Dry-Fire Training

Essential Or Exaggerated?
; .

Growing up I remember being told by multiple people to never dry fire a gun — for any reason. Fast forward a couple of decades and I see people saying for every live-fire trigger pull, I should dry fire 10 times.

I grew up in a household with guns, but no handguns. Shotguns, rimfires and rifles were mostly for hunting. You shot enough to make sure your gun was sighted in and that was it. I learned the basics of firearms and firearm safety but the idea of “training” didn’t really enter the equation.


The Mantis Laser Academy System even features an optional
Konami target. We don’t have the first idea what this is, but
we’re told kids love it


When I purchased my first handgun and got my concealed-carry license, it didn’t take long for me to see the idea of “make sure it’s sighted in and put it in the safe” didn’t really apply to handguns or pistol shooting. I started looking for a solution and as often happens, found disagreement.

In an industry prone to fads and stylistic whims, the concept of dry-fire training has become another point of contention among shooters. So, do you need to adapt your training regimen to include dry-fire training or is this just another “this too shall pass” fad?


All you need is an empty firearm and — after putting ammo
in another area — an aiming point. Editor Brent T. Wheat likes
to use a custom GUNS target from Axle Targets for dry practice!

A Waste of Time!

• “Guns go boom; none of this happens when you dry fire. It’s not like actual shooting,”

• “Dry-fire training isn’t valuable because there is no recoil and no report.” That’s what the cool kids on the internet say.

As a self-taught pistol shooter this made sense. I focused on live-fire shooting. I wouldn’t call what I was doing training. It was shooting. It was like going to a golf driving range without a swing coach. I shot. The target showed impact (hopefully). Rinse. Repeat.

I didn’t really know why anything was happening. I would try this or that but for the most part I was just burning powder and punching holes. I became an “adequate” shot but I was not especially confident.


The Blackbeard X not only serves as a laser cartridge for an
AR-platform rifle, but also as a trigger re-setting device so you
can train in semi-auto. Simply remove the magazine and bolt carrier
group and replace with the Blackbeard or Blackbeard X.

Turning Point

In June of 2019 I was introduced to a company called Mantis at an industry event. They had a device, which mounted on the rail or magazine of a gun, to track your movement and provided instant feedback of a shot in the form of an easy-to-understand score. Moreover, it also determined the cause of any issue.

Gripping too tight, too much finger on the trigger, not enough? The device evaluates the movement of the gun during the shot progression to tell you exactly what you needed to work on. The kicker? You didn’t have to be firing live ammunition. It could do all the exact same stuff while dry firing.

I invested in the Mantis X10 almost immediately. I have no shame in saying I was humbled by how poorly I scored in those first few sessions, but those poor scores weren’t happening in a vacuum. While I was turning in poorly scored shots, the system was telling me what I was doing wrong and how to correct it.

I went from scores in the 50s during my first session, to the 80s a few sessions later; occasionally creeping into the 90s, with just 20 to 25 repetitions a few times a week.

For the first time ever, I had a coach telling me exactly what to work on as I was training so I could make those corrections and see the results instantly. No frustration. No guessing. For the first time ever, I wasn’t shooting — I was training.

To this point everything had been academic. I was doing a fair bit of dry-firing but I couldn’t get to the range to live fire because of my living situation and some pesky global pandemic making getting around more difficult than it needed to be.

During a work retreat, we had an opportunity to do a combination of live-fire shooting and advanced video system laser training. I hadn’t done much shooting so I was curious and a little anxious how I would stack up. This facility we visited frequently hosts local, state and federal law enforcement officers, private security, ex-military and I am none of those things.

Among our group of a dozen, I routinely led the class in drill efficiency.

Granted nobody from our group is winning any competitive shoots anytime soon but there were some capable shooters. I would not have placed myself at the top of the group just a few months earlier. For me, this was clear evidence of time spent dry firing resulting in better reaction and shooting in advanced laser and live-fire drills.


Mantis smart targets are recognized by your phone’s camera,
which also captures the laser when you fire, allowing your training
to be scored. Dry-firing is minimalistic.

Outside Opinion

During my search for answers, I also reached out to Kevin Michalowski, Director of Media for Delta Defense. My question to Kevin was simple: “Is there any value in dry-fire training?”

“The value of dry-fire training cannot be overstated,” he said. “Any training drill that you practice with live ammo can and should be run as a dry-fire drill. This allows you to complete effective repetitions as you perfect the mechanics of shooting without spending money on ammo and dealing with report and recoil,” Michalowski noted.

But what he said next really stuck with me because it spoke directly to some of those early comments I heard against dry-fire training.

“All of the elements of effective accuracy happen before the gun fires. Your draw, grip, sight picture, sight alignment and trigger press all happen before the projectile is launched. Dry-fire training allows you to master those elements while getting and keeping the sights on target. You can perfect those elements through repetitive dry-fire training and, when it comes time to fire live rounds, you will unconsciously and smoothly complete all the steps that will put you on target,” he concluded.

His answer was obvious once I heard it, but I had never thought of it quite that way.

I also reached out to Fred Mastison, president of Force Options USA. I wanted another opinion and asked him directly if there was value in dry-fire training when there is no recoil or report.

His answer was as clear as Kevin’s.

“Absolutely. Specific points like trigger press and follow through can be developed through dry fire,” he said. “In fact, dryfire is considered critical to any serious training regimen.”

Two opinions I respect greatly, echoing eerily similar thought processes, alongside my own anecdotal evidence. It sealed the deal for me.


Training tools like the Mantis Laser Academy not only let you
focus on firing, but create drills and training so you can become
more efficient and effective as a shooter.

Optimal Training

Like anything else, the craftsman is as good as his tools. Not long ago dry-fire training was just staring at a target and pulling a trigger. Technology has changed this dramatically. For me, it all started with the Mantis X10 but my arsenal of Mantis training tools has ballooned since.

The Mantis Laser Academy offers shooters a chance to drill as if they are attending a professional shooting school. A combination of your smartphone’s camera and smart targets, along with a laser cartridge for your pistol, allows you to select specific drills and targets to hone your skills virtually anywhere.

I’ve also used the Mantis Blackbeard system frequently. This system replaces the bolt carrier group of your AR-15 platform rifle, while the power supply slides into your magwell. Once installed, you have a system that not only fires a laser so you can check dry-fire accuracy with your AR, but it also resets the trigger so you can train in a semi-automatic environment instead of pulling the charging handle every time you pull the trigger.

The Blackbeard also helped my son as we got ready for his first deer season. He was hunting with an AR-style .300 BLK so we were able to swap out the bolt carrier group and set up targets in the basement. In the comfort of our basement, he familiarized himself with the operation of the rifle as well as where to aim at the targets. He was able to get hundreds of rounds of training that never would have been possible otherwise.

A laser cartridge can be used by itself or with other training aids.
It sits where a live round would, and the firing pin contacts a
pad that produces the laser.

Final Verdict

First-hand results and expert opinions have solidified it for me. I’ve seen the results in myself and even in my young son — trigger time is what matters, not whether the repetition is live or dry.

Dry-fire training can be done almost anywhere and anytime, which means you are more likely to do it, and we didn’t even touch on the money it can save you in ammunition.

It doesn’t matter if you are just starting out, an expert marksman or somewhere in the middle. Intentional dry-fire training with the right tools can help you improve and refine your skills faster and more efficiently than anything else you can do.

It isn’t optional — dry-fire training is essential.


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