Some old debates (slide slam / dry fire)


September 5, 2009, 07:49 PM
Ahh, the old dry fire / slide slam debates came alive again today after I visited a local gun shop!

For as long as I've been around firearms (25+ years) there has been some serious debate on these issues, with some people claiming that you can't dry fire weapons without damaging them, and still others stating that you will damage weapons by letting the slide fly home on an empty chamber.

Back when I was growing up, dry firing was spoken of as the ultimate gun store counter sin, and the obvious mark of a newbie. Some of these folks also expressed similar distaste towards the practice of releasing the slide stop/release and letting the gun's slide go forward on an empty chamber.

Today I was visiting a local gun store, and was looking at a few pistols/rifles. As is common courtesy (at least in my mind), I asked the shop employee if I could dry-fire the guns before I did so. The employee consented on the pistols, and requested that I didn't do so on the center-fire rifle. He also commented that the most damaging thing you could do to a pistol is let the slide slam forward on an empty chamber.

Here's my take on these issues:

1) Dry-firing is perfectly acceptable in most modern centerfire pistols, shotguns, and rifles. There may be some exceptions to this rule, but I'm not aware of any that I can personally name at the moment. The guns in question today were Glocks, Sigs, Springfield XD's, 1911's, and a Remington 700 bolt-action rifle. I don't believe that dry-firing harms any of these firearms (though I'll always respect the wishes of the shop where I'm visiting).

For my part of it, I dry-fire my Glocks on a daily basis as a routine part of my pistol practice. Dry-firing is a very useful way to train when you aren't shooting live, and can help you overcome many problems that could otherwise develop in your shooting. I've dry fired my duty weapon thousands of times, and have live fired it probably 7,000+ rounds. No problems here.

Moreover, the 1911 crowd that I regularly shoot with lives by dry-firing as well. Some of these guys are masters class USPSA shooters, and dry fire thousands of times per week. No harm to their guns.

2) Slide slam issues are another area where I think the concerns are a bit overblown, at least when it comes to Glocks, Springfield XD's, etc. I am not quite as familiar with the 1911's, which was the gun in question in this instance. The shop employee mentioned that you would do damage to the sear, and thereby ruin your trigger in the gun.

While I don't know enough about the 1911 system to confirm or deny this statement, I have seen this practice performed on enough 1911's that it leads me to believe that this is probably more of a myth than a fact. In fact, one of the 1911 shooters that I often compete with has an STI 1911 in which the slide stop has been intentionally disabled for competition purposes. This is an IPSC limited class gun, and the person who uses it is a masters class shooter who probably puts thousands of rounds per month through the gun.

Because the slide stop has been disabled, this firearm will naturally drop the slide on an empty chamber every time he runs a magazine dry. In my personal experience, I've yet to shoot a 1911 that has had a better trigger job than this one! So, that experience leads me to believe that this concern may also be a myth for the 1911 (at least with an STI race gun).

For my part of it, I've never concerned myself with gently handling the slide on my Glocks either. These are duty weapons to me, and they were built for combat. I could be wrong, but I believe that the forces involved in firing 7,000+ live rounds through the gun would far exceed the potentially damaging force that could occur by letting the slide move freely forward on an empty chamber! My gun has seen years of duty use, with lots of practice time. It still performs flawlessly.

Naturally, I'm sure that there are plenty of documentable exceptions to this rule, and I'm sure that we could produce examples of guns in which damage could occur through these practices (old revolvers, .22 rimfire chamberings, etc). But, I'm not inclined to buy into these rumors for the guns I've listed, at least not without further proof.

What is YOUR opinion? And, can you provide any evidence to support or refute the opinions I've stated?

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September 5, 2009, 07:54 PM
Seeing how I don't have a Delicate High Dollar 1911 to worry about, I don't worry about
the slide going home to an empty chamber.

The day I have to start worrying about that, is the day I sell the gun.

Ragnar Danneskjold
September 5, 2009, 08:26 PM
I dry-fire my centerfire pistols all the time, though I do try not to let the slide come forward at full speed on an empty chamber. I am actually training myself to stop using the slide-stop as a release button for the slide at all, since doing so uses fine motor skills which are the first to go in a stressful situation. I am starting to use the "grasp the slide and release" method which is less delicate and thus more likely to be accomplished under stress.

September 5, 2009, 09:26 PM
Coloradokevin, in your example regarding the IPSC pistol with a disabled slide stop you need to understand that when he fires the last round from the magazine and the slide returns forward his finger is still holding the trigger to the rear. That holds the sear away from the hammer hooks and no damage will result. This is completely different from dropping the slide on an empty chamber with the trigger in the forward position. Actually most of the damage from dropping the slide on an empty chamber has more to do with the effect it has on the barrel's lower locking lug. When the slide is picking up a round from the magazine while traveling forward it is slowed down significantly by the round being pushed up the feed ramp and slipping into the extractor groove. The resulting speed and force developed when it goes into battery is very different in these two scenarios. I have IPSC guns that have had the slide stop disabled and the reason I will not drop the slide empty is because of what it can do to the barrel fit. Any possible damage to the sear is not a big deal to me because I can easily redo the trigger job. If the barrel's locking sufaces become damaged I'm am then looking at a new barrel. The oft repeated myth concerning "fine motor skill loss" is one of the most ridiculous things I have ever heard. If your motor skills fall apart so badly that you can't find and trip the slide stop I don't believe you're going to be able acquire a sight picture and press the trigger and hit a target. I would love to meet the person who started the "fine motor skill" myth. They obviously were not a skilled gunhandler to believe that.

September 5, 2009, 09:38 PM
A Ruger employee who posts on another forum claimed that their research (using high-speed/slow motion photography) showed that forward slide velocity was HIGHER during normal shooting than when you drop the slide on an empty chamber.

According to their findings the slide actually bounced off the frame and rebounded forward giving it added velocity (even after losing velocity from stripping a round from the magazine and feeding it) compared to simply dropping the slide on an empty chamber using the slide release.

September 5, 2009, 09:57 PM
JohnKSa, I am inclined to believe you on the slide rebound issue, as that makes a lot of sense when you think about it.

I have dry fired my Glock 21 and Beretta 8045 thousands of times. (To be honest, racking the slide every time on the Glock is kind of a pain in the arse.) They have about 8k and 11k rounds through them, respectively. I have never had a single issue with either of them.

(But when I think about the number of rounds through them, not reloading stings a little when I look back at that.)

September 5, 2009, 10:08 PM
So if the slide is coming back and hitting the frame hard enough to rebound and give added velocity to the slide do you think maybe slide/frame battering is severe enough that maybe shock buffs were a good idea after all? I don't know what type of gun ( I have to wonder if it was a polymer frame), caliber or recoil spring they were using in their tests but I believe their measurements are something that maybe deserves some careful study.

September 5, 2009, 10:36 PM
I dry fire my semi-auto pistols all the time and centerfire rifles too. Even in the boot, the rifles we used (as well as hundreds of other recruits thru the DECADES) dry fired our rifles hundreds and hundreds of times and no harm. My personal opinion is people like to baby their firearms sometimes and thats fine, your gun your preference. My other thought is that dry firing modern semi pistols/rifles are fine because many use firing pins and springs and bolts, etc to absorb recoil, for cocking etc.; while pistols like revolvers the firing pins don't have that "shock" absorption (sp?) so all that force is well forced onto the pin. I maybe wrong but thats just my thoughts and if your pistol cannot handle a simple dry fire or slamming slide than to me that means it's not to reliable in the field. Just my unprofessional $.02.

September 6, 2009, 03:44 AM
After reading some of the responses to this thread, and giving this issue a second thought, I wonder if the philosophy of not dry-firing or letting the slide slam home originally came from people who owned premium guns (like, perhaps, a museum quality piece)? For example, if I owned a 1911 that was built in 1911, I'd probably treat that prize with a bit of extra caution when compared to the weapon that I carry on my hip through all of life's troubles.

I guess this would be analogous to how a person who owns a collector's car might treat that automobile. Sure, that pretty old perfectly restored Corvette would keep the rain and mud out just like your newer model Hyundai Accent, but it doesn't mean that you are going to drive it down a dirt road in the rain, even if such a practice wouldn't be thought of as harmful to most vehicles!

The Lone Haranguer
September 6, 2009, 05:51 AM
This boils down more to etiquette than actually damaging the firearm. It would take many hundreds - or more - of "slide slams" to cause frame/slide battering, and a centerfire firearm made in the last ~50 years is not going to break a firing pin by dry firing it. On a used pistol, a "slide slam" is a legitimate function test for hammer follow. But ASK first. For instance, on a collectible revolver that has never been fired, do you want to be the first person to put the turn line on the cylinder?

Old Guy
September 6, 2009, 06:32 AM
The Glock 17 as the first Pistol of the Glock line, was touted by the factory as a very easy weapon to dry fire, having only to retract the slide a short distance to reset the mechanism to allow dry firing.

Unlike the Colt 45 (1911) pistols that required a full back movement of the slide to prepare the pistol for dry firing, or thumb cocking the hammer.

When IPSC came around (to me, 1980) dropping the slide on an empty chamber was a huge no-no?

I think the fine motor skill claptrap came from Glock Instructors, as it was nearly impossible on some runs of factory pistols to drop the slide using the wee Micky mouse slide lock lever, and Therine was born the "fine motor skill" statement. The trigger finger seems to do alright, does it not?

Watching Dave Sevigny drop the slide with the Glock factory manufactured slide release, seems to have changed the mind set somewhat of the Glock Instructors.

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