Pro-Athlete Marksmanship Training

index finger wrapping over the trigger on an AR-15

We hunters spend hours and dollars trying to improve our chances for bagging that next buck, bear, or bunny. Scientists have now discovered ways to do that for fewer dollars. True! We can now train with our rifles for less than pennies a day. One technique, in fact, costs nothing but time. And it’s time well spent.

Ron Spomer shooting a rifle offhand
You can unload any centerfire rifle, shotgun, or handgun and safely dry fire it nearly anywhere. No noise, no flying bullets, no expense, no recoil. It’s the prefect way to train for proper form, trigger control and more.

The newest, latest, and greatest practice regimen for shooters is known as dry firing. Okay, it’s not all that new and scientists didn’t discover it, but it does work. Yet, it is largely neglected. Even ignored. Don’t make that mistake.

You know how pro basketball players prepare at the free throw line by faking a few tosses before going for the shot? That’s dry firing. You know how golf pros swing before addressing the ball? Dry firing. You know how a high school senior stands at his prom date’s front door, flowers in hand, mouthing his rehearsed line? Dry firing.

You name the sport and it’ll have some form of dry firing. Why? Because dry fire practice works. The beauty of dry fire practice with a rifle or handgun is that it’s free, quiet, painless, and safe. And it will make you a much, much, much better shot—because you have time to think.

So here’s what you do:

  1. Make certain your firearm can be safely dry fired. Most centerfire rifles and handguns can be because the firing pin strikes nothing. Rimfire firing pins (think .22 Long Rifle, 17 HMR) strike the cartridge rim, squeezing it against the edge of the barrel breach. Without the brass cartridge to soften the blow, a rimfire firing pin can peen or break against the breach face. So, don’t dry fire rimfires. If you’re nervous about damaging any firearm via dry firing, ask the manufacturer or buy snap caps (dummy rounds designed to catch the blow from the firing pin.)
  2. Unload the firearm completely, chamber and magazine. Look into the breach for any cartridge. Stick you finger in the breach. Double check to make absolutely certain the firearm is completely unloaded and safe. To be triple safe, remove all ammunition from the vicinity.
  3. Cock the rifle, raise it as if you’re engaging a target, and squeeze off a shot. Repeat as necessary.

That’s it. Not too complicated. But here are additional things you must do to really improve:

  1. Think about the shot and all aspects of it. How to best steady the rifle. Breathing. How to contact the trigger shoe. Picking a tiny spot on the target. Focusing on that spot.
  2. Select a target at which to aim. The light switch across the room, a spot on the floor, a picture of that trophy bull elk on your bucket list. Concentrate as if you really are sending a projectile to the target, which sets up your next important move…
  3. Notice where the sight is when the firing pin clicks. Since there will be no recoil, you’ll be able to see this, and it can teach you a lot. If you are shooting without flinching or jerking the trigger, you should see your reticle on the aiming point when the pin falls. That means your bullet would have gone there. If you notice the reticle has jerked left, right, high or low, you know you pulled that shot. Correct that!
  4. Concentrate on proper trigger control. Your objective is to pull the trigger straight back without pulling or pushing to either side and without jerking. Knowing that the gun is not going to buck and roar really helps with this. You’ll see every twitch and mistake you make.
  5. Hold the trigger fully back after it breaks. A common bad habit is to flick your finger forward after the shot. This encourages jerking. Strive for a smooth, even trigger pull and follow through.
  6. Practice all shooting positions. Offhand, kneeling, sitting, prone. Prone on a bipod is the perfect way to hone trigger control. Done right, a shot shouldn’t move the rifle at all. You should be able to balance a quarter or dime atop the muzzle and break a shot without it falling off.

As you practice, visualize yourself engaging monster bucks or high pressure targets. That’s mental dry firing, and it pays dividends, too.

Do you have a favorite dry fire practice drill or tip? Share it in the comment section.

Veteran outdoorsman Ron Spomer began writing and photographing about wildlife, hunting, guns, optics and all things wild and wonderful waaaay back in 1975. He’s been privileged to have hunted on six continents for small game, upland birds, waterfowl, big game mammals, and—no croc—even some reptiles. From the Arctic to the equator, from mountain tops to ocean marshes, Spomer celebrates our hunter-gatherer heritage. You can see him on his YouTube channel at

The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (17)

  1. For Dexter Winslett. Why in the world would you have to go through 3 police academy’s ? I have dry fired my whole life. It lead to the early discovery of my father’s Alzheimer’s. He noticed his hands shaking worse and worse when he practiced. He finally got checked and found he had it.

  2. Where on your trigger finger do you have the greatest sensitivity?
    Using a sterile needle, let’s check. First try the chubbier part of your finger where so many might advocate, then go to the actual joint where there is least padding…
    Then compare your triggering sensitivity…
    Maybe this will provoke some to follow your new skills.

  3. Establishing the intuition of adopting natural point of aim,npa, as a consequence of higher level training and awareness, the shooting skills take on a more relaxed but effective position.
    On a range secure from others,
    Put up 6 targets, a few feet apart, from a distance of 10 feet.
    Adopt your position facing each,close eyes, taking one shot only, eyes closed.

  4. I like to incorporate my natural pointing ability into my dry fire routine. I holster the empty pistol, look at a target roughly in front of me, close my eyes and while their closed I take the pistol from its holster and point it at the target I picked out. I am usually very close to where I expected to be. Again, this is just part of my routine, everyone has a natural pointing ability, you just need to exploit it!

  5. Several of the earlier photos show an awful lot of finger inside the trigger guard. Trainers today strongly advocate using the center of the finger pad before the first joint.

  6. They also make snap caps the light lasers. Even whole drill sets with laser that tell you your time and accuracy. But the comment about the dime method, I think I’m going to try that when I get home.

  7. Only good training makes you improve. Dryfire with feedback,The electronic trainer from Finland, ie the NOPTEL SPORT shows hold,shot,follow through!
    Call 9152047977 for further Information.
    Good shooting

  8. All three police academys I have been in practice dry fire. Yes, it does help to learn and control trigger control.

  9. The “dime drill” brought back some military memories. We would balance a dime on the front sight post, and dry fire for what seemed hours. A VERY GOOD WAY to develop breathing techniques as well as trigger skills. Oh yeah, on an M16, and of course in the prone,or other positions using outside support. The side of a tree, or fence post etc. I guess it would depend on the shape of the crown of your slide to do it with a pistol. My TP9SA has a flat crown so its definitely easier. Repetition is the key to most things. The more time behind the controls of anything will increase your proficiency. As I recall, it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill. Or something like that. I suppose NOW I’ll have to try it and see if I still have it down pat.
    Have a good one.

    As always
    Carry on

    1. Sorry, I never thought to see if my front sight had a large enough profile to try it on my pistol. Haven’t really needed it in 40 years.
      Also, its easier as a 2 person drill. 1 dry firing, and 1 placing the dime. Try changing targets too. It keeps ya smooth and patient.

  10. Do not do this on a military base. Decades ago, one of the local Air Force guys and my close buddy was spending a weekend alone as his wife had flown back home to visit family for the holidays. So, we will call him, Bubba, took out a couple of his favorite deer rifles and practiced dry firing. Some paranoid person saw him through a window and the local security police sent a response in mass. The neighbor was so historical he was no longer allowed to keep his hunting rifles in base housing. So, probably want to stay away from the windows. Everybody but Bubba thought I was funny,

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