Friday, January 21, 2011

Dry Firing

Dry firing is a time tested and valid method for practicing trigger control on all sorts of firearms.  It has been done for years and many firearms have "survived" thousands or perhaps millions of cycles.  To do so safely one must be absolutely certain that the gun is unloaded and that it is pointed in a safe direction.  Keep the "Four Rules" uppermost in your mind when conducting dry fire practice.
The Four Rules

1. All guns are always loaded.
2. Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy.
3. Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target.
4. Be sure of your target and what is behind it.

I don't care to snap old double shotguns or rimfires (the Ruger Single-Six is an exception to the rule).  Older guns have a combination of a design that might not have taken dry firing into consideration and might have been fabricated from metals which don't take kindly to the shock of dry firing.  Some have parts which are more than merely hard to find.  Rimfires are often so designed that the firing pin strikes the chamber when dry firing and either or both the firing pin and chamber can be deformed by the firing pin striking the chamber directly rather than being cushioned by a cartridge rim.  After all these years I have come to prefer a snap cap as it takes the place, with some certainty, of a live cartridge and might provide some cushion for the firing pin in the guns I shoot.

This is the place to note that Ruger revolvers are particularly hardy platforms for dry firing. However, Ruger specifically says that one must remove that little plastic ring they ship with the revolvers before doing so.

The one more shot syndrome can affect anyone. This is when somebody who has been dry firing ends the session, reloads the firearm and then, in a moment of mental lapse takes just "one more shot" and fires a live round.  People have shot TVs and other people in doing this.  I've come so close that I'm still a bit upset about it many years later, however...

The Army (and I presume other services) use dry-firing with other people in the line of fire as a standard marksmanship training tool. ANYONE who has been in the Army has done this at least once. So far as I can tell this was started at least back when the 1903 was the issue rifle and has been used with 1903, 1903A3, M1, M14 and M16 series rifles. The big caveat here is that the Army strictly controls availability of ammunition and one is constantly clearing weapons. I know that when I conducted this training I personally checked every weapon in use.

The first is the Target Box and Paddle Exercise. This exercise incorporates the soldier's position and breathing while aiming at a target 25 meters away, simulating a live fire 25-meter engagement. This exercise reinforces the basic fundamentals while refining the soldier's muscle memory during the integrated act of dry firing. This exercise specifically focuses on the soldier's position, breathing and sight picture. Please note that dry-firing doesn't necessarily actually occur. I have seen instructors use the sound of the falling hammer as a cue to mark the "bullet" strike.

The second is the Dime and Washer Exercise. This exercise incorporates the soldier's position; breathing and trigger squeeze at a target 25 meters away, simulating a live fire 25-meter engagement. The soldier must successfully dry-fire his weapon six consecutive times without the washer falling to the ground. This exercise specifically focuses on all four of the soldier's fundamentals. This training is almost always conducted in a classroom or barracks area and not on the range.

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