Shooting Skills: Dry-firing Practice, Part 2


Click, Click, Boom. Here’s three ways to get more from indoor practice. Read on!

By Glen Zediker

 Defined: dry-firing is shooting with no ammunition. Cock the gun, hold on a target, break the trigger. It’s a simulation.

Last episode we talked about the essence of dry-firing, the means. Here are more ideas on getting the most from this valuable venue.

1. When to make it “real.”
There are two fundamentally-differing approaches. One way is to use dry-firing as a means for technical or mechanical improvement. That’s main, and that’s the usual focus. Another, though, is as a way to rehearse a course of fire or another orchestrated shooting scenario. Some believe that the more “real” we can make dry-firing the better. I agree, and then I don’t. If the idea is to replicate a competitive event, for instance, that means setting up a firing point, running a timer, adorning all personal gear, positioning all kit items, and so on. I think that is a great exercise for newer entrants because, in NRA High Power Rifle, for good instance, it’s all the “other” things beyond shooting that can get in the way of progress. There’s a lot to remember, a lot to do.

1907 sling use
Something like learning to install a 1907-style sling onto your arm for support is decidedly not something you want to experience first at a shooting match. Such as this needs to be done over and over (and over) to learn. Best way is taking your time at home.

 Away from needs on the firing line, dry rehearsals are way on more than wise. If, for instance, you’ve never fired a gun at night, start experiencing that scenario sans ammo. If you’re a concealed carry person, figure out the smoothest and fastest way to get your pistol pointed. That might “go without saying,” but I just said it because it needs to be done. Anything, for that matter, that has changed or modified a firearm or the means to deploy it should be drilled over and over until you “got it.”

 It takes more than a lot of directed thought and careful planning to get a gun leveled through a car window, for example. Have you ever seen how fast you can get to another room in your house in the dark? If you think that might be valuable to file in the been-there-done-that archives, then be there and do it. It’s a kind of self-made “fire drill.” Doesn’t make much sense to put stock in something that’s really important without verifying that it’s workable… And it’s plenty easy enough. Just make sure the gun isn’t loaded.

When technical and mechanical improvement is the focus, I don’t think it matters even a little bit to attempt to duplicate “real” conditions. Just make yourself comfortable.

2. Do something different.
Once you feel like you’ve honed the skills of triggering mechanics, noticed progress in hold quality, and all-around have attained some satisfying improvement, take a stab now at dismantling the entire thing!

shouldering rifle
Same goes for working on the other essential elements in a shooting position, like learning to position the buttplate in the same spot each time. Here’s me first figuring out exactly where that spot should be…

Dry-firing is the time to run experiments, so experiment! These can be major changes, like a different holding or gripping method, or small things, like nudging the head a quarter-inch farther forward on the rifle stock. Everything and anything that’s not part of the “routine” is an experiment. Backing up: dry-firing gives the opportunity to really tune in to just exactly what your routine is. Competitive shooters often call it the “control” position. When you make a change to that control position, do it one thing at a time. Otherwise feedback might be less accurately reliable. Decide that the big change is worthwhile (even if only for more testing) before incorporating more changes along with it.

Use your imagination. As long as you have a place to return to, any side trip is a no-harm, no-foul experience. Try canting the rifle inward a little more, changing the position of your right foot, gripping more (or less) with the little finger, loosening or tightening a strap on the coat. You name it.

 And do by all means name it. Write everything down! Don’t end a session without making a few notes. State what you tried and then what happened. Add on ideas for next time. Don’t trust memory. It’s right then and there that you have the most keen sense of feedback.

air rifle
This photo is a many years old. If you’re training for competitive shooting, at the least, wear your coat, glove, and ear phones (if you normally wear them). I learned the very hard way to now give that advice. I used to shoot my air rifle without my coat or any other gear but a glove. My idea was to develop a standing position that relied that strongly on skeletal support. (My idea also was to stay cool and reduce set up time.) As a result, I got to where I could shoot really good targets just in a t-shirt. I worked and worked (and worked) on this. Well, then I put my coat on, and my hear-phones, and found out that I couldn’t duplicate my t-shirt position! Oops. I learned a lot but overlooked the future application of why it was that I was learning.

3. Test yourself.
Don’t over-stay a dry-firing session. There’s a time to quit, and that’s so decidedly for your own good. A yardstick for a competition shooter is no longer than the “official” duration of a string, plus 5 minutes more or 5 shots more for a little extra strength. Those among us who tend to be, well, a little hard on ourselves, don’t like quitting until they “get it.” After a point, which varies with us all, we experience a physical and mental breakdown where we then are running experiences through a tired mind and body. I’ve seen this in other sports. Hitting too many golf balls, throwing too many pitches, running too many laps on a racetrack. If you’re trying to teach yourself when you’re tired, you’re learning only how to perform when you’re tired. If you want to build strength and endurance, do exercises where that is the focus. Hold the gun to the point of exhaustion, just don’t drop the hammer! I think you’ll get more from lifting weights.

 Speaking of exhaustion, still considering the cautions just presented, find out how long you can hold on a shot attempt. This is important. Over-holding can kill a score, so can “over-staring” the sight. Pay attention to sight movement, and then, mostly, see when it’s just done with until the next attempt. This is valuable. It’s hard sometimes on a record shot not to continue to hold beyond the point you should have brought the gun down.

Dry-firing is not shooting… We all score more “10s” dry than live. So, point is that if you can bring dry-firing closer to live firing you’ll be hitting a lot closer to center a lot more often. As always, call each shot, dry or live. We learn all this dry-firing and then we hope to remember this on the range. That’s the whole point.

Last: Take all your dry-fring practice to the limit first trip out to the live range this Spring. Here’s how: Have someone load your gun for you. Or not… Right: it might fire or it might not fire. You’ll be slap amazed at what you might have learned. It helps to have a friend with a dark sense of humor. Remember: the idea is to take that dry-fired perfection straight to target center.

 Information in this article was adapted from material in several books published by Zediker Publishing. Glen Zediker has worked professionally with some of the greatest shooters on the planet, and he does pretty well on his own: Glen is a card-carrying NRA High Master and earned that classification in NRA High Power Rifle using an AR15 Service Rifle. For more information, please check


2 thoughts on “Shooting Skills: Dry-firing Practice, Part 2”

  1. This a great series! I love it when shooters’ give other shooters’ excellent advice. I mean not just for ‘talking sake’ but advice for before, during and after any event or situation that arises surrounding reloading, hunting and sport.
    It makes for better shooting, shooters’, practice, safety and the sport.

    Keep ’em coming!

    Many Thanks to the Writers at MidSouth! I’m not a lonely gunner

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