By Chris Sajnog
Ever wish you could shoot a gun like a Navy SEAL? I can tell you the “secret” of how we do it…but then I’d have to kill you. For those of you who have read my book, you already know the secret. For the rest of you, here it is…there is no “secret.” It all boils down to dry fire practice — and lots of it.
Dry fire is the generic term for practicing weapons manipulation with an unloaded gun. Unlike many seem to believe, it does not just mean pulling the trigger. I can teach a monkey to pull a trigger (though he might slap the hell out of it). Dry fire training involves everything you do with that weapon, from the basic fundamentals to shooting on the move.
Dry firing also refers to practicing reloads, drawing your gun, or almost any other skill you need to work on. Got a new piece of kit? You’d be well served to spend some time dry firing and working with that piece of new gear before going to the range to figure out how it works…or worse yet, waiting until you need to use it in the line of duty or other lethal engagement.
So now you’re asking, “Why dry fire? Why not just go to the range and practice there?” Patience, young Jedi… Think about it. When you dry fire, you can train all the skills you normally work on during live fire (minus recoil management) without going to the range and paying for targets, ammo, range time and these days…gas! By spending the time to dry fire, you’ll be able to go to the range and confirm everything you learned dry firing and become very proficient at shooting. It’s just like when they talking about boxing or MMA matches; the fight just confirms who has trained harder and better. Shooting like a Navy SEAL is not magic; it’s dry firing.
The ‘S’ In SEAL Is For Safety
So here are a few safety tips and guidelines to get you started. First off, make sure you have been trained by a professional shooting instructor on firearms safety and how to use your firearm. There are no articles or great YouTube videos that can replace professional instruction. After you’ve done this, it’s always best to dry fire with someone watching you when you’re first learning. The reason for this is that they can watch your technique to make sure you’re doing it right. The only thing worse than not practicing is practicing bad techniques and reinforcing bad habits.
Once you’ve got your technique down, it’s fine to practice on your own. It’s also a good idea to not dry fire at an interior wall that a bullet could pass through. An interior wall with an outer brick wall on the opposite side or a stone fireplace should work fine. I have a friend who uses a cardboard target with a Kevlar vest behind it; better safe than sorry in this case. Never under any circumstances dry fire at anything you do not want to destroy! This includes people, pets, the TV, or anything else you value. Other than being unsafe and irresponsible, you could be charged with a felony in the event of an accident.
If there is nothing in your house at which you can safely dry fire, don’t dry fire at home. Even if the only place you can do it safely is at the range, that’s what you should do. We make our students dry fire every day at the range before we go hot because it’s a great way to get warmed up. Keep in mind that you should never dry fire if you are tired, distracted, or your mind is on anything other than your practice time. And it should go without saying that GUNS, CHILDREN, DRUGS OR ALCOHOL DO NOT MIX!
Here Are Some Simple Steps You Should Take Each Time Before You Dry Fire:
- Come up with a plan of what you’re going to practice. This should be written down in your range book as well so you can review what you need to work on. You do have a range book, don’t you?
- If you’re at home, go in a room by yourself and shut the door. If others are around or you are at the range, make sure you observe all the normal range safety rules.
- Turn off the TV, radio, computer, iPod, cell phone, and any other device that could conceivably distract you.
- Clear the gun, magazines and any equipment you’ll be using of all live ammunition and put it across the room (in another room is even better).
- Find a small target in a safe place with a bullet-proof backing.
- Review your range book and the fundamentals of marksmanship.
- Get into position and check your gun again. Be absolutely sure the chamber and magazine well are clear!
- Say to yourself, “I’m beginning dry fire practice,” to mentally prepare yourself.
- Go through the list of techniques you need to work on. If you make a mistake, go back and correct it right away to make sure you’re not practicing bad habits. If you do it wrong once, you need to do it right seven times to erase that training scar.
Your sessions should last from fifteen to twenty minutes and you should stop practicing before you get tired or if you get distracted, as you tend to get sloppy in your techniques and build bad habits. I recommend for the first two weeks that you practice every. For the next two weeks, practice two to three times a week and after that, practice at least one or two times a week to maintain your skills.
To keep it interesting and to advance your skills, you need to vary your practice routines. Start with slow, step-by-step presentations…”You will do it by the numbers!” Make them perfect, and then gradually speed up and smooth it out. If you’ve been taught a four-point presentation, remember those points are not destinations but waypoints you should smoothly move through. Remember speed can’t be forced. Speed happens. If you’ve been around guns at all, I’m sure you’ve heard: Slow is smooth and smooth is fast. Also, if you have a DA/SA gun, you should practice using the double action trigger. Once you’ve mastered the basics, it’s time to move on to other skills.
Dry Fire Skills:
- Practicing the fundamentals of shooting
- Shooting with both eyes open
- Draw strong hand/reaction hand
- Shooting strong hand/reaction hand only
- Magazine changes
- Magazine changes strong hand/reaction hand only
- Weapon malfunction drills (dummy rounds are great for this)
- Shooting positions: standing, squatting, kneeling, prone, urban prone, fetal prone
- Shooting from barricades
- Shooting and moving
- Indexing multiple targets
When you’re done, put the gun away in a safe place in your desired carry condition. Make sure you log your progress in your range book and write down the things you need to work on. Then go on with your wonderful and exciting life until your next dry-fire session.
In the end, shooting like a Navy SEAL is easy (as long as your version of easy involves years of hard work). We’re not born with special powers and it can’t be programmed into you like Neo in the Matrix. If you’ve never done it before or don’t do it enough, the results from dry-fire training will be dramatic and almost instantaneous. Go ahead and do it for one month. Take the thirty-day challenge…I dare you!
Do you dry fire? Share your thoughts and tips below.
Chris Sajnog, a Master Training Specialist in the Navy, was hand-selected to write the US Navy SEAL Sniper Manual. He’s the author of two bestselling books, How to Shoot Like a Navy SEAL and Navy SEAL Shooting, and the owner of Center Mass Group, LLC a 100% Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business in San Diego, CA. Chief Sajnog, now offers his unique training online at https://chrissajnog.com.