By: Trevor Thrasher, Curriculum Manager & Senior Instructor
Anyone who wants to improve their marksmanship should spend more time doing dry-fire training practice than live-fire shooting on the range. It not only saves a great deal of money, but also improves skill through (potentially) greater repetition and allows you to concentrate on and refine certain aspects of shooting without the distractions of the range.
I am a strong advocate of SIRT pistols and bolts for the AR platform. The resetting trigger, shot indicating laser, and secondary laser for trigger reset provide instant feedback. Alternatives exist, but most require you to manually reset the trigger (rack the slide) after every rep. You can also practice without a laser device, but you must be more disciplined about calling your shots. Sometimes a small piece of rubber band to keep the gun out of battery will allow you to work the trigger. Ultimately, both options are a compromise.
To make the most of your dry-fire training, you will need a handful of dummy rounds and a shot timer with par timer capability. If you want to go cheap, use one of the many free shot timer apps on your mobile device. Almost all of them come with limitations. If you want to take things further, I recommend the MantisX training device. This is a fantastic device with an associated phone app that acts as both a shot timer, a measurement of trigger press, and more through the use of a small device that you attach to your handgun or magazine. The measurement is so sensitive that it shows your muzzle deviation during your trigger press.
The app has several drills and standards you can use to practice, and it even retains your performance and gives you video examples of how to correct many mistakes. Don’t be frustrated if you find out your trigger press is 25% or less of what it could be. The MantisX device works with dry fire, live fire, and even with airsoft. It also works just as well when there are other people shooting near you – the device will only register your shots. Take the money you save with dry practice and spend it on the MantisX. You will not be disappointed.
DRY-FIRE TRAINING TIPS
- Make safety for dry-fire practice a ritual.
- Dry fire only in a designated area with a safe-to-shoot wall (bullets will stop before they hurt anyone).
- Clear your weapon and remove all live ammunition from the area. Put ammo and mags in a separate room away from your training area.
- Double check your weapon and all magazines.
- When training is over, it’s over. Reload and tell yourself, “Training is done and my weapon is now loaded.”
- If you take a break or become distracted, start over and clear everything again.
- Do not practice, “Just one more rep” – that is how accidents happen.
- Be mentally focused on a specific task, specific time and accuracy standard.
- Set your shot timer for a time you can just make when doing everything perfectly.
- As you improve with practice (even during the session, in real time), reduce the par time by .1 to .2 seconds.
- Don’t make the time so short that only luck and sloppy form allow you to make it. Build your average time for a good rep, not your random lucky time.
- The best training takes place when you make par about 80% of the time with perfect form.
- Don’t chase the test, chase better real-world performance. In other words, don’t start adjusting your gear or setting up your body in ways that don’t reflect how you would really carry or deploy your weapon in response to a threat.
Until next time, train hard, but train safely.
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