I’m a big fan of shooting. I used to go to the range twice a week. I say “used to” because I no longer live in the same place; I’m much farther from the closest range. That makes it harder to go shooting and I’ve been so busy that I just can’t cut loose to go to the range as often as I’d like.
But that doesn’t mean that I don’t practice. Shooting practice is an important part of ensuring that we are able to defend ourselves. We need to be able to shoot accurately and we need to be able to shoot quickly. Both of those require a lot of practice. So how do I get a lot of practice, when I can’t go to the range frequently? Dry fire.
Dry fire basically consists of firing a gun, without any ammo in it. Done properly, it requires using all of the basic principles of shooting, allowing them to be practiced. The only real differences are the lack of recoil and the hole in the target to tell you how you did.
We can’t do much about the recoil, but adding a laser sight to the gun, either temporarily or permanently will allow you to get an idea of how you did. If you jerk the shot off target, by jerking the trigger, the red dot will move off sight. If you are anticipating the shot and pushing the muzzle down, the dot will show that too. It just takes getting used to watching what happens with the red dot, while still using the iron sights to aim with.
But more than anything, dry fire practice allows you to practice trigger control, the most important element in accurate shot placement. While the sight picture used to be considered the most important thing, we’ve learned that poor sight alignment might take you off by an inch or two, while poor trigger control can affect your shot placement by more than a foot.
There are two things that compound problems with trigger control: the desire to shoot rapidly and adrenalin. Of the two, adrenalin is actually the biggest problem, as it really messes with fine muscle coordination. Practice helps overcome this, as it teaches our “muscle memory” what to do. At the same time, the repetition of shooting practice helps to overcome the tendency for adrenalin to be pumped into our system in a live shooting event.
This is of critical importance, as adrenalin will cause the average shooter’s ability to be degraded by something like 80%. What that means is that if you are used to shooting a 4 inch group, you’ll be creating a group five times that size, 20”. In other words, you’ll be more likely to miss your target, than hit it.
I can shoot a one inch group, largely due to all the dry fire practice I do. When that’s degraded by the same 80%, I end up shooting five inch groups. In other words, I’m much more likely to hit my target. That makes it worth my time and effort, even if it does seem a little bit silly to be pulling the trigger on an empty gun.
One last thing; always double and triple check that your gun is empty, before doing any dry fire practice. You don’t want to find out the hard way that it really wasn’t empty.