Dry firing: guaranteed to improve shooting skills


by Peter Burlingame

There is no substitute for trigger time. If you want to become an accomplished shooter, you need to spend hours upon hours of practice. This can cost a lot of money in ammunition and inconvenience in traveling to a shooting range. There is one way that you can add to your trigger time that is not only free, that doesn’t require a range: dry firing.

“Dry firing” is the process of operating your firearm like you are shooting it, but the firearm is empty. If you follow a few simple steps, it is safe, and does no harm to your gun, and is highly effective at improving your shooting skill.

It’s free, you can do it almost anywhere and anytime, you can see how you are doing because there is no noise or recoil to hide your mistakes, and you don’t have to go to the range to practice.

Nothing will improve your shooting faster than spending five to ten minutes several times a week dry firing. It will do more to improve your marksmanship than anything else. Here are the steps to safely and effectively practice dry firing.

Some people, mostly old timers, will tell you that dry firing is hard on the gun and will result in damage. I’ve been doing it for more than four decades with a wide assortment of firearms and have yet to see any damage on any. However, I would not dry fire rimfire guns, as the firing pin can hit the edge of the chamber, and repeated strikes can cause deformation or damage. Also,  I would not dry fire guns that are more than 50 years old. Some people recommend snap caps for dry firing. These are inert replicas of cartridges and provide some cushion for the firing pin or striker. They can serve to help you practice loading, reloading, and unloading.

These are the 10 steps for safe dry fire practice:

1.Find a room where you can be alone and where it is quiet. We don’t want any distractions from our mindful practice or something that may lead us to do something unsafe.

2. This next part is IMPORTANT.Before you go in that room, unload your gun, and make sure that you don’t have any ammo on your person. It helps to have a container, such as bowl to put your gear in, at the entrance to your dry fire area.  Now you can enter the dry fire room.

Unload, and leave all ammunition outside of the dry firing area. Photo by Peter Burlingame

3. Pick a wall at which to aim, that, if you screw up, you can accept putting a bullet into. In other words, there is nothing behind the wall that could get hurt if you managed to screw up the unloading process, nor will a ricochet cause injury or damage.

4. Find something to aim at. Something already on the wall or something that you put on the wall. Your target should be small, about the size of the head of a nail or a dime, depending on how far away it is from you. Your target should appear to be just slightly bigger than the front sight of your firearm when held in your shooting position. “Aim small, miss small”. With a small target, your aiming errors will be easier to see.

5. Double check that there is no magazine in the pistol and check that the chamber is empty. Check both visually, and physically, by sticking your finger in the magazine well and chamber. I’ve found cartridges on the second look, that I missed the first time around. So check again.

Choose a small dot on the wall as your point of aim. Photo by Peter Burlingame

6. Standing comfortably with a good two handed grip on the pistol, aim at the small target. Place the middle of the first pad of your finger on the front face of the trigger. Make sure that you are applying pressure straight back and that you are not adding any sideways pressure as you are pulling the trigger back.

7. While you are working on keeping the sights on target, start applying SMOOTH pressure to the trigger. Part of your attention must be on the trigger press and part on the constant micro adjustments that you need to make to keep the sights aligned with the target. When you finally reach the release point and the gun goes click, where were your sights? Still lined up on the target? Or did they move? If they moved, which way did they move? Why? Try it again and work on fixing any problems that show up.

Note: If you are using a Springfield XD, Glock, or similarly operating pistol, you will have to “re-set” the action by pulling the slide back a little bit between trigger presses.

Good front sight focus, and proper alignment. Photo by Peter Burlingame

8. When you have done 20 GOOD presses, stop. Always finish your sessions on success. It serves no purpose, and is actually counterproductive if you keep going when you are tired or not paying full attention.

9. Dry fire practice shouldn’t be limited to static bullseye type of work. Add in drawing from concealment, movement, and use of cover to your sessions. Most of the things you do on the range, you can practice, dry, at home.

10. When you leave the room, say out loud“the dry fire practice is over” This is CRUCIAL! It may seem silly to actually say it, but it sets your frame of mind in a way just thinking about it won’t. Most ‘accidents’ associated with dry fire practice, happen just afterwards, when the gun has been reloaded and the person decides to try “just one more”

Before reloading your pistol, say aloud: ‘The dry firing session is over.’ Photo by Peter Burlingame

If you do this every day, or every other day for a week, you will be amazed at the improvement in your shooting the next time you go to the range. Just think of all those bruised and deflated egos when the guys look at your target and all of your shots are in one ragged hole right in the middle of the x ring. And with the current high price and limited availability of ammunition, dry fire goes a long way in maintaining proficiency on a budget.

A quick video of the dry firing process can be seen here 

Peter Burlingame is the founder of The Self Defense Initiative, a 25 year old training school based in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Peter is a contributing member of the International Association of Law Enforcement Firearms Instructors and the International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association. His articles have been published in the FBI’s National Associates’ magazine, “The Firearms Instructor” and “Survival Quarterly.” You may contact him at vigunfighter@earthlink.net Videos at Youtube.com/vigunfighter.com




About Author

Lee Williams can’t remember a time in his life when he wasn’t shooting. Before becoming a journalist, Lee served in the Army and worked as a police officer. He’s earned more than a dozen journalism awards as a reporter, and three medals of valor as a cop. He is an NRA-certified law enforcement firearms instructor, an avid tactical shooter and a training junkie. When he’s not busy as a senior investigative reporter, he is usually shooting his AKs, XDs and CZs. If you don’t run into him at a local gun range, you can reach him at 941.284.8553, by email, or by regular mail to 1777 Main St., Sarasota, FL 34236. You can follow him on Twitter: @HT_GunWriter and on Facebook @The Gun Writer.


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  3. Dave Federline on

    I shoot a lot of different rifles for local competition if that’s what you want to call it. Anyway I have noticed that no two rifles shoot best the same way off the bench. Some need held tight or just light . Bench rifles may do ok free recoil. Pinch a trigger or squeeze a trigger. Bag placement, Lots of variables. In dry firing and movement is present how do you quickly discover what is causing it.

  4. A substitute for dry firing for trigger time is to find a BB/pellet gun that is close to what you are carrying and just practice with that. I use a CO2 BB gun to practice at home since I can actually see where I am shooting and can also turn the house into a home defense practice by putting targets all over the place. 2-3 magazines or an old phone book are more than enough for good targets. For normal target practice I use 2 magazines to stop a ricochet and have a tiny piece of sheet metal behind it. You can find a cheap CO2 BB gun for around $20-$30 and the BBs and CO2 are real cheap.

    • Fabulous that you are able to find an inexpensive airgun that mimics the quality of your actual weapon’s trigger qualities. At those prices I’ve never been able to find a half decent aiming pistol.
      Best to you.

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    3 Stunden und habe in diesem Zeitraum keinen so tollen Artikel gefunden, wie deiner.Werde öfter hier vorbeischauen

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