You enjoy shooting, spend days on the range plinking, and work on keeping in shape and accurate with your firearm – but are absolutely tired of shelling out your money for insane ammo prices. Although not quite the same as a day on the range, dry fire techniques and dry fire systems are great ways to build muscle memory, stay accurate, and become more confident in handling your firearms.
Take a look at how this is an incredibly beneficial practice anyone serious about their shooting should consider. Whether you conceal carry, open carry, or just like a little fun competition between friends, dry fire training is an answer for a multitude of shooting scenarios.
What is Dry Fire Training?
Dry firing is the practice of shooting a firearm without ammunition in the chamber. This can be done with just your gun, or you can invest in a dry fire system that provides you the opportunity to use an ammunition insert that works with an app to highlight your aim and accuracy.
Why Dry Fire Train?
Shooting is incredibly sensory which drives much of what is enjoyed while firing a gun. However, it can become something you anticipate and it may begin to interrupt the focus you should be concentrating on to ensure an accurate, effective shot. Dry firing provides you the means to focus on the mechanical movements of the entire process without noise or physical distraction. Plus, you won’t have to deal with the cost of ammunition while perfecting your form and control.
Also, you no longer have to plan a trip to the range or be at the mercy of the weather to get a few moments of practice in. Dry fire training can be done just about anywhere, in any space, including while traveling – making it a convenient practice.
And if you are curious about whether this is an effective method with measurable results, just keep in mind many Olympians claim this is a regular practice, allowing them to hone skills and stay sharp even with long lengths between visits to the range.
Another reason is to help new shooters and children gain confidence with the handling of a gun in a safe manner. Becoming comfortable with a firearm is a must for any shooting scenario, and the fundamentals of safe shooting can be applied in a manner that is easy to correct and adjust without the worry of a loaded round.
Best Time to Dry Fire
Even though you can dry fire any time, anywhere, one of the best ways to get started with it is to start practicing right after live firing. This way you still have the muscle memory and feel of the shooting scenario fresh in mind and you are more likely to fall easily back into position for a transition you can carry forward to areas off the range.
Even after becoming proficient in dry firing, always do so after live firing to keep your stance and position sharp and accurate.
What You Need
Unless you plan on investing in a laser training device with a training cartridge, you technically do not need anything for your dry fire drills – however, there are some dry fire tools you may want to consider. These include spring-loaded dry fire dummy cartridges, called a snap cap, or a DryFire mag. An electronic training target can also add to a more effective training scenario.
Whether you’re using a rifle, handgun, or shotgun, it’s important to ensure you won’t be damaging your tool of choice by dry firing it. While modern centerfire firearms don’t offer much reason to be concerned, rimfires require some prep. Usually, when the sear is released on a centerfire piece, the firing pin shoots forward through the center of the bolt to impact in the center of a cartridge. If there’s no cartridge loaded the firing pin simply protrudes into empty space for the briefest of moments before being quickly retracted into the bolt.
On the other hand, rimfires are a completely different story. Since a rimfire cartridge is struck on the rim where it’s braced against the breech, dry firing introduces the possibility of the firing pin extending all the way forward and tapping against the hardened steel breech. Done enough times, this harsh impact has the potential to lead to excessive and premature wear or breakage of the firing pin and is going to require a trip to your local gunsmith.
To protect against this, rimfires should always be dry-fired with a snap cap. While a spent casing can provide similar protection, it’s also less easily recognized as a non-live round and could create a potential mix-up. Use snap caps for safety.
Arrange a Training Area
While a traditional backstop or target can be foregone for dry firing, it’s still important to set up a realistic target or aiming point and to keep from scaring neighbors and passersby. When setting up your dry fire area, make sure you’re not prominently displayed to the public in a window or in the backyard. Seeing someone aiming a firearm inside a house can understandably perturb even the calmest soul.
For targets, use a very scaled-down version of your typical target as a training tool. The key is to maximize training effectiveness by maintaining a similar sight picture during dry fire as during the real deal. Computer programs providing customizable scaled targets are available free on the web.
Alternatively, it’s easy to make a decent dry fire target at home by simply drawing out a target on an index card with a Sharpie. Start close as you can always add distance for training purposes, especially when dry fire laser training as it allows you to see where you hit the target.
If you do invest in a dry fire laser system or other dry fire training device, most offer downloadable targets you can print that are compatible with the app to provide you with an accurate representation of the aim. These systems generally require a tripod to hold your phone or tablet on as well to help you view shot placement
If aiming real firearms, even unloaded and safely cleared, is unnerving to you – you can also always invest in replica airsoft guns that mimic the size, feel, and weight of a real gun as an effective dry fire tool.
With these, you can work on efficient training with airsoft pellets in a backyard or basement without the recoil, muzzle lift, or noise to distract you. These work as training pistols and can allow you to focus on skills while visualizing and confirming your accuracy as well.
Focus on a Skill
Dry firing doesn’t give that unique satisfaction that comes with blowing away targets on the range. The reward instead comes from implementing an excellent shot process. Choose breathing control for one session, and squeezing the trigger exactly rearward for another. Once dry firing becomes part of the routine, consistent improvements in specific areas become as rewarding as a bulls-eye on the range.
Dry Fire Drilling
One way to help you focus is to provide regular dry fire practice drill sessions to your focus skill groups. These include things like balance control, positioning, reload practices, and even one hand firing. Take a look at some of these suggestions:
Drawing practice is especially important for self-defense carry – both concealed and open. You should be comfortable with the location, access, feel, and draw of your gun to target. Practice with various scenarios and target locations to build muscle memory and determine if you need to tweak your comfort or grip.
Keeping your muzzle on target and your sites aligned when pulling the trigger ensures an effective target. Try balancing a penny on the top of your muzzle while you draw to help build arm and wrist strength, and have a more intimate awareness of your grip and breathing to keep steady aim when pulling the trigger.
Training magazines are nice for this drill and allows you to reload quickly and efficiently. This is especially important for match shooters who need to be able to drop their removable magazine and load a new one in just seconds. Work from where you keep your mag, such as on your belt or table in front of you, and play with different scenarios and placement to find the best for your comfort without having to look for it.
One Hand Shooting
It is more likely you may have to shoot one-handed in a self-defense scenario, so don’t avoid practicing your balance, stance, and trigger pull with one hand. This helps build wrist and arm muscles and makes you focus on the details for an accurate shot.
Work on various shooting stances and positions when dry firing. Kneeling, sitting, and prone positions are all worth practicing from to develop knowledge of your own capabilities and to provide an added challenge.
Dry Fire System Buyer’s Guide
If you are serious about integrating a regular practice of dry fire training into your routine, using a complete system that provides feedback truly is the most effective way to stay consistent and accurate. Although just dry firing either with your gun or a simulator is a great choice as well, combining both techniques into your training will make you a more efficient shooter on the range.
Before choosing the system for your abilities, keep in mind a few details in order to get what it is you need and want. All systems have variances in their overall packages – offering training pistols with built in lasers, laser capable cartridges for your own firearm, laser target recognition, or even apps to live feed you shooting accuracy.
Different systems incorporate different types of sensors for firearm movement feedback. These generally require a downloadable app or software to review. Sensors are a great way to receive feedback on the movement of the barrel of your firearm before, during, and after a shot.
Laser capabilities are incorporated in various ways. Laser bullets/cartridges are the most popular as they fit directly into your personal firearm and allow you to train with the weight and feel of what you are most comfortable with. Others may be built into a firearm simulator that mimics the feel of your favorite gun. These are generally a bit more generic overall, however. Most lasers provide feedback via an app or specialized target in real-time or depend on you noticing where your laser hits your choice of target.
The simplest of systems only allow you to see where your laser hits the target upon pulling the trigger. This is often an affordable choice, but to track accuracy you will need to create your own data collection system. Others work with specialized targets that light up or make noise to provide you an idea of accuracy, or even work with software or an app to collect your shots. The best systems work with an app to provide live feedback and data collection graphs to allow you to view the history of your shooting, distances, and accuracy.
As mentioned, specialized targets provide feedback when used with laser systems; these may light up or make noise and even collect accurate data. Other systems use apps that provide downloadable targets to use for imaging purposes that read where your laser hits the target to collect data. The most affordable systems allow you to make your own targets when gathering your own data on distances and accuracy.
You always want to check the compatibility of both your firearm and app use with phones and tablets. Laser cartridges will be specific to the firearm and offer a cartridge that is compatible with the same caliber of gun you own. It is important to have the correct size to avoid jamming or damaging your gun. App use also may be specific to certain phone operating systems, so be sure to choose one that works with your existing phone to avoid problems.
Dry Fire Laser Systems to Consider
Take a look at our top choices to invest in to help you truly apply knowledge of your own aim and accuracy to live-fire training.
G-Sight ELMS Plus PROPACK Dry Fire Cartridge Laser Training System
- Save Money On Ammo While Improving Your Shooting Skills
- Train Safely With Your Own Gun
- A Serious Product With Superior Accuracy
The superior accuracy offered by the G-Sight ELMS systems is one of the best on the market. It allows you to choose a system based on your personal firearm caliber to work with your own gun to mirror live ammo firing. The patent pending “shoot for life” replaceable strike pads and 3 o-ring systems keeps you from having to replace the entire cartridge after being worn out, and saves money in the long run.
Available in various pack systems for budget purposes, their ProPack comes with the cartridge plus batteries, extra o-rings and strike pads, manual, carrying case, tripod, targets, and access to a free companion app that offers in-app purchase add-ons and additional downloadable targets as well.
Who This is For
This is a great choice for anyone who needs a whole system to get started with. They do offer various options to pick from that includes just the cartridge with access to the app to the ProPack highlighted above – and everything in between.
Votatu LC-9 9mm Laser Training Cartridge with Built in Snap Cap
- Stay sharp with enhanced dry fire practice
- Make your drills more efficient and fun with visual and rapid feedback
- Save money and maintain muscle memory on the cheap with more than 3000 shots per set of batteries
If you just prefer a simple laser cartridge to get started with, the Votatu LC-9 (and other various caliber choices) is a good place to start. It provides quick visual feedback on your own targets, and can even work with existing training system phone apps offered by other companies, and various aftermarket apps. It provides up to 3000 per set with basic batteries, and is easy to replace without having to purchase an entirely new cartridge.
This simple solution comes with a cartridge in your choice of caliber size, an o-ring, a built in snap cap, and extra set of batteries. It can be seen clearly up to 1200 meters in the correct lighting as well, allowing you a huge range to shoot within. Be sure to check with app compatibility if you choose to use it in such a manner.
Who This is For
Perfect for the budget buyer who doesn’t want to sacrifice quality, this cartridge is accurate and dependable and offers additional options for enhanced feedback.
LaserHIT Dry Fire Training Kit
- Practice like the Pros in the comfort of your living room
- See your hits on the tablet screen with realistic “bullet holes” and sound effects in real-time
- LASERHIT mobile app available at App Store and Google Play
This universal system offers a 9mm generic laser cartridge to use with a downloadable app for accurate dry shooting scenarios from the comfort of your home. See where you hit with sond capabilities to help build muscle memory and sharpen marksman skills. This system includes everything you need, including a mini tripod, phone holder, dual-sided target card, cartridge extractor, and free mobile app.
The LaserHIt app offers in-app purchases to enhance your practice if you desire, and the practice drills provide touch-less reload systems for various scenarios. You can also use it with any other black or dark colored targets you may prefer.
Who This is For
Great for anyone looking for a full, interactive system, everything you need comes with this set up to provide you the ability to practice in live-shooting situations. The mini-tripod will require a table or desk to be set upon.
Mantis Laser Academy – Standard Training Kit
- Smart targets, automatic scoring, training drills, and training courses
- Includes FULL ACCESS code to the award-winning Mantis Laser Academy app
- Kit includes: (1) laser training cartridge – 9mm, (2) adjustable tripods, (3) 24 heavy duty smart targets, (4) target stand holders, (5) portable carrying case, (6) Mantis Laser Academy access code.
Available in an excellent selection of cartridge sizes for both handguns and rifles, the Mantis Laser ACademy system is a top rated choice that includes smart targets, automatic scoring, training drills, and various training courses to pick and choose from. The online access is available in a free downloadable app and uses an access code to have availability to all that is offered upon purchase.
Included in the kit is the laser training cartridge in your choice of caliber, 2 adjustable tripods for floor or tabletop use, 24 heavy duty smart targets, target stand holders, and a portable carrying case. The app is easy to log into with the academy access code.
Who This is For
This is the perfect system for anyone who wants an entire kit PLUS instruction for various drills and courses to complete for a more comprehensive understanding measurement of accuracy and challenging scenarios.
Wrapping It Up
Next time you’re itching for some range time but can’t quite squeeze it in, ward off the grouchiness with a bit of dry fire training. With a minimum of setup and equipment, you can be getting in top-quality training that will pay off in spades next time you get to sling some real lead. While everyone else is sound asleep, you will be getting in some serious training one click at a time. Before you know it, you may even find dry fire training a part of your daily routine.
We’d love to hear about which drills you prefer and why below in our comments section, and, as always, please share!