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If there’s one thing that any concealed carry training regimen should include, it’s dry firing practice. And plenty of it. Some might even argue that it’s the most important training a concealed carrier can do.

Dry firing is the surest way to master trigger control and tame recoil anticipation. Just about anyone who’s considered an expert with a gun – competitors, hunters or real life operators – will tell you that they include plenty of dry firing as a regular part of their training.

Trigger Control: Arguably More Important Than Sighting

For all the attention paid to sights and sighting techniques (rear sight alignment, front sight press) trigger control and mastery is arguably more important. All the sighting in the world isn’t going to matter much if your trigger pull haphazardly pulls your pistol off target.

Think about the most common causes of shooting poor groups. People who don’t use enough finger (using just the fingertip to actuate the trigger) usually wind up pulling shots right. Those who use too much digit wind up pushing shots left. Those who pull the trigger, rather than squeezing it will also lose their point of aim as the shot breaks.

One of the best ways to cure trigger these ills is by dry firing. Once you’ve learned a good dry firing exercise, a shooter can improve their trigger technique drastically with practice. Once having acquired good trigger technique, you can keep those skills sharp with regular dry fire reps.

Another common cause of poor shooting is recoil anticipation, which has two common cures. One is more time behind the gun. The other…wait for it…dry firing. And when you’re dry firing practice the “surprised break” trigger technique.

The surprised break is a technique wherein the shooter begins to squeeze the trigger, focusing on the squeeze and keeping the sights on target until the trigger breaks. Concentrate on an even, smooth pull, and let the break of the trigger “surprise” you, without anticipating it.

The “compressed surprise break” taught by Jeff Cooper and Gunsite is more or less the same thing – it’s just done in more rapidly rather than in the slow, controlled fashion of the traditional surprised break exercise.

How are these methods taught to students? They all start by dry firing

By learning to concentrate on the sight alignment and the trigger squeeze rather than anything else, the shooter can get themselves out of flinching, jerking and otherwise fouling shots due to recoil anticipation.

Do a bit of reading on the various recognized authorities on guns and shooting over the past century and you’ll be hard-pressed to find one of them who didn’t see some utility in dry firing. As mentioned, Jeff Cooper certainly did. He was known to dry fire his rifle while watching television and his pistols just about any time.

CCW instructors nationwide use dry firing as an exercise with their students to hone trigger control. Competitive shooters? Same thing. Rob Leatham and Jerry Miculek both use it as part of their regular training and teach it to others.

W.D.M. “Karamojo” Bell, an ivory hunter from the early 20th century, was famous for mastering a brain shot on elephants from an oblique angle behind the animal (still called the “Bell shot” to this day) using only a 7x57mm Mauser, often making single-shot kills. Bell, who was known for wingshooting cormorants with a .318 Westley-Richards offhand (and with iron sights, no less) advocated dry firing as the most important practice a shooter can engage in.

He often dry-fired at distant targets while on the march. He probably got a lot of practice in, too, as he was known to wear out a dozen pairs of boots per year.

In fact one of the few things Jack O’Connor and Elmer Keith agreed on was the benefits of dry firing.

But enough examples. The point is that the experts advocate it for good reason. It’s easy, inexpensive and wonderfully effective. And that’s why it should be part of every shooter’s regular training regimen.



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    • Snap caps and laser cartridges for a large number of calibers are readily available and useful for multiple kinds of drills.

      • When I bought my j frame I bought snap caps with it. Months of dry firing and the trigger smoothed up a bunch. Beats paying for a smith to smooth it out.

  1. A good way to help practice a steady hand during dry fire is to place a spent .22LR casing (standing up) on the front end of the slide near the muzzle. .22 instead of a larger cartridge because it’s slender and more difficult to keep upright in this exercise. It should remain standing upon completion of a trigger squeeze.

  2. Sam, that was a very good article. I dry fire every day and rotate the firearms. Today it’s a SIG P-226 MK 25 and a Wilson Combat1911. I like to mix them up. Tomorrow it may be rifles and DA revolvers. Dry fire is a very good idea.

    • gadsden…Just a friendly reminder for you to answer the question…Who did you vote for in 16, 20 and what about upcoming 24?

      As for this article…Before dry firing one should lube friction points especially for striker fired weapons and especially the striker nose. After a few thousand pulls with the striker slamming against the backside of the breachface one may find evidence of the striker wanting to hammer its way through. If course checking this requires removing the striker assembly and looking. And of course what is known as firing pin protrusion can increase…So when purchasing a firearm that looks unused check firing pin protrusion because a new slide is expensive.

      Firing pins were made to contact primers, use products that immulate primers if one intends to dry fire…everyday.

      • Debbie, just a friendly reminder that this is a gun forum, not a political discussion board. We have a secret ballot in this country and no one has any obligation to tell you for whom they voted.

  3. Dry fire is not “sexy”. And sadly, that’s why it’s not talked about enough. But it’s the best way to master your firearm.
    And I learned about it in Army basic training. Way back in the early 1980s.

    If you are not practicing to recover from a malfunction. You may leave this earth when your loved ones still need you. When a criminal selects you for a robbery.

    Or get a revolver. You got 5 or up to 10 chances to hit the bad guy. Depending on the gun you have. And snap caps are also a must for revolver dry fire practice.
    I’ve learned a lot about all my guns using snap caps. Both at the range and at home.

  4. I started with LAPD in 1971 and carried my issue S&W Model 15 until the late 80s. In the Academy we fired sat least a hundred rounds a day and were encouraged to dry fire at home. Since our revolvers were altered to DAO, we were required to master the ability to pull the trigger enough to stage the hammer before releasing it. I managed to shoot high sharpshooter with occasional forays into expert. Think of me as Reed not Malloy. I still practice dry firing and love that Smith. It got me out of more than one jam. Without a lot of practice things might have turned out differently.

  5. Skin tags, belly fat, nose squeezing and some weird powder. The article photos are getting less helpful every day.

  6. W.D.M. “Karamojo” Bell. A real tough guy. Killing a creature that us totally defenseless for no reason other than to boost his miniscule ego… I would like to have turned him loose on a range with no defense and then turn my rottweilers loose on him. Bitch. And yes, this is true of hunters everywhere who hunt and kill for reasons other than food consumption.

  7. M­y­ l­a­s­t­ p­a­y­ c­h­e­c­k­ w­a­s­ $12000 w­o­r­k­i­n­g­ 12 h­o­u­r­s­ a­ w­e­e­k­ o­n­l­i­n­e­. m­y­ s­i­s­t­e­r­s­ f­r­i­e­n­d­ h­a­s­ b­e­e­n­ a­v­e­r­a­g­i­n­g­ 15k­ f­o­r­ m­o­n­t­h­s­ n­o­w­ a­n­d­ s­h­e­ w­o­r­k­s­ a­b­o­u­t­ 20 h­o­u­r­s­ a­ w­e­e­k­. i­ c­a­n­’t­ b­e­l­i­e­v­e­ h­o­w­ e­a­s­y­ i­t­ w­a­s­ o­n­c­e­ i­ t­r­i­e­d­ i­t­ o­u­t­. t­h­i­s­ i­s­ w­h­a­t­ i­ d­o­.


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