Ammo & Gear Reviews

Handgun Training: Dry Fire, Dry Fire…. Dry Fire


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By Ed Santos, The Shooting Channel

This topic continues to be an issue in our CCW classes.  Dry fire practice is not the end-all solution.  In fact, most firearms instructors don’t even know how to explain it properly.

Dry fire practice is just one small component to a good practice routine.  Your subconscious will quickly realize the gun is empty and before you know it you will be doing perfect dry fire manipulations.  When you go back to live fire you’re likely to return to bad trigger habits. The transition is a process that will take time to master so be patient and deliberate with your practice.

Smooth trigger press is critical to consistently accurate shooting.  It doesn’t matter if you are shooting a bullseye match, IDPA, or just practicing your defensive shooting skills, trigger press is a critical component for shooting well.

It has been proven that weapon handling skills degrade by 20% in only one week if you are inactive. Dry fire practice is crucial to improving and maintaining live fire skills. In dry fire, you essentially do everything except experience the bang and the cycling of the action. By not having to deal with recoil management or noise issues, you will be able to concentrate on proper equipment manipulation and trigger control. 

The key to effective practice is to perform the fundamentals perfectly. Trigger control, sight alignment, sight picture, grip and posture can all be practiced during dry fire but it must be done correctly.  Aim at a very small target.  My DF target is about a 1/4″ circle.  The small target magnifies any poor follow through, trigger control or other poor techniques.

Call every shot.  You must know if you pulled the shot or jerked the trigger.  The old adage, “only perfect practice makes perfect” should be followed.

How Often Should You Practice Dry Fire?

I believe you should dry fire 5 times as much as you live fire.  Keep the sessions under 15 minutes.  Two or three sessions per week will result in noticeable improvement in fairly short order. It’s not productive to practice for long periods because people tend to get sloppy which does nothing but build bad habits. It’s better to do 15 minutes three times a week than one 45 minute session once per week.

Dry Fire Safety Considerations:
  1. Clear your gun. Remove all ammo from training area. Then check it again.
  2. Place your target in a safe direction to minimize potential for injury if a negligent discharge occurs.
  3. Visually and manually inspect guns, magazines and training rounds to ensure no live rounds are present.
  4. Repeat Step 3.
  5. Do not allow yourself to be disturbed. If you are, stop the session and deal with the disturbance. Perform a “condition check” upon your return.
  6. Important: When you have completed the practice session remove yourself from the practice area before you load your firearm. Never make your gun hot in the DF practice area, never.

Remember….Be Safe…Ed

Thanks to Ed and The Shooting Channel for this post. To visit The Shooting Channel – click here. Ed Santos is author of the books “Rule the Night Win the Fight” published 2008 and his latest “Low-Light Combatives” published 2013. He is the Owner/Founder of Center Target Sports, Inc. and Tactical Services Group. He teaches advanced firearm skills and Low-light training around the world and can be reached at