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Top Rifle Training Drills

By Primary Arms

From novice to intermediate and even the more proficient firearm owners, one thing all firearm owners should have in common is the need for continued practice and drills to improve eye and hand coordination and basic shooting skills when hunting or at the range.

Acquiring proficiency requires continued practice. Regardless of whether you spent months searching for just the right upper receiver combination and took your time putting your AR15 together just so, when it comes to hitting what you aim at consistently, the only thing that will get you there is practice.

Many believe practice and training consist of snapping off a few hundred rounds at your local range. However, there are a few basic drills you’ll want to incorporate into your daily routine that will help you advance your shooting capabilities.

Keep in mind that not all rifle training drills involve live rounds and a trip to the gun range and can happen in the comfort of your home or garage. Performing a dry fire drill is one of the best ways to hone your skills.

Dry Fire Drill

A dry fire drill with your AR15 means no ammunition is in either the chamber or the magazines you intend to use during practice. Don’t let the fact that you’re not using ammo to practice cause you not to heed the same overall safety precautions when operating a weapon.

First thing, ensure the magazine is out of your rifle, and keeping your finger off the trigger, pull the charging hammer back. If a cartridge ejects, then inspect the chamber visually and physically as well. With the magazine extracted and the bolt pulled back, you should have a clear line of sight through the rifle to the floor.

Once you’ve satisfied the fact that the chamber is indeed empty, turn your attention to the magazines you intend to use for the drill. They need to be clear of ammunition as well. When performing a dry fire drill, ammo should be nowhere in the vicinity.

Here’s an oddity about dry fire drills that may not make much sense at first. The best time to perform a dry fire drill is immediately following a live fire session at the range. During a live-fire session, your muscle memory and firing habit will be fresh, and some of those poor firing techniques will become readily apparent during a dry fire session. One of the best dry fire drills is constant shoulder target acquisition.

You may want to scatter a few post-it notes in various places on the wall of a room or in your garage and practice acquiring each target through your scope without removing your rifle from your shoulder. While it may seem a bit awkward at first, drill on charging your rifle, releasing the safety, and snapping off a dry round while your rifle stays against your shoulder.

The trick with any rifle drill is to help you obtain an intuitive operation of your AR15, and if you spend fifteen minutes each day on with this drill, you’ll get there faster than you think. Don’t forget to practice magazine ejection and reloading with your rifle still against your shoulder.

This drill means you’re performing all the tasks you’d typically do when operating your rifle, such as charging, aiming, or reloading with the gun against your shoulder. At the same time, continue to focus on the paper targets through your optic system.

One myth about performing a dry fire drill is that continued practice with this method will harm your rifle. For most models of semi-automatic rifles, this is not true. Most modern-day AR15 semi-automatics will withstand repeated dry fire drills without harm. However, there is an essential truth to this myth, and that’s when you attempt a dry fire drill with a rifle using rimfire cartridges.

The firing pin strikes the cartridge’s rim with a rimfire rifle such as a Ruger 10/22. If there’s no cartridge in the chamber, the firing pin strikes the chamber itself, leading to a mushroomed pin.

If you have a rimfire rifle, consider investing in snap caps which are a dummy round with a soft primer. Once you’ve mastered the dry fire drill and since the best time to perform dry-fire drills is immediately after a live fire session, you might want to consider a live-fire drill such as a three-by-five live-fire drill.

3X5 Live Fire Drill

Probably one of the best intermediate live-fire drills around is the 3X5 drill. The 3X5 training consists of firing three rounds in five seconds or less while delivering tightly controlled shots across a variety of ranges while you’re in motion.

Another feature of the 3X5 drill and where it gets its name is the target. During a 3X5 live-fire exercise, the challenge will be to acquire your target – a 3X5 index card – and perform five starts from the low-ready stage, at thirty-five yards and placing three shots into the target in five seconds or less.


Hitting a 3X5 index card at thirty-five yards is challenging regardless of whether you’re a beginner, intermediate or advanced, but remember why you’re performing this drill.

Mastering this portion of the 3X5 live-fire training and hitting the index card three times within the time limit forces you to possess intuitive and precise shooting mechanics and improve your trigger control and shot recovery.

Another challenging aspect of the 3X5 drill is the mounting string. This firing string begins at around twenty-five yards from the mount or shouldering your AR15 for target acquisition. The second string addresses the weak link many rifle owners experience in efficiently moving their rifle from the carry position to the proper mount position.

Think of this exercise as mastering the draw of your rifle to your shoulder. Like the deployment of a pistol from the holster. After continued practice, you’ll discover that you have blended aggressive target acquisition with intuitive and efficient control.

Another string of live-fire drills on the 3X5 consists of the reload or condition four as the Marine Corp would describe. Condition four means that the emptied magazine is removed, the bolt moved forward, and the safety switch engaged.

Having the ability to seat a loaded magazine in your AR15, pull back the charging handle, and flip the rifle’s safety in three seconds or less is challenging for even the most practiced and will require a ton of practice.

Whether it’s a combination of dry-fire drills and 3X5 exercises or practice at the range, the operative word is practice. Make both drills a regular daily routine, and in almost a blink of an eye, you’ll undoubtedly notice an improved and more pleasurable shooting experience.



Categories: Gear,Rifle,Shooting,Training