Range Time vs. Dry Fire … and Why?

Training is not something you can do once and call it good. Skills are perishable. If you don’t use them, you will lose them. But the biggest issue most of us have is time. Most people don’t have the time to engage in ongoing training. There is also a cost factor. Ammo and good training cost money. All of these elements conspire against us and, eventually, most of us give up and choose not to train regularly.

Let’s change that. The best way to change anything is to change the way you think about it. So, let’s think about this for a minute.

First up, range time is great IF you are effectively working on the skills that will improve your defensive technique. I remember the very first time I took a serious defensive pistol course. My draw was horrible. The instructor looked at me and said, “We have a lot of work to do on that draw.”

We did the work and I have had a pretty good draw ever since. But I never would have noticed if I had not gotten effective training. If you are continually practicing skills the wrong way, you will end up with a training scar. So, first step is to get good instruction and let it sink in. Don’t be so stubborn as to refuse to learn new things. Remember, good ideas can come from anywhere. None of us knows everything.

So, now that you have a good solid base of skills, don’t think that you have to go to the range and burn up tons of ammo and spend lots of money. You can improve your shooting skills just as rapidly with dry-fire training. And even the term “dry fire” is a bit of a misnomer. It might be better to call it simply “dry training.” That is to say, you can go through every step of your training except for having the firing pin hit the primer. This type of training is very important and should not be overlooked. In fact, dry training at your own home can often allow you to do things that can’t be done on the range.

Let’s go back to that first instructor’s review of my draw. Once he instructed me on the proper form and sequence, I cleared my weapon, went to the side of the range, and practiced the draw about 500 times. Then I added a side step and a verbal challenge. All this was done without firing a shot. Repetition is the key to success.

Let’s get even more specific about why the dry training is, in some cases, better than live fire. Consider this: If you go to the range once a week and you draw and shoot, draw and shoot, draw and shoot every single time, you are training yourself to draw and shoot.

What if, on the street, you need to pull your gun? You automatically revert to your training, which, to this point, has been “draw and shoot.” So you draw and shoot—automatically, just like you trained.

Except, during the draw stroke your bad guy got scared and put up his hands to surrender. But your only training was “draw and shoot.” Now you’ve just shot a suspect who was trying to surrender, because you created your own training scar.

With dry training, you can (and should) practice hundreds of perfect draws that include elements like a big step to the side to get you off the X and a verbal challenge to turn bystanders into witnesses. Finally, some of those draws should end with your NOT pressing the trigger until you make that last final assessment as to whether or not you really need to shoot.

Yes, that is lots to think about, but consider how much you will have to think about during a real situation. Dry training allows you to do all of that. And, if you want to practice your trigger press, you can do that, too.

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