In tradition, the practice of dry firing was taboo, a cardinal sin. However, in every function test of a military firearm – dry firing is part of the function test.
So is it a myth passed down by generations, or based upon fact?
I would like to settle this argument with logic and science …
The answer, to make this article shorter, is it depends on the firearm. Most modern firearms are not damaged, unless performed thousands of times over and over when dry firing.
Gunsmiths usually have a set of dummy rounds [snap caps] in various calibers in order to test firearms by dry firing; mostly out of respect for customers prized possessions.
One thing is for sure and leading experts will tell you: rimfire rifles and pistols should not be dry fired and if required in testing mechanisms without live ammo, the dummy round is used.
Jeff Johnson wrote an article back in July of 2011 that scientifically examined the argument. He tested two rimfire firearms: a Henry pump-action .22 rifle and a Browning Buck Mark II .22 pistol. Note that both fire rimfire ammunition. He dry fired each 1,000 times and concluded:
In comparison photos of before-and-after 1,000 dry-fires of the Henry's chamber, slight marring of the breechface/barrel sleeve (where the firing pin strikes when dry-fired) was evident. The Browning's chamber showed no marring from the firing pin, but showed slight wear from the extractor repeatedly striking the rim of the extractor slot. Neither gun's firing pin exhibited visible damage. Indentations on fired cartridges from both guns were identical before and after dry-firing, indicating no functional damage. The Henry had two misfires out of 500 shots before dry-firing, and one misfire out of 500 shots after dry-firing. The Browning had no misfires before or after dry-firing; thus, I conclude no functional damage was incurred on either gun after dry-firing 1,000 times. However, because slight wear was identified after 1,000 dry-fires on both guns, it can be assumed that more dry-fires would cause additional wear that could eventually hamper functionality.
Manufacturers provide instructions concerning dry firing …
- Ruger states that dry-firing their rimfire 10/22 rifles will not damage it.
- Henry Repeating Arms state the same – dry-fire all you want.
- Smith & Wesson states that their rimfire firearms should not be dry-fired.
- Browning states that dry-firing will not damage firing pins or chambers of its newer firearms.
Stronghold Firearm Training website:
Dry firing is a very good way of practicing trigger control. Don't buy into the old mythe that dry firing damages guns. I have been dry firing consistently for years and tons of competition shooters do it. If you still are uncomfortable with it go spend $10 and pick up some snap caps for a piece of mind.
Dummy rounds or snap caps are used by gunsmiths because they can safely check firearms to ensure that semi-autos feed properly as well as checking to see if the cartridge will bind. The cartridges are weighted and balanced so it will feed and operate like a live round, but adds a safety feature to ensure no accidents occur. They are not cheap however, running from $7 to $16 for a pack of five. A pack of 308 Winchester snap caps in a package of two will run you about $10. They are brightly colored, usually red, in order to clearly show they are inert ammunition. The larger caliber rifle rounds are generally more expensive and less rounds in packs.
If you attend a gun show, always perform firearm courtesy by first asking the owner permission to examine their firearm(s) and when checking the actions, manually release the trigger without dry firing. The reason is courtesy, not the fact that a firearm should not be dry-fired. This is especially in the case of collector firearms because older firearms usually have more brittle firing pins than modern firearms, such as the CZ-52. And antique Smith & Wesson firearms. Indeed, this is how the tradition of dry-firing becoming taboo.
Using snap caps not only helps one check feeding actions, but provides peace of mind when worried about wearing out parts prematurely.
Snap caps are also used for firearm training, concealed carry and draw, and other such training procedures as a safety feature. They are the same weight and dimensions of live ammunition, same reason gunsmiths use them to check feeding and action functions without the danger of live ammo.