In 2020, gun owners developed a strong desire to practice shooting at home. That’s because the gun industry had a record-setting year for gun and ammo sales as many gun buyers responded to the Coronavirus pandemic, social unrest, and political dissent. Demand, especially for ammunition, continued to outpace supply at the beginning of 2021.
Now, shooters want to learn how to practice shooting at home because it either costs too much for ammo or they just can’t find it. In this article, you’ll learn ways to practice and sharpen your shooting skills without live rounds.
Shooting is a sensorial experience. You hear the bang, feel the recoil, see the muzzle flash, and smell burnt gunpowder. Some people shoot for that experience alone. It’s a thrill like driving a fast car. Others do it because they enjoy the challenge of controlling a small explosion and hitting their mark. A skilled shooter aims to master the mechanical movements of operation.
Great marksmanship requires perfecting a series of basic movements. These include standing, gripping, drawing, aiming, breathing, and pulling the trigger. Adding ammo into the mix will reveal if you’re doing it correctly, but it will also exaggerate mistakes when you do them incorrectly.
No ammo? You’re not the only one.
Believe it or not, you can do a lot of the hard work off the range. You don’t need live ammo at all to refine the movements to shoot a gun. Instead, you develop muscle memory through practice and repetition while going through the motions.
What this all boils down to is a term called “dry fire.” Dry fire training – or dry firing, dry shooting, dry practice – means you follow all the steps necessary to shoot a gun without live ammo. And it’s a way you can practice shooting at home.
While shooting practice can improve technique, traditionally, dry firing has two downsides. First, you have to recharge your gun for every follow-up shot. And second, you can’t see progress until you get back on the range. This guide will highlight products that rectify one or both of those issues.
A-Zoom Snap Caps for 9mm firearms.
Snap caps, or dummy rounds, are the most basic dry fire tool. They protect firing components in rimfire firearms, revolvers, and some older models. When you load them into a magazine, they add weight like live rounds. You can also create malfunction drills like double feeds and then practice remedial action. However, snap caps won’t enhance target practice at home, but we’ll return to this later.
A dry fire mag simulates trigger reset. The advantage to using it is you can rapid-fire or engage multiple targets without re-cocking the gun when you practice shooting at home. While the dry fire mag simulates trigger reset, it doesn’t actually reset the trigger.
The way it works is you insert the magazine into your pistol with the trigger cocked. Next, you pull the trigger so it breaks. Afterward, the de-cocked trigger will press against the magazine. There’s a tab inside the magazine that presses against a spring, which engages the trigger so it feels like the trigger is cocked.
Depending on the brand, the dry fire magazine will contain certain additional features. For example, the DryFireMag makes an audible clicking noise and you can adjust spring tension to increase or decrease trigger pull weight. Another one is the DAA Dry-Fire Practice Magazine. It has a weighted body so it feels like a loaded mag.
In short, a dry fire magazine will enhance the overall dry fire experience. A single mag costs around $100.
Training with a Laser Ammo electronic training target and 9mm laser cartridge.
A laser cartridge shoots out a laser beam so you can see the point of impact during dry fire practice. The cartridge is designed to lodge inside the chamber so it won’t extract when you recock your gun. The big advantage to laser target practice is you can see where you hit the target. A single cartridge ranges in price from $60 to a little more than $100.
While you can use a dry fire laser cartridge to shoot at whatever target you have, most laser cartridge manufacturers produce targets as well. These laser targets tend to be reactive in some way. They also tend to be on the expensive side at $200 to $300, but they offer some training benefits.
LaserLyte offers a pistol cartridge that will fit .380- to .45-caliber pistols, a rifle cartridge fitted for .223 or 5.56mm, and a universal cartridge that will work with .380- to .45-caliber revolvers. LaserLyte offers a handful of targets for training or fun, including RumbleTyme, which vibrates and spins when you shoot it.
G-Sight offers pistol cartridges, but each one is sized for a specific caliber. These include standard sizes from .380 to .45. They also offer cartridges for .45 Long Colt and Makarov pistols. G-Sight sells basic paper targets, but for training purposes, they offer a free training app that includes drills and records shot placement.
A LaserLyte Laser Cartridge for 9mm handguns. It shoots laser beams.
Laser Ammo offers standard pistol, revolver, and AR cartridges, but they also have adapter kits, so you can re-calibrate the cartridge. They offer Glock-specific cartridges that vibrate as well.
Additionally, they offer both interactive and training targets with a host of functionality. For example, the Laser PET system records time and shots and also allows you to swap out the actual target to simulate different ranges. However, the systems will not work with non-Laser Ammo cartridges.
A dry training fire system usually includes a device that you mount to your firearm and software that you need to download on a smartphone or computer. The system is programmed to collect and record several data points like shot placement, muzzle movement, shot time, etc. And then it will also help you analyze and interpret the results so you can improve your technique during target practice at home.
Mantis X is a smart sensor that attaches to a Picatinny rail and collects data points on your shots. You can then review the data for patterns using an app on a smartphone. The device was originally designed for live fire practice, but the company says its software has been updated for dry fire training. Also, Mantis X offers laser cartridges and kits that pair with the device.
The Mantis X3 shooting performance system.
iTarget is a training kit that requires a smartphone. An iTarget kit comes with a target, a sled for your phone, and a laser cartridge. For it to work, you need to mount your phone in the sled, aim the camera at the target, load the laser cartridge in your pistol, and then point and shoot.
iDryfire is a scaled-down version of iMarksman, software designed for law enforcement and military applications. However, iDryfire offers target and scenario-based training as well. An iDryfire kit includes the software, a camera, and a training cartridge. It will work with any PC.
LaserHIT is a training kit that functions using a smartphone but allows you to also pair with your TV, so you can see hits on target in real-time. A LaserHIT kit comes with a training cartridge, phone stand and tripod, and a wireless TV adapter.
Laser training guns range from very realistic to something more akin to a dummy gun. They operate like real firearms in that they have a trigger and sights, but they aren’t firearms. They were built specifically for dry fire. They shoot out a laser beam and are typically compatible with other laser training targets. It’s just another way to do laser target practice.
The purpose of a dry fire laser training gun is to significantly reduce the stakes of gun handling during target shooting or scenario-based training. There’s absolutely no risk of an accidental or negligent discharge. Despite that fact, you still treat it as if it were real and exercise gun safety.
A Smart Firearm Training Devices designed to replicate a Smith & Wesson M&P pistol.
The Shot Indicating Resetting Trigger (SIRT) Trainer Pistols by Next Level Training have the look and feel of a real pistol sans the recoil, slide lock, and noise. The trigger resets, a laser beams out with every shot, and the magazine is removable.
There are multiple SIRT guns. They’re designed to replicate popular duty weapons and even some rifles, but red paint on key components indicates that they’re trainers. The price starts at $240.
Smart Firearm Training Devices
Not to be confused with “smart guns,” which is completely a different topic, Smart Firearm Training Devices are trainers that replicate popular duty weapons, but they look like dummy guns. Some are yellow, some are blue, and others are black with an orange tip.
On Smart Firearm Training Devices, the trigger resets, a laser beams out, and they have a removable magazine. Additionally, they make a gunshot noise when you pull the trigger and they’re equipped with warning sensors to flag safety issues like a finger lingering inside the trigger guard. The price starts at $240.
LaserLyte training pistols have the weight and trigger pull of a real gun, but they’re available in three generic designs: a full-size Glock, a compact Glock, and a Smith & Wesson revolver. The price starts at $135.
Most airsoft guns replicate the looks of the firearm they’re designed after. Their controls are also very similar. Therefore, you can simulate all the movements of operating an actual firearm like racking the slide, inserting and removing magazines, pulling the trigger, and some of them actually recoil.
An Umarex pistol designed to replicate a Glock 19 Gen 3. The airsoft gun cycles using a CO2 cartridge.
Airsoft guns shoot plastic pellets or BBs, and they shouldn’t be confused with air guns, which generally shoot a metal projectile that can be deadly. An airsoft gun is powered in one of three ways: spring, gas, or electric.
- Spring-powered are the most common types of airsoft guns. They’re inexpensive, usually made of plastic, and usually have to be cocked by hand.
- Gas-powered are loaded with some kind of gas cylinder (compressed air, CO2, propane, etc), so they’re semi-auto and actually have recoil.
- Electric-powered air guns generally shoot full-automatic, which won’t help you develop fundamental marksmanship skills.
While airsoft guns are easy to dismiss as toys, more and more shooters are giving them a serious look as a training tool. Plus, they require exercising the same technique, so they’re effective for shooting practice and target practice. Traditionally, gun manufacturers licensed other companies to make replicas of their guns, but recently major gun manufacturers like Sig Sauer have started producing airsoft guns on their own.
Snap caps won’t necessarily improve dry fire training, but they can improve your live-fire training. That is whenever you can finally get back on the range. It’s called “The Snap Cap Drill.”
Beth Alcazar, an editor for USCCA magazine, explains the snap cap drill is essentially mixing snap caps in with live ammunition when you’re loading magazines. The idea is this: a snap cap represents a malfunction, so in response, you’re supposed to either take remedial action or change the magazine.
“The dummy round is one of your best friends, really, because you can use it for a lot of different things,” she said, but the most important thing, she added, is you can use snap caps as a “diagnosis tool.”
“We are naturally fighting what our body wants to do (when shooting). Physically and mentally, we’re fighting these things. We have this reaction … when that gun is moving and we are shooting, sometimes we have the natural reaction of bringing that gun down,” Alcazar said.
The key thing to look for during snap cap drills is flinching. If you are flinching during shooting practice, and it’s ruining your shots, you should condition yourself to remove or ignore that feeling of anticipation.
As you can see, there are a lot of training tools available that allow you to practice shooting at home. Just to reiterate, this article covered the following products:
- Snap Caps
- Dry Fire Mags
- Laser Cartridges
- Dry Fire Training Systems
- Laser Trainers
- Airsoft Guns
What are some of the tools you use for dry shooting? Tell us in the comments below.
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Daniel Terrill has written about the gun industry and shooting world for more than a decade. He learned about guns in the Marine Corps and more about gear during his time as a police officer. His work has appeared in a variety of publications.
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When dry fired, the firing pin on centerfire rifles and some semiautomatic weapons travels until it hits the end of the channel. This over-traveling can cause the pin to hit the frame with tremendous force, causing damage to the striker. If the firing pin is brittle, it's just a matter of time before it breaks.Will dry firing hurt my rifle? ›
Dry fire does not pose any real risk of damage to most modern centerfire firearms; however, it can for rimfire weapons, where the firing pin in most designs will impact the breech face if the weapon is dry-fired.Is it OK to dry fire a hammer fired pistol? ›
It won't hurt modern firearms and is a great way to improve everything about your shooting as long as you a practicing good form and trigger control. Antique firearms (over about 75 years old) will sometimes have very hard brittle firing pins and need the primer to cushion the blow of the hammer or they may break.Is it OK to dry fire a Springfield Hellcat? ›
NOTE: Extensive dry firing can accelerate component wear/stress. Use snap caps if dry firing on a regular basis. WARNING: When you squeeze the trigger, you must expect the firearm to fire . You must take full responsibility for firing it .Is dry firing Glock OK? ›
Can I dry fire my GLOCK pistol? It's ok to dry fire your GLOCK pistol, but we recommend using a snap cap or dummy round if you will be dry firing for a long period of time.Will dry firing hurt my AR 15? ›
Yes, provided the gun is fully and properly assembled (for example, dry firing it without an upper and bolt in place will break the receiver eventually, as the hammer smacks the thin aluminum wall of the receiver).Can a bullet go off without a gun? ›
For example, if you drop your cartridge near a steel object and it lands at the perfect angle with enough force, the bullet could go off. When there's enough force, the impact on the primer would mimic the impact of a firing pin after the trigger of a gun is pulled.Should you dry fire a gun before storage? ›
Don't dry fire. The rim of the cartridge contains the primer material. The hammer or firing pin has a ridge which compresses the rim in a small spot to ignite the primer.Does dry firing hurt a rimfire? ›
Why You Shouldn't Dry Fire A Rimfire Gun. Modern centerfire guns are totally fine, but the one class of firearm you should never dry fire is any rimfire gun, be it a rifle or pistol. Due to rimfire firearm design, dry firing can easily damage the gun.Can you dry fire a hammer? ›
According to them, dry firing is perfectly fine on all of their modern centerfire firearms for clearing the weapon, dropping the hammer/striker or just trying out the trigger.
Q: Can I dry fire my Smith & Wesson? A: Yes, except for the . 22 caliber pistols which includes models 22A, 22S, 422, 2206, 2214, 2213 and 41.Do you have to rack a hammer fired pistol? ›
The most well-known hammer-fired pistol is the 1911. To fire this type of semi-automatic pistol, the hammer must be cocked, or locked in the rear position. Once the loaded magazine is inserted into the gun, the slide must be racked to the rear and allowed to slam closed. This cocks or locks the hammer to the rear.Is it bad to dry fire a .22 pistol? ›
It is bad to dry fire a rimfire . 22 because firing it without a round in the chamber the firing pin will hit the chamber and will most likely break or damage the firing pin. Unlike with centerfire(9mm) but it is still a good idea to be using snap caps when doing multiple dry fires even for centerfire firearms.Is dry firing a splatter ball gun bad? ›
It's recommended that you avoid dry firing it because of the firing pin damaging the edge chamber, making it difficult or impossible to load a round for firing. Certain types of rimfire guns (like most . 22LRs) can damage the firing pin/chamber by dry firing.Is Springfield Hellcat +P rated? ›
Along with its small size and advanced features the Hellcat delivers rugged durability. The +P rated pistol features a hammer forged steel barrel and billet machined slide, both featuring Melonite™ coating.Will a Glock fire without a magazine? ›
A cartridge in the chamber will discharge when the trigger is pulled, whether or not a magazine is in your GLOCK pistol. Therefore, never leave your GLOCK pistol unattended, even when the magazine is removed.Does Glock trigger reset after dry fire? ›
Meaning, when the slide cycles to the rear, the trigger is reset, just like all other handguns with this action. When you dry fire a Glock, the slide doesn't automatically cycle. A dead trigger that has not reset is what's left. After each trigger press, you must manually reset the trigger.Is it OK to dry fire a AR 10? ›
Is dry fire practice safe for your rifle? Dry firing a centerfire rifle is actually perfectly safe for the gun. But excessively dry-firing a rimfire type rifle is not good for the gun.Does dry firing damage a Ruger? ›
Short answer: no. Centerfire handguns are fine. Dry firing them will not cause damage because when the firing pin lands it doesn't strike anything. There has been questions about if dry firing a rimfire will cause damage to the firing pin.How long can bullets stay in a gun? ›
It's recommended that you don't store ammo in a magazine for more than six months. When a bullet is in a magazine, it's more at risk of humidity and oxygen, both of which are damaging to a bullet. They can usually last in most moderate climates for 3-6 months, but it's best not to risk anything longer than that.
Ammunition doesn't “expire” per se, but the gunpowder looses potency over time. The largest risk to shooting old ammunition isn't a failure to fire, it's the risk that you will actually fire the shot and it doesn't have enough momentum to make it out the barrel.Do bullets ricochet off concrete? ›
Bullets are more likely to ricochet off flat, hard surfaces such as concrete, rock or steel, but a ricochet can occur from irregular surfaces within heterogeneous materials including soil and vegetation.Is it OK to keep gun magazines loaded? ›
When using quality magazines with quality ammunition, stored and maintained properly, you can leave them loaded as long as you want to without any reservation.Should you store guns up or down? ›
Storing firearms in closed gun cases or scabbards isn't recommended because moisture can accumulate. Store guns horizontally, or with the muzzle pointing down. When guns are stored upright, gravity pulls gun oil downward into the action, which forms a sticky film. Oil also can drain onto the stock, softening the wood.Should I oil my gun before storage? ›
A very thin layer of oil in the barrel of a gun is especially helpful if you plan to store your firearms for a long period of time. Also, it can help neutralize any solvents left in the barrel after cleaning.Why use snap caps? ›
A snap cap is used to ensure that dry-firing firearms of certain designs does not cause stress and impact damage to the firing pin and/or the barrel breech. Some snap caps contain a false primer that is either spring-buffered, made of rubber or soft polymer, or none at all.Why are rimfire less powerful? ›
The rim of the rimfire cartridge is very much like an extended, widened percussion cap – which contains the priming compound. Because of this design, rimfire ammunition is inherently less reliable than centerfire ammunition.Is it safe to dry fire a 10 22? ›
100% safe to dry fire a 10/22. From the manual: The rifle can be “dry fired” for practice as long as it is empty and pointed in a safe direction. The 10/22 has a pin in the bolt that prevents the firing pin from going too far forward to touch the breech face.Can I dry fire a revolver? ›
Double-action revolvers also make great dry-fire guns. Revolvers require a slightly different grip, but they are still excellent for practicing a smooth trigger press over and over. The longer, harder and grittier the trigger, the better.Can you dry fire an open bolt? ›
Short answer: yes. In detail: to dry fire a weapon means to fire one without a round in the chamber. Dry-firing an open bolt weapon is possible provided that the weapon has no last round catch, or of it has one, that the magazine is not inserted.
I mentioned that the S&W M&P is "drop-safe." The vast majority of modern handguns have this "safety," which prevents inertia from driving the firing pin or striker forward and slamming it into the primer. This helps prevent accidental discharges if the gun is dropped.Is it OK to dry fire a .38 revolver? ›
Dry firing a center-fire semi-auto or revolver is entirely safe. The firing pin does not strike anything, so it is not in danger of damage.Why do people like hammer-fired pistols? ›
The hammer-fired fans have as many reasons for their preference as there are options. The single-action fans have the short trigger stroke that can be adjusted to an even lighter pull weight than the striker-fired pistols, if desired, and a short trigger reset.Can a striker fired gun go off without pulling the trigger? ›
Modern firearms, even replicas of antique guns, have safeties specifically designed to prevent them from firing without the trigger being pulled. It only really happens when the gun's firing mechanism is damaged, or there is a significant design flaw.Is it safe to carry a striker fired pistol with a round in the chamber? ›
The basic design of almost every popular self-defense firearm made today is what makes them also inherently safe for carry with one in the chamber. Almost without exception they are equipped with redundant active and passive safeties that keep them from firing unless the trigger is deliberately pulled to the rear.Can you over dry a gun safe? ›
It is so important to make sure that the temperature in your gun safe is just right. You probably already know that it should not be too humid, but did you also know that it should not be too dry? If it gets too dry, this means that your guns and rifles can become too dry and then develop possible corrosion.Can I dry fire a Nerf gun? ›
Most Nerf guns have air restrictors to prevent any damage to the piston from occurring if you dryfire them. Because this gun does not have that air restrictor, combined with the powerful spring and large piston, if you repeatedly dryfire it, you will break it.What is a orbee blaster? ›
Orbeez guns are toys that use hydrated water gel balls as their projectiles for shooting. They are also sometimes called soft gel guns or gel ball blasters.How long does splatter ball gun ammo need to soak? ›
Soak the gel ball in water for at least 2 hours to maximize its size. Small gels can expand to 10 times their size. A 1-gallon bucket is ideal for hydrating a pack of 10,000 gels. Overnight soaking is recommended.Is Springfield Hellcat better than Glock? ›
The Hellcat is smaller, and more feature-filled, and packs 11 rounds. The Glock 43 packs six rounds, and that's it. The Glock 43 comes with two six-round magazines, and the Hellcat comes with an 11 and 13 round magazine. This gives the Hellcat nearly 50% more ammo in a flush-fitting magazine.
Overpressure ammunition, commonly designated as +P or +P+, is small arms ammunition that has been loaded to produce a higher internal pressure when fired than is standard for ammunition of its caliber (see internal ballistics), but less than the pressures generated by a proof round.Can you pocket carry a Springfield Hellcat? ›
And that's a shame, because the Hellcat is perfectly sized to be carried in a pocket. The 3-inch barrel translates into an overall length of just 6 inches, with a height of just 4 inches with the flush-fit magazine.Is it bad to dry fire a 12 gauge shotgun? ›
Dry firing them will not cause damage because when the firing pin lands it doesn't strike anything. There has been questions about if dry firing a rimfire will cause damage to the firing pin. Firing pins are made of hardened steel. While it will resist deforming that comes at the cost of brittleness.Is it safe to dry fire a Remington 870? ›
Yes. All modern fiearms are generally safe to dry fire.Is dry firing a semi auto shotgun bad? ›
If there is no case in the chamber, the firing pin will strike the edge of the breech face, potentially leaving marks or signs of damage. Repeated dry-firing may render the gun unsafe to fire. Some rimfire guns, such as the Ruger 10/22, may feature a safety device such as a firing pin stop pin.Does it hurt shotgun shells to get wet? ›
Firearms and ammunition are not intended to be subjected to total immersion in water. They are very susceptible to moisture damage, especially metal parts that will sustain rust when moisture is left untreated.What happens if you burn a shotgun shell? ›
The bullet, when heated, will explode, and pieces of the casing—often referred to as shrapnel—will scatter in all directions. In the same scenario, if there is a loaded gun in the nightstand during a house fire, the risk increases because there is a potential for a directed force of the bullet out of the gun chamber.What temperature do you smoke shotgun shells? ›
With your smoker preheated to 275 degrees F, place the shotgun shells on the grill grates of the smoker. Close the lid and smoke for around 1 1/2 hours or until the sausage reaches 170-175 degrees F. Once the smoked shotgun shells reach their target temperature, remove them from the grill. Baste.Does pumping a shotgun fire it? ›
Simply hold the trigger down and work the pump. The weapon will fire as long as the gun has ammunition and the trigger is held down.What is the fire range of a Remington 870? ›
The Remington 870 has an effective range of about 40 m, and a maximum range of 50m for shot and 70-80m for slugs.
It is bad to dry fire a rimfire . 22 because firing it without a round in the chamber the firing pin will hit the chamber and will most likely break or damage the firing pin. Unlike with centerfire(9mm) but it is still a good idea to be using snap caps when doing multiple dry fires even for centerfire firearms.Will a Remington 870 slam fire? ›
no. There is, like most pump shotguns, a disconnector. That said, if there was damage or something, you could force a slam fire. That is why you always point in a safe direction when you chamber a round… with pretty much any gun.Can you bump fire a semi auto shotgun? ›
Bump fire (or bump firing) is a technique used with a semi-automatic firearm to replicate full-automatic fire.Can guns be too dry? ›
It is so important to make sure that the temperature in your gun safe is just right. You probably already know that it should not be too humid, but did you also know that it should not be too dry? If it gets too dry, this means that your guns and rifles can become too dry and then develop possible corrosion.Should you oil the inside of a shotgun barrel? ›
A very thin layer of oil in the barrel of a gun is especially helpful if you plan to store your firearms for a long period of time. Also, it can help neutralize any solvents left in the barrel after cleaning.What happens if you soak a bullet in water? ›
Well, if your ammunition — common consumer/sporting ammunition — gets submerged in water for a minute or less, don't worry about it. However, after somewhere between 60 seconds and 24 hours of submersion, you can start to expect to potentially see deterioration in performance.Do you oil the inside of a shotgun barrel? ›
Do not lubricate the bore using gun oil! For long term storage only, the bore can be treated with a heavier lubricant such as Barricade (or equivalent). This must be removed by cleaning the barrel prior to shooting the firearm! Clean the exterior of the barrel, barrel hood, barrel lug, and the feed ramp.