Top 5 Reasons to Dry Fire

There’s a lot of focus on live fire, and understandably so: it can be seen as more fun and the feedback is more obvious. But it can be expensive to buy all that ammo and trek back and forth from the range, not to mention time-consuming. That’s where dry fire comes in. Dry fire is a legitimate, effective method for improving your firearm skills, and we’re going to tell you why.

1. Dry fire saves you money.

federal hst ammo 380 auto
Ammunition gets expensive, and dry fire is a great way to help cut costs while continuing to train. (Photo credit: Federal Premium)

The price of ammunition keeps going up. This has led to an increasing number of people cutting back both range time and class attendance. Even handloading or reloading isn’t an ideal way to ensure more time shooting, either, partly due to the lack of primers and other components in the past few years. Dedicating time you’d typically spend on live fire to dry fire saves you money while honing your skills. You might be surprised by what you can do without ammunition. Training doesn’t have to be expensive. In fact, it can be done in a safe area in your home.

2. Dry fire improves handgun skills and keeps them sharp.

handgun shooting skills
Your handgun skills are perishable, which means you need to train consistently. (Photo credit: Spring Guns)

Handgun skills — and shooting skills in general — are perishable. That means if you don’t spend time shooting, your skills are slowly degrading. The good news is that keeping those skills going doesn’t require constant live fire or classes (although both are valuable). If you work on skill-specific drills, you can keep your skills sharp and even improve them.

For example, you can fine-tune trigger control by dry firing with a penny or a round of spent brass balanced on the front sight of your handgun. It sounds easy until you try it, at which point you discover it does take a certain amount of focus and a steady hand. Yes, live fire does involve felt recoil and muzzle rise, and those things cannot be replicated by dry fire, but you can still benefit a great deal from dedicated dry fire time. Don’t assume that simply because there’s no felt recoil you can’t benefit — because you can.

3. Dry fire helps your draw stroke.

galco holster crossdraw
The way you wear your holstered carry gun is the way you need to practice drawing it. (Photo credit: Galco)

Drawing your handgun from the holster might not seem like an important skill, but a smooth, safe drawstroke is a vital part of being a talented handgunner. It can also affect your self-defense abilities. You might be surprised just how valuable it becomes to shave a few seconds off your drawstroke until you’re in a situation where those seconds truly matter.

Ideally, you can work on this during dry fire by breaking down your drawstroke into segments. This means getting a full firing grip while using your off-hand to raise your shirt or cover garment and then working on the action of drawing the handgun straight up out of the holster. Next, you’d focus on the action of aiming the handgun toward the target with your strong hand — without extending it just yet — and bringing your off-hand over to grip the gun for a two-handed grip. Start slow and work on making sure each step is clear and crisp before you try to speed things up. Rushing the process will only cause issues in the long run. Take your time.

Side note: This is especially important when it comes to familiarizing yourself with your current handgun and holster setup. It’s all too common for gun owners to simply holster up and head out without any practice. As a responsible gun owner, you should be training with your daily carry gun and gear, which means working on that draw stroke from concealment.

4. Dry fire is a great time to speed up magazine changes.

spare magazines for handguns
Think your magazine change speed doesn’t matter? It does. (Photo credit: Mec-Gar USA)

Another moment where many gun owners lose time is changing magazines. And while it might be easy to think you won’t need a second magazine, you really cannot predict that. Some stereotypes about gunfights and self-defense hold true, but most are unreliable. Fighting for your life cannot be predicted or planned, and you might end up needing to change the magazine. Doing this quickly can be a real problem if it isn’t something you’ve practiced.

Here’s a tip for dry fire magazine changes: Make sure you’re carrying your spare magazine in the location on your body where you’d have it as part of your daily carry loadout. Positioning a spare magazine in a different location — including training with open carry only — isn’t much help in a self-defense scenario. Train as realistically as possible, within reason. And, of course, get some training on how to do proper, fluid magazine changes. There are small details that matter such as the direction the magazines are set in your magazine pouch (think “bullets to belt buckles”).

5: Dry fire gets you out of the weather and other excuses.

dummy rounds for dry fire
If you choose to use dummy rounds as part of your dry fire practice, make sure they’re clearly different than live ammo in appearance. (Photo credit: ST action)

There are plenty of excuses for not going to the range, whether it’s an indoor or outdoor location. Having a dry-fire-ready space in your home is a good way to sidestep those excuses, whether they’re valid or not. Dry fire at home removes commute time, saves money on ammo, and gives you the ability to train for 10 minutes when the opportunity arises. Of course, to do that you need to be prepared to accomplish it safely, which brings us to our final point.

How To Dry Fire at Home

mantis x dry fire system
The Mantis X is a laser system designed to make dry fire more effective. (Photo credit: Mantis X)

Before you dry fire at home, you need to take steps to ensure your safety and the safety of those around you. That means training in an area where there is absolutely no live ammunition around, having a reliable backstop in case an accident does happen, and understanding how to shift yourself into the mindset of dry fire. You should be checking your gun more than once both visually and by touch to be positive it’s empty. In fact, many people find it helpful to say out loud “My gun is empty and I am going to dry fire now.” Take the necessary steps to be safe. It’s worth it.

There are various tools available for dry fire such as lasers, computer programs, and dummy rounds. Whatever tools you choose to use in your dry fire time, take steps to be sure they’re not identical to or in the same location as your live ammo. It can be tempting to have it all in one spot, and understandably so, but it’s a lot safer if it’s not. Choosing a spot in your home — preferably the basement, if you have one — for dry fire is a good idea for safety’s sake. Many people also have a dedicated dry fire magazine, or two, or a duplicate handgun that’s only used for that purpose. It might seem excessive at first, but you’ll be glad you took steps to be safe in the long run.

Don’t dismiss the idea of dry fire. It’s a fantastic way to sharpen your skills and save some money, not to mention time. Share your dry fire tips in the comments section.

Kat Ainsworth Stevens is a long-time outdoor writer, official OGC (Original Gun Cognoscenti), and author of Handgun Hunting: a Comprehensive Guide to Choosing and Using the Right Firearms for Big and Small Game. Der Teufel Katze has written for a number of industry publications (print and online) and edited some of the others, so chances are you've seen or read her work before, somewhere. A woman of eclectic background and habits, Kat has been carrying concealed for over two decades, used to be a farrier, and worked for a long time in emergency veterinary medicine. She prefers big bores, enjoys K9 Search & Rescue, and has a Master's Degree in Pitiless Snarkastic Delivery.

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