This is apart of our comprehensive beginner’s Guide to Concealed Carry, read the rest of it here!
When it comes to becoming a competent concealed carrier the number one mistake gun owners make is that they don’t participate in dry fire training at home. Formal instruction is important for learning and dry fire training is crucial for keeping those learned perishable skills honed. For those wondering just how effective dry fire training is, the world’s best shooters dry fire practice 3x as much as they use live ammunition; if not more. Dry Fire is cheap, it’s effective, and it will drastically improve your performance all around.
You don’t have to be the fastest gun in the west, but you have to be faster than your adversary. Your goal as a concealed carrier should be to achieve your first shot on a 5 yard target in under two seconds. This includes your draw, motion to presentation, sight acquisition, and wrapping it up with a trigger pull. Dry fire practice will get you there in a way that live ammunition cannot.
Free Dry Fire Practice
The best part of dry fire training is, is that it’s the cheapest way to train. The only barrier to entry is the requirement to have a firearm for concealed carry and a holster. Despite being free, it’s highly beneficial for shooters of all skill levels.
Dry fire will help you identify and weed out any deficiencies in your chosen gear without the distraction (possibly danger, if your gear is bad) of live ammunition. Those deficiencies come in many forms. You might discover that you are unable attain a solid firing grip on your pistol quickly. This might be caused due to the size of your firearm, the holster, where the holster sits, or where you wear your pants.
Dry fire practice is where you can safely identify gear failures, whether it’s the holster coming loose on draw, or your retention being too tight.
1. Your Draw
There is a lot more to carrying a firearm than simply purchasing a holster and learning how to shoot. Once you get your holster you need to find the proper ride height for it and begin practicing your draw; if your standard clothing changes you need to practice more (ex: going from summer clothing to heavy winter clothing).
The draw stroke includes a few steps:
1. Clearing your cover garment with your support hand
2. Bringing your support hand to the firearm for a proper grip
3. Following through to presentation
4. Assessing whether a shot needs to be taken
Many people will only ever practice their draw stroke while standing; you should be practicing while seated as well. On average we spend 6.5 hours seated; longer if you are an office worker. With so much of our time being spent seated, it’s prudent to practice our seated draw.
For the commuters in the back of the room, practice your draw stroke in your vehicle. Learning how to defeat the cover garment called the seatbelt, as well as angling yourself properly is in your best interest. (Pro Tip: Window tint is your best protection against nosy neighbors)
2. Grip & Trigger Press Training
Grip: Your “stock” with a handgun is your hands…obviously. Your grip determines how much control you have of your firearm, so much so that it can compensate for a “sloppy” trigger pull. You have undoubtedly heard of the 60/40 “pressure split” between your two hands. Your support hand applies 60% of the pressure, your primary hand applies 40% of the pressure so you don’t butcher your trigger press.
The idea is your primary hand is responsible for three things:
1. Firing grip on draw
2. Pulling the trigger
3. Dropping the magazine
Your support hand is responsible for four things:
1. Clearing your clothing
2. Recoil control
3. Fixing issues
Let’s be honest… you don’t know what a percentage feels like, I don’t know what a percentage feels like, and the person who started this idea was tripping on some acid. If the meme above isn’t any indication of how you should grip your pistol, grip it as tight as you can until it hurts, release pressure until it doesn’t, and that’s how hard you should be gripping it.
Trigger Press: Before we talk about how you can achieve a good trigger press, let’s talk about what you are trying to achieve. Your goal is to be able to squeeze the trigger until the firearm discharges without the firearm (more specifically, your sights) shaking.
There is a lot of chatter out there about the “right amount” of trigger finger to apply in order to get a good trigger press. The fact of the matter is, there is absolutely, without a doubt, no set amount of trigger finger that will attain you a good trigger pull. Some triggers, such as a DAO trigger, might require you to use more of your index finger than a SAO trigger.
A good trigger pull doesn’t depend on how strong or how gentle you are. It all depends on how well you’re able to isolate your index finger’s muscles from the fist making muscles in your forearm. This is something that you’ll gain the ability to do as you practice and grow accustomed to needing to do it.
In the mean time, if you find your sights shaking as you squeeze the trigger, you can try loosening your strong hand’s grip. As you squeeze the trigger, the muscles in your forearm will tense up your other fingers; tightening the grip.
The Test/The Penny Drill:
Once you think you’ve acquired the proper grip/trigger press it’s time to test it. Throw a penny on the top of your front sight while the (unloaded) gun is at the ready, place your support hand on the firearm, and then try squeezing the trigger. If the penny stays on the sight you’ve got a solid grip & a solid trigger press.
If it falls, you have some adjustments to make which will require troubleshooting on your part, or the assistance of a competent shooter critiquing your technique.
Author’s Note: I hate this drill so much because I suck at balancing stuff.
This one segues perfectly into the “Pay-To-Play” dry fire practice perfectly. You can practice your reloads almost identically at home without ammunition as you would at the range and you can do it one of two ways for free.
1. Insert an empty magazine & have one in your carrier. Draw, trigger pull, drop mag, insert fresh mag, rack the slide until it locks (if you pull the slide until it locks back, you’ve pulled it back far enough to chamber a round).
2. Lock the slide to the rear, insert an empty magazine, and have an empty one in your carrier. Have the firearm presented, drop the magazine, insert the fresh mag, hit the slide release.
If you want it to be more practical, you will have to purchase some snap caps like these ones. With snap caps you’re able to practice your reloads exactly as you would at the range (minus the slide locking on the last round fired of course) as well as clearing malfunctions if you know how to simulate them.
Make sure that everything is set-up as you would normally carry it.
Pay-To-Play Dry Fire Practice
At the time of writing this there’s an ammo shortage, with an ammo shortage it’s prudent to do as much free/low cost practice that you can without chewing through your ammunition supply (especially if you plan on taking any higher round count classes or want to compete). With the average cost of 9mm being about $0.60/rd+, depending on your location, some of these options are going to be very beneficial towards your wallet.
If you’re new-new to firearms, 9mm used to cost ~$0.14/rd, and .45ACP used to cost ~$0.28/rd for plinking/training ammunition.
1. Shot Timer
The shot timer is possibly the most overlooked training aid that a new concealed carrier can get. Shot Timers allow you to take your dry fire training (and range training!) to another level. While a Shot Timer might not be able to pick-up on your dry fire shots, you can set it up for the initial beep, as well as a delayed 2nd beep for you to be able to time your draw from concealment.
This tool really helps you put yourself on a clock and add in an additional level of stress to your dry fire regiment since it quite literally becomes a race against the clock.
The most commonly recommended shot timer is the Competition Electronics Pocket Pro II Timer, it’s relatively inexpensive for the benefit you’re gaining.
2. Laser Training
There is a variety of laser training tools on the market. The goal of these is to improve your dry fire practice as if you were on the range… but without using ammunition. I’ll go over a couple of these and explain what they do (clicking the names will take you to the Amazon listing).
The G-Sight Laser Trainer is a cartridge that fits into the chamber of your 9mm pistol and utilizes an app on your Android or iOS device that takes advantage of your camera. By using literally anything (including light switches) you’ll see where your shots are landing while timing yourself. As a side note, there’s free training tools with the app, as well as ones that cost additional money. The great thing is, this can be used with any firearm chambered in 9mm.
- Mantis X
While the Mantis system doesn’t actually use a laser, it tracks everything that’s going on with your firearm, from trigger press/reset, to muzzle movement on a target via an app on your phone & a device on your accessory rail. The Mantis X is a tool that can be used both on the range with live fire & off the range with dry fire. It comes with a shot timer and a whole bunch of different training exercises.
Before we go further, I want to put in a disclaimer for those working inside of a budget. If the decision is between a shot timer & a laser training tool, purchase the laser trainer tool first. A laser training tool is going to offer you great fundamental training exercises and call outs to help you improve your capabilities as a shooter. More importantly, a laser training tool can help build up confidence leading up to your first formal class.
It will help build confidence leading to your first formal class.
A shot timer is only beneficial if the individual understands how they can coach themselves to improve with prior instruction. Without that prior instruction it will be nearly useless.
3. Grip/Finger Strengthener
A lot of concealed carriers have two things working against them in major ways; Grip Strength & Finger Strength. If you find yourself struggling to press the trigger with consistent force your fingers are weak. If you find the firearm shaking as you grip it with the above mentioned technique, your hand strength is lacking.
Both free dry fire training and “pay to play” will benefit greatly by strengthening your hands and fingers. If you’re someone that’s suffering from a medical condition such as arthritis, consider getting something like the Smith & Wesson E-Z Shield; a gun purposefully designed with you in mind.
Get Finger & Grip Strengtheners HERE.
4. Get An Airsoft Replica
You might laugh, but there are quite a few advantages to having an airsoft replica of your carry gun; especially when there’s an ammunition shortage like we’ve been experiencing from 2020 and into 2021. With a replica of your carry gun you can essentially practice everything above except clearing malfunctions.
Magazine changes, sight alignment, proper grip, holstering, drawing, and presenting can all be practiced with an airsoft replica without causing any wear to your actual firearm (fyi, holster wear is cool as hell, breaking your striker isn’t).
Even inside of an apartment you can set-up a mini-indoor range using a cardboard lined Rubbermaid and your target of choice with it still being beneficial! While a BB gun isn’t going to have the same point of impact or point of aim as an actual firearm, the skills being practiced will transfer over when you go to live fire.
If you did want to challenge yourself while using a C02 gun on the same targets you would with live fire, you’d find the Correction Factor for the target you’re going to use. For that you would use the following equation: (Desired Distance) / (Normal Distance)= Correction Factor
An example: Let’s say you wanted to practice on a full size target at 25 yards, but at a distance of 3 yards. You’d use the following equation:
3 yards / 25 yards= .12.
That .12 means that you would use a target that’s 12% of the original target’s size. So a 10″ target would become a 1.2″ target.
If you have a fenced in backyard a BB gun can even help you some with building up a cadence when shooting by using a small steel target, such as an old frying pan. If you hear consistent pings (not shoot, wait, hear a ping, then shoot again), you’re building your ability to shoot at a cadence.
A huge shoutout Mark Leupold in the JustPews Discord for helping out with this specific part of the Dry Fire Training Guide!
For a concealed carrier dry fire training, free or not, is highly beneficial for developing and bettering your capabilities. It’s going to help you learn how your clothing meshes with your chosen carry set-up, it’s going to help you be fast enough if the time ever comes that you need to put your tools to use.
Don’t be the loser, be the winner, and see your family again.
If you've enjoyed this segment, be sure to sign up for our newsletter!
Tired of scouring the internet for all the answers you’re looking for in regards to concealed carry? JustPews put together this comprehensive beginner’s guide just for you! Checkout the other parts to get headed in the right direction towards becoming a proficient concealed carrier!