I believe strongly in dry fire, more so in the last year or two than ever before. While I've improved steadily since picking up my first gun and slightly faster since I started shooting competitively, dry fire has made my gains come even more quickly and dramatically. Some of my dry fire routine is very focused, based on books and posts from various top shooters and working a particular set of techniques or par times. Some of it is more random - gun pickup and manipulation drills, for instance, or picking a single issue I want to work on. After setting up and making sure I'm following my safety rules, I almost always warm up with 5 (or 10, or 20 or 25...) draws to an IDPA or USPSA target set up against my dry fire backstop. Standard draw, surrender draw, draw from concealment, turn and draw, draw on the move...doesn't really matter, although I'll usually start from the simplest and move to the more complex. Some nights, that's all I do.
However, as you might have been able to tell from my sparse Facebook posts and my even sparser blog posts recently, I haven't been able to concentrate on dry fire or shooting in general as much as I'd like. I've been out at my regular monthly matches but haven't shown up at many extra matches this summer. Some of it is the ammo crisis, but some of it is also due to stress from my personal and professional life. While staying in practice is important from both a self-defense and a competition perspective, there are times when practice makes permanent in negative ways. When I'm sitting on the couch after work and can't summon the brainpower to decide on dinner, dry fire may not only be unsafe, but unproductive. It's not helpful to my shooting to put in dozens of repetitions of a sloppy draw or a bad sight picture. On some of those nights, I've consciously decided not to dry fire rather than set back my progress and increase my frustration.
But we don't always get to shoot matches or defend ourselves when we're feeling at our peak physical and mental condition, and we should allow for that in training. It's important not to stray into the trap of only practicing in ideal conditions. Practice is not a demonstration of perfection. It's working towards perfection. Perfect practice doesn't mean that every draw and every trigger press is flawless. It means that you're paying enough attention to know what you're doing wrong and what you need to do to improve, and to make those fixes as you work through your dry fire routine. That can mean just putting your head down and making it through only 5-10 minutes of slow-motion basics if that's all you can muster up the energy for at the end of a long day. On many of those blah evenings, I've consciously decided I must dry fire and scaled back my routine accordingly so that I wasn't overwhelmed with how much I planned to work on. Some mindful practice has been better than no practice at all, and it's made my mental game stronger because I am practicing getting my head into the game no matter what my mood is on the range. And just like a bit of live fire time can drain stress away, spending some quality time behind a dry gun can have the same calming effect.