Part two of a four-part series looking at ways to minimize cost (both time and money) to not only maintain skills, but further proficiency in certain technical and even fundamental skill sets.
Training Efficiency Part 2 of 4
This discussion will address the least costly and most neglected practice in our training arsenal: dry fire.
Dry firing’s effectiveness is inversely proportional to its cost in time and money. It is a process we can execute with no ammo, no range fees, no targets within the comfort of your home. You can dry fire with the vast majority of modern firearms among very few exceptions. It is an easy way to maintain a consistent familiarity with not only our firearms, but peripheral gear such as holsters, magazines, mag carriers, optics, bipods, and slings just to name a few.
With such little cost and so many benefits, it’s a mystery so few people actually dry fire. In talking to a huge variety of shooters of many different backgrounds, I have found that competition shooters take advantage of the benefits of dry fire far more than anyone else. In fact, I know very few “sheepdogs” who invest as much as 15 minutes in dry fire a month. The problem is not ignorance that dry fire exists as a training method, quite to the contrary, in fact. The majority of active gun owners knows what dry fire is and will readily attest to the virtues of the practice. This is not an indictment of those who don’t dry fire, but an effort to encourage those who do not, to make it a regular practice.
No, the shooting community's lack of dry fire is not due to financial or time limits, but rather the limits of motivation. I understand that. On the surface, dry fire isn’t very exciting. Rack, squeeze, repeat (RSR) is what comes to mind for most people when dry fire is mentioned. While RSR is an essential element in dry fire, it is only one of many.
Before I move on, I want to ensure we discuss one critical matter: Safety. Never, for any reason, have live rounds near your training area when dry firing. Ensure all magazines, weapons and peripheral gear are free of ammunition before you begin. Always break the trigger with your weapon oriented in the safest possible direction. Dry fire training is exceptionally beneficial practice except when executed in an unsafe manner. Please, be smart.
Just like physical exercise, we should warm up. This is where we rack, squeeze, repeat, but slowly and deliberately. A proper warm-up often exposes bad habits in trigger control, sight picture/alignment and follow through, taking note of any issues. For example, if I notice that my front sight drops after the trigger breaks, I want make sure to work on follow through during this dry fire session.
Next, and starting slowly, isolate the variable. By variable, I mean whatever it is that I want to specifically improve or examine during this session. It could be an issue that was exposed during the warm-up phase, testing the placement of new piece of gear, or revisiting an issue noted during a match. Try and make it as specific as possible. To isolate the variable, remove all influences that do not aid in your examination. If I am working on transitioning into a low sitting position I struggled with at a match, I want to simulate the position itself as closely as possible, but NOT the stage. That can come later. What I mean is, remove anything that is not directly related to your area of focus. When you need to work on a transition, work on the transition. If your process to simulate the transition is followed by a series of RSRs, a mag change, and DOPE dialing you are not practicing a transition, you are practicing a stage.
Once you have focused on a least one specific area, you can begin to add further complication to your dry fire. This is where it gets fun. That KYL you totally blew at the last match because you thought you could hit that 3 MOA diamond at 520 yards from the high kneeling, yeah practice that. The whole stage too. Transitioning from position to position simulating target size, shape, orientation and distance (obviously that’s difficult to do in your living room, but you can dial the appropriate DOPE). Allow yourself to be creative here. Push yourself with time limits and difficult positions and reduced target dimensions.
After you master running match stages or other class drills during dry fire, you can take it a step further by adding physical exercise to your routine. Most ranges frown on me bringing workout equipment to the firing line and I haven’t found a gym yet that would allow me to bring my bolt gun in and use the dumbbell rack as a barricade. The benefits here are obvious, but I’ll outline them for those especially thick grunts out there. You don’t have to plan time to go to two places to train (gym and range). You get the added benefit of regularly handling your weapons and gear under physical duress which is difficult to find outside training courses, matches or actual engagements.
Maintenance of current skills and solidification of recently acquired ones is only a couple 15-minute dry fire sessions away. If you can’t make dry fire a regular activity, try to at least RSR and run a handful of dry drills a couple nights before your next course or department training. You’ll be surprised by how it affects your performance and I would love to hear about it.
By: Cory Mince