When I ask folks who’ve been at this shooting business for longer than I about how to become a better holepuncher, the common response is dry fire practice. There are folks who dry fire like clockwork, at morning and at night, and I’ve heard stories of at least one person who managed to break the firing pin on his pistol from dry firing so much. But then, those folks are phenomenal marksmen, so who am I to scoff? Look in the pudding, for there lies the proof.
I’d initially started with the “balance drill” which was an exercise in patience and frustration, as I’d spend each repetition looking for and re-balancing the shell casing on the front sight. Using a quarter or a nickel instead ended up saving my sanity, and eventually I got to the point where I could do a number of dry fires without losing the coin.
Balancing the dry fire practice with visits to the range using live ammo (although to be fair, the proportion of “dry” to “wet” fire is something like 10:1 for me) helps reinforce the musculoskeletal and mental patterns that ultimately result in improved accuracy.
What made dry fire practice a whole lot more fun for me has been the laser training cartridge and its accompanying smartphone app. The training cartridge emits a brief laser pulse that the app detects using the smartphone’s camera, and when combined with a paper target and a smartphone stand one gets to make virtual holes on paper at home.
The entire setup of the cartridge and smartphone stand cost less than a single range session’s lane fees and ammo, and I’ve recouped the cost of this training rig many times over. I like the feedback of the app, as it records how well (or not so well) I’m doing. While you don’t get the sound and fury of the bang and snap from using live ammo, it has made dry fire practice… um, a lot less dry.
These are the results of 10 “shots” using the training cartridge on a Smith & Wesson M&P9 Shield (not the 2.0) at approximately 7 yards. One challenge of setting this up at home was finding a suitable space that allows useful training distances. Fortunately I’m able to train at 3, 5, and 7 yards at home with this rig.
10 more virtual rounds at 7 yards, but this time with a Sig Sauer P365. I tend to be more accurate with the P365 than with the Shield at the range, and by the looks of it, at home as well.
Sometimes the practice results look like a quintet of buggy-eyed cartoon characters!
Again, the major downside of this method of practicing is that it doesn’t use live ammo. You don’t get the noise and recoil, and you also have to rack the pistol each time you press the trigger. You don’t get to practice virtual magazine dumps. The major upside is also that you don’t use live ammo. You can use a dedicated empty mag that you’ve set aside for dry fire practice, lock away the live rounds, and practice your grip, sight picture, trigger press, and follow through.
I’m starting to work on the holster draw, and the laser cartridge has come in quite handy for that as well. As to the longevity of the cartridge, I’m going to guess that the activator switch is going to get pummeled into malfunction by the firing pin way before the batteries run out. But given my reasoning on the return on investment of this setup, it’s still a pretty good deal. And I’ve purchased a couple of spares just in case.