How to combine live and dry fire at the range


As shooters begin dry firing more and more, it’s very common to get in a habit of doing dry fire at home and only doing live fire when they go to the range.

By simply doing dry fire at the range in addition to live fire, you can maximize the effectiveness of your range time AND do so while spending less money.

So, today, I’m going to share 4 reasons why you should combine dry fire and live fire during your range training as well as telling you exactly how to do this.

The first reason to combine dry fire and live fire is to combat a problem that many shooters don’t know exists…One of the problems that shooters have had through the decades with old-school dry fire practice is that the brain figures out the difference between dry fire and live fire and develops separate neural pathways for each.

The effect of this is particularly easy to see with shooters who are trying to fix a “flinch” problem.

They’ll fix their flinch with dry fire, go to the range, they won’t flinch on their first few rounds, but then they’ll get right back into the habit of flinching.

What you want to do is convince the mind that dry fire and live fire are the same and only make one neural pathway that works for both.

Dry Fire Training Cards, 21 Day Alpha Shooter, 30-10 Pistol, and Concealed Carry Masters Course are all set up with drills specifically designed to solve this problem.

But there’s a few more things you can do at the range to make sure that your dry fire practice carries over to live fire.

They’re simple, fast, easy, and free.

First off, when you get to the range, before you fire your first shot, review the fundamentals of marksmanship a few times by doing dry fire…either with a real gun or with a SIRT. I think of this as my warmup.  I do this myself and I do it when I’m instructing.

A lot of times, I’ll pick out 3-5 Dry Fire Training Cards drills for this warmup.

Second, keep switching back and forth between live fire and dry fire.

As an example, oftentimes I’ll start out by doing 5 drawstrokes and dry fires from concealment, 1 rep with live fire, and keep alternating back and forth between dry and live fire.  The dry fire lets me focus on technique and the live fire verifies the effectiveness of the technique.

This not only cuts my cost by more than 80%, but quickly switching back and forth between dry fire and live fire helps the brain know that they should be treated as the same.

Third, any time you run into an issue with live fire, slow down, switch to dry fire, work through the issue, and then validate the change with live fire.

The second reason you want to combine dry fire and live fire at the range is distractions.

Whether you love it or not, having a small explosion happen at arms-length from your face is distracting.

Sometimes distractions aren’t an issue—and you need to get to where you can perform with distractions—but when you’re trying to learn a new skill or refine/improve your technique, the distraction of the gun going off will make the learning/refining process take longer.

So, the next time you’re learning or refining a technique or a particular drill, try switching back and forth between dry fire and live fire.

This is particularly useful when teaching or working with new shooters. Teach & learn with dry fire & verify with live fire.

The third reason you want to combine dry fire and live fire at the range is that it’s easier to practice slow when you’re doing dry fire.

The nature of shooting and the chemical cocktail that’s released when you shoot is awesome…and tends to suck people into shooting faster so that they get those chemical hits faster.

Dry fire takes the chemical cocktail out of the picture so that you can focus on getting the fundamentals right.

There’s something called the “Weber Fechner” law that basically said that the more stimulus your brain gets per second, the fewer details it can pick out.

When you slow down, your brain is able to assess, adjust, and optimize your technique easier and you’re able to make measurable improvements faster, and this tends to be easier with dry fire than with live fire.

World champion shooter, Max Michel says it this way:

Again, the Goldilocks solution that both Max Michel and I use is to combine both dry fire and live fire during your range sessions to maximize the advantages of both.

The fourth reason you want to combine dry fire and live fire at the range is to get around the common restriction of only being able to fire 1 round per second.

Here’s how I do this…

I usually shoot outside, but when the weather sucks I shoot at a local indoor range. They have a 1 shot per second rule.

So, what I’ll do is take my SIRT and my real gun into my shooting lane.

If I’ve got a drill where I need to shoot faster than one round per second I’ll run through it once doing dry fire with my SIRT.

Then, I’ll switch over to my real gun and do one of a couple of things, depending on the drill…

1. Load one round in the magazine and one round in my spare magazine(s). Each shot will take the gun to slide lock and the reload will make sure that I’m not shooting faster than one shot per second.

2. Load one snap cap and one live round in my magazine. *This is not a malfunction drill. I use the snap cap so that the slide doesn’t lock back after the first round.* Then I’ll shoot the course of fire…the first shot is a live fire rep and subsequent shots are all dry fire…the first one will go click instead of bang (I don’t do a malfunction drill) and the rest of the reps will be on a dead trigger.

It’s important to note that these are both compromises…but all training is compromise to one degree or another. If you’ve got other solutions for dealing with the limitations of 1-shot-per-second-ranges, please share them below.

If you are looking for a collection of dry fire drills that you can use both at home to develop and refine your skills or to use at the range in combination with live fire, you really need to check out Dry Fire Training Cards. Right now, you can get a deck free when you sign up for the 21 Day Alpha Shooter Course. To learn more and get your free deck, click >HERE< now.

Questions?  Comments?  Care to share how you combine dry fire and live fire?  Please share by commenting below:

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  • Ron Leifeste

    Reply Reply October 20, 2016

    I recently went to Front Sight for their 4 day defensive handgun training. For the previous month I did the slowwww dry practice and that worked out really well while I was there. For those of us that wanted to, we got there early to do dry practice (we weren’t allowed to say dry FIRE practice). Preesssss, reset, preessss, reset. I didn’t know triggers did that until going to Front Sight. It was great training and I highly recommend it. Now, if I could just get those darn malfunction drills down things would be great.

  • John B

    Reply Reply October 20, 2016

    David and Ox,
    As a member of multiple shooting forums, I read the posts but rarely give
    feedback to what is written. I’m not a Zins or Koenig, only a person who
    wishes he had the ability and discipline to be one of those gentlemen. You have
    hit the nail on the head. Dry firing at the range prior, during and after a live fire
    session can and will improve your scores. Hard wiring the whole shot process
    neurologically should mean approaching every trigger pull as if your in a match.
    Every sear break using proper basics either live or dry, should be striving for the
    mythical perfect score.
    Great job guys. Keep it up.

    • Ox

      Reply Reply October 20, 2016

      Thanks, John 🙂

  • cecil caywood

    Reply Reply October 19, 2016

    really great advice. I ve read this before but this helped bring it to the front burner thank you

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