Dry firing is the practice of "firing" a firearm without ammunition or practicing the manipulation of a firearm with an inert training platform such as a SIRT, Laserlyte, or LaserAmmo training firearm. If done incorrectly, dry firing may be mechanically damaging to some firearms – especially rimfire weapons, where the firing pin in most designs will impact the breech face if the weapon is dry-fired. Because of this, precautions (such as the use of snap caps) need to be taken if such a weapon is to be deliberately dry-fired.
There are many benefits to dry firing. Learning is faster and can be safer with dry fire. It's easier to practice without developing a flinch. Dry fire allows shooters to practice in locations where they couldn't practice with live ammo. You can practice grip, drawing, sight alignment, trigger control, reloads, malfunctions, and more during dry fire practice. The technique allows people to conduct a safe, economical form of training to improve their shooting skills. An emphasis is placed on safety to prevent an accidental discharge. Training should be conducted in an area with no ammunition and with a suitable backstop.
In recent years, a number of companies have developed methods of enhancing dry fire practice to improve skills. Products that fire a laser, as opposed to a solid projectile, have become increasingly popular. These include chamber inserts available for various caliber firearms, as well as dedicated training pistols or replacement AR-15 bolt carrier groups. There are also a number of target systems for these laser dry fire training aides, that are becoming more affordable and popular. These products help people get more from dry fire practice by providing feedback on shot placement and times, and make dry fire a more enjoyable experience. In addition, there are training aids such as training cards that provide shooters a variety of drills to do that will help them develop skills that will carry over to live fire.
It is generally acceptable to dry fire more modern centerfire firearms without a cartridge or snap cap for limited volume training. Older designs such as the CZ 52 and Colt Single Action Army are exceptions. However, dry firing a rimfire firearm, striker based firearms or guns with angled firing pins (such as revolvers with hammer-mounted firing pins or older shotguns) can damage the gun. Furthermore, damage can occur to the chamber mouth of a rimfire firearm. Ultimately, one should check with the manufacturer of the gun to ascertain if it is safe to dry fire, but you should use a snap cap for all high volume dry fire training where the firing pin articulates.
Dry firing in archery, also known as "dry loosing", refers to the releasing of a drawn bow without an arrow. This practice should be avoided as much as possible, because without the mass of the arrow to absorb the elastic energy released, the energy is instead dissipated through vibration of the bowstring and the bow limbs, and can do significant structural damage to the bow itself. Compound bows are particularly susceptible to damage due to high tension and numerous moving parts. Dry firing a modern high-poundage compound bow even once may cause a combination of cracked limbs, bent axles, string derailment, cam warpage, string/cable failure, cable slide failure, and can even cause the bow to shatter. While some bows can survive a dry fire with no apparent damage, typically manufacturers do not warrant their bows for dry firing, and any bow that has been dry fired needs to be thoroughly inspected for damage before shooting again. In particular, the limbs need to be inspected for cracking around cam axles and the opening of the slot where the cams or pulleys fit in (since they tend to tilt sideways during a dry fire).
Crossbows, with their high draw weights, are even more likely to be damaged by dry firing.
The term dry firing is most likely derived from the similar phrase "dry run (testing)", which is a rehearsal or testing process and in the case of the firearm, one is "testing" the trigger action and observing the hammer or striker drop, without using live ammunition. Sources indicate that "dry" originates from exhibitions by late-19th-century fire departments in the United States, where drills (runs) were conducted for public viewing without the use of water (dry).
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