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Old April 2, 2014, 05:35 PM   #1
ezmiraldo
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On the "dark side" of dryfiring...

One thing that has been bothering me a lot about dryfiring lately is that some peculiarities of dryfiring (and resulting habits developed during dryfiring) might negatively affect one's effectiveness during "real" shooting (and much more so during real-life engagements that involve body-threat response and strong tendency to default to one's habits).

Here're couple of examples of these "peculiarities" and "habits":
1. "Shooting" without recoil. This affects one's grip dynamic, posture dynamic, sight re-acquisition, etc.
2. With double-to-single action pistols, one either has to rack the slide (or cock the hammer manually) for the second trigger squeeze to be single-action, or use double-action repeatedly if one practices shooting multiple times per draw. This situation is worse for firearms that require their slides racked in order to reset the trigger (e.g., glocks).

The danger is that such discrepancies between dryfiring and real firing might lead to bad habits being developed during dryfiring (e.g., wanting to rack the slide after the first round is fired, using suboptimal strategies for mitigating recoil). This reminds me of the incident that happened to some cops who were trained to pick up their brass after firing on their departmental shooting range. When they got into a real-life engagement, their habits kicked in and they automatically started picking up brass after emptying their revolvers. Expectedly, this turned out pretty badly for the cops who ended up dead but with pockets full of spent brass casings...

What do you folks think about this? Am I making this into a bigger problem than it ought to be? Does dryfiring actually hurt more than it helps?
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Old April 2, 2014, 05:46 PM   #2
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I believe you are overthinking it.
Dryfire to gain a consistant sight picture and to learn your guns trigger. Don't worry about the other side of it, as long as you are doing an equal amount of live fire shooting.
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Old April 2, 2014, 06:59 PM   #3
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A few things --

First, the benefits of dry fire practice are significant. It's an excellent way to get enough trigger repetitions to develop good, unconscious trigger control.

Second, any possible "bad habits" developed during the course of thoughtful dry practice can be "overwritten" by an appropriate amount of good live fire practice.

Thus any possible downsides of dry practice are (1) outweighed by the benefits; and (2) are manageable and avoidable.
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Old April 2, 2014, 10:26 PM   #4
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Dry firing is useful. It does not reproduce live shooting, but few things do. Notwithstanding, it helps with trigger control and learning processes.
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Old April 2, 2014, 10:53 PM   #5
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I do agree that sloppy dryfire practice can hurt a person in terms of recoil management.

The key is to insure that you take a proper grip on the gun and maintain a good stance while you dryfire. If you do these things (as you would at the range) you shouldn't be learning bad habits.

Your second point is worth considering. I tend to dryfire with double-action guns so I don't "learn" to cock the hammer or rack the slide for every shot.
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Old April 2, 2014, 11:04 PM   #6
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One other thing: keep dry fire practice sessions short. Keeping practice sessions short assures that your practice is focused and disciplined. Think through each repetition and concentrate. That level of intensity can only be properly maintained for short periods.

So five minutes is fine. Five minutes of perfect, focused dry fire practice several times a week is worth more than an hour of practice once a month.
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Old April 3, 2014, 01:35 AM   #7
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Just five minutes of dry fire practice each day will make you a better shooter. I used to make it part of my morning routine- the house was dead quiet, no interruptions.
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Old April 3, 2014, 06:39 AM   #8
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I would wonder about a daily dry firing and wear on parts !!
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Old April 3, 2014, 08:06 AM   #9
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Alternating dry fire with using a duplicate blow back air gun helps.
The airgun provides some recoil and holes in the target for accuracy reference.
There's excellent air gun copies of most of the popular handguns, these days.
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Old April 3, 2014, 11:05 AM   #10
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I find dry firing almost as beneficial as live firing, I contribute it greatly to my shooting skills. You really get to focus on the trigger pull and what your sights are doing during it.
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Old April 3, 2014, 02:43 PM   #11
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Thanks for your thoughts, guys! I realize the benefits of dryfiring - especially for things like practicing draw, getting used to new gun/holster, getting used to one's sights and trigger. I guess my problem is that I dry fire more (in terms of time and trigger presses) than I do live fire practice. I try to do everything during my dryfire practice as similarly to live firing as I can, but I still wonder what sorts of bad habits I might be unintentionally developing, and what habits I might default to if, god forbid, I find myself in the middle of a real firefight...
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Old April 3, 2014, 03:17 PM   #12
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I agree with what I see as the general consensus that dry firing is beneficial, but I applaud your rigorous scrutiny of your shooting habits. I can add something about the policing brass scenario you described. I grew up kind of poor, and I religiously hang onto to fired brass. Sometimes to my detriment.

Once years ago I found myself deep into the Northwest Territories without enough food to return. I spotted a caribou running through the brush, and I shot him with my Remington 35 Whelen bolt gun. Before I could work the bolt and find enough opening for a second shot he was down for good. After I had the meat cut up and secured in a pack, I went back to the place where I made the shot and did a through search for my empty cartridge without success. That night in camp I found the 35 Whelen case in my coat pocket. I had followed my childhood habit of opening the bolt, catching the empty case in the air, and only then closing the bolt for my second shot. That habit followed even in a situation where I risked starvation. That winter I went on a long program of practice to break myself of that habit.
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Old April 3, 2014, 03:34 PM   #13
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This is why I attend a shooting course at least once a year. Weird stuff can creep in. However, I find that I forget tactics and such more than damage my technique.
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Old April 3, 2014, 05:36 PM   #14
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No "dark side" oF dry firing, IMHO, rather it is one of many techniques used to develop shooting skills, when used properly it is quite beneficial. Shooting off the bench is not the same as offhand shooting or hunting, but, like Bullseye shooting with a 22, it is a better way to develop the marksmanship skills necessary for successful hunting or combat/SD shooting skills. Dry firing allows one to practice sight alignment, trigger squeeze, breath control, and for those of us who don't get to the range anywhere as often as we'd like it allows time spent handling and getting the feel of firearms, getting familiar with them.
I like an analogy with bicycling, I bicycle to work. People I know who have exercise cycle have told me how different it feels to get on a real bike on the road, but the exercise cycle strengthens the heart and lungs and legs so one can cycle comfortably. Recoil ? That's like climbing hills on a bicycle, the best way to do it is to do it gradually.
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Old April 4, 2014, 10:50 AM   #15
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Quote:
I guess my problem is that I dry fire more (in terms of time and trigger presses) than I do live fire practice.
With the price and difficulty locating ammunition that we are currently experiencing, I am certain that you are not alone in that. I am in the same boat these days. It is, at least for me, a simple way to make the best out of a bad situation.
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Old April 4, 2014, 01:21 PM   #16
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Here is what I do.

I wait until I am dressed for the day and wearing my CCW gear of choice. I unload the pistol and check to make sure I have done so at least 3 times. I holster the gun and cover it with my carry garment. Then I do about ten draws and press a shot of dry fire each time. I typically pick a spot on the fridge or something in particular and break the shot. I do use spent brass as a snap cap btw.
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Old April 5, 2014, 08:12 PM   #17
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I agree that you can build bad habits.

Doing a tap, rack, bang after each dry fire to cock the pistol can be good, but don't ingrain it too much.

I will alternate between a tap, rack, bang after each dry fire, and slowly re-cocking and reholster. The big thing is to not repeat something you don't want to do very often and certainly not in the same sequence every time.
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Vermonter, I recommend getting some DIFFERENT COLOR snap caps rather than using spent brass. It's another safety/sanity check when you dry fire with something that looks different during loading and press checks.
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Old April 8, 2014, 12:40 AM   #18
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I think your concerns are valid. I heard a story in training about an officer with my department who trained in disarming a subject with a handgun. In training they practiced taking the gun away and then handing it to their partner for their turn. Unfortunately that became muscle memory and when he had to apply it in real life he performed a perfect disarm only to hand the weapon right back to the aggressor and get shot. Can't remember whether or not the officer survived but it just goes to show that muscle memory isn't a made up concept but a fact that can either work for you or against you.

As valuable as dry fire training is I most certainly wouldn't cut it out. The only way I can see to counteract this bad muscle memory you may be developing is to shoot live fire more often, or take a break from it while shooting live fire more and then go back to it. With time you should be able to work out the kinks.

Disclaimer: I am in no way shape or form a certified firearms instructor, my advice is speculative at best. This is just what works and makes sense for me, YMMV.
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Old April 8, 2014, 01:07 AM   #19
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Dry practice (since the gun does not fire) accomplishes breath and trigger control in addition to developing muscle in the neck and arms. As I see it, there are no negatives and as stated, once one becomes confident and competent with breath and trigger control, the rest will fall into place when at the range and using real ammo.
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Old April 8, 2014, 02:16 PM   #20
raimius
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45Gunner, you are neglecting to consider the effects of mental conditioning. As has been pointed out, you can develop some very bad habits, if you consistently practice something you would not want to do in the heat of the moment.

That said, I support dry firing. It is very good practice for certain things. Just be careful you aren't practicing things you don't want to do.
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Old April 10, 2014, 08:03 AM   #21
ezmiraldo
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So, the question becomes: How to structure one's dryfire practice so that it:
(a) builds only the rights habits; and
(b) does not build any of the wrong habits?

What specific exercises to include/exclude, and how to properly execute them? Do any specific rules need to be established and followed (in addition to the safety rules, of course)?
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Old April 10, 2014, 09:43 PM   #22
JohnKSa
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The Cornered Cat has an excellent section on dryfiring safely.

http://www.corneredcat.com/article/p...y-fire-safety/

In terms of not learning bad habits, the key is trying to avoid doing things that teach bad habits--as much as possible.

So, for example, although I have some firearms that would require cycling the slide or cocking the hammer for each shot, I tend to do my dryfire practice with guns that have a double-action trigger so I don't have to cock the hammer or cycle the slide.

When I dryfire, I make a point of focusing on my stance and keeping my grip proper so I'm also practicing those things in addition to working on my trigger technique.
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Old April 11, 2014, 06:43 AM   #23
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Let's add that dry fire isn't just to practice trigger control and sight alignment -- although it can be excellent for that. It's also a good place to practice your drawstroke (working into your solid shooting stance), especially if you regularly carry in a holster that isn't allowed under the rules at your shooting range. For example, if you get most of your drawstroke practice using IDPA-legal strong side holsters, but actually carry in the appendix position, then you should be practicing your appendix draw at home in dryfire.

Dryfire is a great place to wring out your new holster. Never ever ever put a live gun in a holster until you've worked with it in dry fire for at least 50 draws, and have assured yourself, using a disabled or well-checked unloaded gun, that the holster will hold the gun securely with the trigger guard completely covered at all times.

With a properly disabled gun (not simply unloaded, but disabled with a barrel blocker or training barrel), you can use dry fire to practice using cover within your own home. Somewhere in your house, there's a place where you can see the front door opening, but where you are concealed from those who enter. Where is that place? Have you practiced getting in and out of position with your eye on the door? (Similarly: bedroom or safe room, hallway outside the kids' rooms.)

Once you've learned the footwork for moving with the gun in hand, you can practice that footwork while also keeping the sights aligned and practicing your good trigger press in dry fire. Again, much safer with a disabled gun than a simply unloaded one -- and the tools to disable the gun are so cheap and so easy to use that there's really no excuse not to put that extra layer of safety in place while you practice. If you don't have a barrel blocker, you'll be limited to practicing your movement in just one location, with only one target which is in front of your absolutely trustworthy safe backstop.

You can't practice everything in dry fire. Keep that in mind. You can simulate a little recoil management with the help of a willing friend, but mostly you're going to rely on a good mindset.
  • Never dry fire in a lazy or sloppy way, or with less than full concentration on what you're doing.
  • Always use the exact same grip and stance that you use for recoil control, even though you 'know' the gun won't recoil when you press the trigger.
  • Don't get in the habit of holding the gun in ways that wouldn't work well when shooting live.

Hope that helps.

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Old April 11, 2014, 08:12 AM   #24
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One more thing: as with any other type of practice, it's really destructive to spend a lot of time and energy repeating the wrong thing over and over. If you want to avoid practicing the wrong stuff, start by getting some good training from a qualified professional instructor.

Don't expect you can learn physical skills solely watching videos and reading books. You would not expect to learn the physical skills of how to swim or rock-climb from watching videos, so why expect that the physical skills of gunhandling would be any different?

The threads stickied at the top of the T&T training provide some great places to start.

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Old April 16, 2014, 08:20 AM   #25
ezmiraldo
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"If you want to avoid practicing the wrong stuff, start by getting some good training from a qualified professional instructor."

It is always a good advice to seek professional training. But I do think that being a critical thinker, questioning one's assumptions and engaging in self-reflection from time to time is just as important.
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