Dry fire is to shooters what hitting the heavy bag is to boxers. Ammo is expensive and live fire requires going to a range. Dry fire requires a safe direction and distraction free environment only. I find that the really high end competition shooters tend to either be very high round count guys, shooting tens of thousands of rounds a year, or extreme dry fire guys, who still shoot a lot, but not nearly as much since the bulk of their training is done dry. The younger shooters tend to be more into dry fire, perhaps due to ammo costs and other constraints. Whatever the case, the best shooters out there will agree that dry fire is absolutely imperative.
Now, there is no getting around the fact that you must do live fire training fairly regularly to gain and maintain a high level of shooting ability. However, if you only live fire, even if you do so very often, you will never see your full potential without dry fire training. The primary things that only live fire can do is verify your accuracy, obviously, teach sight tracking, and it also teaches you recoil management. Being able to control the gun efficiently is a huge part of shooting handgun and you need to burn ammo to really learn this and maintain this skill. Most else, however, dry fire will effectively hone.
I try to dry fire at minimum 3 days a week. I spend on average about 15-20 minutes. So we are not talking about a huge time commitment here but this combined total of an hour or so a week will do more to enhance your handgun skills than hitting the range and burning a couple hundred rounds each weekend yet doing no dry fire, I guarantee that. The fact remains that, no matter how many times you may do it, a gun firing in front of your face is a rather unnatural event for a human. Even good shooters deal with overcoming a flinch reaction. Dry fire allows you to enhance and really break down the mechanics of your technique without the recoil and report of the gun. You will be able to diagnose issues that you would not notice in live fire.
Dry fire is a cost effective and time effective way to get in the repetitions of gun handling. There are no shortcuts here, to be a good shooter you need to invest time and effort into doing the reps. Correct reps. When I dry fire I usually do a significant amount of work on my draw stroke (only from concealment as that is the only way I carry a gun). I also do specific accuracy drills. I aim at small targets on the wall to simulate distant targets and I work specifically on pressing the trigger as to not disturb the sight picture. I also do a significant amount of trigger-reset exercises in which I press the trigger, run the slide manually, and then practice re-setting and prepping the trigger. I will do this slowly and rapidly. I do single-hand practice in each session as well, dominant and support hand. I typically work on reloads as well in most dry fire sessions, as well as malfunction clearance.
So there is a brief overview of what I do for dry fire. Spend 15-20 minutes three days a week or more if you can and you will make big improvements. Be sure you are doing correct reps, as practicing poor technique is setting you back rather than moving you forward. As a final note, when dry firing be sure the gun is unloaded, no live ammo in the room during the dry fire, and be sure you are always pointed at a safe backstop. Train only in a distraction-free environment as well. Don’t watch re-runs of Baywatch during dry fire. Carry on.