I know most of you just want to get better at shooting, especially if you are a new gun owner, but don’t have the time or resources needed to improve or maintain this critical skill. When I was in the SEAL teams I basically had unlimited supplies of ammunition and was paid to perfect my skills – it was great! But now that I’m retired with a family to enjoy and a business to run, just finding the time to get to the range seems to get harder and harder. Sure, I have 15 minutes here or there between a kid’s soccer game and working, but the closest range is a 15-minute drive. So how do I solve this?
What if I told you that this one form of training is cheaper and safer than any other and it can even be done in your home? Would you think it’s too good to be true? Listen up — it’s not! In this article, I’m going to share with you the secret training technique I used as a Navy SEAL Firearms Instructor and now teach in my private courses.
If you’ve read my bestselling book, How to Shoot Like a Navy SEAL, or subscribed to my firearms training blog, you already know the secret. For the rest of you, I could tell you the secret…but then I’d have to kill you. All joking aside, I’m guessing most of you have heard of this specific training technique, but may have questions about how it works or don’t know the benefits. What I am talking about, of course, it’s dry firing. There is no “secret”. It all boils down to practice; and lots of it. Incorporating dry fire training is a great way to enhance your skills and become even more proficient. But what is the meaning of dry fire? You might ask. Well, today I’m going to tell you everything you need to know about dry fire so buckle up.
Shooting like a Navy SEAL is not magic; it’s dry firing.
What Does Dry Fire Mean
So, what does dry fire mean? Or more precisely, what does it mean to dry fire a gun? If we were to give a dry fire definition we could say that it 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 without actually firing any rounds. It allows you to practice all the skills you would normally work on live-fire (minus recoil management) and you can do it safely at home. Once your skills have improved, you’ll be able to go to the gun range and confirm everything you learned! Improving your shooting is not magic; the magic is in the dry fire!
It also refers to practicing reloads, drawing your gun, or almost any other skill you need to master. Got a new piece of kit? You’d be well served to spend some time dry firing and get used to 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 shooting range and practice there?’ Patience, young Jedi… Think about it; when you dry-fire, you can practice all the skills you normally exercise during live-fire (minus recoil management) without going to the range and paying for targets, ammo, range time, and these days… gas!
By incorporating dry-fire into your training routine, you’ll be able to go to the range and confirm everything you learned, becoming very proficient at shooting. It’s just like in boxing or MMA matches; the fight just confirms who has trained harder and better. Shooting like a Navy SEAL is not magic; it’s all about your training routine, which includes dry-firing. Dry fire practice is a powerful tool for refining gun handling skills. It’s not intended to replace live fire training. Instead, it serves as a valuable supplement to your range practice.
Is It Bad To Dry Fire a Gun?
Firing your gun by pulling the trigger on an unloaded firearm, is a topic of debate amongst firearm enthusiasts and experts. Some argue that firing a gun without rounds can cause harm to the firearm, especially in certain types of guns, particularly those with angled firing mechanisms. Primarily, it can be detrimental for rimfire weapons, such as .22 caliber pistols, as the firing pin in these guns strikes the edge, or ‘rim,’ of the cartridge. If you fire without the cartridge in place, the firing pin can strike the hard edge of the chamber, potentially causing damage to both the chamber and firing pin over time.
However, in centerfire firearms, like most modern handguns and rifles, you could do thousands of dry fire cycles without the cartridge, and it is perfectly fine, as the firing pin, equipped with stronger firing pins, normally strikes the softer primer at the center of the cartridge. This design allows for unloaded weapons to be used this way without causing damage to the firearm’s components.
For added protection and to mimic the feel of a live round, you can consider the use of snap caps. Snap caps are dummy rounds designed to simulate the presence of a real cartridge, protecting the firing pin and the gun’s internal components when dry practicing. All in all, before firing with an empty chamber you can refer to the firearm’s manual to determine if your gun is safe to dry fire. Also, having dry fired thousands of times myself with various firearms I have written a whole article on this topic, so be sure to check it out.
Dry Fire Training Systems
If you are still concerned that shooting without live rounds will harm your gun, there are dry training alternatives that you can explore. One such option is using a dry fire laser training system, a dry fire magazine or a SIRT pistol. Having used them myself, I recommend them as one of the best dry fire training solutions. Dry fire training systems offer a safe and effective way to practice your shooting techniques without wearing your gun in any way.
The SIRT pistol, for example, is a gun replica that emits a laser each time the trigger is pulled, providing immediate feedback on your shot placement. This enables you to work on your marksmanship, trigger control, and sight alignment in a controlled environment. It’s a great way to take your dry fire practice to the next level, allowing you to hone your skills and become even more proficient without the need for live ammunition. You can download a list with my top recommended tools and get videos on how to use them by clicking the button bellow:
Benefits Of Dry Fire Practice
Now that we know what is dry fire practice let’s talk about its benefits. Generally, it’s important to practice everything that has to do with a weapon, from basic fundamentals to shooting on the move. Think about all the things you need to practice to become a more effective shooter: shooting positions, grip, picking up sights, movement, tracking moving targets, barricades, trigger control, breathing, front sight focus, natural point of aim…the list goes on and on.
You might be thinking, so what? I can do all of that at the range. Sure, but how often do you have time to go to the firing range? There are many benefits to dry fire training. The biggest benefit is that you can practice at home and generally it can be safely done anytime, anywhere (use your best judgement here, OK?). You’ve got five minutes before you have to leave for work? Spend it working on front sight focus in your living room, garage, or backyard. Can’t sleep? Practice breathing or meditation techniques that will help you on the range (and probably get you back to sleep).
Dry fire training is a convenient type of training; there’s no driving to the range, and you don’t need to dedicate large chunks of time to it. Dry fire can be fit into even the busiest of schedules. Do you see know how does dry fire training work?
Still not convinced? Let’s talk about the monetary savings of dry fire training. Think back to your last trip to the range. About how much did you spend on range time, ammo, targets, and gas to get there? It’s not inexpensive to hit the range. Now imagine you wanted to train 5 days a week at the range. With dry fire training, you can train 5 days a week (or every day of the week) without having to purchase range time, ammo, targets, or gas.
Even if I had the time and endless supplies of ammo like the good-ol’ days, I still think dry fire training gives you more bang for the buck. I’ve seen many people go to the gun range just to practice how to draw a pistol. You cannot focus on a perfecting your draw while people around you are constantly firing and pulling your attention away from whatever technique you are trying to master.
The sound of gunfire, other people shooting and moving around you, or even just knowing someone is watching you, can be very stressful. Stress leads to mistakes and poor training. This is the main reason so many people have problems with anticipation or flinching. They’ve learned to shoot with the stress of the gun going off. There is no stress when dry fire training at home, so you’ll learn better and faster. By attempting to perfect your skills at the range, you are simply wasting your time and money.
Dry Fire Gun Safety
Here are a few safety tips and guidelines to get you started before your dry practice training session. First off, make sure you have been trained by a professional shooting instructor on firearms safety and how to use your firearm in general. 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!
How to Dry Fire Practice
To advance your shooting skills and to keep it interesting, you need to know how to dry fire and vary your practice routines regularly. Because, what’s dry fire without a bit of fun? Keeping your interest by varying things up will boost your focus and this will pay off in the long run. Start slow, with the basics of dry fire, 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.
Consider integrating the “Dry Fire Par Time Tracker”, a free shot timer app. 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.
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.
When you learn how to them, your dry fire 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.
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.
Here’s a short list of dry fire drills that you can practice as your first training drills to get you started:
- Practicing the fundamentals of shooting
- Shooting with both eyes open
- Drawing the pistol from a gun belt
- Drawing the pistol from a conceal carry holster
- 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
Blowback airsoft guns can be a valuable addition to your training regimen for recoil simulation. These guns are designed to mimic the recoil and cycling action of real firearms, providing a realistic shooting experience. This simulation allows shooters to work on their shooting mechanics, sight picture, and trigger control as if they were using live rounds, without the need to fire a live round, in a more cost-effective manner. Although you don’t need a dry fire system to dry fire effectively, you could consider using a laser system like the SIRT training pistol or a dry fire mag to enhance and make dry fire more interesting. I offer a list with my top recommended dry fire training tools:
How to Use a Range Book
One of the best ways to improve your results is to use a range book. A range book is simply a notebook that you keep in order to document for training purposes. You can use any size, shape or style notebook you’d like. The key is that you actually use the notebook each time you train and review it every time before you shoot. I also recommend having a main page that lists the current crux in your shooting program. For instance, I had “FRONT SIGHT FOCUS” written in large block letters on my main page for years because that was what would make me throw rounds — not concentrating on the front sight.
Then a few years ago, it changed to trigger control. I worked on the front sight focus so much that it was no longer a problem, but trigger control seemed to be causing most of my problems. So I changed my main page to “TRIGGER CONTROL!” so I saw it each time before I trained and it reminded me that I needed to pay special attention to that aspect of shooting. What you have as your crux could be any of the fundamentals of marksmanship, but every shooter, no matter how good they are, will have one thing that they need to concentrate on to elevate their game.
Example of a Range Book Log
Worked on draw from thigh holster, accuracy (50 yards) and multiple target engagements.
***Remember to look at the next target and then bring my weapon to my eyes.
***Need to practice shooting while moving.
That’s all you need to do. Keep it simple and you’ll be more likely to use it each time you train. You’ll find the information you need next time you train much faster. Before you go to the shooting range or dry fire, review your range book’s main and last page and take off from where you finished training last time. This way you’re not re-learning past lessons or mistakes and you’ll see your shooting skills rise exponentially. Also, remember to come up with a range plan of what you’re going to work on, so you don’t waste your ammo or your time.
If you are now reading this that means you learned what is dry fire and on top of that how you can get started yourself in order to improve your shooting. 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 30-day challenge…I dare you!