One of things that never ceases to amaze me is the quality of the people I run into who are active in the firearms training community. By and large, they are good folks who care about their craft, others who teach it, those who practice it, and their families by extension. As my involvement in that community continues, I’ve met several other instructors who have a hand in helping me develop my pistolcraft and become a better instructor. One of those folks is Memphis Beech who led a 90-minute webinar I recently attended covering the basics of dry fire and that webinar is what this post is about.
In short, the Dry Fire Basics webinar is a brief but information packed introduction to dry fire that will benefit any gun owner who has heard of dry fire, knows that dry fire is the secret sauce to marksmanship skill development, but is unsure how to dry fire or wants to dry fire more effectively. It’s hands on how to if you will that covers how to do it safely, how to make it a part of your life (and by extension make it a part of the lives of those around you), and how to do it well. All with a splash of where to take it next.
Before the webinar begins, attendees receive a few emails. One contains a link to class notes that are more meaningful after attending the webinar along with answers to commonly asked questions. Another email contains a link to the webinar.
The webinar begins with looking at the reasons, or rather excuses, we have for not taking advantage of dry fire practice regularly. Perhaps the only legitimate reason is not knowing how to dry fire safely or effectively, but it’s hard to argue that other reasons aren’t excuses. The hard truth is that one isn’t going to dry fire as long as existing barriers aren’t overcome. The harsh reality of that is that without dry fire practice developing one’s marksmanship abilities to their fullest potential is just not possible. We owe it to ourselves and those we protect to make the time, overcome the barriers, and make frequent dry fire practice a part of our lives.
An in-depth review of universal safety rules which naturally flowed into dry fire safety protocols was next on the agenda. Like the universal safety rules, the dry fire safety protocols are in place to virtually eliminate the chance of a negligent discharge. Negligent discharges in dry practice are a real concern. They are a negative outcome that increases in likelihood with carelessness and complacency. Protocols for dry practice, like the universal safety rules once again, are ubiquitous, but are sometimes presented slightly differently. Memphis Beech presents them as the following four steps:
- Mentally and verbally declare the beginning of the practice session.
- Clear the room.
- Clear the gun.
- Mentally and verbally declare the end of the session
Each step is discussed in detail to ensure proper and deliberate steps are taken to ensure a safe training environment. Step 4 is especially critical when the practice session is interrupted in such a manner that one is required to leave the practice area. The reason for the interruption is irrelevant. The point is to ensure that practice mode ends. There is no pause and resume. It’s over. Whether the next dry fire session takes place only moments after the interruption or days later, it is a brand new dry fire session that begins from the first step. The actual practice takes place between steps 3 and 4.
While the primary purpose of the protocol is to create a safe environment in which to practice safely, it is also in place to build trust with others in the household who may have a different perspective on guns, handling guns in the residence, or handling guns around them. Even if the members of the household have very similar perspectives, the sound of timers beeping, triggers clicking, and slides racking can be disconcerting if they are unexpected.
With safety and protocols covered, the webinar moves on to discuss the role of dry fire in relation to live fire practice which is a symbiotic relationship. They work together to help one build and develop their marksmanship skills.
Before actually doing some dry fire drills, Memphis takes a moment to explain how to get the most out of dry fire. It’s not about getting repetitions in. It’s about being present in each repetition of each drill so that we are aware of what we are doing so that we are performing correct repetitions. That is doing each repetition the way we want to perform that particular skill or string of skills later. This includes all of the little details which may include, but is not limited to, establishing a proper grip, making sure each hand is doing what it’s supposed to do, seeing what needs to be seen while manipulating the trigger correctly at the right time in concert with what we are seeing, and so on. Doing the reps for the sake of doing the reps without being mindful can lead to developing bad habits.
At this point, Memphis Beech walked the attendees through his 5-minute practice routine that focuses on developing the draw to first shot (DTFS) which is broken down into two one-minute micro drills and three one minute DTFS drills at different speeds as follows:
- Sights micro drill – with the gun at rest (where the two handed grip is formed), pick a spot on the target, bring the sights to the eye-target line, repeat
- Sights Trigger micro drill – same as the sights micro drill, but add a good trigger press when the sights meet the eye-target line, repeat
- DTFS at half speed – from the holster, pick a spot on the target, draw the gun, bring the sights to the eye target line, press the trigger, repeat at a relaxed pace without introducing unnecessary tension
- DTFS at 85-90% speed – same as DTFS at half speed, but as quickly as possible while still maintaining good form and without introducing unnecessary tension
- DTFS on a shot timer – same as before, maintain the form without tension, and listening to confirm if we are beating the par time
After doing Memphis Beech’s routine, we spent a little time looking at three different common targets and their uses. Some targets are better for developing accuracy, some are better for developing speed, others are better for simulating realism. We also spent some time learning about how to use scaled targets to simulate distance which we are unlikely to have in a room inside of a typical residence. Practicing on a full size target at six to nine feet isn’t going to do much good when attempting to perform the same drill on the same target at the range when that target is five to ten yards away.
We also spent some time looking at a few other dry fire hacks to get more out of dry fire practice. For example, tape can be placed on the breech face to keep the pistol slightly out of battery and get more realistic consecutive trigger presses which can be helpful when dry firing multi shot drills. Another tip that was provided was using occlusion to help develop a habit of maintaining visual focus on the target. These tricks dovetailed into a brief enumeration of additional micro drills and other skills that can be developed with dry fire practice such as, transitions, reloads, and malfunction clearing.
Before wrapping up, the attendees were provided with a number of resources that attendees may want to leverage to get more out of their dry fire. These resources were:
- Mantis X Laser Academy targets
- Downloadable targets from ConcealedCarry.com
- Free online resources available listed Memphis Beech’s website
- Using a BarrelBlok
- Getting dry practice targets, manuals and timers from:
- Picking up and reading a copy of The Dry Fire Primer by Annette Evans
- Dry Practice Drill app for iOS or Android
- Range Buddy app for iOS or Android
The webinar closed out with a return to identifying and overcoming barriers to dry fire practice. Knowing how to practice effectively is great and all, but that knowledge isn’t worth much if it isn’t put into practice. The knowledge by itself is about as useful as that defensive pistol that is locked away at home when one is at the gas station pumping gas when they get accosted. As trite as the saying may seem, one has to “do the work”. Figuring out what is keeping one from doing the work and overcoming is necessary in order to achieve our marksmanship goals.
While this after action report provides a structured account of the webinar and contains some of the elements I walked away with after participating in it, it is much like the class notes that are provided to attendees because it is missing a fair bit of context, nuance, and detail. All in all, the webinar is of great value that can go a long way in helping one get started with dry fire practice or get more out of their dry fire practice. It’s time and money well invested. If this sounds like something that is up one’s alley, then I’d encourage a visit to Memphis Beech’s website to book a seat in an upcoming webinar. I will also encourage folks to take a look at some of the other training services that are available from Memphis Beech.