Do you actually get to the range as often as you would like? If you’re like most people, your schedule simply doesn’t allow for daily, or even weekly, trips to your favorite shooting rang to hone your skills. Family obligations, work, and all those grownup responsibilities just keep getting in the way, right? And besides that, with the rising cost of ammunition, most sportsmen are finding that they have to cut back a little. Even reloading expenses can add up…there are other advantages to reloading your own rounds, but that’s another blog post.
On top of that, sometimes the weather doesn’t cooperate, or you’re exhausted from a long day at work and don’t feel like packing up your supplies and then cleaning your guns afterwards, or you have to stay home to supervise the kids, or maybe you don’t have a place to shoot locally. Even though we all know that a responsible gun owner practices with his/her firearms on a regular basis, sometimes it just feels like the world is conspiring against us to keep us from getting onto the firing line.
But that’s okay. What if I told you there’s a way to get your practice in, without buying any extra products, without leaving your home, without ever firing a single round? The best competitive marksmen around the country use this method, and most professional instructors teach it to new shooters, often before they ever fire a single shot. It’s so deceptively simple, and yet it produces better results than target shooting at the range.
Do you know how to get the most out of dry fire practice?
Dry firing helps shooters hone skills and improve accuracy in ways that normal range time simply cannot…
- Break bad habits: Have you noticed that your shots often hit below the bullseye? You’re probably flinching, and you can fix it with some basic dry fire practice. Do you pull to one side while you’re squeezing the trigger? The penny drill will get you in top shape.
- Safely practice personal defense drills: Most ranges are set up so you can’t do much more than stand on the firing line and shoot downrange. With a few safety rules, you can set up dry fire drills at home to learn and practice more advanced techniques, right in the environment where you’re most likely to use them.
- Draw from holsters faster (and more safely): As a safety precaution, because most shooters never practice properly drawing their guns from holsters, it’s common for shooting ranges to prohibit drawing from holsters at the firing line. Before you ever draw a loaded gun, practice drawing and aiming at home.
- Get on target faster: You don’t need bullets to build this skill. Use dry firing drills to make finding your sight picture and honing in on your target second nature.
- Improve your follow-through and speed: Since dry firing has no recoil, you’re going to build the habit of keeping your sights on target even after pulling the trigger. Better follow-through means faster and more accurate shooting.
- Save time, money, and energy: Practicing at home at any time of day or night is convenient, inexpensive, and easy. You don’t have to pack up a bunch of equipment, don’t have to drive anywhere, and there’s no need to clean your gun afterwards. Plus, you won’t spend a dime extra on ammunition, and you can even practice with guns for which the rounds are hard to find.
A note about safety: Any time you’re handling firearms, you MUST observe the basic rules of gun safety. Even unloaded, NEVER point a gun at anything you don’t want to shoot – treat ‘safe muzzle direction’ like it’s your religion with absolutely no exceptions ever. Make sure you’re not aiming at a wall where there might be people on the other side, and it’s generally a good idea to let the other people in your house know that you’re going to be practicing with your gun.
As an additional rule, when you practice with dry firing, there should be no ammunition anywhere in the room. It might sound silly to you now, but if there’s even a tiny possibility that a mistake could be made and your gun could discharge accidentally, it’s worth taking one tiny step to make absolutely sure there’s no danger, isn’t it?
Again, we’re going to repeat that dry fire practice should be conducted with absolutely no ammunition in the room. The goal here is to build habits. Too see dramatic results, you should repeat these easy practice drills regularly, and eventually they’re going to become like second nature to you. You’re going to feel completely comfortable drawing your gun and pulling the trigger inside your house, and like anything that’s done repeatedly, your subconscious mind is eventually going to take over.
Have you ever driven to work and then realized once you got there that you couldn’t remember the drive at all? It’s that kind of automatic habit you’re building by practicing at home. That’s why the extra safety precaution is so very important.
Imagine you finished practicing for the day, picked up the magazine sitting right beside you, and reloaded your gun…but a few minutes later, you forgot that you did it, because you do the same thing every night. So, thinking you’ll just get in a tiny bit more practice before bedtime, you pick up your gun, align your sights, and pull the trigger, expecting the little ‘click’ instead of the loud ‘BANG’ that actually erupts from the barrel.
Yes, it’s possible. In fact, we personally know someone to whom that has happened.
Look, just trust us on this. No ammunition anywhere in the room while you practice dry fire drills. It only takes a second, and the safety of you and your family is more than worth that one second.
Another note on dry firing: Not all guns can be dry fired. Rimfire .22’s should never be dry fired, since it can damage the firing mechanism. If you’re unsure if your gun is safe to dry fire, check your owner’s manual. If you don’t have the owner’s manual, go online and find a copy of it to keep. All of your guns should have owners manuals.
Okay, so you’ve unloaded your gun and put all of its ammunition in another room. You’ve verified that your gun actually can be dry fired safely. You’re ready to improve your accuracy and speed, and save time and money by practicing at home. What now?
It’s time to practice! These instructions are written for use with handguns, but you can dry fire many rifles, too. Here are 3 drills that we recommend for new and experienced shooters alike:
1) The Basic. This is to shorten the time it takes you to get your sights on target, and perfect your follow-through. It’s the simplest, easiest way to shoot more accurately, and it’s a good starting place for brand new shooters who’ve never fired a gun.
All you have to do is either pick a point in a safe direction, or tape a target to the wall (still in a safe direction) for aiming. Get a good, comfortable grip on your gun and stand in a relaxed stance with your elbows straight and your muzzle pointing at the ground or some other safe direction. If your gun has a safety, this is a good opportunity to practice disengaging it as you raise and aim. As soon as you have a clear sight picture and you’re aimed directly at the point or bullseye, ‘fire’ the gun, without ever moving the sights off the target. You should be certain that, had an actual bullet fired, it would have been a perfect shot. Return to your starting position and repeat. If your gun is semi-automatic, you’ll probably have to cycle it manually between ‘shots.’
-You can vary The Basic to practice skills like one-handed and weak-hand shooting. Adjust your stance appropriately and go for it! You’ll find that this kind of practice will result in a steadier hand, with less shaking and movement as you hold your sights on target.
2) The Draw: As a variation on The Basic, add in the extra step of drawing your handgun from a holster. Technique will vary slightly if you normally carry in a less common holster such as a shoulder or ankle model, but since most shooters carry on their hip in an inside- or outside-the-waistband holster, that’s what we’ll demonstrate.
Begin by standing comfortably with your gun in your holster with the safety engaged. If your holster has a retention snap, release it with your thumb and grip your gun. Pull straight up, with the muzzle pointing down towards the ground, until it is completely free of the holster.
From there, rotate the barrel of the gun forwards and disengage the safety. You should still be holding the gun at your hip, with the muzzle pointed towards your target. See Fig. 1 for an illustration.
Keeping the muzzle pointed at your target, bring the gun in front of you and grip with your other hand. Make sure that your grip is secure and comfortable. See Fig. 2
Extend your arms until your elbows are straight, leaning forwards slightly with your feet about shoulder width apart. Now, you should be in an appropriate stance for shooting (See Fig. 3) and your sights should be on target.
As soon as you’re locked onto the bullseye, pull the trigger, making sure to keep the gun steady and on target even after the trigger is pulled. Just like before, you should be fairly certain that you’ve “hit the bullseye” with your imaginary bullet.
-Returning your gun to the holster is the same set of steps in reverse. Just because you’ve pulled the trigger doesn’t mean you can let your guard down. Always keep the muzzle pointed at the target or in another safe direction. Be conscious when you draw that your finger isn’t on the trigger until the gun is pointing at the target, and you’re not angling the gun backwards as you pull it from the holster. Again with that safe muzzle direction! Also, it’s important to get a proper grip when drawing from the holster, and keep the other hand (the one not drawing the gun) in the same place every time. Most people place their off hand on their stomach, but you can leave it by your side, put it on your hip…whatever is comfortable, as long as it’s consistent every time you practice.
3) The Penny Drill: Nothing fixes flinching, anticipation, and drift like The Penny Drill. If you want to have a rock-steady grip and infallible accuracy without mishaps, The Penny Drill is just the thing. It’s a little more advanced and slightly more difficult that the first two drills, but it’s very effective.
As implied by the name, you’ll need a penny. Balance a penny flat across the front sight, gun in hand. Grip with one or both hands, whichever you’d prefer to practice, and extend your arm, aiming at your target. I don’t have to remind you about safe muzzle direction, right? Good. Keeping the penny balanced on the front sight (or on the end of your muzzle if you have a sight that makes penny-balancing impossible), fix your sights on target and pull the trigger. If you’ve pulled the trigger correctly, the penny should remain balanced on the front sight.
-This is going to take more practice, but it’s well worth it. Your accuracy and follow-through will be impeccable.
Of course, there are other drills out there that you can try, and practice rounds (such as rubber bullets) are available for home use. If the other people in your household are safely out of the way, you can actually practice moving through different rooms and aiming at a variety of targets…but again, keep that muzzle direction in mind. Walls are not bullet proof. That being said, professional competitive shooters often spend hours doing nothing more than the first two of these drills, because they’re simple and incredibly effective. Why complicate things and spend even more money on accessories unnecessarily?
We know these things look way too simple, but often, the simplest solutions are the best. A little bit of home-based practice, and you’ll be the top gun at your local range in just a few weeks. Don’t believe it? Give it a try, and if your shooting doesn’t improve, feel free to come back to this post and tell me off. I’ll be waiting.