all for dry fire training. Really – they aren’t needed. Many (if not most) dry fire training tools even get in the way of dry fire training by adding unnecessary complexity and distractions. Some of them even encourage bad habits and create premature skill plateaus.
Dummy rounds are plastic or metal rounds to aid in dry fire practice. They’re useful for preventing damage to magazines and increasing dry fire safety. Adding weight to magazines is a great way to help add realistic weight to dry fire. But most importantly, bright colors in dummy rounds help keep dry fire training sessions safe by making it abundantly clear the magazine doesn’t have live ammo in it.
Shot Timer / Par Timer
The shot timer never lies – that’s what makes it such a great live fire training tool. Shot timers tend to cost around $100, so they are a bit of an investment. But shot timers are extremely well worth it for live fire training. Similarly, par timers are great for dry fire practice – which is functionality that is included in a shot timer, or can be found on Locked Back’s free web based par timer for dry fire.
Par timers in dry fire provide randomized start beeps as well as measure time spent running a particular drill. This is where standardized drills shine for firearms training. By running a dry fire drill and using a par time, we can objectively measure how long it takes to complete a drill. This allows us to lower par times and chase after the faster and faster times, as well as measure skill progression over time.
Locked Back’s All Access Training provides the ability to save par times with drills and keep track of skill progression.
Dry fire training is critical for skill progression
Most everyone’s heard of the 10,000 hours rule – the idea is that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to master a skill. While the number of hours is disputed and quality hours increase skill progression faster – the concept still applies. It takes a lot of effort to master a skill.
Even if the end goal isn’t true mastery, gun owners have the responsibility of maintaining at least a base proficiency with our firearms – particularly if they are carried for personal defense. “There’s a lawyer attached to every bullet” – so it is very important for us to be have that base level of proficiency. Thankfully it doesn’t take that much effort to have a greater amount of skill than the average criminal.
Dry fire practice at home is the cheapest and easiest way to put in the work and work towards a responsible level of proficiency or full on mastery.
If you want to get serious about firearms training, then this website is the place to be. Gear isn’t the focus of this website – training efficiency is.
Written by Brian Purkiss - always a student, sometimes a teacher.
I don't consider myself a competition shooter - I think of myself as a performance pistol shooter. I am all about performing at as high of a level as possible. Towards that end, I am obsessive about learning how to perform. I spend a lot of my life learning from the best across the entire firearms world and even into other areas of performance and other sports. I am a USPSA Carry Optics Grandmaster, currently working towards my second GM title in the Open division.
Want more? Follow on Instagram, Facebook, or Email.