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With the winter weather upon us in northeast Ohio, the last thing I want to think about is venturing into the frigid outdoors for firearms training. Luckily, I know of quality ways to practice indoors.


Dry practice consists of much more than just dry-fire. For dry practice, I bring out my unloaded, empty firearm into a location—separate and void of any ammunition—along with any gear I need. Whether I use an AR15, pistol or shotgun, I can perform a wide variety of manipulation skills using dry practice. Loading, unloading, drawing, presenting and even malfunctions can all be done safely in my home.

“…remember to keep live ammo out of the area, and check your guns–not once, but twice.”

No matter which weapon platform I decide to work on, loading and unloading skills can easily be practiced with dummy rounds. Spending time loading from the gear on my belt when I don’t have to run and shoot allows me to concentrate on that specific task.


Because the shotgun is the most difficult for me, I spend time during the winter on quad loads (quad load: Grab four shells and load two at a time, twice). These days, quad loading is the only way to be competitive. As a bonus, when I practice loading, I also have to spend time unloading my shotgun (weapon manipulation). There’s a whole different skill set that goes into unloading safely and effectively. Many people lack these basic weapon manipulation skills. During dry practice, I use the shell stops or the shell release on my shotgun, in addition to my loading practice.

When I get a malfunction during competition, I need to clear my shotgun quickly. Failures to go into battery and failures to fully eject are the most common and easy to practice. For a failure-to-eject dry practice, I fill my magazine tube with dummy rounds, stick an empty hull in the ejection port and let the bolt go forward on it.

I shoulder the shotgun as if I’m shooting. Then, on someone else’s command, I clear the malfunction and re-present the shotgun. I repeat the drill until there are no more dummy rounds in the magazine tube. Learning to manipulate the semiautomatic shotgun takes time and practice. Running the charging handle, pressing the safety and shell stops, as well as handling the dummy rounds for reloading, keep me familiar with the gun for when spring arrives.


When practicing with my pistol, I strap on my holster and magazine pouches and then get out my dummy rounds. Just as with the shotgun, I first practice loading and unloading quickly and efficiently. I then set up  malfunctions with the dummy rounds. Whether it’s a bad round (a click and no bang!), a failure to fully eject or even a double feed malfunction, I set it up so I go right from my shooting position to clearing the malfunction. From an aimed-in position, I simulate as if I were shooting, and then, something goes wrong. I clear the malfunction and get right back on target.

Stovepipe malfunctions can happen to anyone and should be routinely practiced. To set up: With the slide locked open and a magazine of dummy rounds inserted, let the slide go forward on an empty brass case. Setting it up is good for your manipulation skills.

Because I generally shoot a striker-fired gun, I practice dry-firing using my Next Level Training SIRT pistol. As I’ve mentioned in a previous column, it’s a great tool. We keep one right on our coffee table, so it’s always easy to pick it up and shoot a few targets we have around the house. Every time I do this, I’m working on trigger management, sight alignment and sight picture, target acquisition and, quite often, multiple targets. Small targets, large targets and multiple shots are other things I practice with my SIRT.

The SIRT pistol from Next Level Training is one of the most valuable dry-fire devices available. It gives instant feedback on trigger management and sight picture. It’s worth its price in performance.


I really enjoy working with an AR15. In the comfort of my warm home, I practice presentations from port arms, low-ready and even from the slung position. By setting up targets in the house, I work on acquiring a target quickly and pressing off a well-aimed dry-fire shot. Heck—by moving a bit of furniture around, even positional practice and barricade dry practice are possible.

I carry spare magazines in a variety of locations on my body when I am running classes or shooting matches. For 3-gun, I carry my magazine primarily in the center of my back, horizontally. When teaching, I put the magazines in my back pocket and cargo pockets. I can easily practice reload drills using .223 dummy rounds in these magazines. I start with an empty AR magazine in the rifle and lock the bolt to the rear. From the aimed-in position, on command, I quickly and efficiently drop the empty while reaching for my fresh magazine full of dummies. I seat and tug the magazine and then put the bolt forward and get back on target.

Failure to fully eject can happen when shooting around obstacles or especially out of cars. Set it up the same way you set up a pistol stovepipe.

Malfunctions with ARs happen during competition, especially when shooting near pieces of cover or from inside cars. Just as with other firearm platforms, I have to know how to quickly and effectively clear them. To run a malfunction drill with the AR platform, I use empty cases and set up a failure to eject—the same as with the shotgun. Quite often, it’s as simple as unloading the gun and then reloading it. If gravity doesn’t clear the malfunction, a quick sweep of the hand or “tactical tickle” clears the obstruction.

Dummy rounds are handy, and good ones are usually identifiable from a distance. These 9mm rounds ( even have a rubber surface for your firing pin to strike.

When the winter doldrums get you down, keep these training suggestions in mind. (And remember to keep live ammo out of the area, and check your guns—not once, but twice.) Never underestimate the power of dry practice. Done properly and consistently, the manipulation skills created with your guns and gear will become something to rely on.

Whether during competition or when times become tense, uncertain and rapidly evolving, you’ll be glad you got in your winter dry practice!

Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the January 2018 print issue of Gun World Magazine.