Practicing Your Defensive Pistol Skills at Home

posted on February 10, 2017

Is winter getting you down? Is the range flooded or covered in feet of snow not likely to melt until April? Are you stuck in the house, unable to shoot, and ammo costs too much anyway? What if I told you there’s a way to build your defensive handgun skills at home that requires no ammunition, no firing range and costs nothing but your time? It’s called dry practice.

If you want to get really good at performing, then shooting skills like drawing the pistol from a holster or reloading need to be practiced correctly. The goal is to make these skills reflexive, meaning they can be performed without conscious thought. For that to happen, you may have to do them several thousand times. What better way to lock in these skills while waiting for the snow to melt than dry practice?

The first step in doing this safely is to establish a dry practice area. Mine is set up in my garage. Yours could be in a basement or spare room, but the point is it has to be a place where you can be by yourself and practice for 10 or 15 minutes at a time without interruption. You need to practice with an empty pistol, and it’s a good idea to make sure there is no ammunition in the room. You can also use dummy rounds – inert practice rounds usually colored red, orange or yellow – so they can’t be confused with live ammunition. Even though you won’t be firing, it’s a good idea to have a dry practice target set up where a bullet would be stopped if you were to make a mistake. I use a couple of old sets of police body armor for a backstop, but a solid basement wall will do just as well.

Once you’ve set up your dry practice area and checked (again) that your pistol is unloaded, you can start practicing. I like to start with slow, deliberate draw strokes, bringing the pistol up on target then focusing on the front sight as I align the pistol and carefully pressing the trigger without disturbing the sights. I gradually increase the speed and, after several minutes, arrive at full-speed presentations of the pistol. After that, I may do some reloading practice, again starting slow and building the speed. Other skills I work on include stepping aside as I draw or dropping to a kneeling position during another practice session. I think you’ll find that 10 to 15 minutes is enough time to practice one or two skills. If you apply yourself, it will quickly build your proficiency.

When it comes to defensive pistol practice, airsoft and BB pistols are useful training tools. Some of these are extremely realistic and operate exactly like a real pistol, such as the ASP line from SIG Sauer. It’s a simple matter to make a “bullet trap” for one out of a cardboard box stuffed with newspaper, and you can recover the BBs and use them over again. I’ve found them to be useful for all kinds of practice but especially appreciate using them to work on controlling the sights and pressing the trigger. Another option could be to invest in a laser training system, like those from LaserLyte. If you look around, you’ll find many laser training ystems varying in cost from several dollars to a few hundred dollars.

When was the last time you practiced searching your house? Have you practiced moving around in the dark? Have you practiced moving through your house with a flashlight? How about with your pistol and a flashlight? This is best practiced when nobody but you is in the house, and I recommend using a “blue gun,” a solid plastic replica available from Blueguns or Blackhawk, or an air pistol for safety.

We all have excuses for not practicing as much as we should, but not being able to get to the range isn’t a valid reason. With a little thought and creativity, you can do a lot of defensive skill-building at home. Be safe and get practicing. You’ll be glad you did when you go back to the range.


man holding lens
man holding lens

Red Dots for Old Eyes

It has happened against my will and without my permission, but I got old. Parts of me did anyway. I first noticed it in my late 40s when I had trouble reading the headstamp on a cartridge.

First Look: Vortex Defender-CCW Micro Red Dot

Designed from the ground up with concealed carry in mind.

Shoot United Launches 2023 Nationwide Event Schedule

Twenty events across the country, all designed to introduce people to the shooting sports.

First Look: Safariland Nexbelt L930

A secure and almost infinitely adjustable foundation for you concealed carry gear.

Eyepiece Focus, Part 2: FFP Precision Scopes

A First Focal Plane optic demands a lot from your eye.

Fightin’ Iron: The Hi Power Returns

The Hi Power has seen a renaissance in the past couple of years with new models such as Springfield Armory’s SA-35, the FN America High Power and the EAA MC P35 entering the market and selling briskly.


Get the best of Shooting Illustrated delivered to your inbox.