Shooting Pointers, Psychological Pointers

The Truth about Dry Firing

Kristina Kiisk

June 4, 2022

Dry firing is one of the best training exercises one can do. But let’s face it, dry firing is boring. At least to our ego it is! Ego wants the results; it doesn’t want to do the work. It is impatient and emotional. Our ego is selfish and is good at finding excuses, becoming defensive and looking for shortcuts – it despises the effort. Being so result-oriented, however, is distancing you from the present moment. A solid, deep shot only happens in the present moment (unless you are lucky, but how consistent is your luck?), when your focus is fully on what you are currently doing. This way you are able to observe, notice, truly see and feel what you’re doing and this results in consistent shots. Being present, however, undermines the ego because the focus is not on it, this is why it is so desperately trying to get you out of the present moment.

A female shooting coach talks to the athlete

Dry firing is an exercise that, when done right, forces you to be in the present moment. There is no result to focus on, just the process. You teach your body how do to things right, you allow yourself to notice and to feel, to go deep into your process. Since shooting with a bullet/pellet yields a tangible result (a score), it is so easy to skip to “the end of the road”, bypassing fully focusing on the process, which is what actually builds your shooting skill. If I told you, “Great! That was a 10! Do it again!”, would that actually help you replicate the shot? Not really, it’s too vague a feedback, totally result oriented. But if I told you (or myself during shooting), “That was fantastic triggering, it was smooth and isolated” or “The sight picture was really good, sharp and aligned all the way till the end”, now that’s something you can actually work with and build upon. When we shoot, it is so easy to direct your focus on the result and let that guide your training/performance. Impatient ego takes over and you’re out of the present moment, where the shot actually happens. You’re not focused on the sight picture, you’re focused on wanting to hit a 10; you have let ego take over.

So my advice to you, the more impatient you are to start shooting, the more you feel that dry firing is boring you and you don’t want to do it, the longer you should dry fire. Because that’s your ego talking right there! But your body is what is actually doing the shooting, so let your body train, learn how to take a deep shot. Focus your mind on what your body is doing, not what result you want to hit. Let your body enjoy the process, master the craft. Deep shots don’t happen by virtue of antsy ego, but from a body that is allowed to do what it knows to do. 

During the first COVID-19 wave we were “stuck” at home dry firing instead of going to the range for about 2.5 months. We trained regularly 4-6 times a week. As difficult as it seemed to me at first, looking back to that time, I must admit that it was the most productive training for me as a shooter since I began shooting quite a few years ago. Dry firing forced me to go deep, I could not remain superficial “feeding off of” a result nor could I cut corners. It was just me and my pistol, take it or leave it. Once we got back to the range, I remember writing into my Strelski zvezek “Don’t let shooting get in the way of your training”. Indeed, the two can be two different things, if you let it. 

A few years back my husband proposed an exercise that I still undertake at the beginning of each air pistol season at the very least. We call it the “Personal best schedule” exercise. As the title suggests, you need to be ready to keep in your personal best schedule or go home 😀 Ok, let’s not push it, going home will not make us better shooters. But dry firing will!

The Kiisk Drill a.k.a. Personal Best Schedule

Basically, you start shooting when you think you are ready, you take approx. 5 shots to get sighted in (adjust as necessary) and then you shoot 10 shots.

If the score is the average of your personal best result (your PB score divided by 6 if it’s a 60-shot result, etc.), you may continue shooting.

However, if it’s lower, it means that your shooting requires some work and you dry fire until the end of practice (for a less drastic approach, try 10-15 minutes).

So, you shoot with a pellet until you fall lower than your average PB series. Many a frustration was felt during this exercise, enter ego, but in truth it was a lot more rewarding than my ego would like to admit.

Estonian pistol shooter Kristina Kiisk smiling

Kristina Kiisk is an air pistol and sport pistol shooter, member of Estonian national team. A two-time sport pistol national champion and the 2022 air pistol national champion, she also holds the Estonian final record in sport pistol. An overall enthusiast in the shooting sport, she also volunteers as a coach in her local club. She describes herself as a curious mind and a passionate heart.

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4 thoughts on “The Truth about Dry Firing”

  1. I was really mad at myself for hating dry firing when I came to the realisation that it’s the core of live firing. I mean, live firing is dry firing but with pellets involved and scores to show for the process undertaken.
    You have to learn how to walk properly before you can run. If that makes any relatable sense

    1. It does make sense, Priscilla!
      Dry firing is all about the process – which is something that seeing the scores can easily make us forget. But only perfecting the process leads to better scores! Otherwise hitting deep tens is only a matter of luck.

  2. excellent article. I have a question. When dry firing, it is done at a blank wall or you place a target (on the necessary scale) glued to the wall. Until now I have always done it on a blank wall, but I have difficulty stopping the movement in the right place. thanks

    1. Hi Bruno!Thank you for reaching out!
      As for dry firing, it depends on what you’re trying to achieve.
      First things first, congratulations on doing it! It’s probably one of the most boring exercises for many shooters, but doing it before the shooting session is very beneficial. Now, if your purpose is to prepare your body and just let it sink into the position, the wall is not required. Start without a jacket for approx. 5min, then continue with it for the next 5min. Imagine how your position is sinking, locking the hips and bringing the rifle towards you. If you want to work on stability, you can do it without your boots or leaving the pants open.
      As for the wall, it’s more accurate if you glue or draw a dot on it, but the exercise also seems more challenging because you’re aiming very close to it, and the movements seem much, much bigger.
      Instead of the target, you can draw some lines, spirals, and squares and follow the lines. Look for stability in the centre of your body (around the chest and shoulders). Try to avoid over-tightening it, but also don’t make the upper body loose. This exercise with lines and spirals will help you discover what is going on around there 🙂 We’ll be happy if you share how things are going!

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