Enhance Your Pistol Skills with 3 Dry Fire Practice Drills

by Drew Beatty

Dry fire practice — the practice of firing a firearm without ammunition — is an essential part of your handgun shooting skill development. Most modern pistols can be dry fired thousands of times without issue. It's inexpensive, it takes recoil out of the equation, and it's easy to do at home. While it's not as exciting as live fire, there are some key fundamental skills you can enhance with dry fire practice.

First, a reminder about the four rules of gun safety:

  • Treat ALL firearms as if they were loaded.
  • Never point the muzzle at anything you are not willing to destroy.
  • Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target.
  • Know your target and what is beyond it.

If you are engaging in dry fire practice, check to ensure the gun isn't loaded. Then check it again. Then check it a third time. Next, make sure to have no ammunition or loaded magazines in the room you are using for practice. Keeping ammo and magazines in separate rooms is both a physical and psychological separation during dry fire exercises.

And ensure that you are not pointing the weapon at anything you don't want destroyed. Also, do not immediately load the gun after a round of practice. Wait 30 minutes before you reload the weapon in case you reflexively return to your dry fire practice after loading it. If you've just pulled the trigger 50 times in a row you'd be surprised how easily your muscle memory can reflexively pull the trigger a 51st time.

Here are three dry fire drills I like to practice:

Draw: Draw fundamentals are an excellent use of dry fire time. You can use this time to eliminate any unnecessary motion while drawing, such as casting. You can focus on ensuring the pistol is high in your grip when you take hold of it. You can also practice clearing any cover garments you might wear when carrying. Additionally, you can work on acquiring a perfect two hand or one hand grip when you present the weapon. When I use dry fire practice for draw, I try to focus on one aspect of the draw and get it perfect, then move on to another.

Wall Drill: After you have ensured that the pistol is not loaded, point the pistol at a wall keeping the muzzle just 2 or 3 inches from the wall. Obtain your site picture (sharply focused front sight, fuzzy rear sight and target) and fire the dry weapon. Did the front sight move off of your point of focus? If so, which direction? What this allows you to do is see if your trigger pull technique is moving the muzzle off target. You should be squeezing the trigger straight back toward you with smooth, consistent force. If you see the sights moving to one side of the other, or up or down, you are either pulling or pushing the weapon while you are manipulating the trigger or you have developed the habit of anticipating recoil. You can do this drill both two handed and/or one handed. Regular continuous dry fire practice of trigger control pays dividends on the range.

Balance Drill: This drill is great for practicing a smooth trigger pull. Balance a spent pistol case vertically on the end of the pistol behind the front sight. Now, pull the trigger in a way that ensures that the balanced case does not fall of the end of the pistol. This drill will help you embed a smooth trigger pull and a tight grip on the pistol into muscle memory.

Using these examples, dry fire practice can be used to enhance many of the fundamental pistol skills you would use on the range. Try adding these to your practice regimen.

Drew Beatty is a 50 year old husband and father, and a lifetime resident of the great state of Colorado. He is an NRA Life-Member, and a long-time firearms enthusiast, as well as a strong advocate for The Second Amendment.