Dry Fire Practice Works

Dry fire snap capsDry fire practice works.

Dry firing is a form of firearms practice, where all ammunition is removed from the gun and the shooter pulls the trigger and otherwise manipulates the firearm.  The obvious advantage is no ammunition is used, so it is cheaper than going to the range.  Plus dry firing can be done in your home, rather than at a range.

But can you improve how you shoot a firearm without shooting live ammunition through it?  Absolutely.  Let me show you how.

Safety First

Dry firing means practice with a firearm that has no ammunition.  This should be obvious, but it is a key component to both safety and the general concept of ‘dry’ firing.  So, empty your gun.  Check it twice.  Take all of the ammunition out of the room.  Check your gun again.  Stick your finger in the chamber, shine a light in there, make sure no magazines are in the gun.

At best, a accidental discharge will cause you untold embarrassment.  Far worse consequences include, but are not limited to, wounding or killing a family member.  Dry firing is serious practice, not time to play mall ninja, so no screwing around.

Dry Firing My Gun Will Break It!

Dry firing your defensive handgun is highly unlikely to ever damage it.  I have dry fired S&W revolvers and pistols, Glocks, Sigs and more.  Thousands of trigger pulls have produced precisely NO damage to any of these guns.  Dry firing is probably not going to hurt yours either.  However, there are some firearms that are sensitive to dry firing.  So, check your manual and follow the manufacturer recommendations.

If you want to dry fire, but are still worried about damaging your firing pin, drop a few dollars and buy a set of dummy rounds (aka Snap Caps).  For less than $20, you can ease your mind and still get the practice you need.

Baby Steps

As with any kind of training, start with the very basics and build from there.  For dry firing, start with just trigger control and sight alignment.  Once you have cleared your firearm, obtain a good grip, align the sights and smoothly press the trigger.  Repeat.  Concentrate on the front sight and a smooth trigger press to the rear.  If you start to get fatigued, take a break.

When working on your sight alignment and trigger control, you can place a penny on top of your slide near the front sight.  If you are properly pressing your trigger, the penny stays in place.  If you are not properly pressing the trigger, the penny will fall off.  You can challenge yourself to see how many trigger presses you can make until the penny falls.

To get the best benefit from this practice, I feel that a mere 5 minutes of practice a day over several weeks will benefit you more than a lot of training all at once.

Second Step

Only after you perfect trigger control and sight alignment do you begin to add other things to the mix.

The second thing to add to the training is firearm presentation.  Presentation is the act of drawing the firearm from its holster and pointing it at the target.  A good presentation will be efficient with no unnecessary movements.  Don’t worry about speed…concentrate on form.

When drawing, pull the gun up far enough to clear the holster, and then rotate the barrel forward, toward the target.  Then bring the gun forward, with your support hand obtaining its grip as the pistol passes in front of your torso.  Once the second hand has gripped the handgun, punch the gun toward the target, bringing it up to eye level.

When you practice the presentation, slow is the preferred speed.  You are learning how to perfectly present the firearm, and as you become more efficient, speed will naturally come.

Learning to Walk

Just because a child takes two steps, doesn’t mean he can walk yet.  And if we think of learning to shoot like learning to walk, think of a gunfight as a flat out sprint for your life.  Just because you have the first two steps down, doesn’t mean you are ready to defend yourself with a firearm.  Frankly, I don’t know if anyone is ever ready.  But the first two steps are extremely important.  If you don’t learn and perfect them, you will likely fall on your face should you encounter a deadly force situation.

So what’s next?  Lots.  Movement, use of cover, one-handed shooting, using flashlights, low light conditions, off-hand shooting, shooting from different positions…and more.

The good news is you can practice most of these with dry fire practice.  Incorporating firearm presentation with lateral movement is a natural third step.  So is dry firing with one hand…or your off-hand.  But never, ever abandon the fundamentals of sight alignment and trigger control.  If you get to a point where you are just slapping the trigger in your practice, or you are not using that front sight, STOP!  Slow everything down to the point where trigger control and sight alignment return.

Efficiency, not raw speed, will help you get bullets on target quickly.  To throw a few firearm cliches around:  “Only hits count” and “Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast.”  Work those cliches into your training.  They are well worth remembering.

Final Thoughts

Dry firing works.  I’ve seen it work many, many times.

Most recently, I worked with a fellow police officer for several weeks leading up to our department qualifications.  The officer normally scored in the low 90’s (out of a possible 100%), but had been looking to improve.  During the past several months, the officer did not take his duty gun to the range, but did work on dry firing for five minutes a day, about 4-5 times a week.  The officer worked on the first two steps, plus adding lateral movement into the draw, and scored 100% on the qualification course.

Give dry firing a try.  It can work for you.

By Richard Johnson

Richard Johnson is a gun writer, amateur historian and - most importantly - a dad. He's done a lot of silly things in his life, but quitting police work to follow his passion of writing about guns was one of the smartest things he ever did. He founded this site and continues to manage its operation.

5 replies on “Dry Fire Practice Works”

another cheap training aid can be a airsoft gun (of the same type). there are some quite realistic gas guns with blowback that’s great to use since you get more feedback. also you can set up targets inside your home.


Thanks for visiting and contributing. Airsoft guns (and Simunitions) are great for learning force on force etc. I highly recommend force-on-force training once the basics are mastered. That form of training can teach you a lot about tactics, movement, etc.


Dear Richard,

There are times when I start to feel that now I know a bit of shooting(obviously by reading your articles)when you present another article that makes me scurry back to the basics! This is perhaps not for the experts but it means a lot for the millions who are not. Thanks a lot.

Best wishes,



Thanks for the kind words. I’m certainly no expert, rather just a student. I’ve picked up a few things along the way, and I am happy to share. Your continued readership and participation is really appreciated!


Dear Richard,
I meant to say perhaps this article doesn’t mean that much for the handgun experts but for the millions who are common man,it is really helpful and an eye-opener.Eagerly waiting for similar readings.
Warm regards,

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