Does dry-firing damage airguns?

by B.B. Pelletier

This post was suggested by JB, and I’m glad he did. This is a subject that really needs to be addressed. Dry-firing, of course, means shooting the gun without a pellet in it. One of our readers, CF-X guy, had inadvertently dry-fired his CF-X and was concerned that he might have done some damage. JB researched the FAQ section on Gamo’s USA website and learned that dry-firing will not harm the gun. Today, I want to do a broader look at dry-firing and consider its good and bad points.

Are there good points to dry-firing?
Certainly! In fact, a target gun will be dry-fired up to five times as much as it will be fired with live ammo. The shooter needs constant practice with the trigger, sight picture and grips to improve his scores, so all credible 10-meter airguns have a dry-fire feature for training. But a lot of other guns do, too.

The Beeman P1 can be dry-fired. All you do is lift the top and the trigger is set. The gun doesn’t actually fire, but the trigger works as if it did. On the HW 75M, you cock the hammer for dry-fire. However, a more modern gun such as the Beeman P3 has no dry-fire capability. If an airgun can be dry-fired safely, it will say so in the owner’s manual. Otherwise, proceed with caution. But here are some general observations.

There’s less chance of harming a gas or pneumatic gun than a spring gun when you dry-fire, though I still wouldn’t do it if the owner’s manual didn’t say it was okay. At the very least, you’re wasting gas or air when you do, unless the gun has a dry-fire feature.

Don’t dry-fire most springers!
Spring-piston guns are the ones most likely to be damaged by dry-firing. These guns rely on a cushion of highly compressed air to stop the piston from slamming into the end of the compression chamber. And, in one instance – the handmade Whiscombe rifles – one dry shot is all it takes to ruin the gun! The Whiscombes have two pistons coming together to generate twice the power of a normal spring-piston gun. If they don’t have that air cushion, the seals are destroyed. Whiscombes are the very worst about this, but there are other guns that dislike dry-firing, as well.

The older guns (1960- and 1970-vintage) that had poor synthetic piston seals can be ruined with one dry shot. The list also includes the following:

  • FWB 124
  • Most Walther spring-piston air rifles – especially the LGV
  • The early RWS Diana recoilless guns – both rifle and pistol (Giss system guns)
  • This is by no means a complete list! Your best guide to dry-firing is whether or not it is allowed according to the owner’s manual.

    Springers that are more forgiving
    Any spring-piston gun with leather seals is usually more tolerant of being dry-fired. The leather takes up some of the shock, and those guns generally have less power to begin with.

    Guns with modern synthetic piston seals are generally more tolerant just because those synthetics are much tougher than in the past. Guns with PTFE (Teflon) seals are extremely tolerant. The Beeman P1 is one of these, as are many of the 1980- and 1990-vintage Webley rifles. In fact, dry-firing is how the factory fits the piston seal to the compression chamber. Apparently, PTFE flows under pressure just enough to take the form of the compression chamber. I once had a P1 that dieseled a lot, until Don Walker at Beeman had me dry-fire it on full power for several shots. The problem went away, and the seal is still in there seven years later.

    Gamo is unique
    Gamo stands alone as a maker that permits dry-firing their spring-piston guns. In the early 1990s, they undertook a lengthy design study to improve the reliability of their airguns. They redesigned powerplant parts and tested guns by dry-firing them 10,000 times to see the effect on the parts. This kind of engineering deserves high praise, because it is all too rare in the world of airguns. The result is that Gamo can say their guns can be dry-fired. I still wouldn’t do it on purpose, but it’s nice to have that kind of reliability backing up your airgun.

    BB guns
    I haven’t touched on BB guns, but they’re in a class of their own. I do know that most Daisys can take some dry-firing, but most Markhams can’t (except for the Markhams made in the 1930s that were really Daisys by another name). The Daisy BB gun mechanism is different than a straightforward spring-piston powerplant. If you want to read about it, there’s a great, but short, article in the Blue Book of Airguns, Fifth edition. I would NEVER think of dry-firing my Kadet BB gun. It’s so fragile that I don’t even like to shoot it with BBs that much! The Crosman M1 Carbine and V-350/3500 seem about as tough as a Daisy, so, yeah, I’ll dry-fire them, too.

    60 Responses to “Does dry-firing damage airguns?”

    • airgundoc Says:

      B.B.,
      I find that when I am shooting an airgun with a magazine I invariably forget how many shots I’ve made and have a terminal dryfire. It doesn’t seem to have done any damage so far and they are all CO2 guns. From our statement about pneumatics I am assuming I probably am not going to have a problem?
      CWI

    • JB Says:

      BB,
      Thanks for the Post!!

      What about the IZH-46 match pistol? I’m considering one, would dry firing hurt? The Manual posted on Pyramid says “do not shoot a airpistol without a lead pellet”. That seems like a generic warning. Is there a way to dry fire? I think one of your previous posts indicated you have experience with the IZH-46.

      My Daisy 777 manual says dry-firing is acceptable. Thanks in advance!

      JB

    • B.B. Pelletier Says:

      JB,

      Yes, there is a dry-fire capability on the IZH 46. What you do is manually lift the loading cover until the trigger sets itself. When the gun is charged in the normal way, the linkage does this automatically, but when you do it manually no air gets introduced into the compression chamber.

      And I recommend the magnum version of the gun. It’s about 50 f.p.s. faster, and the targets punch a little cleaner. Currently it looks like the only version Pyramyd stocks.

      B.B.

    • Anonymous Says:

      BB,

      Aside from your general advice to follow the users manual, do you have any experience or advice for dry-firing pneumatic Benjamin-Sheridan 392/397 rifles or pistols? I don’t see any comment about it in my 392 manual.

      Thanks!

    • B.B. Pelletier Says:

      Well, I’ve cretainly done it, and I don’t think it hurts anything. It would be best if the gun had a couple of pumps in it, so the valve pin doesn’t bounce off its seat.

      When I think of dry-firing, I’m thinking of 700 shots a week with a 10-meter pistol. I don’t practice with other guns the way I do my pistol, so I may only take a few dry shots with them. Is that what you had in mind?

      B.B.

    • Anonymous Says:

      BB,

      So glad to hear Gamo guns could be dry fired without damage!

      Naturally, after recieving mine in the mail the last thing I did was read the manual. First thing I did was try to figure out the rotating breech (CFX).

      I cocked it and…ohhh, that’s how it works. Naturally left with it cocked, I immediatly pointed down and pulled trigger!

      Thanks Gamo for thinking of me in advance!

      dsw

    • Anonymous Says:

      BB,I want to warn people about what happenned to me last month.I shot my air rifle with the barrel opened and it closed real fast and I lost 2 fingers.Please be carefull because now im paying the price.

      Adam Gonzalez

    • Anonymous Says:

      Hi BB,

      Responding to your question, “Is that what you had in mind?” r.e. dry-firing the B-S 392.

      Yes, you answered it. It was asking about the occasional 2-3 dry-fires when you need to be sure the breech is clear, or you forgot how many pumps you gave and want to store it with the “correct” number.

      Referring to dry-firing, you said, “It would be best if the gun had a couple of pumps in it, so the valve pin doesn’t bounce off its seat.” Are you talking as opposed to 1 pump or 8 pumps? What exactly makes the valve pin bounce off its seat?

      Thanks,
      Will

    • B.B. Pelletier Says:

      Will,

      Yes, that amount of dry-firing should not hurt your Benjamin in the slightest.

      What I meant about the number of pumps was this – if the hammer falls on an empty reservoir, it drives the valve pin down as far as it will go with the maximum force it can develop. The valve pin stops moving when the valve seat contacts its opposite member. If there is no resistance (provided by compressed air) the valve seat will bounce against (the valve seat stop which is not too good. Not immediately damaging but over time not too good.

      If you have one or two pumps in the reservoir, the force with which the pin is driven down is greatly cushioned by the air pressure.

      B.B.

    • Anonymous Says:

      i have a spring Cometa air rifle which seems to me to be a quite sturdy air rifle and i accidently, because i was night shooting, missed the safety, pulled the trigger while the barrel was still in the down position and it closed real fast and snapped shut jarring the gun a lot and sounding awfull. Anyway i have fired it since and i hope that all it did was knacker the zero on my scope, do any of u think that i might have damaged it in any way by doing this …although it seems ok

    • B.B. Pelletier Says:

      Cometa,

      What you did usually bends the barrel at the base block. It can be straightened by a knowledgeable person if it is bent.

      You also need to check your stock mounting screws, as this mishap often cracks a stock at the screw holes or pulls the screws through the screw holes.

      As for the scope, if it’s a good airgun scope it’s probably fine.

      B.B.

    • Anonymous Says:

      thanx for the reply , looks fine the barrel is very thick and wouldnt bend easily , the screws are ok too and the guns stock is fine , i think this is probably because it is camoflauged composite instead of wood, i was lucky but a warning dont put your fingers near it lol…. i reckon it would easily take em off if they were caught doing this…

    • Newbie Monk Says:

      I actually was just on the phone with Gamo customer service regarding an issue with a refurbished shadow 1000, and they told me they test fire all refubed guns with pellets. So of course this thing about being able to dry fire thier guns popped into my head. I mentioned what the FAQ page says and asked about the truth behind it. He told me they don’t recomend it beyond one or two times because of the potential damage it can do to the gun. So I hope that one little missguiding sentence on thier FAQ page hasn’t led a bunch of Gamo gun owners down the road to dry fire damage. I just figured I had to share the info I was just given. Thanks for all the great blogs, I have bow become addicted to them

    • JP Says:

      BB,

      You state that the P3 cannot be dry fired, yet the product description for the P3 on the PyramidAir site clearly says otherwise.

      Can you clarify, as I just ordered one.

      -jp

    • B.B. Pelletier Says:

      jp,

      I just checked mine. There is a provision for dry-firing after all. You pull the top of the pistol up almost halfway and a loud click tells you the trigger is set. Then close the pistol, release the safety and you can dry-fire.

      Some air does get into the compression chamber when this is done, so you will hear a small pop when the pistol fires. I was thrown off by the amount the topstrap has to be raised to set the trigger. On the other Beeman/ Weihrauch pistols, the trigger sets the moment the topstrap is released.

      Sorry for the error.

      B.B.

    • JP Says:

      No problem. Thanks for confirming; good to know!

      -jp

    • Anonymous Says:

      hey bb pelletier

      ive dry fired my gamo shadow 1000 maybe 4 times. do you think this has done so much damage that the accuracy of the gun is affected? thanks.

    • B.B. Pelletier Says:

      Dry-fire,

      According to Gamo (at various times) their rifles can be dry-fired. At any rate, dry-firing does absolutely NOTHING to accuracy. It only affects the powerplant. Accuracy lives in the barrel and isn’t affected by the powerplant very much.

      B.B.

    • Anonymous Says:

      ok thats good to hear. do you think that four times would damage the powerplant to the point where it could slow the velocity of the pellets?

    • B.B. Pelletier Says:

      No,

      I don’t.

      B.B.

    • Colonel Cash Says:

      Hello- I inadvertantly dry fired my .22 RWS 350. It doesn’t appear to have suffered any damage, it seems to still shoot just as good. Could there be damage that isn’t yet apparent? What should I look for? Thanks for your blog! Great Info!

    • B.B. Pelletier Says:

      Colonel Cash,

      You don’t want to do that very often.

      Look for a sudden drop in velocity, hard cocking or a cocking effort that gets hard at one point in the pump stroke. You are feeling for a broken mainspring or spring guide. The piston seal could be smashed, too.

      But if the rifle keeps shooting well, just shoot it.

      B.B.

    • Anonymous Says:

      I accidentally dry-fired my Gamo Varmint Hunter Rifle ONCE, you think it coulda suffered some damage that affected the powerplant/fps?

    • B.B. Pelletier Says:

      Some spring-piston rifles are more forgiving of a dry-fire than others. The Gamo is one of them. Your gun should be fine.

      B.B.

    • Cory Says:

      Hey there,

      I was a royal idiot and accidentally dry-fired my Quest 1000x pretty much as soon as I had it out of the box. Obviously, I’m much more careful with it now, but there doesn’t seem to be any damage; the gun seemed to break-in as it should have, and there is no noticeable cocking “stickiness.” As for velocity, I have no idea, since I don’t own or have access to a chrono. Is it worth disassembling the gun to check for visible signs of damage? Should I be concerned? I understand the Quest 1000 series is a knock-off of a knock-off (or something like that) of an old Gamo rifle, so fingers crossed here!

      Thank you very much, and I love the blog!

    • B.B. Pelletier Says:

      Cory,

      I doubt you have hurt your gun. I wouldn’t even think about it, if I were you. Just keep on shooting.

      B.B.

    • Cory Says:

      B.B.,

      Good to hear! I appreciate your input : )

      Thanks!

    • Anonymous Says:

      I have read MANY of your blogs in my growing thirst for airgun knowledge and just wanted to say thanks (even though didn’t ask a question;) for replying to ALL the questions people do post…especially (in this post) when it seems people are asking the same question over and over again about dry firing….I went from knowing nothing to a still newb but decent understanding about airguns, who knew there was so much to this hobby.

    • Jay Says:

      will dryfiring a Crosman Pro77 c02 bb gun damage it?

    • B.B. Pelletier Says:

      Jay,

      If you dry-fire it without gas it should be okay. If you use gas there might be damage to the seals.

      If you are talking about just pulling the trigger thousands of times just to feel the action, I wouldn’t do it. These guns are not firearms and they are not made to last as long. You will be wearing out the internal mechanism without getting any benefit.

      B.B.

    • Anonymous Says:

      Hello!

      Thanks B.B. for all of your work in the blog!!!

      So, this also means that a Gamo rifle can use any light pellets (<7g) without damaging the gun, right?

      (yes, I know that there is no point in using such a light pellet…)

      An Whisper X owner…

    • B.B. Pelletier Says:

      Whisper X,

      Yes, I believe a Gamo rifle can safely fire a pellet that weighs less than 7 grains. However, due to the power of the Hunter Extreme, it would be the one rifle I wouldn’t do that with.

      B.B.

    • Anonymous Says:

      Thanks for the reply ;)

      A Whisper X owner…

    • Doug Says:

      B.B.,

      I purchased an IZH-61 a couple of years ago. I’ve had dozens of dry fires and the manual states it shouldn’t be dry fired. It was very accurate initially, but now I have to shoot about 2 inches down and to the right to hit the bull and I’ve adjusted the sights as far as they’ll go. I’ve tried different ammo to no avail. Is this an indication of damage caused by dry firing? Any advice would be appreciated.

      Thank you

    • B.B. Pelletier Says:

      Doug,

      Dry-firing affects power, not accuracy or aim point. If you have been using Crosman pellets I think your barrel is leaded and needs to be cleaned. Clean with a brass brush and JB Bore Cleaning Compound.

      The best way to clean an IZH 61 barrel is to remove it and then clean it.

      Will you please ask how to remove the barrel on the current blog (Monday)? The owner’s manual has a schematic, if you are handy.

      B.B.

    • Doug Says:

      Ah ha! It was right after I finished shooting a tin of Crossman pellets and swithed to another brand that I noticed the accuracy problem. I will clean the barrel as suggested. Thank you very much.

    • ZeChico Says:

      About dry-fire in Gamo rifles,

      In costumer service, FAQ, Rifle, Mechanism…

      In gamousa.com:
      Q.: Can the GAMO rifles be dry fired?
      A.: No, spring piston air rifles should not be dry fired. Gamo engineers have done extensive testing to determine the damage caused by dry firing and as a result have increased the strength and durability in the power plant to better handle harsh punishment. Dry firing can still damage the system and is not recommended.

      In gamo.com (international):
      Q.: Can the GAMO rifles be dry fired?
      A.: Yes. The GAMO rifles can be dry fired.

      Funny, I guess in gamousa they changed their statment about dry-fire just to protect them self in any case…

      ZeChico, an Whisper X owner…

    • B.B. Pelletier Says:

      ZeChico,

      Thank you for that revealing look at Gamo’s website.

      Websites grow and are often overlooked. As the years pass and opinions change, new information that contradicts the old gets posted and you end up with what you have found.

      I don’t have the time to chase these things down, so I simply disregard any internet information until it is confirmed by a reliable source.

      B.B.

    • ZeChico Says:

      I’m glad to help.

      Regards.

    • John Says:

      I bought my son a RWS 34 .22 cal. One of his friends shot a .177 cal pellet out of it. From what they said it made a much louder than normal noise when it fired. I am concerned that this potentially damaged the gun similar to dry firing – or even worse. Would you recommend that I have it check out?

    • B.B. Pelletier Says:

      John,

      What they heard was a detonation from the dry-fire. It probably didn’t harm the rifle.

      Shoot several correct pellets and if they shoot okay your rifle is all right.

      I have done this to one of my guns and the same thing happened. Just don’t make a habit of it.

      B.B.

    • Michael Says:

      Dear BB,

      If you have accidentally dry-fired your spring powered gun couldn't you remove the stock from the gun, and look at the bottom of the spring-piston assemble where the mainspring is visible and check it for damage or would you be missing part of the spring?

    • B.B. Pelletier Says:

      Michael,

      You would miss most of what you need to physically examine. The best diagnostic is to keep shooting and notice whether anything changes in the firing behavior.

      B.B.

    • Snooker Says:

      Mr. air rifle guy, I dry fired my RWS 52 on accident when the pellet slipped out of the receiver and i continued the firing procedure. Some smoke came out of the barrel (probably burnt off chamber oil)and when i opened the breech some smoke came out also. The velocity doesnt seem to be lost(it still shoots through 1/4 inch ply wood at 25 yds.) and shows no signs or sounds of a broken mechanism. What should i do. Should i put any chamber oil in the air chamber because alot was burnt off? What are the seals made of? can they withstand a dry fire?

    • Vince Says:

      Snooker, first let me suggest coming over to the most recent blog: http://www.pyramydair.com/blog.

      If the gun seems OK, don't worry about it. An occasional dry-fire shouldn't hurt a good gun like the '52. Just don't make a habit out of it.

      The seals is made out of a synthetic material. Some are nylon, not sure what the OEM Diana seals are made from.

    • B.B. Pelletier Says:

      Snooker,

      Vince is right. The seals in your gun are the toughest on the market. Just continue to shoot the gun normally and don't even bother with the chamber oil.

      B.B.

    • richardxmagnum Says:

      I once loaded my RWS 52 22 cal then pulled the trigger and it was very loud like a dry fire.I dumped the remaining pellets from the tin which was almost empty and found a 177 pellet mixed in with the 22s.Apparently two pellets out of the 175 tin were 177s and I shot one.They were Crosman El cheapos and were packaged like this from the factory .Beware.

    • FRED Says:

      rXM,

      you have posted your comment on a 4 year old blog. Not many folks still monitor these other than a core of volunteers, of which I am one. To gain greater exposure to your comments or questions, you should post on the most current blog. The blogs are published Monday through Friday and can be found here:

      http://www.pyramydair.com/blog

      Off-topic comments and questions are welcome. Hope to see you there.

      Fred PRoNJ

    • Shayne Says:

      Whats up guys!

      I just got my very first air rifle, the Stoeger X5 and was so excited that I dry fired it 3 times as I took it out of the box. This was before reading the user manual naturally and I have a growing concern for damage I may have caused to the gun. The seal still seems to be intact but how will I know if the gun is shooting at its rated velocity? do you think any serious damage could have happened after 3 dry fires? Thanks for your input!

    • Anonymous Says:

      Shane,

      Just keep shooting your gun. Today's air rifles are more robust than those of the past.

      Your rifle will tell you whether there has been damage by how it functions. Make no assumptions and just shoot it.

      B.B.

    • paul Says:

      i accidentally dry fired my crosman quest 1000x, is this a tolerant gun for dry fire.

    • B.B. Pelletier Says:

      Paul,

      Yes, your gun can tolerate a single mistake like that.

      B.B.

    • Mike Johansen Says:

      Hey B.B

      Today after cleaning my Benjamin Trail NP 1100 XL, I accidentally dry fired it once. After the dry fire, I fired another shot and it seemed to be fine. Can one dry fire in these modern airguns damage the gun?

      Thanks

    • Vince Says:

      It should be fine. I believe the gas spring guns are less likely to get damaged.

      Not that long ago Gamo used to state that their spring-air rifles could be dry-fired safely. More recently they've backed off that claim, probably some guns had been dry-fired a LOT and got damaged.

      But once in a while shouldn't be an issue.

      BTW – http://airgun-academy.pyramydair.com/blog/ is the most recent blog. Stop by sometime…

    • Anonymous Says:

      I've recently just accidently dry fired my remington vantage 1200 spring piston rifle. It was only once, do you think any damage was done to the gun?

    • B.B. Pelletier Says:

      We all make mistakes. Your gun is probably okay. Just don't make a habit of it.

      B.B.

    • Anonymous Says:

      I accidentally dry fired my Beeman Grizzly X2 after about 10 shots with .177…I was wondering if I could have damaged anything in response to this please answer..thanks

    • B.B. Pelletier Says:

      We all dry-fire our spring guns a time or two. Sometimes the pellet falls out as we close the barrel and sometimes we just forget.

      Just keep shooting your rifle. It's probably fine. Very few modern spring rifles are destroyed by a single dry-fire.

      And join us at the current blog, where you can always ask any shooting questions:

      http://airgun-academy.pyramydair.com/blog/

      B.B.

    • Jon Kim Says:

      Hey, Tom I just bought a remington vantage np. It is a gas ram breakbarrel. One of my friends dry fired it once. Is my air rifle broken?

    • B.B. Pelletier Says:

      Jon,

      I seriously doubt it. But the only way to know for sure is to test it and see how it does. I hope you own a chronograph. If not, I hope you have some standardized method of testing your airguns for power. If not, you are doomed to wonder.

      B.B.

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