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“Movies and TV aside, dry fire instills more bad habits than any other activity.”

The owner of one of the nation’s top shooting schools made that very comment. The school in question puts through some 5000 plus students per year. They have a tremendous amount of experience on which to base their opinions.

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Dry Fire is for Pros

As a United States Marine then Military Contractor, I have worked alongside numerous professional operators; be they MARSOC (Marine Special Operations Command), Army Special Forces, Navy Seals, or Air Force Combat Controllers.

What all of the aforementioned armed professionals have in common is not the amount of live fire, but the amount of dry fire they do. Many years ago a friend offered a simple explanation. “The difference between an amateur and a pro is how much dry-fire they do.”

Far too many shooters have the misconception that dry fire is for beginners. Something to do until they prove that they can handle a firearm safely with live ammunition. Then, once you have some practical experience, you can forget about it and just live-fire.

Why Do Firearms Instructors Hate Dry Fire?

For those people I would offer the following; Max Michel and Todd Jarrett have been two of the top competitive shooters in the world. During separate interviews, I asked them both about their thoughts on dry fire practice. Each related that when they made the decision to make a career of professional shooting, they started a dedicate dry practice regime.

Max and Todd each stated they would dry practice two to three hours a day, six days a week. Todd related that he did it two hours a day, six days a week, for the first ten years.

To sum it up, dry practice is not just for beginners. Dry practice is something you should do for your entire life as a shooter.

The Trap

If there is a downside to dry fire, it is the misconception or misunderstanding that somehow holding a pistol and snapping the trigger is ‘practice’. Without some professional training, self-initiated dry fire can lead to terrible gun handling and ingrained bad habits.

Ingraining bad habits through poorly applied dry practice is the prime reason that many instructors will shy away from or not recommend it.

There is also a movement to convince new, untrained gun owners that instead of taking training, they should invest in dry fire practice kits. For many years, there have been kits based around laser systems. These kits do have their place in practice but are not a replacement for professionally guided training.

In reality, it is not the technique of dry fire that these trainers take issue with. It is the erroneous application of said technique. It is the person who convinces themselves that they can become an expert shooter by self-taught incorrect dry practice. Also, you have gadget companies producing marketing material to encourage gun owners to “stop wasting money on expensive ammunition and range fees”. Their solution is to purchase the dry fire kit their company sells.

Before you begin a regime of dry practice you should absolutely attend some kind of professional shooting course that reinforces marksmanship principles and firearm handling. You should be shown how by an instructor who can observe you and ensure you are doing it correctly.

*Safety Note: Before using any live/genuine firearm for non-firing training or practice you must absolutely remove all live ammunition from the practice area and the gun must be twice checked to verify it is not loaded. Twice checking could be two individuals inspecting the gun or one individual both visually and physically verifying that the gun is indeed unloaded.

Parting Thoughts

Dry practice, if done consistently after receiving proper training, is an excellent way to keep your basic firearms manipulation skills sharp. Even professional shooters cannot go to the range every day or sometimes every week, but you can and should dry fire on a regular basis.

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Paul G. Markel has worn many hats during his lifetime. He has been a U.S. Marine, Police Officer, Professional Bodyguard, and Small Arms and Tactics Instructor. Mr. Markel has been writing professionally for law enforcement and firearms periodicals for nearly twenty years with hundreds and hundreds of articles in print. Paul is a regular guest on nationally syndicated radio talk shows and subject matter expert in firearms training and use of force. Mr. Markel has been teaching safe and effective firearms handling to students young and old for decades and has worked actively with the 4-H Shooting Sports program. Paul holds numerous instructor certifications in multiple disciplines and a Bachelor’s degree in conflict resolution; nonetheless, he is and will remain a dedicated Student of the Gun.

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