Home / News / “Without the distraction of live fire”

“Without the distraction of live fire”

A few weeks ago, I spent an hour with Sean Sorrentino, walking him through three basic dry fire drills to help him hone what seemed to me to be the three basic skills of IDPA: drawing (from concealment), reloading (from concealment), and shooting around cover. He just shot his first match since starting to practice with them, and posted a quite positive progress report. I don’t want to overemphasize the results of a single match, but I was also impressed that he reported subjectively,

I could see how I was shooting differently. Instead of looking at the targets to see how I was hitting, I just watched my sights, pulled the trigger when they were on the target, and then moved on to the next target. I rarely had a problem. Didn’t hit a single “no shoot.” Wasn’t down very many points at all, in fact.

This reminded me of something I re-discovered in our own archives, a piece of my interview with Chad Thompson back in Episode 89 (and excerpted in our 2014 best-of show). In there, Chad made a comment about “the distraction of live fire,” in the context of worrying about the cost of shooting and wasting ammo and time spent getting to the range to live fire, in contrast to dry fire which is free and available pretty much any time of the day, regardless of the weather.

But Sean has made me realize there’s another wrinkle to it as well: looking for holes in the target. One of the skills that is essential for consistent performance at a match is the ability to call your shots. The ability to, watching only your sights, know where they were at the instant the trigger broke and immediately know where that created a hole in the target. But actually having holes appear in the target during live fire is a distraction that tempts you to look at them instead of keeping your eye on the front sight or moving ahead to the next target.

I remember, early on in my own dry fire development, working with a few drills more convoluted than what I presented to Sean and still finding it jump-started my ability to read my sights and call my shots that has never really gone away. I can only credit that to the fact that, in dry fire, there’s nothing you can score on the target, so you are forced to be honest with yourself and watch your sights. During a match, I never look for holes in the target any more (too slow) and end up shooting the same way. I just never quite realized how much that’s like dry fire.

Not to mention that in a self-defense scenario there are neither clear scoring zones nor obvious hit indicators on the target…

About Ben

Blog contributor. Active in IDPA and USPSA, and he won't flinch if you call him a rules lawyer. Ben is a beard wearing, bacon eating, whiskey drinking, motorcycle riding, coder.


  1. Yeah, it’s pretty weird. I just didn’t bother looking. I remember one target that required five shots to the body and one to the head and I just rattled off five shots, shot at the head, and then initiated my reload and move to the next target never once having looked at the target itself. I was so pleased that I shot that entire stage clean. But until they score the targets I had no idea.

    • This is what Steve Anderson calls “judging the shot acceptable or unacceptable”. If there had been any shots that your shot calling judged unacceptable, you would have had a little alarm bell go off in your head and you’d have known to make it up. But since that didn’t happen, you just had a series of hits that were all acceptable and turned out to be down zero. Congrats on skipping a year or two of struggle in the shooting sports!

      (Just don’t get complacent and assume that doing it once means you’ve got it for life. It does take work to maintain. And by work I, of course, mean practice.)

  2. Right on, Ben! That interview with Chad was as instructive as the interview with Steve Anderson.

    I particularly remember Chad’s remark regarding “the distraction of live fire” and it is something I have always thought about since.

    Great article!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.