How to Practice Shooting: Dry Fire
I knew how to dry fire... but was I training correctly with it? I asked Mike Pannone about dry fire and it turned out my practice was lacking a little focus. He gave me some helpful tips to dry fire using a handgun and/or a SIRT laser pistol and I wanted to share them with you.
Why Dry Fire?
Dry fire strips away the distracting flash and bang of live fire, leaving you to practice the unsexy, simple skills of dexterity, muscle memory, and timing, just to name a few. It's just like practicing with scales on the piano or taking practice swings with a golf club. You keep walking through the fundamentals until they become second nature. They're easy to do but take time to master.
The First Drill: How to Dry Fire Correctly
This drill trains you to fix your focus on your sights. It sounds really simple and you'll be tempted to blip through it, but the "why" behind this drill will help fix issues such as inconsistency and wandering aim.
Step One: Find a flat white or light colored wall
- You want your sights distinct against a blank wall, without background distractions that would lure your eyes off your sights. All you should see are SIGHTS.
- Don't worry about targets for now. Just blank space.
- No specific distance is needed between you and the wall for this drill.
Step Two: Line up your sights
- Your front sight is centered between your rear sights.
- The top edge of all three sights (front and rear) should all be the same level.
- The front sight should be in focus, the rear will be blurry .
Step Three: Squeeze back on the trigger with slow and even pressure
- Squeeze back on the trigger without compromising the sights' alignment.If they move out of alignment, realign them
- Remember to keep your eyes on the sights! Nothing to look at on that boring wall!
- Here's where most of us "think too much." We get too tense or we concentrate a little too hard on the breathing. This is why we have repetition until our body gets used to the actions. All you are thinking about is keeping those sights aligned as you smoothly squeeze back that trigger.
Did the sights move out of alignment when you squeezed back on the trigger? Keep practicing until they don't.
Remember: The goal is to keep your sights centered and fixed as you squeeze back on the trigger. It's easy to do but it takes time to master.
The Myth Behind the "Dime and Washer Drills" or "Casing Balancing Act"
There is a common drill circulating out there where you balance an empty casing on the end of your barrel while you dry fire. I asked the instructor about this drill. He said the origin of that drill was a relic of revolvers and wooden rifles, in the days before semiautomatic firearms became popular.
The "drill" was to see if you could balance a dime or washer on a round rifle or revolver barrel to show you can press a trigger without disturbing it. Somehow this got bastardized into a dry fire drill with today's semi-autos. Unfortunately, these balance drills become a balancing game instead of a meaningful exercise. The entire focus becomes that little item resting on your gun instead of your sights. It also fosters an artificially slow trigger press because you're trying not to disturb the object. These have since been replaced by good dry fire techniques for modern shooters.
How Do I Do this with A SIRT Pistol?
If you have a SIRT laser pistol, you follow the same three steps above, only you will get the added bonus of knowing where your shot landed. When you see that laser point resting just above your front sight (assuming you've zeroed your pistol properly), you immediately know that your shot landed square and center to your aim.***
It's dry fire with immediate feedback. I can personally attest that I practiced with my SIRT for 3 or 4 days straight before returning to the range and I saw a dramatic improvement in my accuracy.
You'll start out slow and deliberate and your speed will come as a byproduct of correct repetition, like every other task you've done repeatedly in your day to day life. You would never be able to accomplish this with all the flash and bang of live fire, so use that dry fire and SIRT as much as you can outside the range.
So what will you see as a result of this drill?
- Your follow-through improves. You break that habit of glancing up and over your sights to see where your shot landed.
- That dreaded recoil anticipation starts to disappear.
- Your mental focus improves because you're conditioned to stay fixated on those sights, regardless of any distractions (noise, bang, flash, temptations to look where your shots landed).
- Your grip improves because you're creating muscle memory in your hands with this repetition.
- Your trigger pull improves for the same reason
- Your consistency improves which means your shots improve.
- You know what "right" feels like, even in the dark.
One last note: This isn't intended as a marathon practice session. 5 or 10 mins max at a time is all you need. Do it during commercial breaks, when you want to take a break from folding laundry or when you want to take a break from anything.
Got any dry fire drills of your own? I'd love to hear about them.
***If you're interested in purchasing a SIRT laser pistol for your home practice, email me for a discount code. I know all this gear starts to add up and it's nice to catch a break here and there.