Best Targets and Ammo For Dry Fire Training

Best Targets and Ammo For Dry Fire Training

As ammunition costs and shooting range fees continue to rise, interest in dry fire training is growing. Dry fire has been integral to all serious firearm training for hundreds of years, but many new and even experienced shooters don’t understand it. Let’s go over the fundamentals of dry fire, discuss the benefits, and then we’ll show you some of the best targets and systems for effective dry fire training.

What is dry firing or dry fire training?

Dry fire is the term for pressing the trigger of an empty firearm and operating the firing mechanism with no ammunition in the chamber (or with a snap cap or inert, dummy cartridge in place). Rather than the loud bang and recoil associated with a live cartridge going off, you will just hear a click as the hammer drops or the striker/firing pin releases.

What are the benefits of dry fire practice?

Dry fire has multiple benefits. First, consistent, correct dry fire practice greatly increases your ability to fire your shots cleanly without moving your sights off the target as the trigger breaks. Live fire practice often masks sloppy trigger control or poor sight alignment. The noise and recoil of shooting live ammunition don’t allow you to notice small movements of the firearm before or during the trigger press. As you dry fire your gun and pay attention to how the sights move as the shot breaks, you can identify areas to improve.

Video: Why You Should Practice Dry Fire

Second, since dry fire practice is free (if you choose not to use snap caps or laser training aids), it is much less expensive than live fire practice on a range. Ammunition can be quite expensive, particularly during social or economic turmoil. Many professional shooters dry fire 10 or 20 (or more) times for every live round they shoot. This includes top shooters who get their ammunition for free. You will likely benefit more from consistent, regular dry fire practice than a weekly trip to the range to blast through a box of ammo.

Third, dry fire increases hand strength and builds so-called muscle memory. If you practice gripping, aiming, and firing the gun repeatedly, you increase your ability to acquire a firing grip, quickly align the sights, and break a clean shot without disturbing the other muscles in your hands and arms. The tendons and muscles of your hands will become stronger. You will build greater familiarity with how your firearm operates. You will get to know your trigger and how the sear releases in your particular firearm.

Video: Quick and Easy Dry Fire Drills

Additionally, dry fire can improve the quality of the trigger break on your firearm. A gun shop owner might tell you that your Glock trigger will smooth out over the first few hundred rounds fired. Well, a few hundred rounds of ammunition might cost more than the pistol, depending on where you bought it and what you paid. With dry fire, you can manipulate the trigger hundreds or thousands of times without firing a single live round. So you not only save money and improve your ability to break a clean shot, but the surfaces of the trigger mechanism become smoother and the overall trigger break improves.

How to dry fire, plus important safety tips

Although almost any firearm can be dry fired (with the appropriate snap caps or training aids in place), it’s easiest with a double-action handgun. A double action pistol or revolver has a trigger mechanism that cocks and releases the hammer or striker each time you press the trigger, even during dry fire. Striker-fired pistols like the Glock require you to release your firing grip and retract the slide to reset the striker after each trigger press during dry fire. This can get annoying and can build incorrect habits. However, several accessories allow you to dry-fire using a Glock or other striker-fire pistol (see our section on dry fire training systems below).

The first and most important step in any dry fire practice is to triple-check that your firearm is empty and remove all ammunition sources from the room. Locking your ammo in your safe is even better. Make it impossible to load your gun or forget it’s loaded mistakenly. We recommend dry firing in a room with bullet-resistant walls, such as concrete or brick, for extra safety.

Once you have removed any magazines and all ammunition from the area, visually and physically check the chamber/s of your firearm to ensure it’s unloaded.

Video: How To Train At Home With Your Gun

Then, you can insert a snap cap or laser-firing device (see below) and acquire a good firing grip on your firearm. Grip it as hard as you would during live fire. This ensures you develop those muscles and neural pathways so you can present your gun to the same place every time.

Once you have acquired a solid firing grip, point your empty firearm at your target of choice. You can choose a dot on the wall, set up a paper target, or use laser training targets (again, see below). Most firearm instructors will ask you to focus hard on the front sight of your firearm, rather than on the target. However, if you use a red dot optic, you should focus on the target, and the dot will appear there.

If your vision needs correction to see the front sight clearly, ask your ophthalmologist to prescribe different lenses. Once your sights are aligned with the target, you’re ready to place your first/index finger on the trigger. Generally, it’s best to put the flat pad of the first joint of your finger on the trigger rather than the crease/joint. However, the key skill you’re developing is to press the trigger without disturbing the sight picture too much, and as long as that happens, you can pull the trigger any way you wish.

Video: 3 Secrets To Great Shooting

Smoothly add pressure on the trigger until you feel and hear the gun click as the striker or hammer releases. Pay close attention to what happens to the front sight or the reticle of your optic as the shot breaks. Most people find that unless they have practiced dry firing before, the sights dip or jerk a little as they break the shot. This is very common, and you shouldn’t feel discouraged. This is what you want to improve through your dry fire practice.

After you break the shot, release the trigger until the mechanism resets, and smoothly apply pressure again, focusing hard on the front sight or reticle as it remains aligned with your target. Pay super-close attention to the front sight or dot, and see if you can start breaking your shots cleanly without any movement of the sights.

Start slow, and don’t speed up at all until you can break 5 or 10 (or more) perfect dry fire shots without your sights moving at all. You can add different aspects to your dry fire practice as you gain skills. You can balance an EMPTY cartridge case on the slide or barrel of your firearm and see if you can dry fire without the case falling off. Next, try a dime balanced on the front sight. Then, you might try moving from target to target and breaking all your shots cleanly. If you dry fire for 10 or 15 minutes daily, you will see dramatic improvements in your results on the range.

Woman Dry Fire Training in Home

Image Courtest of: Target Barn

A note on .22 Long Rifle or other rimfire firearms and dry firing

Historically, nearly all .22 rimfire firearms were not safe to dry fire. The firing pin or striker tip would often contact the edge of the breech face or chamber if fired without a cartridge in place, denting or damaging the chamber or firing pin. Many modern .22 rimfire guns such as Rugers are designed with internal firing pin stops in place, which prevent the firing pin from moving forward far enough to strike the face of the chamber. However, we still recommend the use of snap caps or dummy rounds when dry firing .22 rimfire guns, to prevent wear on both the firing pin stop (if present) and the other parts of the firearm.

Different types of dry fire training systems

Most modern firearms can be safely dry fired without damage. However, extensive and regular dry-fire practice can cause damage or wear to any firearm unless proper precautions are taken. Additionally, while dry firing with just the firearm aimed at a random spot on the wall can improve your shooting performance and trigger control, it can get pretty monotonous. So, several interactive dry-fire systems are available to provide visible/audible feedback on your performance and keep things exciting and interesting. Let’s look at some of our favorites.

Snap caps and dry fire striker mechanisms

A snap cap is a generic term for an inert training round inserted into a firearm's chamber to protect the firing pin, striker, and/or breech face from damage. The better snap caps have spring-loaded, false primer surfaces to absorb the shock or durable polymer material where the primer would typically go.

Tipton snap caps

Tipton Snap Caps

Tipton is one of the more well-known brands for gun cleaning tools and other firearm accessories, and they make good snap caps for dry firing. Available in most popular rifle, handgun, and shotgun calibers, Tipton snap caps are made primarily of plastic, but with a metal rim and spring-loaded false primer to absorb the shock of the firing pin.

As far as a dummy round/malfunction clearance aid, we wouldn’t recommend Tipton as our first choice, as repeated chambering from a magazine can crack or wear the somewhat brittle plastic. However, for exclusively dry-fire practice, Tipton snap caps are excellent, and they have a reputation for good customer service. Price is about $4 per snap cap for handgun calibers.

A-Zoom snap caps/dummy rounds

A-Zoom snap caps

A-Zoom uses a different system from Tipton, with a fully aluminum dummy round and a durable polymer false primer shock absorber. The A-Zoom snap cap can be used as a malfunction clearance training aid and a snap cap. Generally, the handgun calibers sell for about $3-$4 per round, depending on the size.

Otis snap caps/dummy rounds

Otis snap cap

Otis might be the best compromise between a durable dummy training round and an effective snap cap. Otis utilizes the solid aluminum construction of the A-Zoom design, but rather than an integral aluminum rim section, Otis adds a durable, brass-colored rim. Firearm extractors don’t damage this as quickly as the A-Zoom design, and the Otis also functions as a very tough snap cap. About $5/each in handgun calibers when purchased from Otis.

DryFireMag

DryFireMag

The DryFireMag ($98) is an inert magazine that you simply insert in your striker-fire handgun (like Glock) and provides spring tension and an audible click to simulate a more realistic striker release. This training aid prevents the pistol’s striker from releasing, and thus you don’t have to retract the slide after each dry fire shot. This can be very useful, and some people absolutely love this thing.

We like it, but in our view it’s a bit expensive for what it is. We also noticed a difference between the location and feel of the click when using the DryFireMag and when actually dry firing our Glocks (which is to be expected). However, if you want a simple dry-fire assist device that doesn’t require any modification to your firearm, the DryFireMag is a good choice.

ConcealedCarry.com’s Glock E-Trainer

Glock E-Trainer

The Glock E-Trainer is a simple, mechanical dry-fire device that you install on the rear of your Glock’s slide. It is inexpensive at around $25, quick to install, and easy to use. It allows repeated dry-fire trigger pulls since it prevents the striker from releasing as you press the trigger. It also prevents a negligent discharge even if you mistakenly leave a round in the chamber.

The downside we’ve found are that since the E-Trainer prevents the striker from releasing, the trigger feels very different from what it does during live fire. There’s no wall, step, or break as the trigger moves rearward. There’s also no audible or tactile click from the striker releasing. However this simple tool does allow you to dry-fire your Glock without resetting the slide each time, and is one of the less expensive options.

GlockStore’s reset trigger

GlockStore reset trigger

As noted above, one of the disadvantages of typical striker-fire dry-fire training mechanisms is they don’t have a realistic trigger break. If you want your dry-fire practice to emulate a real Glock trigger break/reset more closely, GlockStore sells a reset trigger for Glock pistols that replaces your original trigger mechanism. It’s pricey at $199 MSRP, but if you want to practice dry-firing your Glock in the most realistic way possible, this might be right for you.

Laser training guns, ammo, or systems

Many people find that dry firing with snap caps greatly improves their shooting. However, some people crave a bit more interaction with the process, with more visual feedback of how their firearm is aimed. Laser training ammunition and targets can be a big help here.

GlockStore’s Magic Bullet Laser Ammo system

GlockStore Magic Bullet Laser Ammo System

One of the original operators in this space is the Magic Bullet Laser Ammo system from GlockStore ($170). The unit consists of a laser cartridge that you drop into the chamber of your handgun. You also get a safety pipe that fits into the barrel of your gun and prevents chambering a live round afterward until the pipe is removed. The kit includes multiple targets, a battery pack, and a replacement cap in a nicely padded case. Each time you pull the trigger, the striker or firing pin activates a laser, enabling you to confirm your sight picture, sight alignment, and accuracy. You can shoot at pieces of paper that easily show the laser's red dot when it hits, or you can use any specialized laser-sensitive target system.

Our only complaint about this kit is that it is pretty spendy for what you get, though the quality is good. However, a similar laser-ammo cartridge is available from LaserLyte for about $77 on sale (Amazon). We’ve had really good luck with ours. LaserLyte also offers dedicated laser training pistols.

MantisX Laser Academy

Mantis Laser Academy Kit

As far as laser-training bang-for-your buck goes, the MantisX Laser Academy starts at about $99 and includes a Pink Rhino laser cartridge in the caliber of your choice, a full access code to the Mantis Laser Academy, a set of 5 inch x 7 inch Laser Academy Smart Targets, a mini tripod and smartphone holder, a laser cartridge extraction stick (we love that it’s just a stick!), and a nice case.

The MantisX system works with your smartphone and you can record and track your performance across multiple drills. Super fun!

Strikeman ($99) is another similar dry-fire system that uses your cell phone to record hits and track performance.

Laser Ammo I-MTTS dry fire target system

LASER AMMO i-MTTS-3 Interactive Multi Training Targets

Laser Ammo offers multiple laser dry-fire target packages starting at $99 for one target sensor with multiple, exchangeable targets. Their 3-sensor packages list for $199, and 5-sensor packages start at $299.

We like the 5-Pack Combo Box ($399) which includes 5 target sensors, multiple target cards, and the wireless system controller which allows you to control your targets and drills from a distance. Having multiple targets arranged in different spots around your training room prevents you from getting too accustomed to shooting the same targets in the same positions or the same order.

The I-MTTS target system has 6 shooting modes: Standalone, Steel Plate Shooting, Chase the Ball, Shoot/No Shoot, Double Speed Shoot/No Shoot, and Double Tap, which requires you to hit each target twice in rapid succession. You can cycle through all the drills or focus on the one you need to practice most. A simple push of a button on the system controller allows you to rotate between the different training programs. You can view, scroll, and toggle between split time and total time results, as well as set automatic or manual restart. To keep you on your toes, you can choose random start or define the delay time for the start signal.

It’s like having your own personal shooting gallery in your rec room!

LaserLyte Quick Tyme laser target

 LaserLyte Quick Tyme Laser Trainer Target

This thing seems pretty expensive for what you get, until you use it. Unlike most other laser-sensitive targets, the LaserLyte Quick Tyme ($200-275 depending on demand lately) records and displays exactly where on the target your laser impacts it, so you can work on being extremely precise. If you are dipping the nose of your pistol just before the shot, the Quick Tyme will show you with one of its 62 LEDs. There are also several fun shooting games or drills programmed into the target, to increase your ability to get an accurate shot off quickly. LaserLyte also makes several other styles of laser targets at different price ranges.

SIRT laser training pistols

SIRT pistol

SIRT guns, or Shot Indicating Resetting Trigger pistols, are full-sized training guns that can’t chamber or fire live ammunition. Instead, the best ones, like those from NextLevel Training, have realistic feeling, resetting triggers and an onboard laser system that fires two different lasers. One shows where you are aiming during the trigger press, and another fires to show where the shot would have gone as the trigger breaks. A metal-framed option costs around $302 from Brownells, or you can opt for the polymer-constructed version for about $239 from NextLevel.

SIRT pistols are especially useful when practicing from unorthodox shooting positions or when practicing force-on-force exercises when you wouldn’t want to be aiming actual firearms at other people.

Virtual dry firing

Computer or app-assisted dry firing is a growing trend. The laser-activated ammunition and target systems above allow a fun and productive dry fire practice. Still, you are limited to the targets you can set up in your home. The tools below use motion tracking and/or computers to introduce virtual targets or record the dry fire process in greater detail. Let’s look at a couple of options.

MantisX dry fire training system

MANTISX DRY FIRE TRAINING SYSTEM

The MantisX ($99-249) was the first widely available dry fire tool that tracked and recorded the movement of the muzzle of the gun in real-time, allowing for very accurate analysis via a Bluetooth-connected smartphone. Collecting thousands of data points per second, the MantisX examines your shooting in real-time. It records pre-shot movement and tracks the trigger break and post-shot movement. Your entire trigger break is displayed on your device as movement is tracked and analyzed.

One feature we like is you can track your improvement over time and set goals within the app. Another bonus is that it works equally well for both pistols and rifles. You just attach the MantisX motion tracker on any light/laser rail or Picatinny mount and download the app. Plus, it works with the actual trigger break on your own firearm, so you can improve where it really counts.

Also, check out MantisX’s new BlackbeardX ($319), which fits into the receiver of any AR-15 and tracks economy of motion in multiple axes.

Laser Ammo Smokeless Range simulator

Smokeless Range Simulator

This is the next level of dry-fire training at home. The Smokeless Range simulator system uses a special camera in combination with your laptop and either a projection or big screen TV (not included) and your choice of IR or standard red laser training firearm to train marksmanship and judgment. Different target presentations or shooting scenarios are projected onto the screen (similar to a home theater setup), and your performance is recorded and evaluated.

There are bouncing/moving target presentations, steel challenge stages, and realistic shoot/no-shoot scenarios with live actors. This system can be used for civilian use, competition preparation, or police/security department training. The basic Smokeless Range simulator retails for $599 in either a standard or short-throw camera (depending on how much space you’re working with). Other packages are available at increased cost.

One of the most fun features we’ve found is the head-to-head mode, where two shooters can race each other on a dueling-tree or multi-target scenario. The competition can get intense!

For even more realism, add one of Laser Ammo’s recoil-enabled training firearms ($299-$460) that use CO2 gas cartridges to cycle the slide each time you press the trigger. Coolfire is another company that offers training barrels for your own handgun, with CO2-powered recoil feedback that can more satisfactorily replicate the feel of a real range session. (Starting at $389.)

Conserve your ammo! Store it in a Liberty Safe

There’s no question that dry fire training can save hundreds or thousands of dollars a year on expensive ammunition, while also improving your skills and accuracy. Another way to conserve your valuable stash is to store your ammo in a secure, temperature- and humidity-controlled environment such as a US-made Liberty gun safe. Check out our online catalog of the various styles and prices available. You can also click the dealer locator to find a Liberty showroom near you.


*Made in the U.S.A. from U.S. and Global Parts.


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