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 did not firmly seat the beavertail of my 1911 into the webbing between my thumb and forefinger. Subsequently, I had an awkward and loose grip and had to readjust before engaging the target. More practice is the simple solution, but most ranges prohibit drawing from a holster, and I do not have a large tract of land where I can practice. So what do I do? Dry-fire practice was the only solution.
Dry firing is practice with an unloaded firearm. Using 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 also are necessary to load into the magazine to prevent the slide from locking back when practicing reloads. Dry firing will never duplicate the training 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 to perform well, not only at a competition but also in a real-life self-defense situation. Dry-fire practice allows you practice daily, even if you do not have access to a range. It also helps you become intimately acquainted with your firearm and its controls. That familiarity will breed confidence, as well as increase your ability to quickly and accurately manipulate the safety, magazine release and slide lock.
The advantage of dry-fire training is doing it in the comfort of your own home. However, your home is not a shooting range, and therefore, you always should follow certain safety guidelines.
- Unload your firearm completely. If you are using magazines, ensure they also are unloaded.
- Inform everyone else in the dwelling that you will be practicing so they can minimize any distractions.
- Do not have any live ammunition at all in the room where you are practicing.
- Have an adequate backstop.
- 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 also should be unloaded. But you should go one step farther and keep all ammunition in another room than the one in which you are practicing. 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 will be practicing so they can minimize distraction.
Limit your practice time to 15-20 minutes. Practice is, by its 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, and when handling a firearm, your mind must be on the task and nowhere else.
When the time to stop comes, stop. You are no longer practicing, and you should treat the firearm as if it is loaded. That is because most negligent discharges that happen when people are dry firing occur after the person stops practicing, loads the weapon, and then absent mindedly does another “dry-fire” exercise.
Make it a clear delineation in your mind when your practice starts and stops. You do not want a moment’s carelessness to result in an accident!
Dry-fire practice is a great way to practice daily. But, as always, safety should be your priority when handling a firearm.