A reader asks, “Do you have an article about your dry fire regimen?” The answer to that is, “Now I do.”
Before getting into the so-called regimen, I want to emphasize that I’m still learning how to improve my pistolcraft. Dry fire practice is something that I’ve known about for several years. It’s something that has been mentioned by every single firearms instructor I’ve trained under in every single class I’ve attended. However, it’s not something I’ve been disciplined with until recently (within the last six or so months). Be mindful of that as you read through the remainder of this post. The only thing I’m suggesting, if I’m suggesting anything at all, in this post is that I’ve noticed a faster rate of improvement since I’ve made dry fire practice a regular and frequent activity.
My dry fire practice is a daily activity. It’s planned and structured on days where no live fire activities take place and a little loose on days containing live fire activities. However, it happens daily.
What I actually practice on the “planned and structured” days changes from time to time as my improvement focus changes. This is driven by what I notice coming out of matches or by a goal I am trying to achieve. Generally speaking, the changes to the routine are limited and happen every other month or so. Sometimes it’s a bit more frequent. Sometimes it’s a little bit less. I’m emphasizing this because repetition is important to make something a habit or to change a habit. I can’t remember where or who I heard the term from, but the goal (or at least my goal) with practice is to do a bit of central nervous system (CNS) programming and reprogramming. I want to make the things that I am working on second nature.
As an example, my current “planned and structured” regimen is designed to help me prepare for the Rangemaster instructor qualification exam that I have coming up. As such, it’s been pretty much the same fifteen to twenty minute routine for the past month. The routine consists of:
- 10 slow and deliberate strong hand only trigger presses
- 10 slow and deliberate weak hand only trigger presses
- 10 slow and deliberate two hand grip trigger presses
- 10 quick two hand grip trigger presses on a randomized start signal
- 25-50 draw to first shot on a one inch circle at three yards on a randomized start signal
My goal has been to develop my fundamental marksmanship skills and apply them on demand quickly and consistently. As such, I’ve been using the Mantis X10 a lot to get objective muzzle movement and time measurement feedback. While the Mantis is helpful, it’s not essential. A quality shot timer with a random delay start and par time features will also serve as an aid. However, the aids are just simply that – aids. Dry fire practice is the meat and potatoes here.
One the “loose days”, the dry fire is sometimes somewhat improvised or directed. This depends a lot on the activity that day. If I’m attending a class, then chances are the dry fire practice is directed by the instructor. I’m attending a match, then I will at least practice my draw and a few slow and deliberate trigger presses at a safety table. If the rules of the match allow it, I will also dry fire the stage or the start of the stage (sometimes this happens with an “air” gun only) to help me visualize my stage plan. If I’m at a local range, then I will use dry fire as needed to help me push my performance on a drill between live fire attempts to maximize the use of ammunition I have available.
There you have it. This is my current dry fire regimen. It’s what I’m doing right now based on what I think I need to work on to help me improve my current pistolcraft and achieve my current goals. As I mentioned, it seems that my rate of improvement has been noticeably more rapid since I’ve become more disciplined about regular and frequent dry fire practice. This has been evident in my match and drill scores which I’ve been using to measure and track my progress. While this could be anecdotal, I don’t believe that it is given how often dry fire practice is mentioned by instructors that I trust and materials I’ve seen from accomplished handgunners.
As far as I can tell, just about every single pistol handling skill can be developed with dry fire practice with the exception of recoil management. As such, I don’t believe it is a replacement for live fire practice, but I find it to be certainly both complementary and supplementary to live fire. Furthermore, it’s a practice that I strongly recommend to friends. A book that I found to be a good resource to help get started with dry fire practice is Ben Stoeger’s DryFire Reloaded book. Another book that has been recommended to me, but I have yet to check out, is Refinement and Repetition by Steve Anderson.
As far as I can tell, dry fire practice is the secret sauce pistoleros use to level up their skills. If this seems hard to believe and you’re serious about improving pistol handling skills, then I urge you to file it under “don’t knock it until you try it” and give it a fair shake. And I do mean a real fair shake. After all, it’s what the professionals do and qualified instructors recommend to improve and maintain technical and practical pistol marksmanship skills.