Ready, Aim, Fire, Repeat

Can you tie your shoes without looking at them? Can you brush your teeth without glancing in the mirror? Can you walk with your eyes closed in an open, unobstructed area?

Of course you can.

These are all examples of muscle memory.

Muscle memory is the ability to reproduce a particular movement without conscious thought. It is acquired as a result of frequent repetition of that movement.

The magic number is 2,500 times. After that, you will be able to repeat a movement without having to stop and think about it.

Why do I bring this up? In recent Black Bag Confidential articles, I have outlined several handgun drills that — when practiced — could save your life. But in the heat of the moment, the key to survival is reacting unconsciously.

You can go to the range and fire a grouping the size of a dime… You can punch a heavy bag with a right cross and knock it back two feet…

But when you’re placed in these positions without notice or preparation — will you be able to perform with the same effectiveness?

The key to effective self-defense in a lifesaving situation is training, which simply equals repetition — or muscle memory. Essentially, reacting without realizing you are reacting.

Practice Makes Perfect

I was fortunate enough during my time in the SEAL Teams to have an unlimited amount of ammunition and training time to perform live fire exercises and establish muscle memory.

We were conditioned to react without conscious thought to life-threatening situations. THAT WAS OUR JOB! If you are a person who feels it is important to be able to react in the same way, you need to train yourself.

This is where dry fire practice comes in.


Whether you are a CCW (carrying a concealed weapon) licensed person or someone who just keeps a weapon in your bedside table, the key to being effective and responding to any life-threatening situation is repeat, repeat, repeat.

Over and over again, react to what you might think would be the “worst-case scenario.” Do this to the point where you can INSTINCTIVELY react without thought to this realistic threat.


It is very important that you do this in an environment that will not scare your family. But understand that you are doing this to protect your family.

Be a survivor… not a statistic,

Cade Courtley

Cade Courtley

Dry Fire Practice With Jason Hanson

Jason HansonCade is absolutely right. One of the best ways to become a better shooter and be better prepared for a gunfight so you don’t panic (as much) is through dry fire practice.

However, dry fire training can be extremely dangerous if you don’t follow these steps:

  1. Pick a safe location — Once you decide where to practice, you need to know your backstop. It’s obviously a terrible idea to dry fire in your bedroom if the wall you’re pointing the gun at leads to your children’s room. Make sure that if you have an accidental discharge while dry firing, the bullet will go into a stack of phone books, a bookshelf, a bulletproof vest or another safe backstop.
  1. Remove all ammunition — Once you’ve chosen a safe location, make sure there is absolutely no ammunition in the area. Unload your gun in one room, leave the ammunition in that room and then go to your dry fire location, which should be in a separate room.
  1. Check your weapon — When you enter your practice space, physically and visually check to make sure you have a safe and empty weapon. As Cade mentioned, check this three times. After you’re sure that your weapon is clear, you can begin your dry fire training.
  1. Practice continuously — If for any reason you get interrupted during your training, start over. In other words, if your phone rings and you answer it (which you shouldn’t be doing), you need to begin again. Check your backstop, make sure there is no ammo in the room and verify your weapon is clear.

I recommend training sessions that are 15–20 minutes long. Any longer and you begin to get fatigued and lose concentration.

Here is an example of a dry fire routine you could do during a typical 15–20 minute session:

  • ✓ 10 perfect trigger pulls starting with your arms fully extended
  • ✓ 10 perfect trigger pulls starting from the ready
  • ✓ 10 perfect trigger pulls starting from the holster
  • ✓ 5 perfect trigger pulls with the strong hand only
  • ✓ 5 perfect trigger pulls with the support hand only
  • ✓ 5 perfect trigger pulls starting with your hands in the air in the “surrender position.”

I recommend dry firing several times a week. Believe it or not, if you start dry firing today, you’ll be amazed at how quickly your shooting skills improve over the next 30 days.

Vary your routine so you don’t get bored. Try to have a different routine for each day of the week. And ALWAYS follow the safety steps above so your dry fire practice doesn’t end in a tragic accident.

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