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The reason why dry fire practice is so important, is that if you only shoot live ammunition, you're training your hands for poor trigger control.  You see, every time you fire a live round, the recoil pushes back on your hands.  Because the barrel of the pistol is higher than your hands, the force of the recoil causes the muzzle end of the pistol to pop up momentarily until your hands counteract with downward resistance, bringing the muzzle of the pistol back into alignment with your target.  If this is the only practice your hands get, you're training your hands to automatically provide that physical downward resistance every time you pull the trigger.  This physiological reaction gets programmed into your brain's neuropathways, and occurs automatically without conscious effort.  Many refer to this as "muscle memory".  (Muscles don't actually have memory, but "muscle memory" is a convenient term to use to describe this mental phenomenon.)  So now when you're pressing your trigger, and it doesn't break (click) quite when you're expecting it to, you'll find your hands automatically pushing the muzzle end of your pistol downward just before the shot.  You might even find yourself countering this, causing the muzzle to "jump" upward.  Either way, you're going to be off your target.  When dry firing, there's no recoil, so you're able to train your hands to perform a nice smooth trigger press that does not take your sights off your target.  You can't do this shooting live ammunition.  With this understanding, it makes sense that you should dry fire practice much more often than you shoot live ammunition, and why dry fire practice is so important.  If you experience this "dropping" or "jumping" of the muzzle while shooting, there's a very good chance that dry fire practice will fix that.  Now with that said however, it's still important to practice a slow smooth clean live fire trigger press, because there's a mental anticipation factor to overcome as well.  But you first need to be sure you have a clean trigger press while dry firing, before you can can have that with live fire.

Aside from the one important reason we just discussed, there are many other benefits to dry fire practice.  First of all, shooting is a perishable skill.  If you don't practice regularly, your shooting skills will diminish.  It also takes lots and lots of practice to be able to perform under the great deal of stress of a violent encounter.  In such situations, you must be able to react instinctively, and that instinct is developed through lots of practice.  But range time and ammunition cost money, so dry fire practice allows you to practice nearly all the steps and components of shooting without spending the time and money to go to the range and shoot live ammunition.  By implementing a dry fire practice regiment, you can practice much more frequently and conveniently.

Frequent practice and many repetitions will reinforce, maintain and improve:

  • General shooting skills and safety habits
  • Shooting fundamentals (grip, extension, stance, aiming, trigger control, hold control, breath control, follow-through)
  • Shoulder, arm and hand muscles necessary for a steady hold
  • Hand-eye coordination
  • Eye muscles and focus
  • A proper, smooth draw and presentation
  • Quick target acquisition
  • "Muscle memory"

Plus, during most "normal" range sessions, you're not allowed to draw from holster, shoot while moving, or practice many other tactical exercises.  When dry fire practicing at home, you can.

I hope I've helped you realize, if you didn't already, the great benefits of dry fire practicing.

God bless and be safe,

Instructor Armand
Founder and Chief Instructor
Shield Personal Safety Training

Photos by Instructor Armand.

Copyright © 2016 Shield Personal Safety Training. All Rights Reserved.

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Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only. No amount of information and safe practice can completely eliminate the risk of damage or harm. The reader takes full responsibility for how this information is used, and the author is not responsible for any damage or harm caused by actions taken as a result of reading this article.

The Importance of Dry Fire Practice for Pistol Accuracy

"Blessed be the Lord my strength which teacheth my hands to war, and my fingers to fight"  -- Psalm 144:1

"When a strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace"  -- Luke 11:21

"he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one."  -- Luke 22:36

The Importance of Dry Fire Practice for Pistol Accuracy

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About the Author:

Instructor Armand is the founder and chief instructor of Shield Personal Safety Training. He's a USCCA Certified Firearms Instructor, Utah Certified Concealed Firearms Instructor, NRA Certified Firearms Instructor, NRA Certified Range Safety Officer, Refuse To Be A Victim® Certified Instructor, CA DOJ FSC Certified Instructor, CA DOJ Certified Fingerprint Roller, hunter, and CCW permit holder.

What is dry fire practice?  For those of you who are new to the concept of dry fire, it's training/practicing with a real firearm, but without live ammunition, or with a training pistol such as a SIRT. Dry fire practice can be done in the comfort and privacy of your home.  There's no need to go to the range.  Dummy rounds (like the Snap Caps pictured above) are usually used, but some drills, with some firearms, can be performed even without dummy rounds.  (Note that some firearms can be damaged by firing them without a live or dummy round in the chamber.  Before firing a gun with an empty chamber, be sure that it's safe to do so without damaging the firearm.)

Now before we talk much more about dry fire practice, we must first address safety.  Never store your dummy rounds in the same place you store your live ammunition.  Before beginning any dry fire practice session, remove all live ammunition from the room in which you are conducting your dry fire practice.  Make absolutely sure that the firearm and magazine have no live ammunition in them.  Double, triple, quadruple check.  When loading dummy rounds into your firearm, consciously pay attention to each round being loaded, and make sure it's a dummy round, and not a live round.  Eliminate any chance of accidentally loading a live round into your firearm.  For added safety, hang a ballistic panel (i.e. Kevlar panel) on the wall and use that as your target.