September 23, 2010
Done properly, dry-fire practice can benefit both the handgun hunter and the defensive shooter. It allows one to focus on the fundamentals of sight picture, breath control, and trigger squeeze.
I've heard about natural-born shots all of my life. You know the ones I'm talking about. They're the ones who are winning the local IDPA matches, cleaning our clock at impromptu plinking sessions, and hitting running game with one shot. In short, they are the shooters who just seem to will a bullet to its target without any apparent effort on their part.
Well, let me let you in on a little secret. Every so-called natural-born shot I've ever known practices a lot. They devote time, every day, to practice sessions with their chosen firearm. These shooters may have some natural skills, but they definitely guild the lily by engaging in regular practice sessions. It's the only way I know for a fellow to become really good with his guns.
We often find a goodly number of roadblocks that stand in the way of regular practice. Very few of us live on rural property with a shooting range out behind the house. And the days of just driving out into the country and shooting into a creek bank are about gone. In addition, city dwellers find that they often have to drive quite a ways to get to the closest shooting range. Even then, the local shooting range probably won't allow you to do any fast-draw practice with your defensive handgun. And they expect you to shoot your hunting rifle from a shooting bench because they just aren't set up to allow you to practice your field shooting positions.
Another barrier to good practice comes in the form of the increased cost of ammunition. Due to the war effort, the prices of ammunition and components are going up. And this increase sure doesn't fit with a lot of people's already stressed budgets. Between the cost of gasoline to get back and forth from that shooting range and the cost of ammo, it just seems like the whole thing is stacked up to keep us from regular shooting practice.
Well, my friends, these are good reasons to start making dry firing a part of your regular shooting warm-up. Regular dry-firing sessions on targets in your home, garage, or basement can really pay dividends in improving your overall shooting skills. In my opinion, the important skills for the rifleman and handgunner to practice are firearm presentation, sight picture, breath control, and trigger squeeze. It is the combination of these skills that makes for a quick, accurate shot. And it's amazing how these skills can be improved with a regular program of dry-fire practice.
Back in the mid-1970s, Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) was going through some terrible times. Among other things, ammunition and reloading supplies were virtually impossible to obtain. The country's IPSC team wanted to compete in the international matches but didn't have enough ammunition for it to seem worthwhile. In fact, all they had was one 50-round box of handgun ammo for each man on the team. And that was the year's supply!
What they did was to set up a regular schedule of dry-fire practice. They worked on a smooth, quick presentation of the pistol. They honed their skills at obtaining a flash sight picture and the surprise trigger break. And once a month, each team member fired 10 rounds of pistol ammo.
With no more ammo than that, most of us wouldn't have even bothered to sign up for the competition. We might have even considered selling our guns and taking up golf. The Rhodesian team did neither. Instead, the team just did a lot of dry firing. Oh, and by the way, it was the same year that they won the international IPSC championship.
The biggest problem with dry-fire practice is the danger of a negligent discharge. You'll notice that I didn't call it an accidental discharge. Guns that go off when they're not supposed to are a result of someone's negligence. So let's recognize it for what it is, own up to it, and take steps to see that it doesn't happen.
The best recommendation I have heard is that the shooter should have a regular area in which to set up an appropriate target and practice. Then he or she should never allow live ammunition into that area. Strip the gun, magazines, and belt loops of all live ammo and leave it in another part of the house. Spring-loaded and solid-plastic dummy cartridges can be used if snapping the gun on an empty chamber is not desired. These dummy cartridges are available in most gun stores.
You really don't need to set aside a lot of time for dry-fire practice. Generally 15 minutes each day is long enough to concentrate on improving your skills. However, during that time, it is important to just focus on your practice. Don't allow the doorbell, telephone, or other distractions to disturb you.
Many negligent discharges occur because the shooter finishes his practice, reloads with live ammo, and then, just a bit later, forgets and decides to snap on his target a few more times. This is why it's so important to have a set time for practice, making sure that the area is completely clear of live ammunition, and when you are finished, you are finished.
As we all know, an evening glass of "Who Hit John" is a wonderful comfort to the civilized man. However, due diligence and discretion dictate that we enjoy our favorite beverage after we have finished our firearms practice. To do otherwise would make us look like a fool.
The rifle hunter can use his dry-fire sessions to practice unslinging his rifle and getting into the various field shooting positions. With practice, the shooter can smoothly sling up and drop into a field position while his eyes continue to be focused on the target.
The handgunner uses dry-fire sessions to practice a smooth presentation of his handgun from the holster. In addition, he can practice turns and additional shooting positions. Both the handgun hunter and the defensive shooter can really benefit from these practice sessions.
Riflemen and handguners, alike, will find that dry-fire practice lets them work on the basics of marksmanship--namely sight picture, breath control, and trigger squeeze. And they are honing the basics without having to deal with the disturbance of muzzle blast and recoil. Just as in the case of the Rhodesian IPSC team, the shooter will need to make occasional trips to the range for live firing. But he should be able to see a marked improvement in his skills as a result of his dry-fire practice.
So don't be so disappointed if you can't get out to the shooting range as often as you'd like. Your shooting skills certainly don't have to suffer as a result of it. Regular dry-fire practice is the key, and it won't wreck your budget either. Give it a try a
nd see if your abilities aren't greatly improved. Heck, who knows? It might not be too long before folks are calling you one of those natural-born shots.
I'll leave you with one final word about your shooting practice: We've all heard the old saying that practice makes perfect. Well, friends, it ain't so. As Vince Lombardi once said, "Only perfect practice makes perfect." I think you'll find that dry-fire practice will go a long ways towards making your shooting skills more perfect.