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How to Boost Pistol Skills Right Now, for FREE

Image of Bryan Hill, Founder of Pistol Wizard Bryan Hill / May 26 2021

The best shooters in the world all have a secret:


Below, we'll cover how to get you started with dry practice at home, so you can build your skills with minimal or no cost.

On This Page:

  1. Preparing for Dry Practice
  2. Before You Start a Session
  3. Top Dryfire Drills
  4. Beyond the Basics
  5. Wrapping up

Preparing for Dry Practice

You'll need the following:

Keep live ammo out of your practice room if at all possible.

In that room, face a side with a safe backstop, to minimize the risk if you have a negligent discharge. Only place targets on that side of the room.

What targets to use?

  • If you're on a budget, use a 2" x 2" sticky note.
  • Otherwise, Ben Stoeger's downscaled dry fire kit is cheap and effective. Hang up the targets with a loop of blue painter's tape to prevent damage to your walls.
Either way, we want small targets.

Why? You may be dry firing in a small room, and small targets simulate distance. Let's say you want to practice on a 6" circle, so you use a 2" circle instead. Since your target is 1/3 the size of your actual target, multiply the distance from your target by 3.

Each foot of distance from a 2" circle is like a yard of distance from a 6" circle. Instead of needing 10 yds. of distance with a 6" target, you only need 10 ft with a 2" target.

These target sizes translate well to competition, and practical accuracy for self-defense shooting. If you have a hard time at first, get closer to the target. Resist the temptation to use bigger targets.



Top Dryfire Drills

If you master these foundational skills, you'll be way ahead of most shooters. Do 3-5 sets of 10 per dry fire session. Start out untimed, but when you get the hang of the movements, start timing yourself on our free Dry Fire App:

  • If you pass 10/10 reps, reduce Par Time by 0.1.
  • If you pass at least 7/10 reps, keep practicing 'till you get 10/10.
  • If you pass less than 7/10 reps, increase Par Time by 0.1.

Dry Trigger

Setup for dry trigger press practice.
  1. Unload your pistol.
  2. Start out with a blank wall (with a safe backstop), so you can focus on your sight alignment.
  3. Aim your pistol at the wall. Your finger may be on the trigger, but may not apply any pressure yet.
  4. Press the trigger until it breaks (the gun goes click).
  5. As you press the trigger, note any movement in the sights.
  6. Rack the slide and take aim for the next rep.
  7. A "Pass" is breaking the trigger with no movement in the sights.

Do it untimed until you master the trigger press with no time limit. Then, in our Dry Fire App, select "Dry Trigger", and "Untrained" difficulty, and work your way up to higher difficulties.

Variations

  • Alternate freestyle shooting and single-hand shooting.
  • Try different pistols with different triggers.
  • Start with trigger finger safe (on slide)

Technique Hints

How to Perfect Your Pistol Trigger Press [for Free]


Ultimate Goal

Get a dry trigger press with sights on-target at (simulated) 7 yds. in 0.20 or less.


Target Transitions

Setup for dry target transition practice.
  1. Unload your pistol.
  2. Set two targets target 7 yards away, 1 yard apart.
  3. Take aim on one target. Then, transition to the other target and get a good sight picture before the second beep.
    You don't have to press the trigger for this drill.

When you start to feel comfortable with this drill, switch things up. See "Variations", below.

Technique Hints

To get this info, sign up for the post-LTC course, or check out Practical Pistol Reloaded (2016) .


Draw

Setup for dry pistol draw practice.
  1. Unload your pistol.
  2. Equip your belt and holster.
  3. Start with hands at your sides.
  4. At the beep, draw your pistol and get a sight picture with a good grip before the second beep.
    You don't have to press the trigger for this drill.

Technique Hints

Coming soon!

Variations

The draw is a complex technique, so break it down into parts. See the Free Dry Fire App for micro-versions of this drill, plus toggles (180º Turn, etc.).

Ultimate goal

Get a full draw of 1 sec or less, and a draw (Step 2 to Step 3) in 0.40 sec or less.


Beyond the Basics

If you get stuck or get bored of the basic dry fire drills, these resources will help you level up.

Software for Dryfire

MantisX

MantisX10
This is an attachment for your pistol's rail that syncs with your phone to give feedback on your draw, trigger press, and more. If you're stuck on the dry trigger press, this gives excellent feedback to help you better understand how you can improve.

The Downside

Shooters at or above Intermediate level (USPSA B Class, IDPA Expert) find MantisX doesn't help them as much, because they've already mastered most of what the MantisX can teach them. There are still benefits, but just not nearly as much as there are for other shooters.

Needed Gear
Who It's For

New and beginner shooters who are stuck on their trigger press, draw, and transitions.


Smokeless Range

This is the best dry fire software today for civilians, with support for moving targets, video simulations, a home virtual range, and more.

The Downside

It costs $1,000-2,000, and setting up a projector is a pain if you haven't done it before.

Needed Gear
Who It's For

Intermediate shooters (USPSA B class or IDPA Expert) or above, looking for a virtual range to save on ammo over time.

CoolFire Trainer

This is a barrel replacement for your pistol that converts it from a live firearm into a recoil-simulating training tool.

It uses CO2 to simulate the recoil, and CO2 cools as it gets spent, hence "CoolFire" instead of "Dryfire".

As you use CoolFire, the temperature in the system drops. This drops the pressure, and the felt recoil. The workaround is to use a coffee mug warmer to maintain your tank's temperature.

The ideal tank temp is 85ºF. Go lower, and the recoil gets weaker, and you get fewer shots per refill. Go higher, and your O-rings wear out much faster.

The recoil is around 50-80% of 9mm (depending on your tank temp) and the recoil impulse is a little different. You must still do live fire every month or so to maintain your full grip technique.

However, CoolFire will build up your grip technique enough to require less live ammo to perfect it, and it will maintain your grip technique for longer between live fire sessions. It's also enough to train your vision for reading the sights in rapid fire, and it makes multi-round drills much closer to the real thing than pure dry fire.

CoolFire also offers laser attachments for use with software like Smokeless Range, making for a virtual range in your home. One is a laser that directly screws on the barrel. The other is the Rapid Fill Adapter, which makes it much easier to refill, adds around 50 shots of capacity, and has an integrated laser. In my experience, the Rapid Fill Adapter is so much better than the laser attachment that I wish I had never bought the laser attachment.

For the laser type, choose the red laser if you don't plan on using Smokeless Range. Otherwise, the infrared laser adds another degree of realism with Smokeless Range.

The Downside

Your holster must be open-ended, or accommodate a 2-port or larger compensator.

Maintenance:
  • Every 1,000-2,000 rounds, you'll have to replace the striker tip ($2 each).
    I recommend buying at least 1 pack of extra striker tips with your purchase, to save on shipping.
  • Every 3,000-5,000 rounds, you'll have to replace the O-rings on your fill tank, Rapid Fill Adapter, etc.
  • Every 3,000-5,000 rounds, you'll have to refill your CO2 tank.

Before you buy, ensure there's a place nearby that does refills for paintball tanks or soda tanks. For paintball tank refills, look for Dick's Sporting Goods or a paintball shop/field. For soda tanks, look for a brewing supply store. Get the appropriate tank and adapter to match your local refill options.

Needed Gear
Who It's For

People who find plain dry fire to be too boring to consistently practice, and hardcore shooters looking to maintain their skills with a reduced ammo budget.

When 9mm was $0.20 a round, this system paid for itself in 3,000 rounds. Now, with 9mm at $0.50 a round or more, this system pays for itself in ~1,000 rounds.


Advanced Drills

Once you have the basic drills down, you can start adding in movement and more complex setups. For a full list of drills, their setup instructions, and hints, check out DryFire Reloaded (2017)
Dryfire Reloaded by Ben Stoeger, multi-time USPSA national champion and IPSC world champion.

Disclaimer: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases, at no extra cost to you.


Wrapping up

Dry practice is more work than fun, but it's a tool all of the top shooters use, and there are products now for expanding what dry fire can do for you.

To level up and maintain your skills, I recommend dry practice 15-30 minutes a day, 3-5 days a week. Pick 3-5 drills to work on, and do 3-5 sets of 10 in our free dry fire app.

If you can make that part of your morning routine, you'll be warmed up in case you have to use your concealed carry pistol later in the day.


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