How to Dry Fire Practice & Why it is Very 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.
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.
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 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.
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 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.
Dry fire 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.
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.”
Here’s more info on setting up an at home dry fire dojo.
Dry fire tools
Tools and gadgets are not required at all for dry fire training. Really – they aren’t. Many dry fire raining tools even get in the way of dry fire training by adding unnecessary complexity and distractions.
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. Their par time feature is then utilized in dry fire.
A shot timer or par 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.
Check out the free web based par timer for dry fire.
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?
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.
Written by Brian Purkiss - always a student, sometimes a teacher.
I'm not a competitive shooter - I'm a performance 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.