A Sample Dry Fire Routine…

(Some readers may notice that the title of this post has changed… Due to some recent life changes, I would be lying if I claimed to do this exact routine daily. I do usually dry fire daily, even if it’s just a few presentations and trigger presses, but making time for a structured routine such as the one detailed below has been especially difficult these past few months. Hence, I’ve changed the title of this post to more accurately reflect its content. I’ve also made some very minor updates and changes based on recent classes. Thanks for reading!)

Since I’ve been unhappy with my recent performance at the range despite having attended several pistol classes over the past few years, I’ve resolved that I must incorporate time for dry fire practice into my daily routine. This, of course, is no surprise to anyone that takes self-defense with a pistol seriously, but I’ve been slacking lately. Time for a change!

I personally need some structure to accomplish certain goals, so I came up with my own personal dry fire routine. I share it here in hopes of motivating our readers to also practice their skills at home. In developing my own personal routine, I borrowed heavily from Mike Pannone’s 50 round conscious contradiction drill, as well as from Paul Sharp’s “MDOC performance point; concealed carry presentation.”

As always, start by unloading the pistol, verifying that it is indeed unloaded, and by placing ammunition in a separate room. Be conscious of both unloading your weapon at the start of practice and loading your weapon at the end of practice. If you’re interrupted, again verify that your gun is unloaded before resuming practice. Better yet, use a SIRT pistol or a duplicate spare that you have dedicated to dry fire work. Ideally, dry fire while pointed in at a safe backstop. I like to use a portable steel target, since I KNOW that it will stop bullets. When I attended Gunsite many years ago, they loaned out pistol cases that had been converted into dry fire targets by installing a small piece of AR500 steel painted with a target. A neat idea inspired by a few too many holes in hotel walls!

  1. I start by performing 10 repetitions with the pistol already out of the holster and held at the point in the draw stroke at which my hands join. For me, this is essentially starting from a high pectoral retention position. This is to dial in my grip and presentation.
  2. Next, I perform 10 repetitions of drawing from concealment using both hands freestyle. I vary my concealment garment to be proficient in whatever I’m wearing. I generally also start with my hands up and in front of me as this is probably where they would be in an actual confrontation if I had to pull my gun.
  3. I then do 10 repetitions with a strong hand only draw. My other hand may be occupied by any number of other problems, ranging from carrying a child to striking an assailant.
  4. Next I do 10 repetitions with a weak hand only draw. My primary hand may be similarly otherwise occupied or injured. (Please, if you’ve never been taught how to do this, learn how from a competent instructor before doing it with a loaded gun! I recommend taking Mike Pannone’s Covert Carry course to become familiar with one good technique.)
  5. I also do 10 repetitions of a standard two handed draw from concealment, but with a transfer of the gun to my weak hand. I then transfer the gun back to my strong hand to cycle the action. This ingrains the mechanics of transferring the gun between my hands as needed.
  6. Finally, I do 10 repetitions where I perform a tap, rack malfunction clearance when I get a click instead of a bang. (Granted, a bang in this instance would be negligent, but you get the idea!) This ingrains the proper response to address common malfunctions. To make this more realistic, you may wish to modify an old magazine to not lock back the slide and dedicate this magazine to dry fire manipulations. Or use snap caps if you have them to allow the action to cycle as it would for real.

The above sequence takes me less than 20 minutes, allows me to concentrate on fundamental manipulations, and allows 70 trigger presses and 50 draws from concealment.

The Gun Nuts Media blog recently advocated incorporating a deliberate pause in dry fire practice regimens in order to avoid the very real possibility of ingraining training scars… In line with that idea, I like to bring the gun into a retention position before resetting the trigger in my dry fire routine to avoid performing pistol manipulations at arms’ length. Whether I’m reloading or clearing a malfunction (manipulating the slide), I want the pistol held in close for better retention during these manipulations.

Speaking of which, if I have more time, I add in some other manipulations…

You can easily incorporate a side step or initial movement to “get off the X” into your dry fire practice routine. Use this opportunity to train like you fight, so that you’ll fight like you train! For example, I especially like to incorporate lateral movement to both my right and left sides. I also like to practice turns to address threats to my flanks and rear. Again, learn how to do these skills correctly from a competent instructor to avoid ingraining bad habits into procedural memory. 

Once you’re up to speed (no pun intended), if you have a shot timer, use it! Just set a par time to adhere to. You’ll know if you make the time, even if the timer doesn’t.

You can also integrate some flashlight training into your dry fire routine. Practice your preferred low light technique, perform reloads, and simulate tap, rack malfunction clearances with the light in your hand. Or make it a point to occasionally practice in a darkened room and rely on your night sights if you have them.

Should you wish to incorporate reloads into your dry fire routine, I think the tactical (proactive) reload is most appropriate for dry fire practice, and that the emergency (reactive) reload is best practiced at the range using one empty magazine and another loaded magazine, setting yourself up for a slide lock reload by alternating the magazines.

Most of us don’t have the time or money to go to the range as often as we may like. Dry fire offers us the opportunity to hone our fundamental manipulations before we test them in live fire, and also gives us the opportunity to practice things that might otherwise not be possible outside of a formal competition or organized training environment. Don’t squander that opportunity! As I’m fond of repeating, your life may truly depend on it one day!

As I mentioned earlier, I offer my own template here as motivation. Don’t be constrained by it, come up with your own if you don’t like or need mine! Use dry fire as a free way to become confident, competent, and consistent with your firearm. The only thing it costs is a bit of time. Make it worthwhile!


In my continuing quest to identify useful range drills, I recently found another one online that comes from Danny “Gator” P. of the Fire Base Combat Studies Group. He calls it his “load one, shoot two” drill. It is performed by loading the handgun but then removing and stowing the magazine, leaving a loaded chamber. To validate your trigger control, fire the gun, allow it to recoil and reset, and then press the trigger again while observing for any flinch. Ideally, as in dry fire, your sights won’t move. Repeat until your magazine is depleted. I know this isn’t technically dry fire, but I liked the drill enough to include it here, and I think it’s worth a magazine of ammo at the range.

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3 thoughts on “A Sample Dry Fire Routine…

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