What is Dry Fire What Does it Mean and How to Do it

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. What is dry fire? In the following, I will explain what it is and how to do 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.

Shooting like a Navy SEAL is not magic; it’s dry firing.

Chris on what is dry fire and how to do it at home

What Does Dry Fire Mean

So what is dry fire? 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.

You will want to practice on your own once you understood what does dry fire means for improving your shooting but not without the basic safety rules. 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!

Chris teaching dry fire exercises that any shooter can do at home

How to Dry Fire Effectively:

  • 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.

When you learn how to dry fire, your sessions should last at least 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 day. 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. You have the info. There isn’t a problem with what is dry fire now. All that is left for you is practicing. 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.


 

19 Comments

  1. awesome post my friend, boxing was my favored activity when I was younger, now it seems not really as exciting to watch. I checked out your YouTube videos and they are pretty good for you doing them yourself! I’m sure your DVD will be awesome!

    1. Thanks, I’m glad you like the videos, I just wish I had time to do more since they’re fun to make! Still working on funding for the DVDs. We want to make sure everyone gets their moneys worth and that of course takes…money!
      Best, Chris

    1. Robert,

      Glad you found us and that you like the site. We’re working hard to make it the best we can. Keep in touch and let us know what you think about our new articles.

      Best,
      Chris

  2. I travel a lot for work and I cannot bring my firearms with me. Any tips to keep the skills up while I am out and about? I was thinking of getting a blue gun but I am unsure how annoying it would be to travel (air) with.

    1. Depends if you check a bag. If you do, I would highly recommend finding a metal Airsoft version of your pistol. Blue gun are good for tactics, (I own a few myself) but pretty limited in marksmanship. If you only do carry on, you could try to find local ranges where you’re at and rent a gun and a lane.

  3. hi i’m just wondering if you could give me a tip on shooting while wearing plate carriers. I have tried different ways but it keeps annoying me as i cannot balance the gun on my shoulder properly due to the vest getting in the way.

    1. Peter: This can be a pain with bigger plate carriers. Try to wedge buttstock on inside or outside of shoulder strap. If that doesn’t work you can build a shoulder pocket with an old mountain bike tire by attaching a piece to your shoulder strap.

  4. Would you consider addressing shooting skill development for folks with physical limitations/mobility limitations such as bad knees and ankles etc, that can impact stability? Look forward to your response. Keep up the great writing about shooting skills.

  5. I’ve learned the hard way to not dry fire in doors. Was getting a familiar with my new rifle and was having troubles with an ak mag. Had a moment where I stepped out in front of a bus and Boom! There went a 7.62 x 39 rd., right thru my wall and into my neighbors home. All turned out well and luckily for me I have cool neighbors but it was a tough lesson. I no longer dry fire anything Indoors. Sometimes it sucks being a FNG. Good article.

  6. Chris,
    I own the book, watched the YouTube links, have done some limited dry fire work (lots of drywall), and review the range notes before going to the range so I have a plan when I practice.
    As a lefty, I have noticed that an inordinate amount of my shots end up in the lower left abdomen of my target, and not the center where I am aiming.
    Any suggestions? I have been focusing on breathing, front sight centered on target, and equal grip. I’ve read that I could be squeezing my fingertip while pulling the trigger (isnt that the goal?)
    Thanks for the help,
    PW

    1. PW,

      Unfortunately, diagnosing shot groups is impossible without seeing you shoot. I’m actually writing that section in my new book right now. There are too many variables that could cause that to say what is causing it. This is what keeps good instructors in business. A few things to check:
      1. Is your trigger fingers 2nd knuckle moving to the left when you press the trigger?
      2. Are you squeezing your whole hand when you press the trigger?
      3. Are your sights off?
      4. Do you do this with other guns?
      5. Can you call your shots?

      Hope this helps. Hooyah!
      Chris

      1. Chris,
        I do remember you talking in the book about keeping the 2nd knuckle pointed at the target. That will be a high priority in practice and firing at the range.
        I typically shoot a little this way with hand guns but not with rifles.
        Thanks,
        PW

      2. Chris,
        Thanks for the helpful pointers. I now dry fire before each group (36 rounds to a group) when I’m at the range; that helped me realize that even though I thought I was 100% grip with both hands, I actually was not.
        Also, keeping the second knuckle pointed at the target and squeezing the most distal part of my Glock’s trigger had helped my accuracy improve quickly.
        Thanks for the pointers!
        PW

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