Recently I was chatting with an acquaintance, she mentioned that she needed some guidance with her shooting. Her range trips resulted in targets with no consistency and shots landing all over the paper. She was baffled because she bought as much ammunition as she could afford and spent time at the range loading magazine after magazine but she wasn’t getting the result that she wanted. At this point, she just wished she could afford more ammunition so she could practice more.
During our conversation, it became clear she never had any firearms training and we agreed a formal lesson to assess her fundamentals would be helpful. After asking what type of firearm she owned, I suggested that there were ways to practice at home through dry fire and without breaking the bank. She was skeptical that training without the recoil of the rounds would be helpful. But dry fire can be a very useful training tool if done properly.
While there are some firearms that should not be dry fired, for example those that use rimfire rounds, most modern firearms can be safely dry fired without damage to the firing pin.
What is dry firing? Dry firing is the practice of squeezing the trigger on your firearm without any ammunition in the chamber. The goal is to as closely simulate the actions you take when firing your gun and practicing them over and over until the motions become ingrained in both your mind and your muscles. Dry firing does not take the place of live fire practice but it is a very useful practice especially for new shooters and can be easily supplemented with range time to experience the recoil and force of shooting the firearm.
Things to remember when dry firing:
- Even though you may not be at the range, proper safety rules should always be practiced when handling firearms: Including always keep your gun pointed in a safe direction, always keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot and never point your gun at anything you do not wish to destroy. Before you begin make sure your gun is unloaded and all ammunition has been removed from your practice area.
- Identify a target with a proper backstop and proceed as you would in a live fire situation. The key is not to change anything you would normally do when preparing to fire your gun. Use the same motions, stance, grip and distance. Align your sights, squeeze the trigger (don”t “pull” it), and use the proper follow through retaining your sight picture and stance. Don’t waste any squeeze of the trigger, use each opportunity to simulate your actions at the range and train your mind and muscles in how it feels to fire the gun.
- Reset your firearm and do it all over again. If you are going to do a lot of dry firing you may wish to invest in snap caps or dummy rounds. They can also be useful training tools in live fire practice at the range.
Repetitive dry fire practice will help the actions involved in the perfect trigger press become more natural over time. Use each squeeze or press of the trigger to simulate your actions at the range and train your brain, eyes and muscles in how it feels to fire the gun. You can speed up the practice over time and add in other motions such as holster draw. The consistent repetition will help develop the perfect trigger press and clean up those frustrating, inconsistent targets.