The Seven Deadly Sins of Concealed Carry: Using the Wrong Ammo

I had a lot of fun with the “Seven Deadly Sins of Handgun Shooting” series a couple of months ago, and hope you did too. I got to thinking about other sins—yeah, I know, thinking can hurt your brain—and it occurred to me that there are plenty of deadly sins when it comes to concealed carry. There are way more than seven, but as “Seven Deadly Sins” is kind of a thing, I’ll pick out seven interesting, and relevant, ones.

Ready? Let’s get started.

If you’ve ever seen a Wallace and Gromit movie, then you know that The Wrong Trousers can get you in a lot of trouble. So can the wrong ammunition. Using inappropriate ammo can ruin not only your life, but someone else’s too.

Good self-defense ammunition comes in all shapes and sizes. The fourth round standing from the left is a 9mm full metal jacket practice round. The one on the far right is a Federal Guard Dog expanding full metal jacket round.

Good self-defense ammunition comes in all shapes and sizes. The fourth round standing from the left is a 9mm full metal jacket practice round. The one on the far right is a Federal Guard Dog expanding full metal jacket round.

Don’t use practice ammo

Good self-defense ammunition is designed to expand, deform, or otherwise slow down when it hits things.

Good self-defense ammunition is designed to expand, deform, or otherwise slow down when it hits things.

I would classify “practice ammo” as anything designed to be frangible (for indoor or steel target shooting) or with a full metal jacket. Don’t get me wrong, practice ammo is not sub-par—it’s just designed for a different purpose than self-defense ammo. You can buy excellent and accurate practice ammo from all the reputable ammo companies. Some of it is designed especially for matches and is exceedingly accurate—with a corresponding price tag.

Good self-defense ammunition is designed to expand, deform, or otherwise slow down when it hits things.

As good as it might be, practice ammo is designed to follow a straightforward sequence of events: go bang. Fly straight. Punch a hole in a piece of paper. Plow into a big dirt, rubber, or steel backstop. Practice ammo is not designed to deform, fragment, or expand when it hits an organic target. While it may still have fatal results, it’s less effective at stopping a determined attacker rapidly.

Read the rest at OutdoorHub!

Buy Bullets! It’s National Ammo Day

I’m not quite sure who decides that November 19th is National Ammo Day, but hey, I don’t need much of an excuse to buy 100 rounds of ammo.

Buy 100 rounds of ammo - it's National Ammo Day!

Buy 100 rounds of ammo – it’s National Ammo Day!

Yeah, I know, you can’t find it. Well, it’s out there.

Try your local gun store. If they don’t have what you need, check out Brownells. Or Cabelas.

If you want to get really adventurous, check out Gun Bot. It’s a free ammo search service that scans all sorts of online retailers to see who’s got what. You can even filter the search results for in stock only.

So go buy 100 rounds of ammo. You’ll save the economy, so it’s your patriotic duty!

A Government Shutdown Pop Quiz

Today’s pop quiz is a little complicated. It’s a combination of reading comprehension and true / false answers. Ready?

Government shutdown shooting range

OK, now they’ve done it. I’m really mad.

Reading Comprehension

Dick and Jane like to go shooting at a public range in the ‘Murrican National Forest. This range is completely unattended. It’s open 7 days a week from sunrise to sunset and there are no employees of any kind at the facility. It’s a nice facility and Dick and Jane have fun shooting and meeting other people who like to shoot. Today, Dick brought 3 boxes of American Eagle .223 Remington Ammunition. Jane brought 3 boxes of 300 AAC Blackout ammunition. One was 110 grain, one was 135 grain and the last was 220 grain subsonic loads. When Dick and Jane arrived at the shooting range, they found a padlocked gate with a sign saying that Bert and Ernie couldn’t seem to agree on a budget, so due to lack of Federal funding, the range was closed until further notice.

Questions – Circle the correct true / false answer:

1. (True / False) Since the range is unattended, no one actually reports to work there.

2. (True / False) Since the range is unattended, some Federal employee had to violate the government shutdown order to go lock the gate to the shooting range and place signs saying that the range was closed, even though no one works there.

3. (True / False) Federal government decision-making mimics the thought processes of cement.

4. (True / False) Dick and Jane’s conspiracy theorist friend, Vladimir, is convinced that a call was placed from the White House to the folks who look after the ‘Murrican Forest Shooting Range telling them to shut the range down just to poke gun owners in the eye.

5. (True / False) The United States Senate is full of complete idiots who are an obscene embarrassment to the American way of life.

6. (True / False) Dick and Jane left the range with 6 total boxes of ammunition.

7. (True / False) Harry Reid looks an awfully lot like the fairy in Dick and Jane’s reading books.

Answer Key

1. True.

2. True.

3. False. Cement is demonstrably more intelligent.

4. False. No call was placed. Air Force 1 was dispatched late last night so the matter could be handled personally.

5. True.

6. False. Dick and Jane snuck in anyway. And collected a pile of sweet, like new, once-fired .30-06 brass to boot.

7. False. Harry Reid resembles a Garden Gnome suffering from advanced stage Mad Cow disease.

 

Primers Exist! Here’s The Proof…

Blackhawk! is making primer trays for ammo component manufacturers 24x7. Here's some fresh out of the molding machine.

Blackhawk! is making primer trays for ammo component manufacturers 24×7. Here’s some fresh out of the molding machine.

If you reload, or have been looking for ammunition anytime during 2013, you know that supplies of primers are scarce. In case you don’t know, primers are those little metal “caps” that go in the base of a cartridge to make it go bang. They’re sort of like those newer style caps for toy guns except they’re made of metal, not plastic, and have a lot more juice.

Last week I had the great pleasure of touring the Blackhawk! factory in Manhattan, Montana where all sorts of polymer things are made: holsters, gun stocks, magazine carriers and primer packaging trays. Since primers have a tendency to go bang, they’re packed very, very carefully. They come in boxes filled with plastic trays so each individual primer is isolated from everything else. Kind of like a heavy-duty egg carton.

Boxes like this one are filled every couple of minutes. Yes, we're using that many primers!

Boxes like this one are filled every couple of minutes. Yes, we’re using that many primers!

A couple of the 30-ish very expensive molding machines at the Manhattan facility have been 100% dedicated to the manufacture of primer trays seven days a week, 24 hours a day, for just about as long as folks there can remember. While molds in other machines are frequently changed out to make different products, these machines continue pumping out primer trays day after day after day. Blackhawk ships them to ammunition companies as fast as they can make them.

So, primers are manufactured in record numbers. It’s just that panicky people like us are continuing to stockpile them in even greater numbers.

I’m starting to see light as the end of the tunnel, as at least some primers are now available at local suppliers. What are you seeing out there?

The Seven Deadly Sins of Handgun Shooting: Inappropriate Racking

In many jurisdictions, inappropriate racking can get you fined or even imprisoned for up to three days. But word has it you can get off the hook with a warning, provided you’re departing a Sunset Strip nightclub after 2 a.m.

Unfortunately for TMZ producers and folks who disable the default Google Images SafeSearch option, we’re talking about an entirely different kind of inappropriate racking.

This Beretta PX4 has a tough slide to rack and the Needle Point technique isn't going to cut it.

This Beretta PX4 has a tough slide to rack and the Needle Point technique isn’t going to cut it.

This racking discussion focuses on racking the slide on semiautomatic pistols. For anyone not familiar with the terminology, racking the slide refers to vigorously drawing the slide all the way back in order to eject a chambered cartridge or spent casing and/or allow the slide to strip a new one from the magazine and jam it into the chamber. In plain English, racking most often completes the process of manually loading a semiautomatic pistol by moving the first round from the magazine to the chamber.

In the Seven Deadly Sins of Handgun Shooting series, we’re going to cover two types of racking offenses. The first is a simple misdemeanor infraction that doesn’t even warrant a ticket, much less a summons. The second can easily be considered a capital felony.

  1. The Needle Point
  2. The Side Slide Swipe

Today, we’ll focus on the less dangerous one: the Needle Point.

Read the rest at OutdoorHub.com!

New Book: The Rookie’s Guide to Guns and Shooting, Handgun Edition

If you’re thinking about buying a gun, are new to shooting, or have had a gun forever but just want a refresher, this book is for you. Heck, even if you know a lot about guns, it’s still entertaining – to read yourself or give to a friend.

The Rookie's Guide to Guns and Shooting, Handgun Edition from Insanely Practical Guides

The Rookie’s Guide to Guns and Shooting, Handgun Edition from Insanely Practical Guides

In light-hearted style, it will give you easy-to-understand and insanely practical tips about topics including:

  • Types of guns
  • Gun safety tips
  • Things to consider when choosing a gun
  • How to buy a gun
  • How to handle a gun
  • Getting started: A fistful of shooting tips
  • What to expect at the shooting range and what to bring
  • What you need to know about ammunition
  • How to clean your gun
  • Cheat sheet resources to help you find training, ranges and local gun stores

We’ll help you make sense out of all that complicated gun stuff while having a laugh or two. From the chapter “Gun Holsters – Do It Right!”

“Far too many new gun owners purchase a really nice gun, but then skimp on the quality of their holster. Seriously? You wouldn’t drink a Louis Roederer, 1990 Cristal Brut from a red Solo cup. Unless of course you’re attending a Real Housewives of Yulee, FL baby shower. If you’ve been invited to carry the Dubai First Royale MasterCard, you certainly wouldn’t whip it out at the Monte Carlo Van Cleef & Arpels from a velcro wallet. Unless you’re total nouveau riche like Justin Bieber. So why do people think it’s no big deal to buy a $9.95 holster from K-Mart for their brand new gun? It’s not like it’s a life and death investment. Or is it?”

Why do you need “The Rookie’s Guide To Guns and Shooting, Handgun Edition?” Go to any shooting range and observe what happens when folks show up without knowing the first thing about their new gun. Not only will you be safe by comparison, you’ll look like a seasoned pro.

The editors at MyGunCulture.com have painstakingly documented all the experiences, mistakes and learnings we’ve seen over the years. In other words, we’ve tried just about everything. We’ve had great successes. We’ve experienced colossal failures. We’ve listened to so many gun show huckster sales pitches that the late Billy Mays would be impressed. And the result? “The Rookie’s Guide to Guns and Shooting, Handgun Edition.”

Loaded with pictures and the comedic illustrations, this book will tell you just about everything you need to know to get started with the shooting sports.

Enjoy!

 

Ammo Test: Speer Gold Dot .40 S&W 155 Grain Self-Defense Ammunition

One thing I’ve found testing thousands of rounds of ammunition through a wide variety of traditional, and sometimes non-traditional, targets is that you can’t generalize. Broad generalizations just don’t hold up. I mean, there’s the obvious exception of Justin Bieber – ALL of his songs are roughly comparable to pre-gelatinized narwhal poop, but in most other things, you need to evaluate each and every unique circumstance independently.

It’s the same with ammunition. You can just say Brand X is a good performer in each caliber and each specific loading within a caliber. So the 9mm ++P+++ 124 grain load of Fire-Breathing Death Harpoon Ammo expands every single time, but does the .380 90 grain load of that same brand perform as it should? Not necessarily. You need to test your desired carry load, in your specific gun to know how it performs.

So, even though I’ve had great success with all of the Speer Gold Dot loads tested to date, I’m gradually working my way through the product line to try them all.

Speer Gold Dot 40 SW 155 grain self-defense ammo

Expansion performance of the Speer Gold Dot .40 S&W 155 grain load was excellent and velocity was just as expected.

Recently I spent some quality time with the Speer Gold Dot .40 S&W 155 grain load. At the lighter end of the .40 caliber spectrum, I expected to get some serious velocity out of this one. And with expanding hollow point ammo, velocity is king when it comes to consistent expansion performance.

Standout features of the Speer Gold Dots include a bonded-core construction and a two-stage hollow point cavity construction. Bonded-core construction “melds” the copper jacket and lead core so they are not two separate layers. This allows the projectiles to stay together regardless of barriers encountered. Penetration is boringly consistent as almost all projectile weight is retained. The two-stage hollow point core construction process allows the gurus at Speer to control both diameter and rate of expansion. Basically, they can match projectile performance to caliber and expected real-world velocity.

Speer Gold Dot 40 SW 155 grain

That black stuff in the hollow point core is leather. So the projectile got completely clogged, yet still expanded perfectly.

I shot a bunch of this out of a Beretta PX4 Storm. The PX4 Storm full-size model features a 4.0″ barrel, so I expected measured velocity to approach, but not quite meet the factory specs.

First I checked actual velocity out of the Beretta PX4 Storm. Using a Shooting Chrony Beta Master Chronograph placed 15 feet downrange, I clocked the Speer Gold Dot .40 S&W 155 grain load at an average of 1,169 feet per second, or just over 30 feet per second below the factory spec of 1,200 feet per second. This works out just about right assuming the factory tests velocity using a standard 5″ test barrel. That extra inch should easily account for 30 feet per second velocity improvement. So, doing a little serious math, the actual energy of this load, out of my Beretta PX4, works out to 470 foot-pounds actual measured energy. This compared to 496 on the Speer Gold Dot website.

I also wanted to get an indication of expansion performance when projectiles were shot through common and expected barriers for self-defense situations. I set up two layers of leather and 4 layers of light canvas in front of a pile-o-wetpack – a fancy word for soaking wet newspaper. I snapped photos of a few representative samples, but every single projectile demonstrated excellent expansion performance. This has been a consistent observation with the Speer Gold Dot line. The bonded projectiles don’t seem to suffer from heavy material barriers. The three projectiles in the photo measured .583, .685 and .652 inches in diameter after expansion. Not too shabby.

Like the other Speer Gold Dot loads we’ve tested so far, this is excellent self-defense ammunition.

You can get it at Brownells

Cci/Speer Cci/Speer Gold Dot Handgun Ammunition
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When 10 Rounds Of 12 Gauge Shotgun Isn’t Enough

Recently I ran across a deal that I couldn’t refuse on a Mossberg JM Pro 930 semi-automatic shotgun. The only problem is that it’s a little light on capacity. With only 9 rounds in the tubular magazine and 1 in the chamber, this shotgun is limited to a measly 10 shots.

And there are times when 10 rounds of 12 gauge isn’t enough. For example…

  • You hear a bump in the night. But your house has 6 porches. When you step out on the porch and fire a couple of blasts in the air, you’ll run out of ammo by the 5th porch. Wise Uncle Joe didn’t think of that did he? No worries, that’s why we’re here.
  • Let’s face it. The job market is tough. If you have to accept a position as a nomadic crime boss, you’ll want extra capacity for those unruly board meetings and employee grievances.
  • Your upcoming social calendar includes a walking dead family reunion.

Of course there are other less realistic scenarios where you might want to carry extra shotgun shells. Like home defense or 3 gun competition. Or maybe you’re a really, really bad skeet shooter.

For those scenarios, you might want to check out the Mesa Tactical SureShell Shotshell Side Saddle Carriers. Add a “by the seashore” to that and you’ve got a proven tongue twister.

Mesa Tactical SureShell Shotshell Side Saddle Carrier

Mesa Tactical SureShell Shotshell Side Saddle Carrier on a Mossberg JM Pro 930

The Mesa Tactical SureShell Shotshell Carrier is designed to mount to your shotgun receiver or stock and carry from 4 to 8 extra shot shells. Models are available for numerous shotguns including:

Remington 870, 1100, 11087

Mossberg 500, 590, 930

Benelli M1, M2, Super Nova, M4, M1014

There are a lot of variables, so be sure to check the Mesa Tactical web site for details.

Most models are constructed from sturdy 6061-T6 aircraft aluminum, so you should be able to mount it to an F-18 Super Hornet, but be sure to consult a competent armorer before attempting installation.

A closer look at the Mesa Tactical SureShell Shotshell Carrier

Mesa Tactical SureShell Shotshell Side Saddle Carrier  2

I ordered the Mossberg 930 (6) shell carrier. This one is constructed of solid aluminum and includes all the parts and tools needed for installation.

Mesa Tactical SureShell Shotshell Side Saddle Carrier installation  7

One of the “hidden” features of the Mesa Tactical SureShell Shotshell Carrier is the adjustable friction mechanism. A channel is machined into the carrier which holds a rubber tube. This tube applies pressure to the shot shells in each port. Mesa Tactical supplies two rubber tubes with different hardness to increase or decrease the amount of friction you want.

Mesa Tactical SureShell Shotshell Side Saddle Carrier installation  6

Try the default setup. If it works for you, great. No further action is required. If you want the carrier to hold shells more tightly, you’ll need to swap the rubber tube.

Mesa Tactical SureShell Shotshell Side Saddle Carrier installation  5

On the Mossberg 930 model, 6 screws hold the backing plate to the carrier. Remove those and you’ll have access to the tube.

Mesa Tactical SureShell Shotshell Side Saddle Carrier installation  4

Replace the default tube with the firmer white tube and replace the backing plate.

Mesa Tactical SureShell Shotshell Side Saddle Carrier installation remove trigger group pins

Installation on the Mossberg 930 JM Pro was easy. Just punch out the two pins that hold the trigger group in place. Leave the trigger group in the receiver – no need to take that out.

Mesa Tactical SureShell Shotshell Side Saddle Carrier installation  3

Mesa Tactical includes a rubber gasket that sticks to the back of the shell carrier. This creates a no-slip attachment and ensures that your receiver won’t get all scratched up. Stick that on the back, making sure you don’t cover up any of the backing plate screws in case you want to swap retainer tubes later.

Mesa Tactical SureShell Shotshell Side Saddle Carrier installation  2

For the Mossberg 930, the carrier kit includes two sets of pass through bolts. Insert the two female ends through the carrier and then through the receiver. Be careful to keep your trigger group in place – these bolts are now holding that in the receiver.

Mesa Tactical SureShell Shotshell Side Saddle Carrier installation  1

From the other side, insert the male end of the bolts, with washers, and join them up.

Mesa Tactical SureShell Shotshell Side Saddle Carrier installation

The Mossberg 930 carrier kit includes two hex wrenches to tighten the bolts. Finger tight using the hex wrenches will provide all the tension you need.

Mesa Tactical SureShell Shotshell Side Saddle Carrier  1

Here is the Mesa Tactical Shot Shell Carrier mounted. Notice the cutout placed over the area of the receiver where the gun’s serial number is stamped. (The serial number is blurred out in this photo.)

Mesa Tactical SureShell Shotshell Side Saddle Carrier top view

A view from the top. The Mesa Tactical ShotShell Side Saddle Carrier. Notice that it’s well out of the way of the receiver-mounted safety.

Mesa Tactical SureShell Shotshell Side Saddle Carrier  3

The grip is solid enough to carry shot shells base up or base down depending on your preference. Or, if you want to carry two types of shells, you can alternate them to easily tell the difference between buckshot and slugs. After some use, I found that I preferred the base down method. With your support hand thumb, you can press down on the top of a shell to “dump” it into your support hand. With proper hand placement and practice, you can drop a shell into your support hand and load it in one fluid motion. OK, it was more like a spastic motion before practicing a few times, but practice makes perfect.

You can find the Mesa Tactical ShotShell Side Saddle Carrier at Brownells.com

Mesa Tactical Products, Inc. Receiver Mount Shotshell Holder
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Ammo Test: Winchester PDX1 Defender .38 Special +P 130 Grain

When I lug my ammunition testing setup to the range, I get more strange looks than Michael Bloomberg lactating at a Mayors Against Legal Governing (MALG) press conference.

That’s because I bring a couple of now-perforated trash cans full of soaking wet newspaper, some old boots and a bunch of discarded clothing. Shooting into water or plain ballistic gelatin doesn’t tell too much about bullet performance after it has passed through real-world barriers. So I assemble a suitable range wardrobe.

Recently, I brought 1/2 of a fully stocked thrift store to the range to test the Winchester PDX1 Defender .38 Special +P 130 grain self-defense load.

Winchester's PDX1 Defender .38 Special +P self-defense load.

Winchester’s PDX1 Defender .38 Special +P self-defense load.

This load is solid for .38 Special handguns, but also makes a good option for .357 revolvers. Some folks like to shoot .38 Special loads out of sturdier .357 revolvers for less recoil and wear and tear on the gun. Of course, the option is always there to load 357 Magnum cartridges whenever you like.

Velocity

Considering that this load uses 130 grain projectiles, velocity was appropriate. I tested it from a Ruger LCR .357 Magnum revolver, which features a 1.875 inch barrel. That’s shorter than NY Governor Cuomo’s debate on the SAFE Act! Using a Shooting Chrony Beta Master Chronograph, I measured a bunch of shots with the chrony placed 15 feet down range. The average of the Winchester PDX1 Defender 130 grain load worked out to 903 feet per second. Not too shabby, and enough for pretty reliable expansion.

Winchester PDX1 Defender .38 Special +P Expansion Performance

I shot another pile of these bullets into a pretty tough target to get an indication of expansion performance. While anything will expand if you shoot it into ballistic gelatin, things start to get crazy when you shoot through real-life barriers like leather and fabric clothing. To put it to the test, I shot through two layers of leather and 4 layers of light canvas. Not counting anything hard that might get in the way, this starts to approach a worst case heavy clothing scenario.

Winchester PDX1 38 Special +P

Expansion was good overall. Throughout testing over 75% of projectiles expanded properly.

I shot everything through the leather and canvas barrier into a deep container of wet pack. That’s a fancy word for soaking-wet newspaper. As you can see by the photo, most projectiles displayed good expansion. About 1/4 of the time, one would slip through with minimal or no expansion. That’s not a big surprise given .38 Special velocities out of a short-barrel revolver.

Closing Arguments

This was a good load. After testing thousands of self-defense rounds, in virtually all pistol calibers, I’ve become a big fan of bonded bullet designs. I’ve yet to encounter a quality bonded bullet that came apart while passing through a tough target. Like jacketed designs, expansion is always measured in probability, not certainty, but overall, bonded bullets have proven to be solid performers.

Check out other My Gun Culture product reviews here!

You can find Winchester PDX1 Defender Self Defense Ammunition at Brownells

Insanely Practical Shooting Tips: Dry Firing – It’s Not As Dirty As It Sounds

Here’s an excerpt from our newest book, releasing June 15, 2013 – The Insanely Practical Guide to Guns and Shooting. Like The Insanely Practical Guide to Gun Holsters, now available at Amazon.com, it’s a direct, practical and amusing way to learn. We hope you find a useful tip or two about improving your shooting skills by dry firing your handgun!

Insanely Practical Tips Guns and Shooting

Some Shooting Tips About Dry Firing Your Handgun

You have to admit, “dry firing” sounds just a little bit dirty. (Tweet This)

Like something that might happen in a nightclub of ill repute. When it comes to shooting, dry firing is a great thing. Like the other less-desirable implication, it’s safe, but is far more respectable.

Dry firing a gun simply means practicing the shooting motions without actually discharging a projectile.

We’ll talk about the instructions on how to dry fire in a minute, but first I would like to make a money-back guarantee.

If you properly (and safely) practice dry firing on a regular basis, your shooting skills will improve by 312%. (Tweet This)

Or maybe 31%. Or 19.3%. But they will improve. You can bank on that.

I like to think that dry fire practice and teeth flossing fall into the same general category. Neither activity is fun or sexy, but both make a huge difference over time. So if you want to have teeth like Tom Cruise or Julia Roberts, then commit to dry firing on a regular basis.

Let’s talk about how to do it, without harming yourself, your family or your new love seat from Haverty’s.

The most important consideration is safety. You have to develop your own method that insures that you will never, ever, ever have bullets anywhere near your gun when you dry fire. This is because you will be pulling the trigger on your actual firearm when not at the range. All of the safety rules we discussed earlier still apply. You’ll treat the gun like it’s loaded. You’ll keep your finger off the trigger until you’re ready to fire. You won’t point your gun at anything you’re not willing to destroy – except perhaps that Haverty’s love seat. And you’ll be sure of your target, and what’s behind it. We’re going to follow all of these rules because if all the stars align just wrong, even for a second, and a live round is in your gun, you won’t hurt anything except your pride and maybe an ottoman.

The first step is to remove all ammunition from your gun. Remove it all from your revolver’s cylinder or the magazine in your semi-automatic. If you have a semi-automatic pistol, clear the round from the chamber. Stick your finger in there to make sure the chamber is empty. Now look at it. Now look through the magazine well and make sure you see nothing but air. Now do that again.

Those bullets you just removed from your gun? Take them into another room and set them somewhere you can see. Now count them. Are there as many there as were in your gun? Next take any full spare magazines you have and place those next to the bullets in the other room.

The end result of all this activity is that you have taken every round of live ammunition from your gun and anywhere else OUT of the room where you will be dry-firing.

While all this may sound excessive, just trust me and do it. Life has far too many distractions and interruptions to be anything less than obscenely safe. If if all of your ammo is in a different room, preferably where you can see it from your dry fire practice area, there is simply not a chance that you will absent mindedly fire a live cartridge.

A Dry Firing Target Tip!

I faithfully do all of the steps outlined above, but with a slight twist. You’ll notice I recommended to place the live rounds in another room where you can see them. I do this to use them near my dry fire target. I do this so that every time I pull the trigger on my gun while dry fire practicing, I am looking at the cartridges that were in my gun, but now in another room. When I dry fire practice in my office, I place the rounds on a dresser in the hallway. This dresser is visible from my office through a large doorway. So now, I’m using those live rounds near my target when I dry fire. If I am aiming a dresser when I pull the trigger, and I see the rounds on top, they can’t be in my gun can they? Of course the dresser backs up to a stairwell and three walls. There is nothing behind it, so I also have a safe backstop. One other additional trick is to line up the cartridges from the magazine right next to each other. Then I take the cartridge from the chamber and place that an inch or so away from the others. So I have a visual cue of the 7 rounds that fit in the magazine of my gun, plus the round that was in the chamber. In a sense, I’m looking at a representation of the full capacity of my gun. The rounds in the magazine and the extra that was in the chamber.

Dry Fire target idea

Here’s a dry-fire target idea that works for me. I take the rounds out of the magazine and line them up near my dry fire target. I remove the round from the chamber and separate that one from the others. If I am seeing these while dry firing at my target, I know the rounds are not in my gun as they are across the room.

How to actually practice with dry firing

Now that we’ve covered the safety aspects of dry fire practice, what do you do? Let’s start simple and add practice exercises.

Basic dry firing simply allows you to practice pulling the trigger pull on your gun without all that distracting flash and bang. All kidding aside, it’s a way to train your eyes, body and trigger finger to pull the trigger smoothly, without moving the sights off target. The real benefit is that you can do all this without that instinctive flinch when the gun normally goes bang. By conditioning yourself to a smooth trigger pull, without a flinch reaction, you’ll eventually find that you do the same with a real gun when it does go bang.

After you’ve completed the safety procedures outlined above, just follow these steps according to what type of gun you have.

First a note about .22 handguns! 

If you shoot a .22 pistol, you’re better off NOT dry firing that gun. Most .22’s do not react well to dry firing due to how the firing pin is placed. Repeated dry firing of most .22 guns will cause damage to the firing mechanism. Most center fire guns are perfectly safe to dry fire. Always check your owners manual to see what the manufacturer recommends.

Select your target. Get a comfortable stance. Find your natural point of aim by aiming at the target, then closing your eyes. When you open your eyes, are the sights still on target? If not, shift your stance and body position accordingly.

Here’s a great place to pause and remember to focus on your front sight only. Remember, your eyes physically cannot have the rear sight, front sight and target all in sharp focus at the same time, so you have to pick one. Pick the front sight. The rear sight and the target should both be a little blurry. That’s OK, you’ll still hit the target.

Now, slowly PRESS the trigger as smoothly as possible. The goal is to complete the full trigger press until the gun’s action releases – without moving the sights off target at all.

As the hammer (external, internal or striker) releases, see where the sights are aimed. That’s where your shot would have hit had you been firing a live cartridge. Think of this last step as follow through. Train your eyes to see the sight alignment just after the gun “fires.” Eventually, you’ll know where your shot hit without looking at the target. You’ll be “calling your shot.” That’s a really impressive gun term that simply says you know exactly where the shot impacted because, during your follow through, you were watching your sights relative to the target.

After your first shot, things will vary a bit depending on the type of gun you have, so let’s take a quick look at the steps for each major handgun type.

Revolver (Double Action)

Revolvers are the easiest dry fire gun. After you complete the first dry fire “shot” you don’t have to do anything to prepare the gun for the next shot. Simply get your body, grip and sight alignment back in place, aim at your target, and pull the trigger again.

Whether or not your revolver has a hammer, always practice it in double action mode. That is, pull the trigger without first cocking the hammer. That’s how you would want to use the revolver in a defensive application anyway, so you might as well get used to it in practice. When you master dry firing a double action revolver without moving the sights off your target, you’ll be a better shot than Ben Cartwright.

Semi-Automatic Pistols (Double / Single-Action)

With a double-action you can configure your dry fire practice depending on what you want to accomplish. Like a double-action revolver, you can always just pull the trigger to simulate a full, double-action firing sequence. However, in real life, after that first double-action trigger pull, your handgun will cock itself so the second shot is a light trigger pull single-action motion. When you’re dry firing, you’ll have to pull back the hammer manually to prepare the gun for a single-action shot. So it’s up to you if you want to simulate a first double-action shot, followed by a series of single-action shots or some other scenario. Do practice double-action shots, immediately followed by single-action shots though. The transition from heavier to lighter trigger takes some getting used to.

Single-Action Pistols and Revolvers

If you shoot a 1911 style handgun or a single-action revolver, dry fire practice is pretty straightforward. You’re going to have to cock the hammer manually between each dry fire shot. With a single-action revolver, you want to make the hammer cock part of your dry fire sequence as you’ll have to do that in real life. With a single-action pistol, you don’t want to build a habit of cocking the hammer each time you pull the trigger. When you shoot live ammunition, the gun will cock itself after each shot so you don’t have to. To help overcome building “bad muscle memory” when dry firing a single-action pistol, I like to fire the first shot, aim at a different target and simulate a trigger pull and repeat that a few times. After a few “shots” I bring the gun back from firing position, cock the hammer and repeat the exercise.

Striker-Fired Pistols

If you shoot a plastic fantastic pistol that’s striker-fired, you have to cock the gun after each shot also. To do this with most striker-fired pistols, you have to rack the slide, as there is no hammer. Fortunately, you don’t have to do a complete slide rack. With most pistols, you can pull the slide back ¼” or so and the striker mechanism will reset. Experiment with your gun to see how little of a partial slide rack you can get away with. Like the single-action pistol mentioned above, you don’t want to build a habit of racking the slide after every shot, so vary your firing sequence accordingly.

Add some complexity!

Hey, now that you’ve advanced beyond the simple certificate of participation for dry firing, you can add some steps to build your skills.

  1. Draw from your holster! You’ve got an unloaded gun, in safe conditions. What better time to practice your draw? Practice drawing your gun, keeping your finger our of the trigger and evaluating potential targets. Mix in some more complex sequences where you draw your gun and and dry fire one or more times. Be creative!
  2. Practice magazine changes. How about dry firing your gun and pretending that was the last shot in your magazine? Practice dropping that magazine, pulling a new one and reloading your gun? Be extra careful that ALL magazines you use are empty!
  3. Practice malfunction drills. When you dry fire, pretend your gun didn’t go bang. What do you do? Practice the clearing drill depending on your particular gun. If it’s a revolver, pull the trigger again. If it’s a semi-automatic pistol, smack the bottom of the magazine to be sure it’s seated, rack the slide, then re-evaluate the situation.

A dry firing tip…

Don’t rush your dry firing. That’s bad form and will help you develop rotten habits. (Tweet This)

Your brain is an amazing thing that will build memory of your actions regardless of the speed at which you complete them. Focus on completing your dry fire sequence slowly and perfectly each and every time. If you do that, speed will happen all on its own – perfectly.

Another dry firing tip…

After you’re practiced a bit, balance a dime on top of your front sight. If you can complete a full trigger press without the dime falling off the front sight, you’re getting good!

 

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