Rifle and Shotgun Dry Fire Drills
Dry fire is very useful to solidify your fundamentals. Be sure to follow all safety guidelines and make sure there’s no live ammo or loaded magazines anywhere near you while you practice. And even though your gun is unloaded, choose a safe spot as your aiming point.
- Stance & Grip: If you have not yet mastered your stance, grip and natural point of aim, dry fire is a good way to do so. It helps to obtain instruction from a reputable trainer so that you are practicing appropriate techniques that will work for your needs – otherwise you might be ingraining bad habits.
- Trigger control: Develop that perfect trigger press. With gun on target, slowly press the trigger until it breaks; work on keeping everything as motionless as possible. As you gain proficiency, begin to also work on your breathing.
- Sight alignment & picture: With gun on target, obtain proper sight alignment and picture, with particular emphasis on obtaining a consistent cheek weld behind your sights or optic. With an iron sighted rifle, practice shifting focus between the target and the front sight post. With an optic, just superimpose the reticle over your target. You can also perform this drill with multiple targets, laterally and at different distances, to practice acquiring your sight picture as quickly as possible.
- Shooting with both eyes open: Practice acquiring a sight picture with both eyes open and learning how to ignore the extraneous double image. Start with your gun on target, then progress to presenting the gun on target and transitioning between targets, and work on quickly picking up a sight picture with both eyes open.
- From ready: From various slung and ready positions (low ready, port arms, etc), practice presenting your gun on target. Practice starting from various different starting positions, turned away from your target, and while moving.
- First shot: Set a par time on your timer. From the holster, draw and engage target. Be sure to follow through so that you can assess your aim.
- Target transitions: Engage multiple targets (e.g. the pepper poppers or two silhouettes on the RECOIL dry fire target). Check that you are leading with your eyes. You can place two or more separate targets farther apart to work on effectively rotating your torso.
- Safety manipulations: Until second nature, it’s very helpful to practice manipulating your safety mechanisms. Some weapons in particular benefit from practice, such as the cross bolt safeties you often find on shotguns and the safeties on rifles like the M14 or AK.
- You can practice all of these drills on your strong side, support side, and even one-handed.
Practice these drills stationary, in different positions, and while moving. Use a timer to track your progress.
- Emergency reloads: Gun on target, bolt locked back (if applicable), empty magazine in gun, magazine loaded with dummy rounds in pouch. On start signal, execute an emergency reload.
- Proactive reloads: Magazine in gun, magazine in pouch. Eject the magazine, draw a fresh magazine and insert into the gun.
- Tactical reloads: Magazine in gun, magazine in pouch. Draw a fresh magazine, eject the old magazine into your support hand, and insert the new magazine into the gun. Stow the old magazine.
- Loading the tube: Load dummy shells into your preferred shell carriers (e.g. side saddle, shell caddy system, loops, etc). Practice loading your shotgun’s mag tube; you can set par times for loading 4 or 8 shells.
- Chamber load: Empty shotgun, dummy shells in your shell carriers. Practice loading a shell into the empty chamber and closing the bolt.
- Select load: Shotgun loaded with dummy rounds (both in chamber and tube). Practice selecting a specific dummy round to load into the chamber to replace the chambered round. The specific procedures to accomplish this will vary by weapon system.
- Weapon transitions: Sidearm holstered, long gun in hand. Practice transitioning from your long gun to your sidearm, with and without a sling.
- Strong to support side transitions: Practice transitioning your long gun back and forth from your strong and support side.
- Malfunction clearance: While specific procedures are beyond the scope of this article, you can also practice malfunction clearance at home.
Moving while handling a firearm and shooting while moving are important skills to work on, and if you have the room you can practice at home. Be very cognizant of your muzzle.
- Getting in and out of positions: Practice moving into or out of positions, then engaging the target. For example, from standing to kneeling or prone and vice versa; running to a particular position to engage a target; or quickly finding solid supported and unsupported firing positions with your rifle.
- Shooting on the move: Gun on target. Walk toward, away and laterally to the target and keep your sights on target as best as possible. As you get better, use a smaller target (e.g. the different sized circles on the RECOIL dryfire target).