From the Pistol side of the Range
Want to be a better Shooter but the cost of ammo is too expense?
Ever been to the range or watched a YouTube video where the pistol shooter’s draw was so quick and fluid, fired so fast and was dead-on accurate? Wondering how they got so good? I will share an idea that you might find helpful on improving your basic pistol manipulation skills. First let me give you a reference point of live ammo fired by different levels of shooters. Most police officers shoot about 50-100 rounds per year at their re-qualification class. A mid-level competition pistol shooter may send down range about 5,000 rounds per year. A high-level shooter might shoot 25-35,000 rounds per year and the elite competitive pistol shooters will shoot about 50-75,000 rounds per year. Yea, I know what you are thinking – heck that is a lot of ammo but more importantly that is a lot of dollars! So, what can the average person do to become a better shooter?
The key is Dry Fire Practice.
What is so important about dry fire training? Mostly because dry firing is one of the surest steps to becoming a more proficient shooter with your own firearm. It allows you to break down your shooting process into four distinctive steps: 1. The draw 2. The extension to the target 3. The sight picture and 4. The trigger pull.
And thru the dry fire practice you can focus on one or more of those steps in your day’s dry fire practice session. Just remember to limit your time to about 20 minutes per session or maybe you have decided for this dry fire practice session, you will make 40 perfect draws before you stop. Whichever way you go I would still suggest you stay at 20 minutes per practice session. The reason for 20 minutes is these sessions require great focus and after 20 minutes people start losing focus on their actions. Lost focus creates bad habits!
Dry Firing is Essential to Develop Muscle Memory
The only way to get good at something is to practice. Dry firing is a great way to develop the muscle memory when it comes to not only trigger technique but consistent draws and faster pushouts to achieve the sight picture. It is muscle memory with YOUR pistol.
A simple and easy drill is to clear your weapon and practice dry firing from either your favored inside the waistband (IWB) or outside the waistband concealed carry holster. Not only do you develop the reflexes and reliable handling necessary to use that firearm – you develop confidence. You can find great holsters and mag holders specific to your gun at Blade-tech.com and comp-tac.com. I personally use a IWB holster from crossbreedholsters.com for my personal carry. Ask around and you will find there is a huge selection to meet your needs.
How to Dry Fire
To dry fire is simple but does require some care. First, you will need to completely empty your gun, as any firing of a gun - even dry - requires observance of proper and adequate gun safety. Check double-check and then triple-check, make sure your pistol is unloaded. No kidding here! There are too many real stories of accidental discharges. One example was the person was finished practicing and loaded up his firearm with live ammo. Then for some reason he wanted to take another practice shot at the targets and discharge several live rounds thru his garage wall.
In other words, you must make sure no live ammunition is anywhere near your gun. I would even ask that you practice somewhere in your house where your ammo is not kept.
Now that your gun is unloaded, insert a snap cap if desired. Modern centerfire pistols do not actually need a dummy round, but any rimfire gun will. Older guns, however, may have a more brittle firing pin than modern ones, so you may want to get a snap cap as a matter of course.
Now, to dry fire:
The best dry fire drill for most people is something called the "wall drill." What you do is find a spot on the wall, any identifiable spot. Get close to the spot; you will want the muzzle about an inch or two away from it. Get the sights over the spot and pull the trigger. Pay attention to the sights. Did they move? If so, you need to work on your trigger technique. Practice until they do not. Then keep practicing keeping up the skill. You can also use a target on the wall or maybe two targets that you draw to one, get a sight picture, pull the trigger and then move to the other target getting the sight picture and again pulling the trigger. We call this a transition. The trick is to draw and shoot at the first target and once you have finished shooting that target move your eyes first to the next target then move your pistol to line up with your eye sight on that target and make the shot. 1/3 size cardboard targets can be purchased frombenstoegeroroshop.com. There is a foot to yard conversion so at 10 feet it gives you the look at shooting targets at 10 yards. Now you have taken the range into your garage!
Keep honing your trigger control with dry fire practice. If you want to dial it up a bit, balance a small object on the barrel or slide such as a coin or empty shell casing. If the coin or shell casing does not move while your dry fire keeping the sight on the target point and smoothly pulling the trigger, then you are doing it right. You see, dry fire practice enhances your trigger skills in two primary areas. First, it enhances your trigger control that gives you the feel of the trigger pull until that surprised drop of the hammer. You will also feel the reset as you let the trigger out and hearing the click of the reset for the next trigger pull. Truthfully, you cannot afford not to be engaging in any dry fire training.
The facts, if your trigger technique is off, your hits will be too, regardless of your aim.
Here is how. A good trigger pull will not move the gun. That keeps the aim true and puts your shot on target. There are reasons your pistol can move off the sight picture as you pull the trigger. One may be that you have your trigger finger barely touching the trigger. This will tend to drive your pistol to the left. If you have your trigger finger too far in over the trigger, it will have the tendency to move the pistol to the right. Look at your trigger finger and see the first line of the joint closest to the tip of your finger. If you can place the spot in-between that first joint line and your fingertip over the trigger, you will have the perfect trigger finger placement. To ensure that your trigger technique is correct, you need to be able to observe it, which dry fire practice gives you the ability to do.
Again, you are dry fire practicing to improve each of the 4 parts of acquiring the target. First the consistent draw and placement of your strong hand on the pistol, then the quick push out to the target and the merging of your weak hand to the pistol (do not shoot your weak hand in dry fire practice- note the gun muzzle position when merging the weak hand), then acquisition of the target with front and rear sights aligned and finally the smooth pull of the trigger getting that surprised break of the hammer.
2020 has also brought technological aids to go far beyond just honing trigger control. In the old days, you used a dummy round and honed basic skills like draw speed, sight acquisition and trigger control. Today, you can do so much more with modern dry fire laser training. And you can get as advanced or basic as you wish. Available dry fire training systems can be relatively simple and inexpensive or incredibly advanced and unbelievably expensive. There are several: dry fire laser cartridges on amazon, Laser ammo training technologies, and LASR APP by Shooter Technology Group. LaserLyte is another exceptionally good maker of training systems. One of the great points I learned with a laser is you will not see the red laser dot hitting the target if one of your eyes is closed. Shooting with a laser teaches you to shoot with both eyes open which is preferred since you might be acquiring multiple targets. Two eyes open allows you to scan the whole surrounding area better than one.
Dry fire practice should include the practice of reloading your gun. By using a snap cap in the mag in the pistol and another in the mag on your side mag holder, it will help in the feel of a real reload. While the rack will not lock back in dry fire practice you can still simulate making two shots at the target, hitting the mag release button dropping the mag and then reaching swiftly to your spare mag and recharging your firearm, finding the sight picture again and smoothly pulling the trigger. The practice of emergency reloads should also be practiced with live fire in a tactical bay. One practice many do is load two rounds into the pistol, draw and make two shots on target, the slide locks back and you recharge your pistol with your spare magazine and then shoot another two shots to the same target. You should have 4 holes in the zero zone.
Also, it should be mentioned that dry fire training needs to be paired with training at your indoor or TGC shooting range. Dry fire training can work the draw, target acquisition and a consistent trigger pull, but you need live fire to learn your recoil management. There is no substitute for trigger time behind live ammunition. In next month’s Powder Keg addition, I will present some great live ammo practice sessions that gives you the best “bang for the buck” use of 50-100 rounds of ammo.
So, you want to be a better shooter, dry fire practice once per day- Monday thru Saturday and if you really want to get great do it twice per day. Live fire practice 50-100 rounds per week and if that’s too expense then do 50-100 rounds every other week. But 100 rounds should be the minimum you shoot per month. For the best use of that 100 rounds and more fun than a stick in the eye, come out to shoot our IDPA matches on the third Saturday of each month. I and others will personally walk you thru the fun, so you know what is going on. As a gun owner we take on a responsibility that says we are proficient with our firearm. That takes personal time to the commitment of dry fire practicing and doing the live fire practices.
See you at the range and Keep practicing!
PS... here is a photo of my dry fire practice garage