Dry Fire: The act of drawing and engaging a “threat” with an empty firearm for the purpose of refining your skill set.
It’s beginning to lean into the corner turn between fall and winter with a full return to warm, comfortable range days some 5 months in the future. Oh, it’s still pretty darn nice out at the range here in Iowa – it was 70*F today . . . but promises of mid-40s and lower in the next few weeks leads me to believe it might be worthwhile to revisit my indoor dry fire range, chat a bit about the purpose of dry fire and to lay out some of the tools I use.
The definition is mine . . . dry fire is the act of drawing your unloaded (checked 3 times and still aimed in a safe direction) defensive carry weapon and engaging a threat with 3-5 rounds high center mass with a slow and safe holster at the end of the drill. Or, perhaps with a precise shot to the head or some other called box or threat. You can get real work done on every aspect of your draw and engagement with the exception of recoil management . . . it is well worth your time.
Safety. I have, at times, heard the words . . . “I know it’s empty, I’ve dropped the magazine – but, just to satisfy you, I’ll rack the slide one more time!” And, I’ve observed the genuine surprise of their face as they rack the slide and eject a live round on to the floor. It’s a reminder that there are NO SHORTCUTS to safety – rack your slide 3 times to insure that your defensive weapon is, indeed, empty.
At the same time, make sure there is NO AMMUNTION in the room! That includes the backup magazine you carry on your person. There should be nothing around you but an empty gun and empty magazines.
Set up your “range” so when you “fire” at the targets, you are pointing in a safe direction or into a “berm” that can handle the discharge of a live round.
Consider a LaserLyte round. I’ve reviewed their full system in the past – and still use their target with my SIRT pistol, but their cartridges are an excellent tool to provide a visual indicator of your sight alignment, sight picture in your everyday carry weapon – and to insure that your chamber does not have a live cartridge in it. The only disadvantage to these “rounds” is that you cannot use them for multi-round engagements; you will need to work the slide each and every time unless you have a DA semiautomatic pistol.
I am very fond of the SIRT pistol, which I reviewed here. I have the Glock 17 look-a-like and have probably sent thousands upon thousands of rounds “down range” with them. I bought the 3-pack for use in my coursework – another great benefit to these particular training aids. As you can see in the review, they fit my carry holster just like my daily carry weapon, have the ability to change magazines and provide a solid laser indicator of where the “round” hit. The slide is not operational, nor – obviously – is there any recoil management issues. But, for working on the speed of my draw stroke, clearing my cover garment, the accuracy of my first round hit (and follow-up hits sans recoil) and allowing me to practice magazine changes without damaging a real magazine by ejecting it on to the floor – there is no training tool out there that is better in my opinion.
The cost of a pistol and a couple magazines is $200-ish. While that may seem pricy – in today’s market this is equivalent of around 1,000 rounds of Blazer 115gr FMJ ball ammunition – the ability it provides you to build a “range” in a spare room, the elimination of travel time to and from the range, the ability to grab 15 minutes of range time pretty much any time you wish – and the prospect that ammo may once again become as rare as hen’s teeth some time down the road – I’ve decided that my investment in a SIRT pistol has been well worth it!
Finally, here’s my “range”.
It occupies about 1/3 of an office wall and has “evolved” over the past couple years. It has everything from a dot torture to outlines for IDPA targets out to -200 yards. It also has the LaserLyte target as well. It allows me to do everything from simple draw and engagement drills to more complex cognition drills. A handy way to mix this up is to build 5-minute drill sets on your cell phone’s audio recorder. You can find an example here. (To save it on your computer simply right click on the screen and select “save as”.) There are 10 ea. 30-second “drills” in this example. On the “UP!” command send 3-5 rounds to the high center mass of your selected target. On a “ONE” or a “SQUARE” or a “HEAD” deliver a one-round precise shot to the designated box/number. (This also works on a live fire range if you have one of the blue tooth ear pieces or a blue tooth speaker available). So in the 30 seconds you must draw, engage your target, scan and assess your situation and then holster your weapon. 5 minutes is easy to slip into your routine a couple times a day and by building your own 5 minute drill sets and then using your shuffle capability in your phone, you can come up with a dry fire drill set that is NOT boring and will challenge you. Give it a try.
So how do your approach your dry fire time? Well, just like you would a live fire trip. Have a plan. What do you want to work on? Accuracy? Dropping the time of your draw stroke? Your magazine change? Single or multiple target engagements? Headshots with a family member held hostage? Dot torture? Frankly, with the exception of recoil management – there is simply no limit to what you can work on.
Don’t take shortcuts. It can be all too simple to just work from a high compressed ready or a low ready and not integrate a draw from your holster. Answer me this . . . if this “range time” is supposed to help you win a gun fight . . . how many of you walk around with your defensive weapon at the high compressed ready? No shortcuts. Remove your carry weapon and spare magazine from your person and store it safely. Or, prepare it for use by dropping the magazine and clearing the chamber . . . rack the slide 3 times!! Then, I would strongly suggest you insert a LaserLyte round to make sure there can never be a live round in the chamber until your session is over.
Use a timer. It will only give you a draw time, but it will provide some level of uncertainty when you will need to draw. Depending on which weapon you are using, it may record your first round being “fired” . . . or not. I find the PACT Club Timer I use typically will not record my SIRT pistol’s trigger press. That said, the randomness of the timer has value IMNSHO.
Record your dry fire training. While no holes are made . . . the time you spent is real training time. Should the worst ever happen and your find yourself in court I believe there is real value in having a log that shows you have a history of taking your firearms training seriously.
Have goals. Cleaning Dot Torture. All rounds within the sensor target on a LaserLyte electronic target. Work your magic on Todd Green’s FAST drill. Record your results – so you know where you came from and so you gain confidence you can get to where you want to go.
Does this take the place of your live fire range time? Obviously not. But, it can be a very economical and convenient way to get good work done when you simply can’t make it to the range this week . . . or month . . . or quarter . . . or year . . .
Dry Fire . . . It Does A Shooter Good!