What is Dry Fire Practice and Why it’s Important

One of the terms that I heard a lot shortly after I started shooting was “dry fire”. My initial thought was, “great another term and skill to learn in already overwhelming field.” But thankfully, it’s a pretty simple exercise that has a major payout.

I wish dry fire was something that I learned about as part of first time working with an instructor but, unfortunately, it wasn’t. And I think had I known about it at the when I was just beginning and was able to incorporate it into the lifestyle, it might’ve made me a different shooter than I am today. The great thing is that even though it wasn’t ingrained in me at the beginning, I slowly began including it into my training and I’m able to use it to help improve my skills.

Dry Fire

What is Dry Fire?

Basically, dry fire is the opposite of live fire. It’s manipulating and shooting your firearm without any live ammunition - real ammo rounds. You would do everything you would normally do with your firearm at the range but without live/real ammo. Specifically, without any live ammo around but more on that below.

Dry fire is a great opportunity to build upon your shooting fundamentals. It’s a good compliment to the drills you are doing at the range but this you can do in the comfort of your own home.

Remember, that even though live ammunition isn’t being used that you should always practice the four rules of firearm safety. It goes without saying, that the safety rules should be followed every single time a firearm is put into your hands regardless of your intent.

What Makes Dry Fire Practice Ideal?

Besides the fact that you can do this away from the range, there are a few other factors that make adding a dry fire routine beneficial. One of the key benefits is that it allows you to build upon your foundation. You will be able to focus on your fundamentals so you can start establishing good muscle memory. Another great benefit is that you can save yourself some money by not having to pay for range fees or ammo. As you know or may soon learn, becoming a firearm owner comes with it’s own set of financial responsibility.

What Do You Need to Dry Fire?

As I mentioned above, dry fire is rather simple and so long as you have your firearm and a target of some sort, you can start immediately with no extra expense. A few additional items though that would help make the best use of your time would be snap caps/dummy rounds. Not only are snap caps great for dry fire they are also good to help you learn how to check the condition of your gun and to practice loading,

More and more companies are making dry fire training gear to help up your game. You can get everything from specific training pistols to laser cartridges to systems that integrate with apps on your phone so you can get immediate feedback.

Where to Dry Fire

I think one of the most important pieces to the dry fire puzzle is where to dry fire. You might think that should be easy but there are a few precautions that you need to take in order to maintain a safe environment.

The key is to select an area in your house that is free from distractions. An area where you can spend your entire dry fire time uninterrupted.

Once you’ve identified the area it’s time to look for a place that would make a good backstop. So in a house, a brick wall or concrete wall would work. You might wonder why you need this if the purpose of this practice is to practice without ammo but accidents do happen. And most importantly, what is first rule for firearm safety? Always keep your firearm pointed in a safe direction. Additionally, you must know your target and what is beyond it.

So identifying a backstop that could potentially stop a bullet in your designated dry fire area will be the spot you will put your target and point your firearm.

Ready, Set, Dry Fire

Once you’ve got your designated space and are ready to start your dry fire practice, it’s time to get into the right mindset. I would suggest holding off on your dry fire session if you have a lot on your mind or are stressed out. Remember, it’s all about lessening the distractions so you can focus.

At the start of your session, tell yourself that you’re starting your dry fire practice. It helps to get your mindset on the right track. Plus, for us ladies it’s very similar to when we say out loud, “My curling iron is unplugged.” We need that verbally confirmation.

Below are my five steps I go through for my dry fire practice:

  1. Mindset - prepare yourself mentally for training with your firearm.

  2. Call to Action - This is where you tell yourself that you are starting your dry fire practice.

  3. Clear Your Firearm – visually and physically clear/check your firearm. Unload your mags. Triple check that it is all clear.

  4. Remove all live ammo from your designated space. Don’t just set it aside; lock it away in your ammo can and put it in the other room. You don’t want to take any chances that live rounds end up getting mixed in with snap caps/dummy rounds – if that’s what you’re using.

  5. Start a timer and run through your drills. I like the timer aspect because at the end of your designated time, it’s like pencils down. Stop what you are doing and put everything away.

You don’t need to spend a lot of time on dry fire. I like to dry fire for 15 minutes and that’s it. You can adjust for what works for you. I like to keep mine long enough to get in plenty of reps but short enough to keep it fun and not feel like it’s a chore.

When you are done with your dry fire session, put all your dry fire tools away before reloading your firearm with live ammo. This is to ensure you don’t fall trap into getting one more rep in. Your session is done and over. If you plan to reload your firearm with live ammo, proceed to do that and upon completion, I suggest saying out loud, ‘my gun is hot” or something to that effect so you know there is live ammo loaded in it. Again, it’s a quick verbal note you hear and make mentally to help maintain a safe environment.

Dry Fire Drills

Depending on what your goal is of your dry fire practice, maybe your fundamentals are solid and you want to work on speed. If you are just starting out, focusing on the fundamentals should be priority, speed will come later. Spend time on your trigger pull and learning the reset position of your trigger. Learn how to get your front sight focused.

Two additional drills, which I’m sure you’ve seen is the penny and/or empty shell casing drill. This is where you balance a penny or empty shell casing on the top of your front sight. This drill is great for understanding trigger control because if the penny or shell casing should fall you know you need to gain better control of your trigger.

Everyone’s dry fire routine will be different. Don’t be afraid to talk yourself through each step as you build confidence.

The goal of your dry fire practice and drills is all about the repetitions. Spend this time getting good reps in so that when you do go to the range the homework will pay off.

Dry Drawing

While the overall dry fire practice is great for building and enhancing skills, dry fire is something that is also great for concealed carriers. I’ve mentioned this numerous times in my Style Me Concealed posts about dry drawing. It follows the same principles of dry fire except the focus here is drawing from a holster and/or concealment. If you’re new to concealed carry, then you will definitely want to spend time dry drawing. This the time to get comfortable with drawing for your chosen carry position. You want to take the time to see if you can clear your firearm from the clothing you are wearing so that you can access it efficiently should you need to. Because if you can’t get to it, why have it? Dry drawing from concealment helps you work out any kinks and helps you identify where you might run into any obstacles during your draw.


For those that might not be familiar, my first time at the range wasn’t a great experience (read more about it here). I was brought to an indoor without any prior firearm handling. Between having to handle and shoot a gun for the first time and the other distractions at the range (the noise of other guns going off around me, flying brass, and it being dark and dingy) I think having some time at home learning to dry fire would’ve helped immensely on keeping my nerves a little more at bay. However, that’s not always an option, especially if you are new to firearms and shooting. Most of us don’t have handguns in our possession before we embark on this journey. But this might be a good opportunity to talk to a friend that might have one so you can learn to manipulate and get comfortable with it through dry fire.

Personally, one of my goals for 2019 is to shoot and train more but really spend time dry firing. I was good with it for a while and then got busy. It really shows in my live target practice. I tend to get sloppy and revert back to bad habits when I step foot in a lane at the range. I’m not a fast shooter at all. I’m super slow. My biggest issue right now is my front sight-focus. I’m also continuing to practice with both eyes open so it’s taking a little bit longer. Those two things can easily be worked on during my dry fire practice. So I’ll be working on my practice routine and making sure I’m getting in my dry fire reps.

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