What are the three types of Dry Fire Practice? And when to use each for maximum benefit.

Draw from Holster


Over the last several years the use of dry fire has been widely promoted and adopted by shooters of all levels in an effort to improve their shooting more quickly and for much cheaper.  But let’s be honest, it still is not utilized nearly as much as it should be.  If you have the motivation to do dry fire then you are ahead of the game. Many people find dry fire boring and have a hard time getting engaged with it enough to drive any results. Not to mention in our busy society it can be hard to find time in the day to dry fire, and even if you want to, it becomes one of the items that slips and slips until you realize you’ve run out of time that day.

Fortunately there is a system which can help you maximize your dry fire by strategically deciding when and for how long you do it.  This can be from as little as 30 seconds, up to half an hour, or more.  The key is to pick ways to work dry fire into your existing schedule so that it’s so easy you won’t skip it.  Then you need to realize you don’t need to practice everything, break it down to specific skills and you can speed up practice significantly.  Lastly, always make sure you are following the universal firearms safety rules and if you are using an unloaded firearm, check it, check it again, and one more time, then make sure there is no ammo in the room and you have selected a safe direction.  Safety is first in firearms, always.

Now let’s go over that simple, three part system to help you strategically integrate dry fire into your life with minimal effort but maximum results.

The System

This system is really just breaking your dry fire into three separate categories that help to manage your time.  Each category takes advantage of the environment you're in and the ways you can adjust the action can serve different purposes. you are performing the same action actually serves different purposes.  The last one is going to be for those super busy folks out there and it’s so easy you can’t not do it.  Let’s dive in.

On Range

Perhaps the most obvious time to dry fire, and many instructors have their students incorporate it into drills already, is while you are on the range.  Not every trigger press has to be live.  The most obvious benefit here is cost savings, but that’s not the only reason to incorporate dry fire at the range.  

Utilizing dry fire as a way to reset your hands while on the line can be very valuable.  It gives your body the opportunity to concentrate on the fundamentals and go through some highly tactile repetitions without recoil, remember most of the shot process occurs before the projectile leaves the cartridge case.  This same resetting opportunity comes up again during a load and make ready command.  While you won’t press the trigger, you do have the opportunity to smoothly draw and present to a good sight picture, then load, make ready, press check, present for another sight picture and reholster.  You just got in a few more reps compared to everyone else on the line.

Next is one we have been hearing about from professional athletes for a long time, visualization.  If you know the course of fire then visualize going through it, if you can draw your gun and visualize each transition and trigger press even better, either way you have just primed your brain to shoot the drill.  Now most people will do this before, but you can also do this directly after a good run to engrain what happened.  This will allow you to absorb and appreciate the excellent run you just had. Reinforcing the good runs will translate to more good runs in the future.

On range dry fire will definitely save you some money, and extend your practice time but don’t let it become the focus, afterall you are there to put all your dry fire to the test with live fire.  It’s also important to note you don’t want to start with dry fire every session, there is value in running a first drill cold and seeing what your baseline is.  If you are carrying concealed don’t forget you won’t get a warmup so best to know your abilities while cold too.

Structured Dry Fire Practice

We all grew up with structured practice of some kind, whether that was in sports or the arts, or maybe just regular homework. Regardless of topic it was time consuming and even if it was fun could be daunting.  Having to make time to practice everyday can feel overwhelming and even more so when you aren’t sure where to start, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

Your structured practice is only limited by your knowledge and imagination, remember this is a time for you to experiment, try new things, and work through the friction all without judgment so do what is engaging for you.  Pick a skill to focus on and take 15-20 minutes to be really specific and intentional about what you do.  If you try to practice every skill you know every single time you will quickly burn yourself out.

By utilizing the other two dry fire categories you can slim down on your structured time, it really can be just 15-20 minutes twice a week.  Rotate through the skills practice, set a specific amount of time, and use equipment to help you with feedback.  Let’s go through a few examples of this.

If you want to practice your fundamentals then take a minute and build a short regime around what you have available to you.  This could be an empty gun with a casing on the slide, a smart performance analysis system like MantisX, a whole open room, or just a small standing space. It does not matter just scale it for your scenario.  

So the next 20 minutes could look like this.

  • Perform the MantisX Benchmark drill 5-10 times, incorporate the feedback recommendations each time.
  • Set the Passing Score in the Endurance drill as your earlier average and perform until you string at least 10 shots together before the drill ends.
  • Repeat this same format for Primary Hand Only and again for Support Hand Only drills.

Each trigger press was slow, deliberate, and high quality giving great reinforcement of those fundamental skills.  This short set gives you practice at well rounded fundamentals, and using the MantisX feedback is like having an instructor coach you through each drill and performing the Endurance drill is like a test.  If you did well on the Endurance drill you know you can up the passing score for next time, progressive overload but for shooting.

Perhaps you are confident in your shooting skills though and want to train for reacting to different scenarios you may find yourself in while going about your regular day.  That is a super powerful way to practice, removing the live ammo opens up the possibilities to everyday situations.

Scenario based dry fire practice may involve 20 minutes of using your imagination.

  • Envision a scenario such as being confronted by a mugger on your way to your car.
  • Set up a designated bad guy, like the targets offered in Laser Academy.
  • Play out the scenario in different ways, reacting with speech, movement and use of force.

Each time you act out the scenario, you give your brain the opportunity to go through it and decide what works and what doesn’t. The more examples your brain has seen the better it will perform on each iteration.  Don’t get stuck on pressing the trigger, dry fire is a time to put the whole story together and learn how to stack your specific set of skills into a strong defense.

The two examples given are both considered dry fire yet they are drastically different, so take 5 minutes and be a bit creative with your ideas.  Look at your deficiencies and equipment available then focus in and make a short regimen that warms you up, sets a baseline for this skill, practice and adjust it, then test it.  

Now that you see how versatile dry fire is, your long form practice sessions should be a bit more enticing to do, however we still have one huge hurdle to get over, time.  There is a simple solution to this and the best part is it is so easy that there is no reason not to do it, enter the method known as grease the groove.

Grease the Groove

This method comes from strength training athletes , and it follows the simple logic that performing a movement will improve the movement.  For example, to get good at pull ups rather than dedicate gym time to it, hang a pull up bar in a doorway and every time you walk through it do 1 pull up.  Over time that adds up in the strength and efficiency behind that movement but it was done with minimal effort on your part.  

How do you adapt this to work for dry fire you ask, let me give you some examples you can start incorporating today.  Having a cue to grease the groove is always helpful, pair it with a habit that you do every day.  

For many years I left a SIRT pistol in my drawer and when I put my pajamas away in the morning I had to pick it up so I would dry fire for 30 to 60 seconds and I had to do it again every night to get my pajamas out of the drawer.  This was guaranteed practice every single day, I forced the SIRT into my hand twice a day so now I had no excuse to not practice.  

Some people do this while they are waiting for the coffee to brew, a file to load, or the dog to go out, whatever the cue is, I can guarantee you have some dead time in your day so utilize it.

If you conceal carry you should take 30 to 60 seconds when you holster up to go through defeating your garment, drawing, and transitioning between targets.  Do it again each night when you take it off.  These extra two minutes mean you not only got some reps in but also primed yourself for using the skill that day.  Just remember to follow the universal rules and remove the ammo from the area.

Greasing the groove is another time when you can focus on a particular skill or an individual piece that is giving you trouble.  Maybe that means just clearing your garment for 30 seconds every morning or perhaps it is using a pen tip as a pretend front sight and training your eyes to transition from the target to the sight quickly.  It could be leaving a Blackbeard in your rifle and firing it every time you open your gun safe, or since it makes the rifle inert fire for 30 seconds every time you enter the master bedroom.  There are small opportunities all over, and you don’t even need your gun for some of it.

We all love life hacks these days and I hope this helps in increasing your productivity and efficiency with dry fire, especially by using the grease the groove method.  If you are still stuck on what to do for each session check out our products, each of them have drills and courses you can complete to help with specific skills.  MantisX will also let you know about any deficiencies you have and how to correct them.  Using a log or technology to track your performance and progress can accelerate your learning path, you can even use your favorite goal system, like SMART goals, to systematically practice and master new skills.  Now that you are armed with an execution plan, pick some skills and grease that groove.    

Kayla House
Kayla House