Dry Fire Practice for Long Distance Shooting
By Eric Tull, Suarez International Staff Instructor
Living in an age of terrorism and social unrest, the need to make a precision long distance shot has never been more important. When someone is lighting a Molotov cocktail aimed at your house or vehicle, it’s critical to be able to make a head shot on demand. However, it can be difficult to regularly practice long distance shooting, even if you’re lucky enough to have an appropriate range nearby. That’s where dry fire practice usually comes in. Most people already know how to dry practice the draw stroke, movement patterns, reloads, malfunction clearances, etc. But dry fire for long distance shots isn’t as intuitive.
Through trial and error and countless hours of practice, I developed techniques to dry fire for long distance shooting. I’m not claiming to be the first person to have discovered these techniques. However, I haven’t seen them mentioned anywhere else. This article breaks it down for you.
FIRST, SOME FUNDAMENTALS
There are a few foundational things to keep in mind as you go into this drill. When shooting (and dry practicing) for distance, you need a firm enough grip. Not a death grip to the point of trembling, but firm enough that the gun doesn’t move as you apply pressure to the trigger. We generally refer to it as the strength of a firm handshake, but you’ll have to experiment to get it perfect. Personally, I must always make sure to squeeze my pinky and ring finger tight enough. You’ll obviously need to follow the other fundamentals of firing a good shot, but I’ve found that the trigger press and (to a lesser extent) the grip are most important for long distance shots.
The key to the long distance shot is a perfect trigger press. Most instructors tell you to press the trigger straight to the rear. This may be ‘good enough’ for the beginner shooter, but you have to look at things in more detail if you want to hit targets at 100 yards or more. When you examine how most triggers move, you’ll see that they’re hinged at the top. As you press the trigger, it swings back and up. For the smoothest trigger pull, you need to increase pressure on the trigger in the direction it moves, which is slightly upward. In other words, move your finger up and back in exactly the direction the trigger travels, rather than pressing it straight back. This may sound nit-picky, but small errors are greatly multiplied in long-distance shooting and something as 'minor' as this can be the difference between a hit and a miss.
When pressing the trigger, you want your finger as far away from the hinge (the top) as you can get it. The farther away your finger is placed, the less force you’ll need to produce the required torque to press the trigger and release the striker. Keep in mind, you don’t want your index finger to touch any part of the trigger guard during the trigger press. This will cause an inconsistent trigger press and will keep your finger from moving exactly as you want it to. If you have very large hands and fingers (like me), you’ll have to be constantly on guard against this, as it’s far too easy to drag your finger against the bottom inside of the trigger guard.
Last up before you perform these dry fire techniques, let’s talk hardware. Most importantly, you’ll need a good red dot pistol. These techniques will not work with iron sights, since sight movement during the trigger press is how you analyze performance during the drill. A good red dot provides scalpel precision to be able to view sight movement; iron sights are more like an axe blade. Beyond the red dot, you’ll find a trigger with minimal take-up and a crisp wall to be very helpful. Don’t fight against mediocre equipment when you can make things easier. I also recommend going to a big box store and purchasing 1” circular stickers to use as targets. Just stick some randomly on a wall.
Now that we have a red dot pistol with a nice trigger, small targets to aim at, and an understanding of how you should actually press the trigger, I’ll explain the dry fire technique I’ve used to vastly improve my long distance shooting.
This technique is centered around the trigger press. Get your red dot on the 1” circular target and carefully press the trigger. You’ll see that when you press the trigger, the dot will move slightly. The movement of the dot when you press the trigger is your feedback.
- If the dot moves up, you’re pressing too far upward on the trigger
- If the dot moves down, you’re putting too much downward pressure on the trigger and need to press more upward
- If the dot moves leftward, then you’re pressing the trigger too much to the left and need to put more rightward pressure on it
- If the dot moves to the right, you need to put more pressure on the trigger to the left
Frequently, you’ll see the dot move on both the vertical and horizontal planes. If the dot moves up and to the right, adjust your trigger pressure down and left. Keep practicing until you can consistently no longer see any movement of the dot as you press the trigger.
Once that dot is perfectly still, take a large step back, and repeat the drill. You’ll start to see dot movement again now that the distance has increased. Practice again until you can no longer see any movement in the dot as you press the trigger, then take another step back. Keep practicing this until you’re all the way across the room. If, during your practice session, the dot is moving, but you can’t tell in which direction, try moving closer to the target.
When you’re as far away from the 1” circular target as you can be, or if you simply want to add some variety to your dry fire practice, return closer to the target and practice this whole series again, but with only one hand on the gun. Just don’t cheat and use an Olympic stance where your body is perpendicular to the target. Instead, square yourself up to the target and shoot one-handed. Shooting one-handed magnifies errors in your trigger press that are hidden with a two-handed grip. Follow the steps outlined above, slowly working your way backward as your trigger press improves. Of course, you should also be practicing all of this with your left hand, working your way backward with a two-handed grip, then moving on to one hand.
Everyone who carries a pistol should be able to hit a man-sized target at 100 yards on demand. Although that may sound unachievable if you haven’t trained or practiced long distance shooting, it’s easily within anyone’s reach. If you practice what I’ve outlined in this article, you’ll be able to accomplish this and more, become a better shooter at all distances, and have the necessary skills if you’re tasked with that long-distance shot on an active shooter, terrorist or rioter.
Eric Tull is a Staff Instructor for Suarez International, Inc.