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Airsoft Versus Dry-Fire



Becoming proficient with a firearm is one of the goals of owning and using that firearm especially if you are using it for personal protection.  Letting it gather dust and rust is not beneficial to you or your firearm.  The answer to this problem is to practice. However, the honest truth is that everything is more expensive these days. In the last 5 years prices for consumer goods have risen an average of 21.5%. There’s a good chance that your income has not increased commensurate with the rate of inflation. What is the responsible gun owner to do?  


If laying down an increasingly large stack of Jackson’s or Grant’s or Benjamin’s for ammo regularly is cutting into the mortgage and food budget, then you need more affordable options to keep the muscle memory in good shape. 


So what are some of those options and how do they stack up against each other?  The most common substitutes for live fire training are: Dry Fire, Airsoft, and Laser Training Devices. 

Dry Fire


Dry fire is simply removing the magazine and clearing the handgun (and clearing and clearing!!!) and pulling the trigger with the pistol pointed in a safe direction at a target.  Each time the trigger is pressed the slide will need to be cycled in order to reset the trigger. Nothing comes out of the barrel, but you can observe what the muzzle of the handgun does with each trigger press.  If you notice that the muzzle dips one direction or another, you can use the information to adjust your trigger press to remedy the situation. Unfortunately, since these movements will be minute, observing this is not the easiest thing to do by yourself. You may need to set up your phone to record your practice to identify any bad habits. If you are doing dry fire practice, you will need to be inside and out of any public view. 





These days airsoft replicas are amazingly well done. Just nearly any major handgun brand is now represented with an airsoft replica.  Most all of these replicas will feature a blowback slide, last round hold open, and similar weight and feel when compared to the “real steel”.  And the best part is you can load the magazine up with airsoft BBs and some CO2 or green gas and shoot at a target and see positive feedback of your shooting performance. Airsoft guns can be used in your garage, basement, or backyard (in most places) very easily. Most 1:1 replica airsoft guns can also fit in holsters intended for the firearms. High quality airsoft replicas are not cheap, so there is some initial expense involved in attaining an airsoft replica, but the supplies to run one are exceedingly cheap– figuring down into the $0.02 per shot range. 


Laser Training Devices



Some laser training devices can be used on real steel and some can be used on either a firearm or an airsoft replica. These systems place a laser device inside the gun and it is activated with your trigger press. Through a phone app, you can see your “impacts” and do drills that can positively impact your performance with that platform. Laser Ammo makes both a barrel system and a Picatinny mount system that operate on numerous airsoft replica platforms including our licensed GLOCK airsoft replicas.  Additionally, Mantis X also offers a Picatinny mount laser system that will work with any airsoft, BB, or firearm that is equipped with a Picatinny rail section. 


Some of these systems, when used with an airsoft replica, can utilize the replica’s blowback feature (with the use of the appropriate gas fuel). The price for these laser systems can add substantially to the cost of your training regiment, especially if paired with an airsoft replica. 





Live Fire

$0.35-$0.87 Per Round.  100 rounds for 9mm might be as low as $35 whereas 100 rounds of 45 ACP might be $87. For 1000 rounds of training ammo, this works out to $350-$870.  

100% best way to get full recoil impulse and feedback on targets.

Can only be done at the range. You might be prohibited from doing holster drills at your range. Shooting live ammo is costly.  Shooting 100 rounds per month is 1200 rounds per year and will run $420 to $1,044.

Dry Fire

Free (you’ve already paid for the firearm) 

Effective training. Essentially free. Gain trigger feel

No recoil. Manually cycling the action can be tiresome. Harder to judge feedback/treat bad habits.

Airsoft Replica

$125-$200 Replica + fuel and BBs. Restocks of BBs and Fuel will be $25 periodically (2,700 rounds of BBs and sufficient fuel to shoot that number of BBs)

Limited recoil effect, positive diagnostic feedback, cost per shot is incredibly affordable ($0.045 per shot INCLUDING price of replica, gas, and ammo for 5,000 rounds)

Not a full recoil feel.

Some models will not fit in full kydex holsters. 

Additional gear to keep up with.

Laser (alone)

$100-$260 Fits to existing firearm

Affordable. Can fit nearly any modern handgun. Positive diagnostic Feedback.

No recoil feedback. External fit units might not work with your holster. Manually cycling action for each shot.  

Laser + Airsoft

$365-$460 including airsoft replica (no fuel, or BBs included)

Low long term cost. Positive diagnostic feedback, can be utilized at home, garage, or backyard*

High initial cost, reduced recoil effect, 

Most internal laser units fit in a holster. External units will not fit in holsters. 


What is the Right Fit For You?


The worst thing you can do is nothing at all.  Once you decide to carve out the time for training, how are you going to do it?  There are positives and negatives for each method listed above. You just have to go through your decision making process to narrow down the method and tools that will be best for you. For our two-cents (hey, this is our digital ink, afterall)  The versatility of airsoft for training is the best value and most effective training tool that exists.



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