Dry-firing can be useful if done correctly – and with right gun

There are a lot of misconceptions out there as far as the do’s and don’ts of firearms manipulation.
Dry-firing has to be the most misunderstood, but I’m going to jump right over that one and get into my pet peeve: dropping the slide of an auto loading pistol onto an empty chamber.
Every time I see it done I cringe!
This may seem harmless but it most definitely is not.
When an autoloader feeds a round up the feed ramp and into the chamber, the slide is decelerated immensely and the hard metal-to-metal contact is mitigated.
Almost all cartridges designed for semi-automatic handguns headspace on the case mouth so the cartridge case acts as a buffer as well. When the slide is released with no cartridge to feed it just SLAMS together full force, metal-to-metal. This can and does damage guns.
The two pistols it is hardest on, in my experience, are 1911s and Beretta 92s, both of which are favorite pistols of mine.
I have seen many of these pistols (and others) that have been so battered that the slide runs forward on the frame and the two parts no longer match up at the rear.
Rarely is the damage enough to make the firearm inoperable, but it is unsightly and sure doesn’t do anything for the resale value.
I did have a Daewoo 9 mm pistol in a few years ago that had been destroyed by this practice. The slide was so far forward on the frame that the disconnector (the part that makes your firearm semi-auto instead of unstoppable full-auto) could no longer function and the pistol wouldn’t fire.
Glocks and most other polymer framed pistols don’t seem to be bothered by it but I believe it’s still best to refrain from it. Just ease the slide down when empty, but “let fly” when actually loading a round.
Now I’ll wade into the fight over dry-firing.
First off, dry-firing means operating the trigger mechanism without any cartridges in the firearm. If you mess up and think you are dry-firing and have left a round in the chamber, I would call that a wet-fire.
If you ever have it happen you’ll find out how apt that moniker is. Don’t do it!
If you choose to participate in dry-firing, get all of the ammunition completely away from you – another room is a good place for it.
Dry-firing can be excellent practice and is a tool used by about every accomplished shooter, you just need to be extra careful.
Probably surprisingly to many is that most firearms can be dry fired with virtually no chance of damage occurring.
There are two groups of guns however that are almost universally not suitable: rimfires (.17s and .22s) and shotguns. However, for two completely different reasons.
For rimfires, the clue is right in the name.
The firing pin on a rimfire firearm pinches the rim of the cartridge between it and the chamber of the barrel. So if you dry-fire one it will hammer the end of the barrel every time and eventually ding and dent the chamber bad enough to cause serious damage and malfunctions.
One exception is Ruger. They wisely designed their rimfires to stop short of hitting the chamber, a very wise move. However, I just had a Ruger Mark II in my shop that did ding up the chamber mouth from dry firing, so beware.
The shotgun’s problem is that the firing pins tend to be long and thin and/or brittle. Both characteristics make for guns that don’t hold-up to dry-firing.
There is a risk to the practice with any gun, but centerfire pistols and revolvers are the most often dry-fired and the most tolerant of it.
I did have a Smith & Wesson revolver with a hammer-mounted firing pin have the tip break off and fly across the room. This is very rare but also something to be aware of.
Of course, firing pins break while actually being fired as well so it can happen anytime, not just while dry-firing.
If you have an older handgun, or one that is hard to find replacement parts for, you might want to think twice about it.
There is a device called a snap cap that lets you dry-fire without damage to your firearm. These snap caps cushion the blow with a soft material,  or spring-loaded device, in place of a primer so that your firing pin doesn’t come to a sudden steel-to-steel halt as happens with out them.
A fired case can also be used, but this is kind of worrisome as you are loading a case that is almost identical to a loaded round.
A fired primer also will only take so many hits before it is so beat up it’s useless as a snap cap.
Others have filled a fired case’s primer pocket with pencil erasers and silicone etc. but these homade versions rarely work well or for very long.
Dry-firing is a usefull practice if done correctly and safely and with the current cost of ammunition, may be the only choice for practice for many.

– Jeff Hutchins writes occasionally about firearms-related topics for The New Era. He operates Rangemaster Gunworks at 1144 Tangent St. in Lebanon.