Dry-Firing Facts

| Winning Edge |

The firearms section of Scheels usually carries a staggering array of .22 rimfire cartridges. It was a shock to see shelves virtually empty. A couple boxes of .22 Shorts sitting lonely and unwanted somehow made the shelves seem even emptier. Over at the Sportsman’s Loft, where local enthusiasts gather to talk guns (and sometimes even buy) the story was the same. There were a few boxes of .22-shot cartridges on otherwise empty shelves, looking as pathetic as the last kid picked for a schoolyard ball game (I could identify).

I get the demand for modern sporting rifles and high-capacity magazines due to the threat of restrictive legislation. I can see the need for .223 and 9mm ammunition to feed those rifles and magazines. But this .22 rimfire business has me puzzled. As far as I know none of the proposed regulations would restrict .22 rimfire ammunition, nor is it in demand by the military or government agencies. Manufacturers haven’t forgotten how to make ammunition, nor am I aware of critical shortages of components. I understand some people believe .22s will be the medium of exchange in a post-apocalyptic world; for example, trading a couple of bricks to your physician in return for an emergency appendectomy.

In the 1930s the two local doctors in the farming community where my grandparents lived took a lot of their pay in the form of garden produce, sacks of potatoes, quarters of beef and pork, dressed poultry and eggs. One doctor reminisced he made little money in those years, but he never had to worry about feeding his family. Maybe a marketable skill is more important than stockpiles of canned beans? I imagine saying to a neighbor, “How about I write you 1,000 words on 9mm vs. .45 in exchange for a slab of bacon and a dozen eggs?”

“Let me think. Naw. The hog pen needs cleaning though.”

I got these Triple K snap caps from Brownells years ago. The red color helps prevents
mix-ups with ammunition and the spring–loaded “primer” cushions the firing pin blow.

A couple of handguns I don’t dry-fire at all, even with snap caps. The Colt target
model (left) and S&W K22 were made in the 1930s. I’d rather not risk breaking an original component.

Training Without Ammo

The ammo shortage is another argument supporting the need for dry-fire as a part of your training routine. Even when ammo is plentiful, dry-fire costs less. I’ve done the math on this, trust me. Dry-fire provides benefits live-fire can’t. There’s no recoil or report to cause flinching or blinking, so you can develop skills without feeding these two bad habits. With no recoil to mask gun movement, and with your non-blinking eyes open, you’ll see if you are causing the gun to move during the trigger release.

Dry-fire involves two elements of risk, though. One is the risk of a negligent discharge. Before dry-firing clear the gun, clear it again, and clear it a third time. If possible have another competent person repeat the process. There should be no ammunition available in the vicinity, or even in the same room. When dry-firing, always point the muzzle at something which would positively contain a live round — a concrete basement wall, a heavy steel gun safe, body armor, a gun case with a bullet-resistant panel. You get the drift.

The constant warnings we read have left us at least partially immune to safety warnings. When I say have a positive backstop, I suspect some may think it’s just “Don’t use your new toaster in the shower” boilerplate. Not so. If you really don’t have a secure backstop at home, do your dry fire at the range.

To get the most from the trigger pull on this Nighthawk T3 it
has to be actually used, not a few times but thousands.

Some Caveats

The second element is possible damage to the gun. As a kid I broke the firing pin of Dad’s single-shot 20 gauge. One of my match 1911s was dry-fired so many times the firing pin stop broke across the hole for the firing pin. Amazingly enough, after the bottom part of the stop dropped out, the top part was enough to retain the pin and keep the gun functioning.

On the same pistol the middle leaf of the 3-leaf spring broke off, tying up the gun until the assembly could be replaced. This was after a lot of dry-fire. By actual count, the pistol fired over 50,000 rounds, and in those days I probably dry-fired five or 10 times for every live round, so it was a combination of both I suppose.

It’s best is to go by manufacturers’ recommendations. Some makers of rimfire handguns say it’s safe to dry-fire their current models. There are some guns I don’t dry-fire at all, such as guns for which parts and service might not be available. Others I won’t dry-fire without snap caps. Break-type shotguns, rimfires, collectibles and the like should use snap caps. Actually snap caps are always a good idea. Brownells has them available for popular handgun cartridges at very reasonable prices. If there’s a snap cap loaded then no live ammo can be loaded.

For centerfires, I like the Triple K deluxe caps. The spring-loaded “primer” cushions the firing pin blow while the red color differentiates them from ammunition. I see the current online Brownells catalog has rimfire snap caps under the brand name Carlson. A sixpack costs less than six bucks.

For more info: www.americanhandgunner.com/brownells, (800) 741-0015

By Dave Anderson

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