If you’ve been reading along with us about how to use dry-fire practice to perfect your draw, perform a magazine change and more we have some additional, critical skills you can develop. Today, we are going to break down using dry-fire practice to work on aiming your handgun, and pay a little more attention to your sights and focus.
Before you practice any dry-fire skills, make sure that you have no ammunition in your dry-fire area. Check that the gun and magazines are empty. Always follow the rules of firearms safety, even when your guns are unloaded and you’re practicing dry-fire drills.
Aiming a gun is a skill that requires practice. Knowing what details to pay attention to can make it a much more attainable skill. One of the best explanations I have ever heard of how to draw and bring your sights up onto the target aligned comes from Ron Avery and the doctrine he developed at Tactical Performance Center. It is that to understand and see how your gun should come up onto the target, you must do things in reverse.
Here’s what I mean. Start with your gun aimed at your target, arms fully extended, then bring the gun back to its resting position as if you are done shooting. Pay attention to how your hands naturally come apart and where they meet. Also note the orientation of the sights. They should be fairly level, and the gun should come off target without pointing up or down
Work on understanding how to bring the gun up with the top of the slide level and hands meeting at a natural place, and begin to acquire a sight picture as your hands come together. Build your grip as you press the gun out fully, and place your finger on the trigger. By the time your arms are extended, the sights should be aligned, and you should be ready to fire.
I recommend that you video yourself while doing this, and repeat until you are consistently ready to shoot as soon as the gun is up and the sights are aligned. The sooner you begin aligning the sights, the sooner you can shoot. In a concealed carry or self-defense situation, having the gun pointed correctly as soon as you can is important. That’s because you might not have time to perform a draw with specific steps, perfectly build a grip, line up your sights or even fully extend the gun. You might only have fractions of a second. The ability to get your gun up, sights aligned, ready to potentially pull the trigger could save your life. Building the skill to do this safely means dry fire practice and working through the process.
The key to hitting your target is to focus on your front sight. However, that’s not intuitive. Our natural desire is to focus both our eyes and our minds on the target—or in a self-defense scenario, the threat. What we’re trying to ingrain is that your visual focus shifts to the front sights, giving you the sight picture you need to actually hit that target. This means that your image of the front sight should be clear and sharp, and the target should be blurred. Dry-fire practice is an excellent way to train yourself to shift that natural focus to your front sight.
We will cover moving physically with our gun in another piece. That said, you should begin to become aware of the movement in your body as you draw. You don’t want to draw your firearm, and then scrunch down or drop your stance lower. You don’t want to “turtle” your neck either. You want to complete the task of drawing, building your grip, and pressing your gun out to shoot with a “quiet” core and upper body.
This doesn’t mean “relaxed.” You can hold tension in your core and body, but you don’t want excess movement that takes time. So again, video yourself and watch for dips in your posture or movement that isn't required. Look at some experienced shooters to see how they perform a draw. This ability to focus on the small parts of what our body and eyes are doing is one way dry-fire practice helps us to become more skilled at the mechanics of shooting. The ultimate goal is to use that ability to see the finer points of what is happening within a bigger situation.
Concealed Carry vs. Competition
Whether you use a firearm for competition or self-defense, time spent working on skills with your firearm is going to free up your mental bandwidth to focus on what is going on while you are actively shooting. It’s going to take time and work to get there. Picking small pieces to pay attention to and refining them will not only boost your confidence in shooting, it will help you be more prepared and establish good firearms handling habits that you can in turn share with others.
About the Author: Becky Yackley competes in the shooting sports across the country and around the world with her husband and three sons. She has spent much of the last 20 years holding down the fort while her husband proudly serves our country in both the Marine Corps and state law enforcement. Her writing, blogging, and photography are ways that she shares her unique perspective on firearms, competition, hunting, and the Second Amendment, especially as it applies to mothers on their own. She grew up the daughter of a gunsmith, and with her siblings competed in NRA Highpower and Smallbore, and she has since competed in more disciplines than almost any woman involved in the shooting sports. From IPSC, USPSA, Bianchi Cup, 3 Gun and more, she enjoys sharing that to be proficient and knowledgeable with a firearm is within the reach of anyone! She’s the founder a 501c.3, 2A Heritage Ltd., and works with industry partners and other volunteers who share the ethos of bringing new youth into the shooting sports with personal commitment to safely sharing an historically American pastime.