Dry-fire is one of the most effective training tools we can use to enhance our shooting performance. In the times of recession and ammo shortage this can be the most cost effective way to train. We begin by saying proper fundamentals are required before anyone can make the most of a dry-fire training session. Knowing proper draw, grip, sight alignment, and sight picture all have to be perfected prior to using dry fire as a predominant training tool. This is due to the fact that during dry-fire we build muscle memory. If we program ourselves to do something the wrong way it will be that much harder to overcome bad habits. Once, the fundamentals are ingrained there is a lot dry-firing will do, Lets go over some of these.

The draw process is one thing that needs to be smooth and consistent every time. Coming out of the holster we need to get a good firing grip before the gun leaves the holster. The tenth of a second it takes to readjust the grip in the holster will pay dividends when the firing starts. A bad grip will lead to unnatural index point, different recoil impulse, and in the case of 1911 (Springfield XD and others) users not deactivating the grip safety. A smooth, consistent draw will become easier and as muscle memory builds, the draw will become faster.

Sight alignment comes straight from the draw and after each press of the trigger during the dry-fire training regime. After the draw stroke then each shot we need to realign for a follow up shot. Assuming we have the draw down, getting the sight straight and on target will dictate how fast we can accurately break that first shot. Then recoil control (covered in the “Grip Strength” article) will give us the opportunity to follow each trigger press with another well placed shot. When dry-firing we don’t have the impulse of the round however we pay particular attention to what the sights are doing while we are pressing the trigger, making sure the sights stay perfectly in the center before the next press. The best part about this drill is we are doing more than sight alignment. We train to see the sights with both eyes open, build faster target to front sight focus, learn if we have a flinch, and if we need to work on certain muscle groups to keep the gun as still as possible.

Target transition is an important part of any firearms training routine. After drawing and getting sight alignment we may need to engage a second or third or fourth and so on, on target. No rounds need to be fired while training our bodies to manipulate the gun to move efficiently to the next target. We need to use this opportunity to practice left to right and right to left, some shoot one way better than the other, find out which is the weaker and practice till it is no longer a weakness. When targets are separated by a larger distance we learn a lot more. This is where we really need to concentrate on snapping our head and eyes to the center of the next target, and make the gun come into your sight picture. Moving the eyes and the gun together is slower, and sometimes a timer is necessary to prove this. Transitions will improve dramatically when the body and mind are conditioned to move the gun on queue.

The reload, can always be improved. Reloads are something that may take a back burner in dry-fire because it isn’t actually shooting. Well, we are all taught immediate and remedial action, or need to speed reload, if we can’t get that magazine to the gun efficiently, we are losing valuable time. With the gun extended in a firing position here is where we work on using the strong hand to hit the magazine release while simultaneously the support hand goes for a fresh mag. We are accomplishing two things at once which aren't natural motions to begin with. With a grasp on the fresh magazine we work on pointing the mag into the gun with the index finger. During this drill I use the Matt Burkett concept of bringing the mag to the magazine well and stopping. It is a really useful drill because until we can get to the opening expeditiously there is no point in practicing to fumble the mag into the gun. This drill is best with a timer to work on speed of dropping a mag and grabbing a reload and bringing it to the gun, we push hard till we can’t physically do the drill in the time we are pushing to beat (this drill is a .6 for me). Once the Burkett drill has programmed the reload motion we move on to fully inserting the mag into the gun. See the mag into the gun. When we fumble remember to complete the reload if it means pushing past the fumble or dropping it and going to a second mag. On game day there is no do over, so dry-fire is the time to work on the oops moments.

Shooting on the move is important because if we aren't moving we aren't winning. Shooting on the move is once again accomplishing two things at once to maximize our time. To do this drill we learn how to walk while keeping proper sight alignment. We want to step in all directions while maintaining low center of gravity to ensure balance and keep the sights as still as possible. With limited space available we can still focus on the initial step off while keeping the ability to fire accurately. With more room available we can combine the draw, sight alignment, trigger control, transitions, and the reload all while moving. If we aren't moving we aren't winning so this is a skill that we can dominate without firing a single round.

Ammo availability is scarce these days and what is available is priced according to the demand. Not to mention the shortage of time to actually practice live fire. We can practice all these dry-fire techniques for free and from the comfort of home (NEVER DRY FIRE WITH LIVE AMMUNITION). The time and money saved can translate to our range time being more about quality and less about quantity. This also saves us money and time.

It’s about the quality of our practice so we need to be honest with ourselves to truly achieve greatness!

-Steve Lockwood

1-21-13