Dry practice or dry fire- as many call it – is a vital part of any firearms training regimen especially if the cost of running live ammo every week is prohibitive. One of my mentors, Tom Givens, states that the most important training aspect that determines your readiness to fight with a gun is how recently you’ve practiced the necessary skill sets.
If you think about it, the only skill you need live ammunition to practice is recoil management. (If you don’t shoot live ammo fairly regularly you may forget how tight you need to grip the pistol or how to position your body just right to mitigate Newton’s 3rd law.)
There are a couple problems innate to dry practice, especially if you are not doing it at a range. 1. Damage to the firearm. For modern striker fired pistols this is not really an issue but rimfire guns and those with firing pins can be damaged if you dryfire without snap caps. This can be easily solved by purchasing snap caps or another device designed for this purpose and using them whenever you are using the trigger in your practice. 2. Safety. Safety is a major concern with dry practice if you are doing it outside of a range. Why? Because you are consciously violating the inviolable laws of firearm lifestyle safety. I’m going to outline how I conduct my dry practice highlighting the ways I attenuate the risk at each possible failure point.
First: the gun is always loaded. I unload my pistol and leave all ammunition outside of my dry practice area. In another room if possible. Before I do a trigger press I check the magazine and the chamber again to verify that they are devoid of live ammunition. If I can, I use a barrel device to constantly prove that having ammunition in the gun is impossible. Those devices are usually applicable.
Second: don’t point the muzzle at anything you aren’t willing to destroy. Or that is near, in front of, or otherwise next to anything you are not willing to destroy. Safest direction. No direction in your home is safe. But maybe you have a concrete wall or a basement wall backed up by earth?
Third: keep your finger in register until the sights are on the target. Ok. You are using a target but refer to the previous point.
Ok. So all that accomplished, it’s now time to practice. I like to use the tap rack device listed in the links. It allows the slide to close on an empty magazine. If you take our Pistol Mechanics course you’ve used these. Unfortunately they don’t work with all calibers yet. I will typically run my practice kit the same as I do my concealed carry kit. But not always.
As I said before you can typically practice any pistol skill you choose. So I’ll start with how I would in a worst case scenario: presentation from concealment. If you can do this in a mirror it will help you refine your technique. Once I’m satisfied with my presentation, I’ll present to trigger press. Next is trigger presses only. Other techniques that I regularly practice include magazine changes, malfunction clears, and non-dominant hand mechanics.
It should be noticed that a weighted blue gun, SIRT pistols, realistic airsoft guns and other training devices can be used for several of these drills without attenuating the effectiveness of your training session.
Check out our page called Gear I love but don’t see for some dry fire training aids.