I recently shot a local IDPA (International Defensive Pistol Association) match. I did OK, but noticed a couple of problems that slowed me down significantly: namely, quickly and smoothly drawing from the holster and pressing forward to the target. On one stage I failed to firmly seat the beavertail of my 1911 into the webbing between my thumb and forefinger, and subsequently had an awkward and loose grip that I had to readjust before engaging the target.
More practice is the simple solution here, but most ranges prohibit drawing from a holster, and I don’t have a large tract of land where I can practice this. So what to do? Dry-fire practice is the only solution in this situation.
Dry-firing is practice done with an unloaded firearm. The use of Snap Caps or dummy rounds can help replicate having real ammunition. Snap Caps are specially designed dummy rounds that protect your firing pin by replicating the slight flex of a primer when struck. They’re also necessary to load into the magazine to prevent the slide from locking back when practicing reloads.
Dry-firing will never duplicate the training that you can achieve with live rounds on a hot range, but it can come close. Frequent practice is the only way to build the muscle memory necessary to have the speed and accuracy necessary to perform well, not only at a competition, but also in a real life self-defense situation. Dry-fire practice allows you practice on a daily basis, even if you do not have access to a range. It can also help you to become intimately acquainted with your firearm and it’s controls. This familiarity with your firearm will breed confidence, as will as increase your ability to quickly and accurately manipulate the safety, magazine release, and slide lock.
The advantage of dry-fire training is that you can do it in the comfort of your own home. However, your home is not a shooting range, and therefore certain safety guidelines should always be followed.
1. Unload your firearm completely. If you are using magazines, ensure that they are all unloaded as well.
2. Inform anyone else in the dwelling that you are going to be practicing so that they can minimize any distractions.
3. Do not have any live ammunition AT ALL in the room where you are practicing.
4. Have an adequate backstop.
5. Set firm start and stop times for practice. When the time to stop comes – STOP.
Of course your firearm should be unloaded when dry-firing, and it goes without saying that your magazine should also be unloaded when you are dry-firing. But you should go one step further and keep all of the ammunition in another room than the one you are practicing in.
Like any form of practice, dry-firing requires concentration and minimal distraction. Doubly so, since you are practicing with a deadly weapon. Practice alone, and make sure that any other people in the building are aware that you are going to be practicing so that they can minimize distraction.
Limit your practice time to 15-20 minutes. Practice is by it’s nature repetitive, and the repetition, while necessary for building muscle memory, can easily lead to boredom. Boredom can cause your mind to wander from the task at hand, and when handling a firearm, your mind MUST be on the task at hand and no where else.
When the time to stop comes, stop. You are no longer practicing, and the firearm should be treated as if it is LOADED. The reason is, most negligent discharges that happen when people are dry firing occur when the person stops practicing, loads the weapon, and then absentmindedly does another “dry fire” exercise. Make it a clear delineation in your mind when your practice starts, and when it stops. You don’t want a moment’s carelessness to result in an accident!
Dry-fire practice is a great way to practice on a daily basis. But as always, safety should be priority one when handling a firearm.