Dry Fire Trigger Management – Your way to more accurate handgun shooting.
By Gary Hoff
May 13, 2014
At the Tactical Defense Institute (https://tdiohio.com/) we see students with a broad range of handgun shooting experience attending our beginning Level 1-3 handgun classes. Students with experience levels of never having fired a handgun at all to those with some training from other organizations. The one constant within this broad range of students is the question “How can I improve my handgun shooting and accuracy”?. The answer is dry fire trigger management practice. Lets’ take a look at how to do this to improve your skills.
- Triple check your firearm to be sure that it is unloaded. Anytime you lay the gun down and pick it up again, triple check to be sure it is unloaded. Make this part of your dry fire routine, without exception. We suggest that you “rope” (a plastic line, a weed eater cord, etc. through the barrel and out the magazine well) your gun as shown in the picture at the right so that it is impossible to load live ammunition into the gun.
- No ammunition in your practice area, whether loose, boxed or in magazines.
- Your practice area should allow you to point the gun in a safe direction. For example, my practice area is my office where I have two directions; a bullet resistant vest in one direction and my fireplace chimney in a second direction. Commercial bullet stops / traps are available. Plan for and eliminate the worse case scenario.
- When your dry fire routine is over, IT’S OVER. Put the firearm away. If you missed something in your routine, it can wait until the next practice session. Tell yourself, out loud “I am done dry fire practicing for today”.
The two drills that I recommend today are The Wall Drill and the Balance Drill. Both drills are simple, easy to conduct, cost next to nothing, and return huge benefits in trigger management control. In addition, both drills also provide repetitions for trigger finger management and establishment of the firearm grip. Both drills also provide immediate feedback on if the drill is being done correctly
The Wall Drill is attributed to George Harris, a noted firearms instructor for many years. A written description of this drill can be found at Todd Green’s web site, Pistol- Training.com (link to the Wall Drill article; http://pistol-training.com/archives/118). Another very good article written by George Harris can be found at the United States Concealed Carry Association web site (link directly to the article; https://www.usconcealedcarry.com/sustain-and-improve-your-handgun-skills/).
I do not know the origin of The Balance Drill and suspect that it just developed over time. Nonetheless, it can be used separately or in conjunction with the Wall Drill.
The fundamental basis of both drills is first, the alignment of the front sight THROUGH the rear site, top of front sight level with the top of the back sight with equal light on both sides of the front sight as viewed through the rear sight. Many times the student is told “watch the front sight – concentrate on the front sight – etc.” What we find is the student raising the front sight ABOVE THE BACK SIGHT, so he can see the front sight. Of course the shot goes high.
Second, the trigger must be pressed straight to the rear, without moving the rest of the firearm and disturbing the sight picture. That is, the trigger finger must move independent of the rest of the hand when pressing the trigger to fire the shot.
Your feedback: the movement of the front sight , within the notch of the rear sight, as it is viewed through the rear sight.
Let’s look at the Wall Drill first.
With an unloaded gun, in you practice area with no ammunition, in a safe direction, take your normal firing grip on the gun with your trigger finger off the trigger and high up on the frame/slide of the gun. Extend your arms out with the gun toward the wall so that the muzzle is about 1” away from the wall. Line up your sights concentrating only on the front sight THROUGH your rear sight. Place your finger on the trigger and press the trigger until you hear “click”. After the click, stay concentrated on the front sight for a second or two as a follow through. Any movement of the front sight within the rear sight notch indicates movement of the gun during the trigger press. This will move the bullet impact off target in live fire. Your presentation of the firearm to the wall should look something like this.
To repeat the process, the first thing that happens is your trigger finger comes off the trigger and up on to the frame / slide of the gun. Then your support hand cycles the slide to reset the trigger. You now re-grip the firearm and repeat the process.
With every repetition of the dry fire practice, you get these six benefits. You are training yourself;
- To concentrate on the front sight THROUGH the rear sight.
- To press (note that it is not a squeeze or pull; it is a press) the trigger straight to the rear without moving the rest of the gun and disturbing your sight alignment as indicated by sight movement within the rear sight notch.
- To place your finger on the trigger when the firearm is on target and take your finger off the trigger when the firearm is not on target.
- To place your trigger finger high up on the frame / slide of the gun, well away from the trigger when the firearm is not on target.
- To re-establish your grip.
- To follow through concentrating on the front sight THROUGH the rear sight and not looking at the target and where your “shot” went.
Why a blank wall (or any blank surface)? Why not practice while watching TV? There is nothing to distract your eyes on the blank wall. The only thing in front of your eyes is the all important front sight. Consider this; with TV’s, there are thousands of images a second bombarding your eyes and brain for attention. Images are moving, colors are changing, sound goes up during the commercials. Your whole job with dry fire trigger management is to concentrate on the front sight as you press the trigger. So, eliminate distractions. More important, it has been my experience that TV’s are never located in a muzzle safe direction in case something goes wrong.
Now let’s look at the Balance Drill. Everything said about the Wall Drill applies to the Balance Drill. Only in this case, your immediate feedback will be the empty shell casing or coin falling off the front sight when the trigger is pressed. The down side to the Balance Drill is that some front sights are designed such that balancing a shell casing or coin on the sight is next to impossible. The standard Glock front sight is a case in point. If you have these types of sights on your pistol, forget the Balance Drill. It will only be an exercise in frustration.
With a shell casing or coin balanced on the front sight, establish your grip and extend out to dry fire. It should look like the picture on the right. Now simply follow the same dry fire procedures described above for the Wall Drill. If you have pressed the trigger correctly so the firearm doesn’t move the casing or coin will remain balanced on the front sight. If it falls off, you moved the firearm as you pressed the trigger. Don’t forget the follow through after the “click”. You will have to take the casing off the gun to reset the trigger and then rebalance the casing or coin on the sight for the next repetition.
Now let’s take a look at “A” dry fire trigger management practice session. Limit your practice sessions to 10 or 15 minutes maximum per day and no more than three days a week. I find that if you go longer than this in your practice sessions, fatigue and frustration creep in and your practice will become sloppy. Remember, “Practice makes permanent, so practice perfectly” (David Bowie – Bowie Tactical Concepts).
Below is my basic dry fire trigger management routine from Todd Green (http://pistol-training.com/ ). It has been adapted for me.
- 20 reps of Wall Drill from extension, 2H (10 strong hand and 10 weak hand)
- 5 reps of Wall Drill from extension, SHO
- 5 reps of Wall Drill from extension, WHO
Extension means the gun starts as discussed above. 2H means a two handed grip. SHO means a strong hand only grip. WHO means a weak hand only grip.
Why strong hand and weak hand training? You may have to shoot with your non-dominant or weak hand and that trigger finger needs training also.
Here is my practice regimen for the Balance Drill.
- Strong hand – two hand grip
- Strong hand only
- Weak hand – two hand grip
- Weak hand only
5 successful repetitions per position, separated by a rest period.
If case / penny falls off during the 5 repetitions, continue until you have completed 5 successful repetitions or until you have run out of time. Concentrate on trigger finger movement only.
After a few weeks of this practice, go to your local range, put up 3” dot targets at 10 feet and practice your trigger management / sight alignment live fire. If you are having problems keeping your shots in the 3” dot, unload your firearm and practice some “shots” dry fire. Then return to live fire practice. The most prevalent errors we see are shots landing low and left (for a right hand shooter) or low and right (for a left hand shooter). This is your indication that you are moving other parts of your hand and not just the trigger finger.
Your improvement will not come overnight but you will see vast improvement in a short time if you commit to dedicated practice.
Good luck and check 360.
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