When aiming to become a more effective shooter, the old saying seems appropriate: practice makes perfect. With that said, there are different ways to practice – and for a novice in particular, the way you choose to practice can have a huge influence on the outcome. Any kind of training delivered in the early days will have a formative impact on the practitioner. So it stands to reason that finding the most effective way to practice will have the best results, and by contrast, practicing in a less efficient way will set you off on the wrong foot. Fail to correct that, and you could be facing a lot of expensive corrective training.
One of the most popular questions about firearm practice is one which may be confusing to some novices: Live fire or dry fire?
So, what is dry fire? Well, for the uninitiated, dry firing is a form of training that takes place without any live ammunition present. You practice your stance, your grip, aim, and pull the trigger as you would with live ammunition in the chamber – but there is no flash, no bang, and no hole in a target. As we look at the challenges of firearm training, you may come to see why that’s not a bad thing.
Dry fire training is more economical in every way
The more you practice, the better you get. That’s simply science – you gain muscle memory for the right way to hold, raise and fire a gun, and how to return to a firing stance after letting off a round. The more repetitions, the better-drilled your shooting will be.
If you’re practicing with live rounds, this becomes a very expensive process, as 1000 rounds will set you back several hundred dollars. But that’s just the cost of the ammo – you then have to consider travel back and forth to a shooting range, because unless you have incredibly forgiving neighbors, you’re not going to be firing off a few hundred rounds in your garden or anywhere near your home.
So in sum, you’re either going to have to ration your practice, or be prepared to spend a lot of money, just to get to a point where you’re hitting targets half the time.
Live fire is loud, exhilarating… and distracting
When you pull a trigger and the gun makes a loud bang, it is liable to get the adrenaline flowing – that’s natural, a response to a loud noise going off near your face and the immense power it takes to fire off a live round. It’s also very distracting for anyone trying to get their form, sight and rhythm right, because there are a lot of fine motor skills involved in simply getting the fundamentals in place.
Dry firing allows you to practice your shooting by running through all of the necessary steps before – and after – pulling the trigger. There will come a time when you’re making these same steps with live rounds, but as we mentioned above, there is a time for fundamentals and formative training and a time for all the rest. If you don’t get off on the right foot, then the effective training with live fire will be delayed and inevitably less effective. So sticking to dry fire initially is the quickest way to advance to more interesting training.
Dry firing offers more diversity of practice
At a training range, you can shoot at targets just ahead of you and maybe slightly to the side. They might be moving, they might be stationary, but there really isn’t much variety beyond that. If range shooting is all you want to do, then that’s fine. Just know that in real life, targets are rarely, if, ever going to move toward you in completely straight lines and give you time to stand and pick your shot.
Dry firing allows you to practice a number of different ways of shooting; taking cover, shooting while moving, switching targets and a lot of other ways that they won’t stand for at any sensible firing range. Range shooting certainly has its place, and will get you used to the potential recoil of a firearm, but it is sterile in many other ways, so it makes sense to get a lot of dry firing in before you head to the range to hone details such as pinpoint accuracy and dealing with the sights and sounds of using live rounds.
When it comes to practice, it’s not so much a matter of which is best. The truth is, for a novice shooter, dry firing will allow you to get in place all of the fundamental skills which are necessary for live shots – which you can then put into practice when needed.