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Competition Dry-fire: Part 3

Dry-fire: Part 3

Part 1
Part 2

This report covers:

  • Why not to dry-fire|
  • Colt single actions
  • .22 rimfire
  • Dry-fire some
  • Feels different?
  • Testing the P1
  • Testing the P44
  • Dry-firing is boring
  • What dry-firing really does
  • Summary

Today we are going to talk about dry-firing, and what it can do for you. The Soviets had a saying in their army, “Hard on the training ground, easy on the battleground.” It meant that the things you practice are the things that come easy to you when you need them. Dry-firing is similar to that, but much more, as I hope you will see today.

Why not to dry-fire

Dry-firing has a stigma attached that gun owners have to overcome. You see, a lot of firearms must not be dry-fired for fear of breaking parts and of ruining the chamber. I’ll elaborate.

Colt single actions

The first Colt Single Action Army revolver had a very thick, heavy firing pin. If you dry-fired that gun the pin had so much mass and the metal the pin was made from was so weak that the pin often broke.

SAA hammer Gen 1
The first generation Colt single action hammer had a thick heavy firing pin.

SAA hammer gen 2
The second generation and later Colt SAA firing pins had less mass, better metalurgy and broke less often.

.22 rimfire

The .22 rimfire has a different problem. The firing pin may be long enough to hit the rim of the chamber if there isn’t a cartridge rim in its way to stop it. Keep hitting the rim of the chamber in the same place many times and a burr will occur that will cause extraction problems. I have seen quite a few older .22s with this burr.

Ruger was careful to design their 10/22 rifle so this won’t happen. I know that and still I don’t like to dry-fire any rimfire.

So dry-firing firearms has a bad rap that’s well-deserved. By extension, so do airguns. And many of them shouldn’t be dry-fired. Spring-piston guns come to mind first of all. As airgunners we know this. In fact it’s one of the first things we learn.

Dry-fire some

But some airguns and firearms are made to be dry-fired. In fact, dry-firing is a staple feature on some guns — especially if they are target guns. 

We talked about the Beeman P1 and reader Stephan pointed out that just opening the top strap without cocking the pistol sets the trigger up to be dry-fired. That’s a good thing, because cocking the P1 isn’t for sissies! You can dry-fire it all day long and never break a sweat, where cocking and firing it will have definite limits because of the cocking force that’s required.

All modern 10-meter airgun should have a dry-fire capability — at least those that are precharged, which should be almost all of them these days. The FWB 602 and 603 single-stroke pneumatic target rifles have a dry-fire capability, as well, but not the 600 and 601. That Walther LGR SSP target rifle is also devoid of a dry-fire capability, as well as many other vintage target airguns. However the Russian IZH 46 and 46M pistols and the 532 rifle (that has the same firing mechanism as the pistols, can all be dry-fired.

And all real 10-meter target pistols have a dry-fire mechanism. Even my El Cheapo Chameleon had one. My current FWB P44 certainly has one. And I use it a lot more than I fire the gun with a pellet. It saves air and pellets, of course, plus it allows you to “shoot” almost anywhere, which makes practice so easy.

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Feels different?

Some triggers feel different in the dry-fire mode than when the gun fires with a pellet. This isn’t because they are different but because of what the gun is doing when it actually fires. Take the P1 as a perfect example. It’s a recoiling spring-pistol airgun, so there is vibration and moving mass that all gets transmitted through the frame to the shooter’s hand. The trigger release, in comparison, it a tiny little click that’s even hard to hear — with my hearing aides on! Of course it will feel different. But the trigger breaks at the same pressure every time.

Testing the P1

Just for this report I tested the P1’s trigger in the dry-fire mode and while the pistol is shooting a pellet. In dry-fire the trigger broke at 1 lb. 12 oz. When the gun was cocked to the low power mode the trigger broke at 1 lb. 11.6 oz. When the gun was cocked to high power the trigger broke at 1 lb. 12.7 oz., but on this last one the gun also moved in recoil and I’m not certain that didn’t have a small affect on the gauge. There you are — essentially the same in all modes.

Testing the P44

After I wrote the 2 reports titled Get a grip I picked up my FWB P44 and started dry-firing it again. Guys — that pistol is made to be shot! What fun! It’s lighter than the P1 and its grip grabs me back. I enjoyed holding it so much that I plan on doing a report (or possibly two) on that gun, as I am getting ready to shoot the P1 offhand again. Woopie!

Dry-firing is boring

Yes, dry-firing is class-A boring! Yepper! It’s a snooze on your feet. Until…

What dry-firing really does

Wow! That’s a huge introduction for the main point of this report. If you thought dry-firing was just to get you used to the feel of the trigger, think again. There is a thousand-times more valuable benefit from dry-firing, and like all physical exercise, it takes quite a while to set in and show results.

As you practice dry-firing you start to notice the relationship of the front sight blade to both the rear sight notch and the target at the instant of firing. This happens sooner on a target gun like the P44 and later on a recoiling gun like a P1. But it does happen! It even happens on recoiling firearms! Believe it or not, I can see where my shot is going when I fire my Desert Eagle .357 Magnum, and that pistol recoils up about 50 degrees when it fires! You may think this is funny, but that Desert Eagle that weighs over 4 pounds has very little felt recoil. It’s grip is super wide and the recoil force is spread around my whole hand, so yes, the gun does bounce up, but no, I don’t feel it so much. Same, same for a 1911 Colt.

When you start to notice where the front sight is at the instant of firing, you start being able to call your shots. And they are mostly 9s and 10s at that point — at least with a target pistol they are. And that’s when your scores start to rise like a rocket. And THAT, my friends, is the real value of dry-firing. You start to notice every little thing and how to correct it when you need to. And then there comes a time when there is very little for you to correct and you are a champion pistol shooter. I reckon the same holds for rifles — I’ve just never been there.

Summary

This is stuff I have never explained before. It is one of the real secrets of becoming a better shot. I guess I knew about it but never put it into words.

author avatar
Tom Gaylord (B.B. Pelletier)
Tom Gaylord, also known as B.B. Pelletier, provides expert insights to airgunners all over the world on behalf of Pyramyd AIR. He has earned the title The Godfather of Airguns™ for his contributions to the industry, spending many years with AirForce Airguns and starting magazines dedicated to the sport such as Airgun Illustrated.

24 thoughts on “Dry-fire: Part 3”

  1. Hi everybody,

    I think this is the only real drawback of my vintage FWB LP 80 pistol. The cocking is easy for me and the weight of the pistol is probably good training for my arm strength. The accuracy is better than I will ever be.
    But it cannot be dry-fired, at least not like modern air pistols.
    I think somebody asked Feinwerkbau whether you could cock it and fire it without a pellet and they said yes. In fact that’s the only way to test the trigger weight. But I’m still not going to do that with my pistol on a regular basis because it’s loud and I’m still not sure it’s good for it.

    If I really want to practise this (which I probably should) I can still use the HW45 and HW75. They can both be dry-fired without cocking or pumping the piston.

    Stephan

    • The HW75 makes me wonder if there’s a way to use a hammer like that to fire a spring piston pistol. It’d be more mechanically complicated for sure because it would need to be the hammer that drops the sear, but the HW75 external hammer is not only the easiest to dry fire, but offers an even better trigger than the HW45 (and for my money, it’s even better than the Rekord in the HW30S)

  2. I like to practice with sproingers much as Yogi does. I may do so without cocking it. Yes, the trigger feels different. If it has a decent trigger it does not matter. Building the muscle strength, learning the muscle memory, learning follow through…

  3. BB,

    Strange that the FWB 600 and 601 SSP’s do not have dry-fire capability, my FWB 100 pistol is from the same era and it does.

    I hear you about the dry-firing phobia – I used to cringe everytime someone dry-fired a gun. LOL! Getting over that now.

    We used to spend hours practicing mounting our rifles… focus on the target (which was the actually “aiming”), shift (feet/body) into stance to address the target and raise the rifle to the shoulder. With practice, the sights would be aligned with your eye and the target (and ready to shoot) the moment the rifle butt settled on your shoulder. If you couldn’t get proper alignment it was time to modify the stock – and most people here know how much I love doing that 🙂

    Glad that you are getting enthused about your P44. The sticker-price on high-end airguns is not cheap, but I look at it as a one time investment that’s easy to cost-off over the life of the gun. The non-tangible thing about these airguns is the “smile factor” that they have – every time you pick one up, every time you shoot it, you can’t help but smile and that pleasure is worth a lot.

    Cheers!
    Hank

  4. Second Ridgerunner’s good advice; don’t forget getting into and staying in as good shape as you can. You maintain and care for your airgun and/or firearm, right? Do the same for yourself.

    As far as dry-firing a firearm, FM loads an empty case into the gun to minimize potential firing pin breaks/other damage. Granted that adds more complication and fiddling around to the dry-fire exercise, and probably works best for anal types…like FM.

  5. B.B. I recall when you did a series of reports where you tuned the HW30S, I believe, and you showed that the Rekord trigger could be set by pushing down from above with a screwdriver. Or perhaps that was a video of how to tune a Rekord trigger. In any event, my point is the trigger can be fairly easily reset when it is disconnected from the rifle.

    So I’m wondering if one of our clever blogmates could invent an add-on that would allow the owner to reset the trigger without disassembling the entire rifle and without cocking the gun. That would make any Rekord-trigger-equipped rifle a trainer.

    Not sure if it would work with other triggers.

    If not, the 4 for the price of 3 promotion still works.

  6. B.B.,

    Great blog topic today!
    “And then there comes a time when there is very little for you to correct and you are a champion pistol shooter. I reckon the same holds for rifles — I’ve just never been there.”. But even if you haven’t been there (rifles) you know it in your bones to be true. In everything I have ever done or watched others do at Champion level performance there are Progressions that get you to the next level. You seldom if ever get to that Champion level Just Doing the whole process over and over again. I can’t imagine just flying to the ship and landing on the deck without all the days of precision landings and finally FCLPs (Field Carrier Landing Practice) to prepare. As it was there still were too many casualties at the Boat!.

    shootski

  7. B.B.,
    Great report! I should have done more research “back in the day.” The guy who sold me my Ruger Mark I said NOT to dry fire it; he said the later guns had a firing pin stop, but the the Mark I did not. From all I have read online from Ruger [now], that whole series of pistols was designed with firing pin stop. Hence, I could have been dry firing my Mark I between matches. *shrugs* I guess it pays to double check what someone passes on to you as “gospel truth”…unless it is the actual Gospel truth; I’d never doubt that. 🙂
    Take care & God bless,
    dave

    • thedavemyster,

      Much of the snap cap craze evolved from misunderstanding and hysteria (and marketing hype). Make no mistake though, there are rimfire guns that will be damaged by dry firing and the diminutive North American Arms .22LRs are part of that ilk and it happens after just a few shots. Use snap caps or empties in those for sure. For that matter, there is little reason not to use them in any REVOLVER, but as you probably know, magazine fed semi-autos are a pain and in centerfire calibers they are mostly unnecessary.

      Half

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