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 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.
Sam Hoober is a contributing editor at Alien Gear Holsters and Bigfoot Gun Belts. He also contributes regularly to Ammoland, Daily Caller and USA Carry.
I dry fire a lot.
My Glock 43 has required much work for me since it has that stupid-ass stair-step trigger with a crappy break.
Dry-firing makes it obvious when the gun moves as you pull the trigger – live fire does as well – but it’s a lot louder……and you have to go look at the target.
And I don’t put a catheter in my pistol when I dry fire…..Is that so wrong?
Great advice here. I really need to start dry firing more.
Snap caps and hours of shooting at the tv smoothed my j frame up quite a bit without gunsmithing.
If memory serves we also spent a lot of time dry firing our m16’s before our first live fire in the service.
This be true. Marines called it “snapping in”.
Something that’s recently helped me get better is air rifle shooting. I’m not talking about the old break-barrel stuff either. PCP airguns have gotten really good. I recently bought an Umarex Gauntlet in .22 and it’s very nice, plus you can shoot in your backyard, assuming your local laws allow it, and not bother the neighbors because most of these guns come with moderators. I can go to my local store and buy 500 pellets for less than $20. All you need apart from the rifle is a pump or compressor. I chose to go with the compressor but I do have a pump just in case. When I get done with work later tonight, I’ll probably step out in my yard and shoot for a bit. Honestly, if you don’t have the time to make it to the range every other week but like shooting, there’s no reason not to get an air rifle.
Make sure you use snap caps.
Even tho some people claim modern firearms will not get damaged by dry firing
why take the chance and snap caps are good for practicing failures.
Snap caps are not necessary unless practicing fire failures with other live ammo. My Glock has thousands of dry fires and has zero issues and upon its last inspection showed no problems. My SIG, same, although I’ve never had an armored break it down. It’s seen around 6k and it’s my winter CCer.
I remarked a few days ago on the article regarding revolver reloading that I’ll be getting a set of .357 caps to practice speed loading – I suppose the same can be done with pistols as well. The only reason to use snaps at all though, is to simulate the feel of ammo without risking a real discharge.
The main point I try to remind customers about when the subject of dry-firing comes up: “the reason we caution against it is because it directly violates the first rule of gun safety- always treat every gun as if it is loaded.”
By using snap caps, we can assure ourselves that the gun has no live ammo in it and it “loads” more realistically. 🤠
I have speed and strip loaders for my revolvers. I use the snap caps so I can practice without having live ammo in the mix. I live in the city. Wouldn’t do to have a boo boo here.
I highly recommend using a SIRT pistol for dry fire, especially if you happen to carry a firearm that matches one of their models. 1) No need to triple check that it’s empty. Just look for the red slide and you’re good to go. 2) You know instantly where your shots are hitting. 3) You instantly know if you had a good trigger press based on if you had a solid dot versus a steak. 4) No need to rack the slide each time.
One of the international rifle competition shooters I know dry fires about 1000 times per day watching tv at night as mentioned above.
Dry firing with a laser is also good as you see how much you move / flinch in anticipation of recoil.
Good advice. I learned trigger control with SNAPCAPS. Reminds me I need to get some 38special snapcaps for the revolver I’m getting the wife…THIS SITE IS GOING HAYWIRE. Took 4 tries to write this.
But never buy a semi auto that requires a dry fire trigger pull to release the slide for takedown/cleaning.
Good advice for those who don’t know how to clear their own guns. Most people are smarter than that.
Been dry firing my Glocks to field strip them for 25 years. At gun stores, when I’m checking out a pistol, I always dry fire the gun to get a feel for the trigger (after asking the sales clerk for permission, first).
I also dry fire many of my pistols and revolvers for practice.
No incidents. Ever. You see…. I clear the weapon, first. Then I go all “OCD” and confirm it’s clear. Multiple times. Visual and tactile confirmation.
But, yeah…. “never do that.” :-/
Thanks for the reminder. I have been slacking off lately.
Slacking here too. I make my own snap caps. I did not use them, but got to thinking, if I took a hammer and tapped, tapped , tapped, somethings got to happen. I’m hoping the snap caps cushion this effect somewhat.. Along with some of the rest here, the bad guys on TV catch hell.
I know dry firing improved my sex life.
Sam, I think you got you’re pushing left and pulling right correct in the video, but backwards in the text.
The picture of the tubing hanging out of the muzzle reminded me of my last visit to the range. Everyone gets a chamber flag when checking in. The newbie next to me stuck his into the muzzle (action closed) when the cease-fire was called. I thought about it for a second. That bit of plastic is not going to stop a bullet from leaving the barrel. I told him, “Hey, the action must be open.” The RO inserted the flag into the chamber for him.
When I was young the prevailing thought was dry firing was bad for the firing pin, I always heard that, anyway, and it stuck with me. Reading this, it appears very clear that it doesn’t hurt the firing pin at all, am I correct? On any weapon? What’s considered “modern” when it comes to dry firing? It’s obvious that it helps in a lot of ways, and anybody can improve (especially me), so if you take all safety precautions and there are no downsides to dry firing, why not?
Any insight here appreciated.
The picture at the beginning of the article makes it look like Glock is starring in one of those commercials for Viagra.