One of the most frequent topics a beginner is likely to hear about is dry firing firearms.
However, the information regarding dry firing can be confusing; you may have heard some swear by it as an essential training and practice tool, while others warn against the damage it can do to your firearm.
Learn what dry firing is, whether it is safe for your guns, and why it may be worth considering.
What is Dry firing?
Dry firing is the act of pulling the trigger and firing when the chamber is empty. The hammer will fall, but the gun will not fire. You will hear a click instead of a bang.
Dry firing allows a shooter to simulate nearly every aspect of handling a firearm (grip, stance, trigger control, sight alignment, reloading exercises) without using ammunition. Many shooters consider it a valuable, if not essential tool, for training or practicing shooting.
Is Dry firing Bad?
Experienced shooters often recommend beginners start with dry fire practice instead of using live ammunition. However, it is critical to understand that not all firearms can be dry fired.
Depending on your firearm’s age, type, and condition, dry firing drills range from functionally harmless to potentially damaging. Fortunately, there are relatively easy ways to determine whether it is safe to dry fire your gun.
Virtually all firearms produced since the mid-19th century fall into one of two categories. They either accept rimfire ammunition or centerfire ammunition. The differences between rimfire and centerfire are important to understand when dry firing.
Rimfire ammunition uses a rim that protrudes from the base of a casing. The purpose of the rim is to house the priming compound.
Rimfire guns possess a firing pin designed to strike the edge of a cartridge’s rim, which ignites the priming compound and starts the chemical chain reaction that sends the bullet down the barrel.
When pulling the trigger on an empty chamber, such as when dry firing, the firing pin will not strike the edge of a rim, as there is no chambered cartridge to strike. Instead, it continues traveling and hits the side of the chamber, which can leave an indentation.
Repeated firing pin strikes may damage the chamber or firing pin to the point of rendering the gun unsafe to shoot.
Centerfire ammunition uses a percussion primer inserted into a central recess inside the base of a casing.
The firing pin of a centerfire gun is designed to strike a cartridge primer, igniting the priming compound it contains and starting the chain reaction that sends a bullet down the barrel.
When dry firing a centerfire firearm, the firing pin or the striker will simply protrude out of its channel, hitting no element of the chamber. In theory, this makes dry firing a centerfire gun much safer.
Minute differences in the design of a specific firearm may introduce safety concerns. For example, older gun designs may use firing pins made of softer or more brittle materials, which can break under stress. It is also recommended not to dry fire a noticeably used or well-worn firearm, regardless of the age or design.
How to Make Dry firing Safe
Although dry firing is generally safe with centerfire guns and not recommended with rimfire guns, there is a way to make it 100% safe with any firearm. This is to use snap caps.
A snap cap is an accessory designed to resemble a firearm cartridge but lacking a primer, gunpowder, or a projectile, making them functionally inert.
Each type of snap cap matches the exact dimensions of a specific caliber (e.g., 9x19mm snap caps fit perfectly in 9x19mm firearms). It allows your gun to load, chamber, and extract.
The purpose of a snap cap is to provide the firing pin with a surface to strike safely, preventing any damage to your firearm. Snap caps can employ a wide range of materials: plastic, aluminum, rubber, or the same cartridge brass as live ammo.
Although it is generally safe to dry fire with a centerfire gun, snap caps are available in a wide range of rimfire and centerfire cartridges. Their purpose is to eliminate any potential doubt you might have about the safety of dry firing a specific firearm.
Dry fire Training Exercises
Most gun owners occasionally dry fire when manipulating or cleaning their firearms (e.g., field-stripping a pistol). However, many professionals and enthusiasts deliberately dry fire their weapons repeatedly for training and practice.
Dry fire training lets you practice multiple aspects of shooting and handling without having to load and fire live ammunition. There are numerous kinds of dry fire exercises you can try, each focusing on different aspects of shooting and handling. Here are three of the most valuable drills you can try at home.
Freestyle dry fire is the easiest and cheapest drill to practice. The objective is to practice aiming at a small and distant object and pulling the trigger.
With proper sight and trigger control, your sights should not come off the target when the trigger breaks. The smaller the object you aim at, the higher this exercise’s difficulty.
You can augment this drill by using a laser snap cap, transforming this simple exercise into one of the best laser dry fire training systems possible. When pulling the trigger, the laser snap cap projects a laser dot from the center of your barrel, letting you see where your barrel is pointing with near-perfect accuracy.
Dime balance drill
The dime balance drill is one of the most well-known dry fire training drills. U.S. Army and Marine Corps veterans may recognize this drill as a variant of the Dime/Washer Exercise.
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The basic concept of the dime balance drill is to place a dime, washer, or another similar disc-shaped object onto your firearm, then try aiming and pulling the trigger without causing it to fall. The objective is to reinforce two of the fundamentals of marksmanship; trigger control and sight alignment.
How to place the dime:
Pistols: On top of the slide
Revolvers: On the top strap (For added difficulty, try putting it on the front sight instead if possible)
Rifles: Insert a wooden dowel or cleaning rod into the barrel and balance a dime on it
Concealed carry drill
With a concealed carry handgun and an appropriate holster, you can integrate multiple exercises in one. Practice dry fire practice, drawing from concealment, and transitioning from holster to target.
The concealed carry drill is simple; start in a standing position with your gun holstered and hidden by your cover garment, with your hands at your side. From this starting position, your objective is to complete the following steps as quickly as possible:
• With your non-dominant hand, clear your cover garment
• With your dominant hand, reach and grip your handgun
• Draw your handgun out of the holster
• Transition to a two-handed grip
• Present the gun on target
• Pull the trigger
You can increase the drill’s difficulty by changing your starting position (sitting, prone, with your hands busy, etc.)
Safe and Responsible Concealed Carrying With We The People Holsters
At We The People Holsters, we believe in the three tenets of responsible gun ownership: Safety training, regular practice, and quality equipment. Shop our selection of hand-crafted, 100% American-made holsters, magazine carriers, and gun belts.
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