What to do When the Ammo has Gone: Dry Fire Drills

By CTD Suzanne published on in Safety and Training

Even though I sit just a few feet away from a warehouse of ammo, I’m a little worried about current and future price and availability. I am stingier than ever with my current ammo storage. We all seem to be going to the range a little less and hoarding a little more. However, the ammo shortage in no way means your guns need to be gathering dust. Shooting is a learned skill, and like any discipline, you will lose your ability to perform well if you don’t practice. PersonalDefenseTraining.com says your shooting skills can weaken by 20 percent in just one week without practice. If you don’t already practice at home with an unloaded gun, now is the time to start.

Dry fire is performing the same actions as you would at the range without live ammunition in your gun. Dry firing perfects your technique, helps you memorize muscle movement and can increase your speed and accuracy. Besides that, dry fire practice is free.

You may have heard dry firing can damage a gun. With older guns, this may be the case and with rimfire guns—rifles and pistols—it often still is. However, dry firing most modern firearms is safe. If you are unsure, contact your gun’s manufacturer or use snap caps in the appropriate caliber of your gun. Snap caps are dummy rounds. They do not contain powder or a projectile.

If you have the time, you can dry fire practice every day. For many of us, that can be an unrealistic expectation. Much like exercising, if you practice for at least 20 minutes—three to four times a week—you will see results.

Know your target and what is behind it.

Know your target and what is behind it.

Safety First

Any time we are handling guns, safety is our first and most important priority. During your dry-fire practice, you will not have live ammunition anywhere near your gun or yourself. However it is imperative you follow the four golden rules of gun safety.

  • Treat a gun as if it is always loaded.
  • Never point the muzzle at something you are not willing to destroy.
  • Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot.
  • Know your target and what is behind it.

When deciding where to do your dry-fire practice in the home, pick a room with at least one solid, concrete wall. Interior walls will most likely be made of drywall. A bullet will fly right through drywall and go into the room on the other side. Make sure no one will be entering the room adjacent to the one you have picked to practice in.

Before entering your practice room, remove all ammunition from your gun and from all the magazines you will be using. Do not take any live ammunition into your practice room. Check the gun again to make sure there are no live rounds in the chamber or in any of the magazines. At no time should any live ammunition enter your practice space.

If you are practicing with your self-defense gun and need it loaded immediately after practice, it is prudent to say aloud, “Practice is over. My gun is loaded with live ammunition now.”


When dry firing you will need your gun, magazines, snap caps if using them, targets—homemade or store-bought—a timer if you are working on speed, concentration and enough time to practice uninterrupted. LaserLyte makes a laser target that shows you where you hit during dry-fire practice. The system requires you to purchase a laser-training cartridge that fits into your handgun’s chamber. The system is perfect for beginners, as it allows you to improve your aim and sight picture.

One basic drill that helps you focus on trigger control and sight alignment is the penny drill.

One basic drill that helps you focus on trigger control and sight alignment is the penny drill.

Drills for Beginners

Dry fire is perfect for beginners who need to hone their fundamental skills such as grip, stance, sight alignment/sight picture and trigger control. Many beginners have trouble managing their flinch response from the anticipation of the recoil—leading to inaccuracy and poor placement of shots on your target. Dry fire practice helps you focus on your trigger control and minimizes the effects recoil.

If you just started shooting, start your dry-fire practice by focusing on your grip and sight alignment without pulling the trigger. Bring your gun to the target focusing on the front sight. Concentrate on a proper grip. Do this at least 25 times correctly before pulling the trigger.

One basic drill that helps you focus on trigger control and sight alignment is the penny drill. Place a penny or a dime on top of your front sight. While aiming and firing, the goal is to keep the coin from falling off.

If you have a concealed carry license, or plan to get one, practice drawing smoothly from your holster and acquiring your target. Practice drawing from your holster at least 10 times before pulling the trigger.

Drills for Intermediate Shooters

Intermediate shooters have enough practice and range time to feel confident in their grip, sight alignment and picture, stance and trigger control. Intermediate shooters will want to focus on speed and accuracy, reloads, non-dominant and one-handed shooting. You can do the same drills as you would for beginner shooters, but do them holding the gun with one hand and with your non-dominant hand. A good drill to practice these skills involves using three targets a few feet apart. Draw your gun from your holster or grab it off a table and fire two shots into each target. Then, reload and fire two more shots into each target.

If you still aim with one eye closed, dry-fire practice is a perfect time to learn to focus on your front sight with both eyes open.

Another intermediate skill is to practice lowlight shooting situations. Keep the lights off in your practice room and hold a flashlight in your non-dominant hand. Practice using the flashlight to find your target and acquiring your sight picture.

Drills for Experts

Expert shooters will want to start practicing more advanced skills such as using cover.

Expert shooters will want to start practicing more advanced skills such as using cover.

Experts did not become experts without hours and hours of training and practice. Expert shooters will want to start practicing more advanced skills such as using cover, shooting and moving, point shooting and engaging multiple targets. Competition shooters will train simulating their particular shooting sport rules and regulations perfecting speed and accuracy.

For Every Level of Shooter

Every level of shooter can, and should, practice clearing malfunctions. Semi-automatic guns will malfunction no matter your level of experience. Time and accuracy should be as important to the beginner as well as the competitor. Identifying and fixing a malfunction quickly, and adequately, can be a matter of life and death in a self-defense situation.

Do you already dry fire practice at home? If so, share your favorite drills with us in the comment section.

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