For most of us, carrying a gun is insurance against the unlikely possibility that you might need to shoot someone who is attempting to kill or seriously injure an innocent, perhaps even you. Much of the concealed carry journey is figuring out how to securely and comfortably conceal your gun as you live your daily life.
The rest of it, though, is knowing when and how to actively use that gun when you need it. The first part requires tactical and legal knowledge of when shooting someone or showing your gun might be appropriate, but none of that may matter if you don’t have the skills to act when it becomes necessary. Having strong skills also gives you more options to choose from and means you can be more confident in the solution that you pick. Taking classes from quality instructors and going to the range is a good start, but one of the keys to performing skills well on demand is being able practice them frequently. Since we don’t all have the time and money to do so on a regular basis, it’s a good thing there’s another option: dry fire, also known as dry practice. It only needs a little bit of time and a safe setting inside your home.
Let me show you how to get started:
The “dry” part of dry fire means you will be practicing without ammunition, and it’s really important that you get that part right. That means that ensuring all of your at-home practice takes place in a space that is completely free of any ammunition that might end up in your gun. A separate room is ideal, but even a drawer or box that you keep your carry and other ammo in will work. Before you begin any dry practice, you must unload your gun and double- and triple-check that it is truly unloaded with nothing in the chamber or any magazine that will be nearby. Both when unloading and while working through exercises like the ones below, you must also keep the muzzle of your gun pointed in the safest possible direction. If you have a solid backstop that a bullet can’t travel through, like an underground basement wall or a concrete or cinder block wall, that would be ideal. If not, consider not only what you can see, but what is behind what you are pointing at. It might seem tedious to be focused on safety, but many televisions and light switches have fallen victim to dry fire, and you wouldn’t want that or worse to happen to you.
Drill: Getting To Your Gun
The hardest part of the concealed carry draw is accessing the grip of your gun. Fortunately, you can practice this every time you put on your gun, and it’s the one dry practice exercise you can do without unloading your gun. Yes, I just told you how important it is to do so every time you dry fire, but this drill is a little bit different because your gun should never leave your holster for it. Instead, you will simply work on moving your concealment garments aside and focus on getting a good grip on the gun with your firing hand while ensuring your non-firing hand is well-placed to keep your clothing and hand out of the way when you complete the draw. Do not complete the draw. If you aren’t certain you can stop yourself, then ensure you only practice with an unloaded gun or a gun-shaped object like a solid plastic “blue gun.” Either way, think about whether what you’re wearing and how you’re carrying your gun might affect your ability to get your hands in the right place to get the gun out if you need it. Consider whether you might need to change one or the other, then enjoy knowing that you will have recent experience with the trickiest part of actually using your gun for self-defense. Again: do not pull the gun out of the holster when performing this drill.
Drill: Getting Your Gun Out
Of course, actually drawing your gun completely is a vital part of the self-defense equation. Most often, you will see getting your gun out as a complete action ending in firing a shot on your intended target. However, there may be occasions when you might want or need to draw your gun in a self-defense scenario and not shoot immediately, such as when responding to an active shooter situation or if you want to give the bad guy one last chance to surrender. To prepare for all of the times you might draw your concealed carry gun, you should practice more than just drawing, getting the sights or red dot on target, and pressing the trigger. Try drawing and keeping your finger in register along the frame or slide of the gun, perhaps even while keeping the gun pointed in a low ready or similar position. Think about how you might get your gun out with your hands starting in various positions or in a more surreptitious manner by minimizing your movement as you draw, or with only one hand. As you practice, make sure your non-firing hand never ends up in front of the muzzle, no matter how fast you try to go.
Drill: Getting Shots on Target
Getting your gun out might not be helpful if you aren’t able to effectively shoot a bad guy who needs to be shot. Where your bullet impacts a body makes a difference on whether or not it will stop that person from doing what they were doing: threatening an innocent person with death or serious injury. While it’s easiest to work on your marksmanship with real bullet holes giving you feedback, dry fire can be beneficial with this skill too. Instead of your target telling you if you hit or miss, you instead need to learn how to pay attention to the sights or red dot on top of your gun, and watch them to see if they are properly aligned with your safe dry fire target and whether they move when you press the trigger. There are also gadgets that can help, such as the Mantis or various brands of laser cartridges that can provide app-based or visual feedback, but ultimately, your sights or red dot will tell the tale. As you work on this skill, break it down: point your gun at your target, watch the sights, and press the trigger. Does it move? Rack the slide between repetitions and practice until it doesn’t. Then try the same from low ready, or starting with your gun in the holster. Use larger targets and smaller targets, keeping in mind that the vital areas of a human body might be no larger than an index card, and a bad guy might be as close as 5 yards or as far as 25 yards or more.
Drill: Putting Your Gun Away
It might seem obvious, but if your gun leaves its holster, it will almost always have to return to its holster too. You can build that skill by pairing it with every dry fire repetition where you draw your gun. Instead of jamming the gun back to where it came from, slow down and be thoughtful about what you are doing. Whenever you holster your gun, deliberately place your finger along the frame or slide and lift it only when your finger reaches the holster, look at the mouth of the holster to ensure that there are no obstructions, and ensure that none of your body parts will be in front of the muzzle until the gun is fully seated in the holster. Carefully slide the gun into the holster. It doesn’t matter that in dry fire, your gun is unloaded. Treat it as if it is, and holster your gun with full attention anyway because you want to ensure that you don’t injure yourself when you’re holstering your loaded carry gun or if you use it against a bad guy. If you holster properly every time in practice, you will be able to do so more safely under the stress that you’ll face when you’ve drawn your gun in a self-defense situation.
Spending a few minutes, a few times a week is all you need to dramatically improve the shooting skills that are relevant to concealed carry. If you’re willing to take on the responsibility of bringing a gun with you everywhere you go, you owe it to yourself and the people around you to be responsible and skilled. The better you are prepared, the more likely you are to be successful in protecting those you love, and that’s worth everything. You might not be able to get to days-long classes, and spending hours at the range can take away from enjoying your family and friends, but this little bit of dry fire or dry practice can get you started, and could be the key to making the worst day of your life better.
AUTHOR | ANNETTE EVANS