Shoot for free? We have the secret-
Now that hunting season is gearing up, many hunters keep making promises to take their firearm down to the range for a little refresher practice but don’t get around to it until the night before the season opening, or more commonly, not at all.
However, what if you could shoot any time, nearly anywhere, and for free? Believe it or not, such a fantasy world can be yours. The secret: dry practice
Dry practice, or practicing without ammunition, is one of the best, most efficient methods of shooting practice. It is also the most underutilized.
“Shooting” a gun without ammunition removes recoil and noise, which are essentially a major distraction to the entire firing process. Once you have properly mounted the firearm, aligned your sights and made a proper trigger pull, the violent explosion of gunpowder blots out everything, making it tough to diagnose shooter problems, especially your own.
With dry practice, you can focus on the mechanics of shooting without being bothered by recoil, noise or smoke. Moreover, it costs nothing and can be done nearly anywhere. So why don’t more shooters use this fantastic training technique to improve their marksmanship?
There are a myriad of reasons, starting with the fact that most shooters think they are far better than their scores indicate. However, misinformation plays a big part as many shooters think that dry firing is harmful to firearms.
Like most urban legends, this belief has a small basis in fact. Rim fire guns should not be dry-fired as the firing pin will peen the chamber shoulder, eventually causing malfunctions. Some older firearms might also be damaged by dry-firing but most guns built in the last 20-30 years should not be affected. If in doubt, consult the firearms owners’ manual, a qualified gunsmith or simply buy inexpensive inert “snap caps” that take the place of live cartridges.
On the subject of snap caps, don’t buy the variety that uses a brass body with a plastic bullet. The problem arises when you check the chamber of the firearm prior to practice. You will see the gleam of brass and have no idea if the cartridge is live or not. If you guess wrong, the results can be devastating.
Safety is the primary consideration when conducting dry practice. As most dry practice takes place at home, it is absolutely critical that no gunfire occurs. A negligent discharge of any kind is dangerous but those that happen in your bedroom or den are especially scary.
To conduct safe, effective dry practice you need several things in addition to a firearm: a time limit, a quiet place away from distraction, no live ammunition in the area and a safe direction to aim.
Set a time limit for your practice. Ten to fifteen minutes is good; going longer tends to reach a point of diminishing returns and greatly increases the chance of a distraction that could lead to an accident.
A quiet place to practice cannot be over-emphasized. Many accidents occur when shooters are interrupted during dry practice, then resume after absent-mindedly reloading the weapon. It seems impossibly stupid or careless but such incidents occur all the time. Get rid of the cell phone, order the kids out of the room and put up the “do not disturb” sign for 10 minutes. If you get interrupted, stop and restart your safety checks all over again from the beginning.
Live ammunition should be physically removed to another room. Locking it up in a gun safe wouldn’t be overkill. Then, the gun is checked visually and physically to verify there is no ammunition. I do this several times at minimum.
You then need to determine a safe direction to aim in case there is a negligent discharge. Consider the potential path of a surprise bullet while realizing that a shot from your deer rifle might travel through many sets of walls before coming to rest. If your practice area is literally surrounded by residences, try aiming in the direction of your foundation. There are also various types of bullet traps that would make a good backstop.
Once everything is in place, begin your practice. Regardless of your weapon, the foundation of marksmanship is built on a proper trigger pull and follow-through. Work on pulling the trigger until you can drop the hammer on your weapon without the sights moving off target even a millimeter.
It is best to aim at a “real” target such as a paper bull’s-eye or pictures of game animals. Mirrors and televisions are common dry practice targets but present problems. If you stand in front of a mirror, you will end up looking at yourself and not practicing. A television tends to suck in your attention, taking it away from the task at hand. Stick with a bonifide target.
During dry practice, work on things like proper mounting of the gun, magazine manipulations, malfunction clearance and other things we tend to give short shift while at the live-fire range. With a defensive handgun, it is critical to repeatedly practice your draw stroke using the clothing, weapon and holster you actually wear day-to-day.
A common time for a negligent discharge to occur is at the conclusion of practice. After finishing then loading the gun, a distracted shooter thinks “just one more” and pulls the trigger. Again, it seems dumb and careless but happens all the time. When you are done, you are finished. If you load the gun, say out loud “The gun is loaded” three times.
Dry practice, safely performed, is one of the best methods for improving your shooting prowess. Take a few minutes today to unload your weapon, pick a safe target and get better without the bang.
Examples of snap caps we favor from Amazon-