Author Topic: "The Importance of Dry Firing and How to Do it Right" By: Navybowhunter  (Read 2578 times)

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"The Importance of Dry Firing and How to Do it Right"
By: Chris Moriarty AKA Navybowhunter


First, safety is first foremost and always paramount.  In the area I dry fire practice (my garage) there is no ammunition anywhere near the rifle.  Ensure the rifle is clear prior to any dry fire evolution.

What is dry firing? 

We instructors always preach at the end of an Appleseed weekend to have the attendees dry fire.  OK...but how do they accomplish that?  How do we, collectively (as instructors are always brushing up and honing their marksmanship skills) deliver the message on how to dry fire?

It took me four full Appleseed weekends to qualify on the 25M AQT.  It wasn't until the 4th event, when I had a few instructors stay over at my place, that one gave me my first "glance" at the importance of dry firing.  I opted to use a scoped 10/22 for the event, as I was struggling with iron sights.  I knew I would need to move my scope FWD in the mount/rings, and did that.  What I did not know was that one of the best ways to establish proper eye relief for the scopes, is to get in the seated position and check the eye relief.  That was truly the only time I got into position at my home, and somewhat dry fired.

It is no secret that I am an avid high power rifle competitor.  My first event was humiliating, I could not score higher than a 40 on the 200 yard standing target.  My prone scores were "OK" but the 200 yard line was killing me.  I opted to whine about my situation to several distinguished riflemen, NRA High Masters and some Appleseed instructors I respect for their marksmanship skills.  Once the position stuff was fixed (another topic), I was told by all to dry fire, as that would be the only way I would start to get better.

Important point I made above, "position stuff"/AKA Steady Hold Factors must be solid, for dry fire practice to pay off.  Thru dry fire practice, opportunities will reveal themselves on positions, use dry fire to practice and the positions will get more "steady".

I am stubborn, and sometimes it takes me awhile for things to sink in.  I did not do much dry firing my first year competing, and my scores truly reflected that.  Why?  Why did I not dry fire?  Honestly, I feel it is BORING!  LOL, no other way to dress that up for me.  One winter (2015) I was on the phone with a friend discussing how I hate dry firing, and he suggested I buy a pellet rifle, or an electronic training system.  I opted for the electronic trainer and bought a SCATT training system.  You can google SCATT and see what that is all about.  Basically, it is an infrared sensor that attaches to the barrel easily, and there is a target that registers the sensor.  On the side is a laptop with the target on it.  I take a dry fire shot, and the computer screen shows me my "hold/trace", my trigger release, and my follow thru after the shot was dry fired.

AMAZING!  Now dry fire for me is fun!  It is like having a coach right there next to me.  What I learned right away was that my Natural Point of Aim (NPA or NPOA) was not properly established in standing. I was coming down on the far right or left of the target and muscling the rifle.  The other thing it taught me was my follow thru on trigger was awful.

So, I am a big fan of the SCATT system or any kind of electronic trainer.  But knowing what I know now, what if I never heard of the SCATT or electronic trainers?  How could I achieve the same results dry firing without that training aid?

I remember back in early 2015 at my first high power rifle matches.  The Creedmoor Cup matches.  I did not do very well in standing.  One evening at my hotel room, a few fellow competitors fixed something for me.  Well...they did not give me a fish, they taught me how to fish.  In standing, most of us will bring the head to the rifle.  The correct way is to bring the rifle to the head, but it is natural for some reason for us to bring the head to the rifle.  Most of us will never realize this flaw unless someone points it out.  I had it pointed out to me and said "OK" and kept doing the wrong thing.  Until these competitors had me gear up in the room and shoulder the rifle as I would for standing.  They then laughed a bit, and asked me to get 90 degrees in front of the long mirror in the room.  WOW...huge lightbulb went off.  I could SEE how I was screwing the position up.  So, if you have a full-length mirror, check yourself in standing in front of the mirror.  Is your head erect?  Are you bringing the rifle to your head, or is your head canted quizzically on the rifle stock?

JMDavis is a big fan of what is called "Blank Wall Dry Fire".  Not aiming at a target, just squeezing the trigger on a blank wall.  What does that teach?  Well, for one it will help your body to learn your rifle.  More importantly, it will help your body and mind develop muscle memory of your trigger.  I use a 2 stage trigger, when I dry or live fire in any position, I come down (or up) on the target, and as soon as I hit the aiming white I immediately take up the first stage.  Then I breath while still holding the first stage, and settle in the middle of the aiming black (X or V).  I then begin the squeeze of the second stage, ensuring my sights remain ALIGNED and on target.  After the squeeze, I hold that trigger back and call the shot. 

Blank Wall dry fire is a great way to learn and develop the muscle memory for the feel of your trigger.  If one does not get the feel for the trigger, they will ABSOLUTELY pull thru the shot and disturb sight alignment, which will result in an off call shot.

But, even though I respect JMDavis, blank wall stuff sounded boring to me as well and I never did take his advice...for quite some time.

I decided to dabble in bullseye pistol.  With the pistol, dry firing to learn the trigger is imperative.  Even more critical than the rifle in my opinion.  But...what does a pistol shooter do when they are dry firing.  This is where my other friend a Distinguished pistol shooter explained the rest of the "blank wall" story to me.  When executing a dry fire shot with the pistol, it is imperative to have the trigger break and the sights not be disturbed!  WOW!  That simple.  IT IS IMPERATIVE TO HAVE THE TRIGGER BREAK AND THE SIGHTS NOT BE DISTURBED!

That is a difficult task at first.  But...that is what the blank wall dry fire is about.  Executing a perfect trigger squeeze while maintaining sight alignment.  If they moved...do it again.  It may take hundreds of times before you begin to see results, but the results will come.

Practical application of dry fire practice:
What is your weakest position?  Standing likely for most, seated for many, and prone for some.  Dry fire practice in position is the way to get the scores to rise.  IN POSITION with ALL the stuff you will be using during an AQT or any other match.  I found for me that if I dry fired say 30 standing shots 3 times a week prior to a match, my standing scores would rise significantly during live fire.  Conversely, if I was lazy and did not dry fire a week prior to a match, my standing scores were deplorable.

Dry fire practice should be made as realistic as possible to the match you are about to shoot, be that an AQT or KDAQT or anything else.

I would say at least 10 dry fire shots for every live fire shot would be a good start.  I try to do significantly more than that.

For dry fire practice for an Appleseed AQT, simply take a black dot and place on a wall about 10-15 feet away.  Execute dry fire shots in position at that dot, while consciously telling yourself to maintain sight alignment.

Team Dry Fire Practice:
Some errors in position and in the fundamentals, can be revealed to you by having a partner practice with you.  We have drills that a husband/wife, guy and a friend, etc. can do to reveal these issues.  Ball and Dummy drill requires live rounds, but a modified version of this drill called a dime drill can be very helpful.  In prone, have your partner place a dime on the barrel when you are solid in position.  Execute the dry fire maintaining sight alignment and calling the shot without the dime falling off.

If you are lucky enough to have a friend that is a qualified Appleseed KD rifleman, or even better a NRA Expert or above they can also point out and correct some positional flaws.  It is also fun to practice with someone.

Another idea I do often, is to have my wife or daughter video me in position executing a few dry fire shots.  Video is typically taken from 3/6/9/12 o clock positions so that later I can review, and some things are just plain obvious when you get to see yourself in position.  If you are on Facebook, or any of the shooting forums (including ours), you can share video with friends online and have them critique for you.

Carding the sights is another form of a dry fire drill.  It really will show the shooter if their natural point of aim is true, or if they are lying to themselves and muscling the rifle.

Other benefits:
Dry firing with say an electronic trainer or a pellet gun can also help one to tweak their positions.  For example, what happens if I lengthen my stock?  What happens if I tighten my sling one more notch?  What happens if I bring my right foot a little more in during seated?  What happens if I pigeon toe my feet when standing?  Etc. Etc...

It would cost me a TON of money in ammo, if I were to do all the above experimentation during live fire.

Dry firing Aids: 
There are several items available to assist with dry firing.  If you have an AR15 White Oak Armament sells a great dry fire device.  It fits in the magwell of the rifle and one can reset the trigger without having to use the charging handle.  A simple button press on the magazine resets the trigger.

For those with optics, google IOTA training device.  This stands for an Indoor Optical Training Aid.  It is basically a de magnifier that goes on the objective of your scope.  It will allow one to get a clear sight picture on a close-up target with a variable power scope.  I have one for my service rifle and for my AR10.  It works great.

Bright light on the target can also help, I use a snap on shop lamp to brighten up the target I am aiming at.

Another thing with optics one can do is drill a 1/8" hole in the center of a butler creek scope cap cover.  Place that on the objective and it will help bring the target in focus.

Shot Calling: 
I had not ever been able to call my shots during live fire.  It was during dry fire that I learned the importance of front sight focus (or scope reticle focus) and that is when the shot calling journey began.  I believe that it is only thru dry firing that one begins to actually call the shot.  This is where a TRAINER of some sort, or a pellet gun range will help you immensely.  Compare the call to the actual value.  Three terms we use when discussing Shot Calls.

"ON CALL"?  On Call means that if you called it a 10 at 12 o clock, and it came up a 10 a 12 o clock, you are ON CALL. 
"Within CALL" Within Call means that you called it a 10 at 12 o clock, and it was an X at 12 o clock, WITHIN the Call
"Off Call" Off Call means that you called it a 10 at 12 o clock, and it was an 8 or a 9, nowhere near your call.

What is the preferred type of call?  Many may think "Within Call" is the best.  Typically, a within call shot for me means that I did something wrong and my solid position bailed me out.  So, preferred is to have shots "On Call".  Sometimes for me at 600 yards it is tough to discern the X ring (1 MOA) to the 10 ring (2 MOA).  SO, for me at 600 anything 10/X at this point in my shooting maturation is good stuff.

What do we do with this Shot call feedback we give ourselves?  If for example, I break a shot and call it a wide 9 at 3 o clock.  Target actual value is a wide 9 at 3 o clock.  Shot is ON CALL.  Now what?  Do I adjust or send another?  Maybe I would send another, and if I called it the same and the value is the same, my NPOA is off!  Adjust.  Could also be the wind, but...that is another topic for another time.

Another HUGE benefit of shot calling is the confidence one develops.  Say for some reason, your standing at 100 yards shooting the Appleseed KD standing target.  You call a shot as a center punched V, but...no holes on the target.  Your shot call you are confident in...time to look for exterior issues, maybe the sights were adjusted wrong, maybe the scope elevation turret is one complete rotation off.  With the confidence you will eventually build through dry fire and live fire with shot calls, you will get to a point where you will never send another round downrange after a miss, that was called a center punched V.  This is where the "points" start to accumulate in matches...but one must develop that confidence, thru dry firing and shot calling.

In closing, dry fire is an essential thing that we must do on a regular basis if we expect to continue to improve and score well.   I do not have a local range to live fire practice.  I earned my NRA Expert card this year and 6 legs towards the Distinguished Rifleman badge, and the only LIVE fire shots I took were during actual matches.  I repeat, the only live fire shots I took last year were in actual matches.  So Dry firing has had one heck of an impact on my goals, you the reader should give it a try as well.  If you are preparing for a KD or a 25M AQT, a 3-day session prior to the event will yield good results for you.    Provided you have all the other fundamentals in place.  Dry firing will reveal your flaws in the fundamentals, NPOA, 6 steps and Steady Hold Factors.

Give it a shot!

Respectfully,

Chris Moriarty AKA Navybowhunter
« Last Edit: November 07, 2017, 04:23:46 PM by Roswell »

Offline T. WOLF

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Re: "The Importance of Dry Firing and How to Do it Right" By: Navybowhunter
« Reply #1 on: November 10, 2017, 08:46:21 PM »
This article is like a deluge of knowledge.  I can relate so much to your early predicament - it took me six appleseeds to qualify for my patch.  I knew I needed to be practicing at home, but I wasn't doing it for the same reason you weren't at first.

This article should be required reading for any student who is struggling with his NPOA after more than one AS and wants to make rifleman.

Sh*t, I'm only shooting 214 and I can't wait to see what this does for me. 

Thank you, navybowhunter!
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Re: "The Importance of Dry Firing and How to Do it Right" By: Navybowhunter
« Reply #2 on: November 13, 2017, 08:39:28 AM »
T Wolf:

It will most definitely help to raise your scores.  I'd suggest as mentioned in the article, having someone critique your "steady hold factors"/position to ensure you're at least getting the fundamental position correct (be that standing/seated or prone).  Pictures help as well.  Having a spouse/friend/kid take pics of you in position you can critique the position yourself.

Once the position stuff is solid...that is when the dry fire magic starts to pay dividends. 

Keep us posted, I am interested to see your scores rise!

R/
Chris

Offline Kennebago

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Re: "The Importance of Dry Firing and How to Do it Right" By: Navybowhunter
« Reply #3 on: November 13, 2017, 12:56:38 PM »
Shot timers are very useful dryfire aids as well. Programmable par times make a world of difference, and put simple blank-wall dryfire in perspective.

Ben Stoeger's pro shop is a candy store for this kind of thing, especially if your interest runs towards pistols. You can come up with some truly impressive dryfire walls.

I have personally seen improvement shooting rifles from working through dryfire manuals intended for IDPA and USPSA shooters, particularly where manipulations are concerned. Not because they contain rifle segments (they don't) but because they inform your perspective on how to approach skillbuilding.

They teach you how to teach yourself, if you like.
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Re: "The Importance of Dry Firing and How to Do it Right" By: Navybowhunter
« Reply #4 on: November 13, 2017, 08:34:59 PM »
I've found this thread that has many targets one can download including AQT scaled down for 5 and 10 yard, 25 and 12 feet.

https://appleseedinfo.org/smf/index.php?topic=9833.0

Of course you can use just about anything to target in on, however the AQT shapes are helpful to me so I can get into the AS frame of mind.

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Re: "The Importance of Dry Firing and How to Do it Right" By: Navybowhunter
« Reply #5 on: November 13, 2017, 09:41:53 PM »
Man - I really need to do what you're talking about in this article dangit.

And yeah - I know what you mean about it being boring. But it needs to be done.

Do you know anything about the 'Mantis' system? Any thoughts on that?

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Re: "The Importance of Dry Firing and How to Do it Right" By: Navybowhunter
« Reply #6 on: November 14, 2017, 01:51:06 AM »
Do you know anything about the 'Mantis' system? Any thoughts on that?

Touch base with Palerider (or Ghostring, I can't remember which). One of them picked up the Mantis when we were at NRAAM this spring.
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Re: "The Importance of Dry Firing and How to Do it Right" By: Navybowhunter
« Reply #7 on: November 14, 2017, 09:54:31 AM »
Do you know anything about the 'Mantis' system? Any thoughts on that?

Touch base with Palerider (or Ghostring, I can't remember which). One of them picked up the Mantis when we were at NRAAM this spring.

I'd just got a reply back from Ghostring who had bought one. I'd posted about the Mantis here:

https://appleseedinfo.org/smf/index.php?topic=52500.msg350904;topicseen#msg350904

The Mantis people have offered Appleseed Instructors a 20% discount. I've got one but haven't really done much with it though. Seems it would be good for dry fire and make it more fun. Not too expensive either.

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They've got us surrounded, the poor bastards. - Chesty Puller.

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Re: "The Importance of Dry Firing and How to Do it Right" By: Navybowhunter
« Reply #8 on: November 14, 2017, 02:01:20 PM »
The MANTIS system looks fine to me.

SCATT is what I use, but there are others out there.  If on a budget do not even consider a SCATT!  LOL....

Think the WS-1 system runs about $1300 shipped, but....you should also have a dedicated stand alone laptop for it.  Any laptop will work, my friends suggested a stand alone/dedicated laptop as it makes things easier, no worries about system software updates, etc.

I also bought a spare Creedmoor Spotting scope stand, and polecat articulating mount. 

I mount my SCATT target on the Creedmoor spotting scope stand, and have the poles pre-marked for target location by position (standing/seated/prone) so it is a quick setup.

That is more on SCATT.  SCATTusa.com is the website if you want more info.

Regardless, if the system tells you about your NPOA, it is WORTH it!  Any system that will identify your NPOA issues (and trust me....you have NPOA issues...LOL, we all do)....is worth the money spent in my opinion.

SCATT also shows "follow thru" issues as well.  There is also a trigger pressure sensor one can buy.  I opted not to, until I leg out with the rifle.  I hear the trigger pressure sensor is great for pistol work.

R/
Chris

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Re: "The Importance of Dry Firing and How to Do it Right" By: Navybowhunter
« Reply #9 on: November 15, 2017, 07:17:41 PM »
Great Article Chris.
Thanks for sharing the knowledge!

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Re: "The Importance of Dry Firing and How to Do it Right" By: Navybowhunter
« Reply #10 on: December 09, 2017, 08:52:04 PM »
Becoming a good shot takes lots of dry firing. Even if you had an unlimited amount of ammo and rifles (or pistols) you still need to dry fire.

Boring? No! It's exciting to be in position, prepare to fire a shot, and focus hard on the front sight as you apply pressure to the trigger and "click" nothing moves. All your attention is focused on the front sight and it doesn't even quiver. There isn't anything involved in shooting as exciting as the process of firing a shot. Where else will you find perfection in your life?