Dry-Firing 101

A few A-Zoom snap caps, ready for dry-firing...

A few A-Zoom snap caps, ready for dry-firing…

Ok, we have talked about dry-firing and how it can greatly improve your accuracy.  It, I personally feel, is a greatly neglected form of training, especially for those of us that have the money to spend on lots of training ammo.  The main benefit behind dry-fire practice is not about saving money on ammo, it is about self-critique and learning from your mistakes.  When we fire a live round at a target, there is an explosion right in front of our faces, and when we pull that shot to the left or to the right is sometimes hard for us to know why, and be able to adjust for it.  Yes, we can learn about the movement of the firearm when firing live rounds as well, but dry-firing definitely has its place in our training week.  When we fire an empty weapon at a target, there is, like while firing a live round, immediate feedback, yet unlike the live round, when dry-firing the feedback is not delivered in an environment with a flash, and an explosion, and us wanting to look up off the front sight to see where our shot went; we get to relish being in our own little world with just us and the movement of the firearm as we squeeze the trigger and break the shot.   We get to notice more things about the inevitable motion the gun goes through when that sear is released.

So back to the money.  One of the biggest drawbacks to entering the shooting sports for beginners is the cost of ammo.  Yes, there are the costs for equipment and firearms, but ammo is a cost that is reoccurring.  Dry-fire drills saves money on ammo while you are still learning.  Shooting firearms is fun, but when we first start out, it is easy to get discouraged a few months in, and after a few local matches when we have purchased and fired several thousand rounds, and not really benefited from it as much as we had hoped; our accuracy and speed are the same, or only a little better than when we had first started and we have spent more on ammo than we have had on firearms and other equipment.  Fry-firing can help us here; some of the biggest improvements I have seen in shooters have come after a few weeks of mixing it up in the training department and adding dry-firing sessions to their daily training schedule.

Dry-fire also has a place on the range.  There are very valuable techniques for implementing dry-firing into a controlled livefire training session:

  • Fill a magazine with a mixture of live ammo and practice snap caps.  The results will be amazing.  Any moderately skilled shooter can begin to keep the weapon steady after dry-firing for a few minutes, but put these “dud-rounds” into a magazine of live ammo and even experience shooters will show a little wobble when they expect a bang and a click happens instead.
  • We all practice Immediate-Action-Drills and malfunction clearing, but our reliable firearms rarely give us a chance to practice them in a life-like, realistic, occurrence.  A dummy round somewhere in a magazine filled with real ammo can have life saving effects on the skill level of our weapon handling proficiency.  Of course you will still have to practice clearing Failure-to-Eject/stovepipe malfunctions as well as failure to feed malfunctions along with other malfunctions that require “set-up” to reproduce, as dummy rounds in a magazine will only replicate a failure of a round to fire.
  • In the precision rifle world, dry-fire is a common way to “warm up” before a match or other accuracy test.  One of the reasons that “Cold Bore” shots are notoriously inaccurate is not the temperature of the bore, it is the shooter.  We tend to exhibit better control of ourselves in implementing all of the basic fundamentals when we have put a few rounds down range and “settled in” to our position behind the rifle.  Dry-firing will assist you in this preparation process.

In closing, I would like to add that we tend to not wear ear and eye protection when we dry-firing.  The benefit of this is that we will most likely practice more frequently when we dont have to gear up, but there is a donwside to this also: we are not being consistent with ourselves.  We need to practice how we fight.  If you are an IDPA competitor and, obviously, always use your ear and eye pro, then practice with it on.  You may not understand this now, but this is very important.  You would never practice your draws without a concealment garment and then be surprised when you have to wear one when shooting the stages at a local match and your weapon draw muscle memory is having trouble coping with the concealment garment.  Training inconsistencies only set us up for failure.  Train hard, and train smart.  

Stay safe,




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