Most people think of practice taking place on the range, but I’m betting very few of you have the time, money, or facilities for the number of live-fire repetitions necessary to learn these skills. I don’t, and I have a range in my backyard! Considering all these factors, the most economical and best way to learn fighting skills is through dry-practice, which occurs off the range. And (this is the cool part) your daily life contains countless opportunities to dry-practice a variety of combative skills.
Dry-fire practice is performed with your actual firearm, but using dummy ammo or “snap-caps” instead of live ammunition. You set up various weapon conditions, such as action locked open on an empty magazine or a malfunction, and then reload or clear the malfunction. This isn’t exciting — there’s no bang, satisfying recoil, or compliments from your friends about your accuracy. But this is the very best way to understand these fundamental and critical skills. Firearms run empty and breakdown, even when your life depends on them. To operate the weapon without having to think about it requires repetition.
During dry-fire practice you’re working with a real tool so ALL safety rules apply. Keep the muzzle pointing in a safe direction. If there is a mistake, you don’t want to damage anything you can’t afford to pay for. Plus trust me on this, when you’re done dry-fire practicing, YOU’RE DONE. Most negligent discharges connected with dry-fire practice occur when someone decides to do just one more presentation plus dry fire — after they’ve reloaded with live ammo!
An alternative to using actual weapons are the plastic red or even blue guns. (They are called red or blue weapons because these are the colors they usually come in. ) These trick weapons allow you to practice a variety of skills without the worries of using a real weapon. You can practice almost anywhere. You are able to work on presenting your pistol, or mounting your long-gun in your living room, moving to cover (behind the particular fridge) while maintaining a sight picture on the threat (the tall lamp in the corner). Even though these plastic material guns have non-movable parts, you can mentally and physically go through the motions of reloading or clearing malfunctions, working the controls of the weapon with the proper hands/fingers.
Dummy weapons are also great tools for learning to clear corners and use cover. Get a tall mirror, the kind that goes on the back of a bathroom door, set it opposite a corner, and then clear around that corner (Clint Smith taught me this one). With the reflection you see exactly what the bad guy sees as you come around the corner. Your eyes, muzzle, and weapon sights should be the first things that come into view, exposing the least amount of your body as possible. As I work around a corner I’m looking for toes, knees, elbows, shadows, or any other target indicator. I want to see part of all of them before they see me personally. Then I can withdraw, hold, or proceed around the corner.
I treat joker weapons just like real ones. I don’t do anything with a fake tool that I wouldn’t do having a live one. Don’t point the muzzle at anything you’re not willing to destroy — especially your own body — and keep your own finger from the trigger unless your sights are on the target, and, I would add, your eyes are on the places. Applying the safety
rules consistently prevents a person from developing bad habits that will lead to trouble with a live weapon.