“The Dry Fire Primer” by Annette Evans

As likely happens with most of us, time occasionally gets away from me. Last August, when I attended Chuck Haggard’s Practical Revolvers, competition shooter Annette Evans was also in attendance. At the end of the day before Chuck cut us loose, he let us know that Annette had books for sale. I’m a sucker for a book, so I grabbed a copy of The Dry Fire Primer with every intention of diving right into it.

And then life happened. Months went by. I got busy with work, and travel, and all the other stuff that consumes our precious bandwidth. And pretty soon, I was packing up our apartment. And guess what resurfaced? This slim volume seemed like just the ticket during those long moving days. I opened it up and got sucked immediately into The Dry Fire Primer.

The Dry Fire Primer

As engaged as I’ve been with dry practice this year, I haven’t taken a great deal of time to listen to what others are saying about it, or consider what their doing. I’ve been sort of charting my own course, busting the rust and trying to achieve a higher level of skill than I started with. The dry fire primer offered me some valuable information and validated an awful lot of what I’ve been doing.

This book isn’t a book on how to execute a bunch of techniques. It won’t teach you how to draw or reload or clear a malfunction. You need to know all of that stuff coming in. What it will do is teach you how to develop a dry practice routine. Annette begins with some discussion of what dry practice actually is. She goes on to discuss safety, and the reasons one might want to dry practice.

Next, The Dry Fire Primer explains how to dry practice from square one. This section begins with removing barriers to dry practice. I don’t think I’ve had much trouble with barriers this year, but I have in the past and I found this section immensely useful. Next, is an extremely useful section on setting up a “Dry Fire Dojo”, your dedicated dry practice location. I definitely got some useful information out of this, and am adding some things to my dry practice space based on her recommendation, like a barricade and fault lines.

The book details a ton of other useful information, like the use of a timer, block vs. random training, construction variations in your sessions, and some specific drills. The final section of the book covers some mental aspects, like honesty and journaling.

The Bottom Line

Even though I had dry practiced almost daily for five months prior to opening this book, I still got a lot of helpful information from it. If you’re lost and asking, “where do I start with dry practice” this short, 81-page volume is an excellent place to start. If you’ve been dry practicing for a while but are struggling with motivation or where to go next, The Dry Fire Primer might be exactly the motivation you need. It has definitely helped me and I recommend it without reservation.


Guys, this isn’t the article we had planned for today but some unforeseen circumstances required us to shift fire at the last minute. .  . and this is a great book! Stay tuned.
~Justin

Author: Justin

Justin Carroll is a former MARSOC Marine and veteran of both Iraq and Afghanistan. Leaving service after eight years in the U.S. Marines, Justin continues his involvement with a variety of government agencies to this day. Justin began RevolverGuy.com in late 2016 with an simple idea: provide an source of high-quality information for revolver enthusiasts.

12 thoughts on ““The Dry Fire Primer” by Annette Evans”

  1. Such books are useful for giving the shooter an idea of what to ‘shoot’ for (no pun intended). However, as the great Johaan Sebastian Bach is reputed to have told one of his students: “Practice does not make perfect. Only PERFECT Practice makes perfect.”

    Perfect practice is the really hard part.

    1. I had a Boot Camp drill instructor who used to tell us that all the time, I didn’t quite understand it until many years later.
      It’s a saying I now use often.

    2. That is a neat saying, but I actually don’t like it at all because of its tendency to actively discourage getting out and practicing. We all need to get better, and I think the “perfect practice” credo creates a good reason for some to say, “not today” because I’m not feeling perfect, the weather isn’t perfect, I don’t have the perfect equipment, the kids aren’t being perfectly quiet in the next room, my wife isn’t perfectly happy with me going to the basement for 15 minutes, etc. There’s also a little bit of a chicken/egg thing going on here; how am I ever going to execute a perfect draw stroke without many repetitions?
      All all my repetitions perfect? Definitely not (it is likely that none of them are technically “perfect”). Does that mean I’m not improving speed, accuracy, intimacy with my equipment? Absolutely not – I’ve improved draw speed massively this year, and I’m building a state of automaticity that only a tiny percentage of shooters will ever enjoy.
      I make mistakes all the time in practice. Practice is the venue where we should be making mistakes and learning what works and what doesn’t. While I totally acknowledge that every sub-optimal repetition is a repetition that “trains” a bad technique, practice is where I learn that, “if I try to draw like that, I don’t get a good grasp on the gun” and “at this distance I need to slow down and see the sights better” and “I screwed that up, but I know what I did so let me work that technique for a few days to smooth that out.”
      Now, we are in agreement that you shouldn’t just go out and begin dry practicing without some basic knowledge. This will reinforce a bunch of sub-optimal (or straight up “bad”) techniques. I differentiate “training” and “practice” though. Before you can practice skills, you have to receive training which imparts those skills. Dry practice isn’t for the untrained, it’s for the trained. None of use should be waiting for the day we are perfect before getting started though.
      I can tell you from first hand experience, “the hard part” is getting yourself out consistently to execute your training plan. If you can get yourself started every day – even though it’s raining, or you had a long day at work today, or you didn’t sleep well last night and are tired, or you have time for breakfast OR dry practice, or whatever…you’ve overcome the hardest part. Your dry practice, and any other practice, should be high quality, but perfection can be the enemy of good enough.

      1. I fully understand where you’re coming from with the discouragement concept. But doing anything well requires sacrifice. That olympic athlete that gets the gold medal, you can bet that they have made sacrifices for years to achieve that reward. Let me put it in aviation terms, if I might.

        The aviation wannabe starts with what we used to call ‘ground school’. Said student will learn all of the fundamentals of aviation (we hope). A book that he cautiously avoids is the 1st Edition of ‘Global Navigation Techniques’ by Amelia Earhart (a/k/a “How I Made Fred Noonan’s Wife a Widow”).

        Next is actually flying with an instructor. The student advances skills to where the instructor deems them safe to fly ‘solo’ as a private pilot. Once the student solos, and gets his ‘private’ pilot rating, the learnin’ does begin on steroids.

        From there, the student goes directly to the F/A-18 parked next to his Cessna 150 — wrong! That student learns that Cessna (or Piper, or preferrably Beechcraft) inside and out, avoiding the V-tail Bonanza at all costs. He is meticulous in working through his pre-flight checklist and adapting that checklist to the specific aircraft he’s going to be flying. When he is stopped short of main runway and doing his engine run up, he also is meticulous in pre-takeoff systems checkdown. From there he practices touch-n-go landings until (a) he barely feels the undercarriage touch down, and (b) dreams about the entire process from start up to shut down in his sleep.

        The student will perfect his procedure to such a degree that he will more than likely be able to overcome any obstacle (like the somewhat annoying cross-wind final). He will also perfect his landing technique including communication with ATC, his landing checklist (ya know, like flaps, UNDERCARRIAGE, trim, engine settings, etc).

        The student extends his touch-n-go sessions to branch out and gradually perfects his navigation skills with a compass (two on the aircraft) and map(s), along with VOR guidance along the way (we’ll get to GPSNAV later). Over time, the student does his ‘cross-country’, attains his IFR endorsement, multi-engine, etc, etc. He might even get his commercial endorsement from the FAA. Each step along the way, the student always remains a student, constantly learning to do everything precisely.

        Not all students get to this level. Many stay as a single engine private pilot with only a VFR rating. But those who achieve greatness – those are the ones who challenge themselves to be the best at what they do. Some eventually have four stripes on their sleeve as a left seat driver in anything from Boeing, or even Command Pilot wings. Others will share perfection as a flight instructor and encourage it in their students.

        Finally:
        (a) There’s no such thing as too much fuel – unless you’re on fire
        (b) There’s no such thing as too much altitude – unless you’re trying to land at St Barthelemy in the Carribean.
        (d) There’s no such thing as too much airspeed – unless you’re trying to land at Lukla Airport in Nepal.

        1. I’m not being facetious, but I’m not sure I follow your point. I’m also not sure at all that we’re in disagreement; I certainly agree that doing anything well requires sacrifice in the form of doing the work. What I was trying to convey in my earlier post is that it is folly to wait until you are perfect to begin practicing, whether in aviation, or in the case of this post, dry practicing.

          1. Absolutely in agreement that “. . . it is folly to wait until you are perfect to begin practicing . . . ” because unless you are of Divine origin, the concept is a human impossibility.

            The point of my analogy is precisely as you stated that sacrifice in whatever discipline you enter, whether shooting, aviation, music, etc, etc requires physical, financial, and mental consistency.

            In my mind, a classic example is Jerry Mickulek who makes the unlikely LOOK so easy.

    3. Sorry not a subscriber of that mantra.
      15 minutes in the gym for a quick and dirty workout is better than no minutes in the gym because I don’t have time to do everything right.

      1. I gotta disagree with your disagreement – if you don’t take the time to do it right in the gym, and pull a muscle because you didn’t warm-up enough, then you lose multiple workout days recovering. If you don’t take the time to do it right in the gym and do heavy lifting without proper form, you can cause even worse injuries which take you out of the gym even longer, possibly permanently. Even if you only do cardio for 15 minutes, that’s still short of the 20+ minutes recommended to get the benefits of conditioning.

        Likewise, if you don’t do the fundamentals of marksmanship right, you don’t reinforce good mental/physical habits, you start reinforcing bad habits, you fail to hit your target, and you waste your time, range fees, and perfectly good ammunition in the process. If you’re hoping to save time, like Wyatt Earp supposedly said, “Take your time, in a hurry.”

  2. Thanks for the awesome review!!

    On perfect practice versus imperfect practice, I actually have a section in my book about that. Mindful practice is better than both, in my opinion. Mistakes ARE going to happen, and failure is a necessary part of learning. If you don’t find failure points, you aren’t going to find places that you can push yourself to ever higher levels of performance.

    Perfect practice makes you better at doing things exactly the same way over and over again.

    Mindful practice allows you to see your mistakes for what they are and find better ways to do the thing you’re doing well, and correct the things you’re doing not as well.

    Allowing yourself to screw up in practice and *continuing through it*, and allowing yourself to practice when conditions aren’t perfect for a full session, are also excellent ways to practice and grow grit, which is as much an indicator of success as anything else.

    https://www.kqed.org/mindshift/48770/how-making-mistakes-primes-kids-to-learn-better

    In any case, glad you enjoyed the book and that you found it helpful – it did for you exactly what I was hoping for!

    1. Thank you for the comment! I really did enjoy your book and it helped me out a lot in my quest for a “year of dry practice”.

      Also, thank you for your thoughts on mindful practice. I feel like you said what I was trying, but failing, to say.

      Best,
      Justin

  3. A vote here for ‘mindful practice’. Any practice is going to affect ‘for real’ execution. I always took the ‘perfect practice’ idea as basically, when you practice, try to practice ‘right’–that is, whatever you’re working on, try to do it the way you want it to go in real life. But when those glitches show up in practice, they may just show up when the fan gets dirty. So, in practice sessions, when working on drawing with a cover garment and the shirt tail or edge of the jacket gets caught, do you stop at that point, and set up to do it again–hopefully right, this time? Most likely, an attacker isn’t going to give you a do-over; maybe it’s best to ‘practice’ getting it done even if the garment gets in the way, or your grip isn’t perfect, or if (as I know can happen [red face here]) you actually screw it up bad and drop the gun, what’s your next move? Not saying set up practice sessions for glitches, but if it happens, push the ‘mindful practice’ button and figure out how to deal with it. It (whatever ‘it’ is) can happen in real life.
    FWIW, this article and the others on the subject have tripped my guilt switch; I haven’t been doing anywhere near enough dry practice for way too long. Not enough trips to the range, either. Time to fix that. Maybe I’ll start tomorrow….. Ace

    1. Ace,
      Glad to hear the “guilt switch” is tripped! I’m not sure what tripped mine in late December, but something did.
      Let us know how you do,
      Justin

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