Back to Basics: Dry Fire

Although I have written about dry fire here and here on the blog before, I wanted to revisit the topic and share what I’ve been doing lately, and explain how it’s helped me.

Several weeks ago, I watched a YouTube video from Dave Spaulding (Handgun Combatives) in which he explained his own dry fire routine. In it he discusses a dry fire target available for download from Modern Service Weapons. I printed out the target, affixed it to my gun safe, and have been using it ever since.

The target features 5 circles scaled to reflect an 8 inch target at different ranges when viewed from a distance of 4 yards. There are circles for targets at 7, 10, 15, 20, and 25 yards. Seeing as my accuracy (or lack thereof) at 25 yards has been a source of consternation for me, the target seemed to be an ideal aid to incorporate into my dry fire routine.

One of the reasons that I put this post under the heading of “Back to Basics” is because that’s essentially what I’ve done with my dry fire routine. I had a lot of difficulty carving time out of an increasingly busy schedule to dry fire daily, so I needed something simple yet robust. While I may do some extra stuff on occasion, I make it a point to take the time almost every night to perform 50 draw and fire repetitions, 10 at each circle. I concentrate on making each repetition as close to perfect as I can, trying to learn from each repetition, with no specific emphasis on time. Rather, I concentrate on the details of my draw stroke, grip, sight picture, and trigger press.

I will usually begin on the largest target, and work my way down. Generally, I find myself gradually speeding up until the 20 yard circle. Then, the need to focus on a precise sight picture slows me back down. While I realize that dry fire on reduced dimension targets does not fully simulate a shot at the actual distance, it does force a focus on the fundamentals that translates well into actual shooting. As I mentioned in my previous post, for the first time in a long time, I was able to shoot a 90 on a B8 repair center at 25 yards. Partly, I attribute this to my recent consistent dry fire practice.

The MSW target works well for practicing other skills as well. I have used it to practice low light flashlight techniques, pivoting to face the target as I draw, SHO and WHO draws, and side stepping with the draw. Generally, if I want to work on some of these other drills, I will do one draw and trigger press at each of the five circles for each technique after I’ve done my initial 50 repetitions. I don’t put a lot of emphasis on dry fire that goes beyond the basics right now because of the significant demands on my free time. As well, as has been said by many professional shooters, advanced skills are just the basics mastered, performed in increasingly challenging conditions. To master the basics, you have to perfectly practice the basics.

Even if I am very short on time, I can still get in a quick dry fire routine by just doing five repetitions at each distance. Even if you literally only have a free minute or two per day, just one draw and fire at each of the five circles will benefit, if they are each done with maximum concentration. The MSW target is ideal for both quick as well as more intensive dry fire routines, although I would caution the reader that a shorter dry fire session with more focused concentration is probably more worthwhile than many repetitions performed just for the sake of repetition.

Focus on the fundamentals and you should see a distinct and progressive improvement in your subsequent range sessions. I definitely have. You can and should call your shots during your dry fire practice, just as you would during live fire practice. Especially on the 20 and 25 yard circles of the target, you really have to have a good sight picture with parallel deviation when you press the trigger. You’ll know if your trigger press would have been a hit or a miss.

As always, be safe in your dry fire habits. Unload your weapon, put ammunition in a separate place, double check the status of your weapon, and reassess it if you are interrupted. Choose a backstop wisely, and when you are finished, no “just one last time!” Consistent dry fire will yield consistent results at the range. Thanks for reading!

2 thoughts on “Back to Basics: Dry Fire

  1. Very good post. I have used this target for both dry and live fire drills. On dry fire I have walked the distance back to 7 yards and made up drill cards to do combination of pulls per draw or draw to shot, reload etc.

    I don’t get nearly the live fire I would like and this reminds me I’ve slacked on dry fire too.


    1. Myke,

      Thank you for your comment! I actually do most of my dry practice at closer to 5 yards, just because of the layout of the room and furniture. I’ve never printed one out to take to the range, as I have access to a 25 yard pistol bay, but I might try using the target for live fire one day just to try it out.

      Again, thank you for your comment!


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