Practicing for proficiency with a handgun takes more than just live fire at the range. Even then, live fire practice is logistically challenging for some and also expensive thanks to ever climbing ammo costs. Smart shooters will fill the gap and get good reps in with dry fire, but dry fire does not provide complete feedback for the shooter.
Don’t misunderstand; dry fire practice is the cornerstone of champions and master shooters the world over, so you should definitely do what they do. But what if there was a way to level-up your dry fire regimen?
Not only get more feedback from each presentation and trigger press, but also accomplish it in such a way the pistol needed no manipulation to reset the trigger shot to shot? And all this was available in a device that closely replicated the ergonomics and handling characteristics of two of the most popular pistols on the market?
As you might have guessed, such a solution already exists and is within reach of most serious students of the gun. The SIRT Training Pistol by Next Level Training is that tool, and an excellent addition to any gunslinger’s toolbox.
What is the SIRT Pistol?
The Shot Indicating Resetting Trigger, or SIRT, Pistol is a training device that is designed to help a shooter get in better quality practice reps by both shortening time between repetitions and more importantly providing precise visual feedback on a given practice rep compared to dry fire alone.
It is available in two models, the 110, which closely mimics the feel and operation of a Glock 17, and the 107, which closely mimics the feel and operation of a Smith & Wesson M&P fullsize.
The SIRT pistol does this by way of two lasers, both activated by the trigger. One shines when the trigger is being pressed, or taken up, and the other shines when the trigger breaks and is fully depressed.
The take-up laser is installed where the guide rod would protrude from the front of the slide on a live gun and the break or “shot” laser is installed where the muzzle would normally be on a live gun.
The triggers on each self reset, allowing follow-up shots with no additional manipulation of the SIRT required. Both models of SIRT pistol feature removable weighted dummy magazines to improve balance and allow you to work reloads without switching to real steel.
All in all, a smartly designed and well thought out package: safe, intuitive and provides instant visual feedback on any glitches or deficiencies through most of the presentation and firing cycle. We’ll break down everything it can do for you (as well as things it cannot) in the rest of the article.
Why Should I Be Dry Firing in the First Place?
I’m glad you asked, reader. As I mentioned above, dry fire is nothing less than imperative to reach a high level of skill with a pistol. Even if you can afford to shoot whenever you want, dry fire allows you to isolate, assess and refine crucial trigger manipulation and presentation technique free from the nerve-degrading, flinch-inducing blast and recoil associated with live fire.
Don’t take my word for it, elite shooters at all levels and all disciplines dry fire religiously, and for many of them their dry “shots” will outnumber live ones in practice by a factor of 10:1 or more.
By acquiring your sights correctly, working the trigger properly and timing the break of the shot to coincide with full extension and final stabilization of the gun a shooter can develop a surprisingly high degree of shooting skill. Speed, smoothness and accuracy will all stem from dry fire- if the shooter is performing the reps correctly!
Fine manipulation of the trigger is vitally important to shooting, and with sight alignment it is the crux of marksmanship. Indeed a nasty trigger press is a major culprit of disturbing the sights. Good shooters will run their triggers in practice until pulling it correctly is as natural as breathing.
Achieving this consistent press and positive break of the trigger is sometimes frustrating, as feeling any glitches or snags occur in the trigger finger or firing grip can be difficult, even in dry fire.
Discerning an unacceptable degree of movement in the trigger press is accomplished by hard focusing on the sights. A shooter depends on correct sight alignment and stabilization of the sight picture on the target to achieve the desired hit.
When dry firing, the shooter may perceive his sight package to be good, but simply miss errors occurring while prepping or breaking the shot. Without catching these errors, progress and growth is not occurring! Only the constant repetition of good technique, typically through dry fire, with verification of progress done via live fire will see a shooter improve in any meaningful timeline.
Dry fire is also used to practice manipulation of the gun in general: acquiring the shooting grip, the draw, presentation and reloading of magazines is all handily and safely achieved with no live ammo needed.
Think about it; what is shooting, really? It is a series of precise, complex tasks with a gun in hand that must be performed precisely and, usually, quickly in order to achieve a hit.
“Shooting” is not just the ignition of a cartridge; the firing of the cartridge is only the result of pulling the trigger. It is all of the other elements of the shot that determine where the bullet will strike. Once you fire, the bullet takes care of itself.
However, there is something of a catch-22 in all of this; a shooter who is not proficient enough to be able to self-diagnose technical errors may be ingraining those very errors through dry practice, by doing what he should be-dry fire- to get better!
Even for experienced, skilled shooters dry fire will only get you so far, owing to the relative coarseness of the sights against a target. This is where the SIRT pistol comes in.
What Can the SIRT Do for You?
The SIRT pistol greatly improves the efficacy of dry fire by providing that visual feedback I mentioned earlier. One laser will be displayed on the target while the trigger is being pulled back. A second laser will be projected when the trigger breaks.
Additionally, both models’ triggers are factory calibrated to closely mirror the feel of the pistols that inspired them. It sounds so simple you’d be forgiven for blowing it off as a fancy laser pointer or dummy gun, but here’s the beauty of it:
Any errors in sight alignment, trigger manipulation, presentation and follow, and what kind of error, will be instantly visible on the target though use of a SIRT.
How? By observing the lasers’ behavior on the target as you perform your dry rep. If the take-up laser is starts off the desired POI (point of impact), you’ll know immediately your initial alignment needs work.
If the take-up laser appears as a swoosh or “comet” instead of a steady dot or short line, you’ll know there is significant movement in the gun as the trigger is being pressed. A firmer grip or improvement of the trigger press itself is in order.
Once the trigger breaks, the shot laser (which can be upgraded to a distinct green laser on for added cost) fires showing where the “shot” struck as well as any additional movement during follow-through. Remember: the shot laser illuminates at the trigger break, and so long as the trigger is held to the rear.
In sequence, the pressing of the trigger will result in 1.) a steady laser as the trigger is being pressed, then 2.) a “blip” as the trigger breaks and then another steady laser so long as the trigger is depressed to the rear. The difference between the two is readily apparent when using the green shot laser.
Most importantly, it is a simple thing to discern these lasers even when the shooter’s hard focus is on the front sight as it should be. It is this feedback that is so instructive to correcting errors and refining technique.
Unlike dry-fire alone, the SIRT pistol will show you where your shot would have struck the target. Both lasers are completely zero-able to accommodate differences in shooter preference, hold or POI vs. POA with your live pistol. The take-up laser can also be switched off to clean up visual clutter and allow emphasis on repeat shots.
In tandem with a coach or training partner, even significant flaws in presentation or trigger press can be ironed out in very little time, thanks to the infallibly obvious track of the lasers. They don’t lie.
While the slide on the SIRT pistols is fixed, the magazines as mentioned are detachable and weighted, brining balance of the device closer to parity with a live gun and allowing replacement of magazines to be practiced.
The SIRT pistol will allow a shooter to work on the all-important fundamentals of marksmanship and gun handling at home with instructive feedback far beyond dry fire, using no ammo, and with absolutely zero chance of a negligent discharge.
It can go anywhere and be used anytime for hasty or impromptu practice. It requires virtually no maintenance and, so long as your live gun is kept out of the training area, requires no unloading and sanitizing of guns or magazines before practice can begin. That’s a significant time saver, not to mention major safety perk.
The Importance of Volume and Frequency of Practice
There is not one, single skill in the world that does not require consistent practice to refine and improve. Not even tying your shoelaces! Well, perhaps it is a simple thing to master falling out of a boat, but that is no skill worth having. All kidding aside, it only takes a little common sense to see that regular practice is key to attaining high level fluency.
If you want to get better with a gun, you had better be getting in the trigger press reps. But as I mentioned above, if your reps are only performed live fire, you are missing out on opportunities to get better. Dry fire is the solution for volume of reps, but the value of each rep is equal to what you put into it.
With a SIRT pistol’s feedback, the value of each rep (that incorporates a trigger press) is greatly increased, leading to a more fruitful practice session. Combined with its ability to be used anywhere safely and quickly and you have a superb tool for improving and maintaining existing skill.
Here’s a question: is it better to shoot 200 rounds in a single session once a week, or do 20 rounds a day for 5 days in the same week? My own experience and interactions with other skilled shooters in various professions as well, as observation of students informs my opinion that a higher frequency of practice is more important than a high volume cram-session periodically. Most shooters will be better served by daily or weekly practice, including dry fire or SIRT use than a once a month burn down doing the same.
That being said, if your priority is to really buff your pistol skills, regularly getting in a good amount of reps is even better. You must be mindful of fatigue, as once your brain or body starts fading you are no longer attaining quality practice.
Treat it like lifting weights at the gym: you are striving to put the work in, but once your form starts to fall apart or you have mentally checked out, wrap it up!
Where the SIRT pistol shines for a practice regimen of this type is in its sheer accessibility for a shooter. Stop what you are doing, mentally switch gears to the task at hand (practice), pick out a target and pick up your SIRT pistol.
Now you are ready to get in some good reps. 15 minutes could see you get in dozens of sound practice repetitions or many more trigger presses alone, and make major headway with your pistol skills.
It sounds like some late night infomercial peddling workout equipment, but the SIRT pistol is completely legit as a practice tool.
Other Things the SIRT Pistol Can Do
The SIRT pistol has great utility as a training aid for newer shooters. Any reader out there who has experience formally teaching or just trying to showing a family member or friend what how all the fundamentals of marksmanship come together and translate to the POI knows what a challenge it can be.
Even using good training aids like slides, illustrations and video will not get every novice around the bend on the concept.
Using a SIRT pistol will vividly illustrate exactly the concept that any movement occurring at the gun, no matter how slight, will occur on the target proportionally increased by distance. A SIRT pistol demonstrates this concept in a snap, reinforcing the necessity of attention to detail when manipulating the gun.
A SIRT pistol functions well on its own as an inert dummy gun for completely safe demonstration of concepts in any environment that do not require manipulation of the slide, but one of its best attributes for teachers is the fact the take-up laser can be tuned to activate sooner or later in the trigger press.
It can be made more sensitive to touch you might say, and when dialed very high it will betray the presence of a wandering finger that has made its way on the trigger, the laser being visible near the muzzle and of course also wherever the pistol is pointed.
The applications for the SIRT as a teaching aid are limited only by your curriculum.
What the SIRT Pistol Can’t Do
The SIRT pistol is a tool for diagnosing problems with and improving components of the presentation and trigger press. It excels at that, and also has some utility for practicing reloads (though the slide does not move on the SIRT) but that is about all.
It can in no way help you learn to manage recoil or deal with anticipatory flinching. To be fair, that can only be accomplished with a live fire. Considering its limited operability practicing reloads from slide lock is a no-go; those too can only be performed on live gun, or a specialty, 1-to-1 function dummy gun or airsoft pistol.
Perhaps the biggest concern for a dedicated pistolero is the fact that both SIRT models only closely replicate either a fullsize Glock or M&P, both in proportion, grip angle and trigger behavior.
While either might come close to the feel of your chosen model of handgun, if you run a single-action or DA/SA hammer-fired gun you will not be getting full benefit from your reps pulling the trigger, considering how different those systems behave compared to a striker-fired pistol.
This is not necessarily a deal breaker, as there is still much value in the SIRT pistols diagnostic capability, but if you run anything but a Glock or M&P the device’s loses a little luster. It is still more than appropriate for users of most other striker-fired guns (let’s get real, most stock striker triggers are fairly close in feel and the SIRT trigger can be adjusted to approximate it) but users of hammer-fired guns will not be enjoying the full ride.
Lastly, and this is more of a cautionary note than any kind of flaw or shortcoming of the SIRT, is you must not allow yourself to focus on the target while pressing the trigger.
There are times where target focus is acceptable, but practicing for best accuracy with your iron sights is not one of them. By focusing on the target, observing the blip of the laser and then adjusting you are depriving yourself of ingraining what a perfect sight picture looks like at the moment of the break.
If you have the SIRT pistol dialed in correctly you will be able to observe both the take-up and shot lasers while correctly executing all elements of the presentation and breaking of the shot including a hard focus on your front sight. If you are hard focusing on the target, you are doing it wrong. If you want to be good, do it right!
Bottom Line Up Front
The SIRT pistol is an excellent practice tool for any serious shooter of striker-fired guns, and great training aid for teachers. Used properly, it will dramatically increase the value of dry fire practice, and does so in an intuitive, completely safe way. Highly recommended.
• Practice value exceeds dry fire alone.
• Diagnostic capability unmatched by nearly any other product.
• Totally safe; zero chance of negligent discharge compared to live gun used in practice.
• Quick and simple setup.
• Offers user many adjustments for different practice objectives and drills
• Pricey to expensive; Runs from mid-$200 range to over $400 depending on options
• Green laser upgrade is best for maximal efficiency and ease of use.
• Only closely simulates striker fired guns; hammer-gun users may not get as much value.
• Lack of cycling slide a bummer considering magazines are detachable and weighted.
The SIRT Pistol by Next Level Training is a great addition to any serious shooter’s toolbox, providing an unrivaled practice aid for skill building. While a little pricey, it is well made, simple to setup and effortless to use.
If you dry fire regularly or want to take your dry-fire regimen to the next level, consider a SIRT pistol for your next purchase.
Charles Yor is an advocate of low-profile preparation, readiness as a virtue and avoiding trouble before it starts. He has enjoyed a long career in personal security implementation throughout the lower 48 of the United States.