Editors Note;  Members are encouraged to send us original articles they have written for publication. Today we are sharing with you a piece on dry firing that came to us from “Marshal,”  an operator in the Portuguese Special Operations Forces. Marshal began his military career in 2005 at the Military Academy of Portugal. In 2012, he attended the Special Operations Course, Parachuting Course, Operational Freefall Course, and Sniper Course, and has deployed to Mali and Iraq. 

Dry Firing in Support of Individual and Small Tactical Unit Training

Nowadays, the complexity of missions and tasks, the evolution of weapons and equipment, and the constant need to maintain a high level of technical and tactical proficiency, coupled with demanding safety levels, force operatives to invent new training techniques.

Shooting is one of the activities that require the most training. In order to make shooting training safer and more efficient, dry firing is the best addition to live ammunition training.

Dry firing is the act of simulating the firing of a firearm without any ammunition in the gun, in the magazines used for training, or even in the training zone. Dry firing practice consists of training in the safe handling of any type of firearm, without the use of live ammunition, with the goal of shooting better.

It allows you to greatly improve your shooting technique without the need to consume ammunition. Dry firing should be part of anyone’s training, whether they are professionals or not. It can also be used at the small tactical-unit level, allowing for the development of individual and collective skills and enabling the control and quantification of the unit’s training level in a particular area or task.

Like any skill, dry firing must be trained repeatedly. Through repetition, muscle memory will be strengthened and movements will be automated allowing for the acquisition of a correct body posture and good motor habits.

In firearms practice, dry firing is considered essential in learning how to shoot.


Maximize Your Dry-Firing Benefits

Dry fire Marines
U.S. Marine Corps Captain Frank Frassica, a force reconnaissance officer assigned to Task Force Ellis, I Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF), conducts a dry fire speed reload utilizing a Colt M45A1 pistol aboard USS Comstock (LSD 45) on July 3, 2020. (Photo by Sgt. Manuel Serrano/I Marine Expeditionary Force)

In order for this training to be carried out safely and for the operator to feel comfortable and focused on handling the weapon, we have defined some safety rules for dry firing:

  1. Eliminate all distractions. When dry firing, you must be focused, alert, and rested. Your focus during the training should be solely on dry firing. Schedule the training in advance, turn off electronic equipment, and isolate yourself.
  2. Remove all ammunition from magazines, magazine pouches, dump bags, pockets, or any compartment so you are completely free of ammunition.
  3. Remove all ammunition from the gun (by performing safety operations) and from the room where dry firing will take place. These must be stored in a safe place out of reach of anyone.
  4. Training should be short, but intense. It should be well planned and executed over a period of time that allows you to feel comfortable and fully focused on the training.
  5. When you finish dry firing, put away the targets and store the gun in a safe place. Mentally assume that dry practice is over, leave the place where you have executed dry practice, and wait a few seconds before reloading and holstering the gun.

And as always, keep in mind the four universal safety rules for any firearm at all times:

First Rule: Treat any weapon as always being loaded, under any circumstances.

Second Rule: Never aim the barrel at anything you don’t want to shoot at.

Third Rule: Keep your fingers off the trigger until the sights are aligned on the target and you have made a conscious decision to fire.

Fourth Rule: Before firing, always identify the target and what lies beyond and beside it.


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Improve Your Shooting With Daily Practice

During dry training, it is essential that you wear the equipment you normally do, such as a combat belt, holster, magazine holder and respective magazines, plate holder, helmet, and gloves. However, if you don’t have access to your equipment, you can still carry out the training.

There are many dry-firing exercises that can be developed and practiced, regardless of the operator’s experience. Individual static exercises should focus mainly on the correct grip of the weapon, acquisition of sights, trigger control, magazine changes, and interruptions of fire.

Dry firing should be repeated daily, especially after the acquisition of new movements. However, like any other activity, it has advantages and disadvantages that must be taken into account.


trigger exercise coin trick shooting practice Portuguese commando
Portuguese Army SOF soldier performing the “Coin Trick” trigger control exercise of balancing an object (shell or coin) on the aiming point. Any mistake made will cause it to fall. (Courtesy of author)


Advantages of Dry Firing

Dry training allows for a great evolution in shooting technique without consuming ammunition and without constant trips to the shooting range. This is advantageous because it reduces cost and provides the conditions for more efficient and effective training with real ammunition.

Another great advantage of dry firing is that we can practice, exercise, and mechanize the movements inherent in shooting with a low level of psychological pressure. Since dry fire practice can be conducted in the comfort of one’s own home, without the pressure of evaluation and the risk associated with shooting, it considerably increases one’s concentration on the details associated with gun handling movements, thus allowing for an improvement in shooting procedures.


Disadvantages of Dry Firing

The major disadvantage of this type of training is that there is no reaction after the trigger is pulled, that is, the weapon does not behave as it does when real ammunition is used. Thus, the operator’s control of the weapon cannot be trained. Although some equipment exists that reproduces the sensation of gun recoil, it can never truly be replicated.

Another limitation in dry-fire practice, in most cases, is the absence of an instructor. The user may be executing wrong movements with the weapon; and repeating wrong movements will make it harder to correct them in the future.


Dry-Firing Training Tools

To make the training more dynamic alternate between different shooting positions, place several targets at different heights, or carry out shooting on the move. All the exercises mentioned above can be evolved to train small tactical units. Dry practice within teams is important so that each operator understands what space he occupies within a tactical unit during live-fire drills.

Dry-fire practice is by no means a substitute for real shooting, but it is essential for improving gun handling. In order for this practice to be effective, some equipment has been developed that increases the advantages of dry fire training, such as the “Mantis X” used by Portuguese Special Operations Forces snipers. Mantis provides high performance in precision shooting at medium and long distances but can be used with any weapon.

Mantis X, when attached to the weapon and paired to a smartphone or a PC, allows instant feedback on the weapon’s behavior when acquiring sights, controlling the trigger, and during follow-through. Its great advantage is that it can be used on a shooting range while training with real ammunition, therefore allowing you to gather valuable data.

Mantis X app
The Mantis X system. (Mantis)


Dry-Fire Apps for Your Phone

Another essential tool within reach of any operator are dry-firing applications for smartphones. These apps have several features and allow the user to train on target acquisition, trigger control, magazine change, and other skills.

Among the variety of existing apps, we suggest

1. Dry Fire Target Drill. This app allows you to define several targets, the number of repetitions, and the time between shots.

2. Dry Practice Drill. This app allows you to define dry movement circuits with a timer for reaction. The user can select the number of repetitions and the time within which to perform the exercise.

In conclusion, the daily repetition of movements and shooting procedures, in a controlled environment free from distractions, contributes significantly to improved performance. For dry-firing training to be efficient and beneficial, you should plan the exercises well, have defined objectives, and respect safety rules. When these conditions are met, all that remains is to put on the equipment, pick up your firearm and perform dry training as planned. On your next trip to the range, your handling will surely be faster, and your shots more accurate and consistent.