Dry Fire Drills - They Just Might Save Your Life...
Author: Jeff Edwards
On a sweltering summer night in 2003, this particular author found himself in a dark alleyway in Al Kut, Iraq.
With rounds impacting around my position, I was about to learn a valuable lesson in immediate action drills.
As a young Marine, my deployment wasn’t much to speak of and I’ve long said that if a movie was made about my unit, it would be a comedy long before it would be an action movie.
In keeping with a long standing Marine Corps policy that says if you shoot at us, we will shoot at you back, I returned fire along with my fellow Marines.
There was little room to maneuver as a result of the tight quarters in the alley and with the enemy fire coming from the rooftops above, the situation was perilous to say the least.
That’s when my rifle jammed and the pucker factor officially hit a high 10.
al Kut 2003 credit: wikimedia commons
Without hesitation, thought, or analysis, I tapped the bottom of the magazine, racked another round and proceeded to fire the next shot.
Tap, Rack, Bang, as the process is known, came second nature to me and my lifelong love affair with dry fire drills began that evening.
As mundane as that story may be, it forever reinforced the value of proper training and a regimen that includes regular dry fire drills.
If I can borrow a few minutes of your time, I’d like to walk through a few dry fire drills that just may be there for you when you need it most.
Train Like You Intend to Fight
Remarkably, you’ll find some objection in the gun community over the notion of dry fire drills because they do not fully replicate the exact experience you will encounter in a gunfight.
Training like you intend to fight is indeed a valuable mantra, but following that mantra too closely will force you to miss out on some quality training.
There is no way to truly replicate the feeling and sensation of being in a gunfight.
The snap and crack of a bullet flying overhead when you are being fired upon is remarkably distinct and you won’t confuse it with your average encounter on the range.
So unless you are going to train Russian Spetsnaz style with AK-47 rounds fired over your head, you cannot always train exactly as you will fight.
Sonic boom or 'crack' of the rifle round
In a real gunfight, the adrenaline will kick in and regardless of what hopes and aspirations you had for yourself, you will not “rise to the occasion.”
Rather, you will fall to the highest level of your training and discipline. This is your floor and your ceiling.
You may not currently train like you intend to fight, but when you fight, you will do so in the manner in which you train whether you like it or not.
Dry fire drills can save you time, money, and perhaps even your butt when you need it most.
So let’s run through a few options to keep you upright in a gunfight.
The Art of the Draw
In a 1910 interview, famed frontier lawman Wyatt Earp mused about gunfighting where he was famously quoted as saying “fast is fine, but accuracy is final.”
He went on to explain that,
“when i say that I learned to take my time in a gunfight, I do not wish to be misunderstood, for the time to be taken was only that split fraction of a second that means the difference between deadly accuracy with a sixgun and a miss. It is hard to make this clear to a man who has never been in a gunfight.”
Earp preached that accuracy was more important than the speed of the draw, though the draw was very important to accuracy.
That’s why dry fire draw drills are an excellent opportunity to hone this skill for both speed and accuracy’s sake.
Moreover, dry fire presents the opportunity to refine the process without the risk of a negligent discharge.
You can walk through the steps of the draw carefully as you focus on proper grip, a firm draw, and quick target acquisition.
I won’t tell anyone if you practice in the mirror and though few admit the fact, it's more common than you might think.
Just remember the words of Wyatt Earp as you train. “Fast is fine, but accuracy is final.”
The odds of you getting into a gunfight are remarkably low in modernity, so you might as well heed the advice of man who thrived in an era where it was a common occurrence.
Tactical Training for Target Acquisition
Perhaps one of the most practical benefits of dry fire training is the ability to train repetitively with zero costs.
Ammo does not seem to be getting cheaper these days and if you can hone skills like target acquisition before you have to fire a shot, you get a great deal more training for your buck.
Target acquisition training offers a lot of potential as a regular component of your dry fire training regimen.
The key is to identify multiple targets at varied distances and then practice acquiring the target from a variety of firing positions.
Now, the basic rules of gun safety are not suspended during dry fire training.
So do not point the weapon at anything that would ruin your life if you actually shot it.
The family dog might make for a speedy target, but let’s keep young Fido out of our sights.
Target acquisition training is really one of visual focus. You want to practice seeing a full sight picture before you pull the trigger.
You can then practice moving from target to target and with repetition, you’ll find yourself able to do so at a faster pace.
Then, when the budget allows, you can head to the range for a live fire version that will allow you to use these same skills with less wasted ammo.
If you do want to spend some money, there are a host of dry fire training programs and kits available for purchase.
Trigger Control and Muscle Memory
Proper trigger control is perhaps one of the most functional components to an accurate shot.
It does not matter if you have properly acquired your target and nor does it matter if you have a perfectly zeroed weapon with the finest sights on the planet.
If you move the gun through the process of pulling the trigger then you will be off target and far from center mass.
Dry fire drills that emphasize proper trigger control can do you a great deal of good.
The coin trick is an excellent drill that targets this particular skill set:
Place a coin, or perhaps an empty shell casing, on the front sight before gently pulling the trigger.
The delicate balance of the coin or the shell casing will instantly inform you if you are struggling with proper form.
If the gun moves too far in the process, the object will fall off.
Muscle memory is the object of this type of drill.
If you do it with enough repetition, your body will begin to remember the form and it will become second nature to you.
It was actually muscle memory and repetition that caused me to react with the proper immediate action drill on that evening in Iraq.
When it mattered most to me and the Marines around me, my body took over when my mind was engaged with other issues.
There is No Excuse to Avoid Training
If you own a firearm, then you have a moral responsibility to train.
Saying that you do not have the budget for range time is not an acceptable excuse when dry fire drills are available to all for free.
Here at Tier One, we are in the business of offering precision rifle accessories that are engineered without compromise.
The notion that our gear and accessories will pick up dust in the gun safe is almost more than we can bear.
When you purchase a new piece of gear such as a Tactical Bipod, you would do well to start becoming more comfortable with that new piece of gear.
Dry fire is an excellent way to gain that familiarity with little time or money invested.
We do not cut corners in our production as every piece of gear is made in-house with our own 5-axis CNC machine.
Nothing is outsourced to the cheapest bidder and the British Special Forces have found our equipment reliable when they needed it most. So you too would do well to avoid cutting corners.
Schedule in some dry fire training today and be ready for the day that most people dread tomorrow.
Odds are that you’ll be in exactly one gun fight, if that, in your entire life and coming in second place is a less than desirable option.
So don’t forget to peruse the rest of our offerings at Tier One and give yourself the best chance to win that day.
About the author:
Jeff Edwards is a United States Marine veteran of Iraq who served as an infantryman during the early days of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. In addition to being a lover of the 2nd Amendment he runs the blog UnprecedentedMediocrity.com and regularly contributes the written word as a freelance writer and blogger.