Useful Tips To Practice Good Marksmanship Without Wasting Ammo

Many preppers keep some sort of arsenal stocked as a deterrent and safety investment. But putting that firepower to use responsibly means knowing how to use it. That means you need to practice your marksmanship skills.

We’re not saying that you should hit the range and blow through 500 rounds of pistol or rifle ammo. If you can burn all that brass in a day, it usually means you’re not training the right way. Practicing good marksmanship means conserving ammo and not wasting it. That applies to practice, too.

Your ammo’s a precious commodity, especially in times of disaster. Let’s look at some marksmanship and shooting drills you can practice without wasting any live rounds.

As a prepper, you probably have a few firearms you want to practice with. Whether you built a survival rifle with an 80 lower receiver, or simply bought a handgun at the local store, you can use many of these drills to master the fundamentals of marksmanship. No ammo required!

Marksmanship Safety First (Please Read)

We’re pulling the triggers on our weapons with this guide. Safety needs to come first. Even when performing dry-fire drills, you should follow the four Golden Rules of Gun Safety:

  1. Always treat your weapon as if it’s loaded.
  2. Always know your target and what’s behind it.
  3. Always keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction.
  4. Always keep your finger off the trigger until ready to fire.

We’re training how we fight, and that means mastering these rules with an empty weapon. No one wants a negligent discharge or worse, collateral damage.

Now, let’s get started with some dry-fire drills:

Dry-Fire Drills at Home to Improve Marksmanship

A dry-fire drill is exactly what it sounds like: You’re drilling with your rifle or pistol by dry-firing it. Professional shooters, servicemembers, and law enforcement all use dry-fire drills to master quick-drawing, to practice sight picture and aim, and to get confident with their weapon’s grips, sights, and overall feel.

Tip: When you dry-fire your weapon, always have an empty shell casing in the chamber or, ideally, a snap cap. A snap cap is a reusable dead round, usually made from an empty shell casing, rubber, or plastic. It has a soft primer to protect your hammer and firing pin. Dry-firing without a snap cap in the chamber can damage some weapons.

The Quick-Draw Drill

Getting rounds on target is important, but you need to get your weapon on target first. You need to learn to do it quickly, too.

The Quick-Draw Drill will you help master that.

We’re doing this drill first because it’ll also teach you how to position your holster, assume a good shooting stance, get a good grip on your weapon, and properly aim. You don’t even need a dud or snap cap for this (completing the drill with a dry-fire trigger pull does help).

To start the drill, pick a notional target in a safe direction. If dry-firing, chamber your snap cap. Holster your weapon. Keep both feet planted on the ground with your body facing your target. Your feet should be shoulder-width apart.

It helps to have a buzzer or shot timer for this. When ready, or when the timer buzzes, work on quickly drawing and aiming your weapon at your target. As soon as your weapon leaves the holster, work on rotating the muzzle toward your target:

Shooting Stance Visual Example

This is the Isosceles Shooting Stance. Note how the width of the shoulders and extended arms roughly form the shape of a triangle. Also, note foot and body position. Practice obtaining this stance during this drill.

Focus on keeping your body facing the target with both feet planted. Bring your weapon in front of your chest, moving your off-hand to your shooting hand at the same time. Get an appropriate grip and begin aiming and acquiring a sight picture as you push both arms out in front of you, muzzle facing the target.

As soon as your weapon is at the high-ready and you’ve acquired a bead on the target, pull the trigger to complete the drill. Repeat this drill until you can confidently draw and aim at speed.

Tip #1: This drill is simple, but mastering it means figuring out all the little details: Does your holster position allow you to draw while keeping eyes on the target? Can you draw without excessively bending your arm or twisting your body? Is anything preventing you from getting three fingers wrapped around your weapon’s grip when drawing?

Tip #2: If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, consider your holster position. Many newer shooters like their holsters to be placed at the hip because that’s commonly portrayed in magazines, films, and firearm catalogs. This is called the 9 o’clock or 3 o’clock position. This position is acceptable, but it can cause excessive twisting and bending if you have longer arms. Your holster will likely serve you better when at the 4 o’clock to 6 o’clock position (depending on whether you’re left- or right-handed).

Tip #3: Once mastered, combine this drill with the Malfunction Drill below to enhance your training.

The Balance Drill

The greatest challenge for any shooter is mastering grip, trigger squeeze, sight picture and aim, and anticipating recoil without flinching. It takes a lot of training to pull the trigger perfectly while keeping sights on target. It takes even more training to steady your hands and ignore the actual gunshot.

To practice all this, we’re going to do the Balance Drill. If you can master this drill, you’ll be on the road to mastering all the fundamentals of marksmanship.

The Balance Drill is simple: Grab your pistol or rifle, and a penny. Balance the penny on the end of the barrel, just behind the muzzle. Make sure your weapon’s unloaded. Chamber a snap cap or empty shell casing.

Now, practice your grip, aim, trigger squeeze, and control by dry-firing your weapon with the penny balancing on the barrel or slide.

Continue practicing this drill until you can repeatedly dry-fire without the penny falling off.

Tip #1: If you’re using a Glock or handgun with a flat slide, balance the penny on the front sights. Or, grab a stack of 4 to 5 pennies to make it challenging.

Tip #2: If you’ve gotten confident with this drill and you’re using a handgun, switch to a one-handed grip, and continue practicing. This will allow your dominant hand and trigger finger to get even more practice.

The Malfunction Drill

You must also master how to clear malfunctions and reload your weapon quickly while reacting to a threat. The Malfunction Drill will help you master both tasks and it’s important to for good marksmanship.

Ideally, you should perform this drill with a timer or buzzer, like the Quick-Draw Drill. You’ll also want a few spare magazines loaded with one snap cap each. To start the drill, load your first magazine, chamber a snap cap and assume a firing position.

When ready, or when your timer buzzes, dry-fire your weapon while aiming at your target. As quickly as possible, operate the charging handle, bolt, or slide to eject the snap cap (thus clearing the “malfunction”). Drop and reload a new magazine. Chamber the next snap cap. Aim and acquire your sight picture and pull the trigger.

Repeat this drill until you can confidently perform all steps in under 4 seconds.

Tip #1: This drill involves many movements. Practice slowly, getting used to the rhythm of each step before trying to work faster.

Tip #2: Practice keeping both feet planted with your eyes and head facing your target while performing this drill. This will help reduce unnecessary movement, and it’ll force you to develop these movements into muscle memory.

How to Improve Training Value

Practicing good marksmanship without ammo is clearly beneficial, but it ultimately lacks in giving you feedback about your aim and sight picture.

To get even more value out of these dry-fire drills, we recommend considering a laser targeting system. That sounds expensive and complex, but it isn’t. Most dry-fire laser systems just use an empty shell casing with a laser pointer to simulate where your point of aim is.

If you want to know whether your point of aim is truly “on point”, consider some laser targets. They’re more expensive than a chamber laser, but they’ll react to your trigger pull and tell you whether you would have hit your target with a live round.


Practicing good marksmanship without wasting ammo means doing dry-fire drills. Always use snap caps to protect your weapon’s internals. Always follow the Four Golden Rules of Gun Safety, too. Practice the quick-draw drill to troubleshoot your holster setup and get confident at drawing and shooting quickly.

Practice the Balance Drill to master trigger squeeze and to help get rid of that recoil anticipation. Practice the Malfunction Drill to truly master your weapon’s functions and to work on reloading quickly in a fight.

This article has been written by Travis Noonan for Prepper’s Will.

Suggested prepping learning:

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Improving your marksmanship with professional help

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