It is universally understood as a commandment of firearms safety to treat every gun as if it were loaded. It is also understood, that once all safety concerns are met – a fundamental principle of marksmanship is to break each shot as if the gun was not loaded. There should be no discernible difference in the breaking of a dry-fire shot to that being taken with live ammunition.
It is rumored that some Olympic level shooters practice something like 1-hour of dry-fire equivalent to 1-shot of live ammunition taken in competition. This concept it often referred to as a ratio. Things like 5:1 mean five dry-fires for every live round taken, in either practice or competition.
One need not look any further for evidence of the benefits of dry-fire than a brief investigation into Gary Anderson.
Dry-firing is the act of breaking a shot on an empty chamber. In regards to practicing National Match Highpower, this means the utilization of all normal equipment in a safe and sterile environment – such as a basement, hallway or backyard (well away from any live ammunition of any kind!). A shot taken in dry-fire is meant to be taken exactly the same way as a shot taken in live fire. More importantly, the reverse is true: A shot taken in live fire, whether in competition or in practice – should be taken exactly like a shot taken in dry-fire.
Short of the time personally allotted, there are zero costs associated with a dry-fire routine. They can be as short, long or frequent as time permits. Any of our modern rifles, suited for Highpower competition – are designed to be dry-fired. Absolutely no damage will occur from doing so. (Quite the opposite actually: triggers like to be used, bolt carriers like to be moved back and forth and it’s always a good idea to keep one’s sling in use to prevent any shrinkage before the next competition).
|This is a tool for determining target size. Standard Highpower targets are 6.5-minutes of angle for the standing and the rapid fire stages, and 6-minutes of angle for slow fire prone. Some calipers and a compass make short work of creating some aiming targets for dry-fire use.||
Offhand Holding Drills:
Holding drills are a phenomenal way to:
A) establish familiarity with one’s rifle
B) gain strength and stamina for longer strings.
C) tweak positions after weak spots have been realized
D) reduce one’s HOLD
Varying Circles – Hold Size
A typical offhand holding drill exercise will keep the rifle up in position for a certain amount of time and then be brought down to rest for the same amount of time. The goal in the this exercise is to establish good sight alignment and front sight focus, then find the smallest circle one can keep inside of for the duration of the snap-in. 20-seconds up / 20-seconds down is a decent place to start. Eventually 1-minute up and 1-minute down for a set of 20 will be realized to have the maximum effect.
Natural Point Of Aim Holding Drills – Offhand:
Different ranges have different lines of sight to the targets. For example:
• BRRC in Castaic, CA has an elevated single firing point that almost creates the illusion of firing at a downward angle towards the 200-yard targets in offhand.
• 29-Palms Marine Corp Base has one target line and elevated berms as firing points, increasing in height the further one moves away from the same target line. At 200-yards the targets seem very high from a firing point elevated 10-feet off the desert surface, but at 600-yards the firing berm is elevated 50-feet – placing the targets at a significant downward angle.
This dry-fire target scenario is to practice holding different target heights. This practice is especially useful the more one starts to travel from range to range for different matches.
Natural Point Of Aim Holding Drills – Supported Positions
Establishing initial Natural Point of Aim is one thing. Practicing to shift it is something that is often overlooked. Typically preparation or sighter periods allow ample time to establish a good position, placing the NPA on the target. But it is possible these positions can be corrupted for various reasons:
• CMP style transitions, where the command to stand before the rapids is given – forcing the competitor to rebuild and establish a good position and NPA after the clock has started and the targets are in the air.
• Recoil pushes what was thought to be a solid position off target after the first dose of recoil.
• Hot brass down the collar, etc.
This dry-fire scenario is to practice shifting one’s Natural Point of Aim from one target to another. The more one is accustomed to shifting their NPA, the less time is required to make a successful shift in live-fire. This can be extremely helpful for making the most of preparation periods or for shifting back on target in between shots in a rapid fire string.
Dry-Fire is important as a standalone tool, but is also important both before AND after a match or live-fire session. Before live-fire: not only to stretch, reconfirm positions and visualize good shots – but also to acknowledge a clear trigger break without any flinches, bucks or jerks that are associated with exclusively live-fire. After live-fire: to confirm what one has learned in the live-fire session and reinforce it without any of the anxiety associated with live-fire. Too much dry-fire, solely on it’s own – can lead to potentially weak positions that might deteriorate with recoil from live-fire. Balance is the key. 2:1 (or even better 3:1) is considered a decent amount of dry-fire.
Additional Tips & Tricks:
• Take Notes: An important part of one’s shooting journey is to see improvement. Improvement is inspirational. Notes on what does work is far more important than notating what doesn’t.
• Lose the Jacket: It is definitely educational to divide one’s dry-fire routine for offhand into starting without the added benefit of the jacket and finishing with the supported coat. A bigger sighting target might need to be utilized in the beginning of this practice, but… One GOOD & CENTERED shot is worth far more than one thousand 9’s…
• Ear protection: The deeper one can get into a dry-fire session the better. Anything that can help the shooter create as authentic an experience as possible the better.
• Offhand Data-Book: Extra copies of some 200-yard slow-fire sheets can be very useful in a dry-fire routine. Practice calling shots and working in the “Shot Behind Method”. An added benefit is to not plot anything outside of the 10-ring. It helps to get a competitor used to living inside A) the 10-ring and B) the middle of a successful string.