Safer Dry Fire With An AR-15

If you’ve been a subscriber of mine for more than a few seconds, you know how important dry fire is.  (If you are new and don’t know, check out this article where I go into 10 of the top reasons why dry fire training is better than live fire.)

But what you may not know is how to safely do dry fire practice with your AR-15.

Keep in mind that it’s 100% impossible to have a negligent discharge while doing dry fire.

This is because of the fact that dry fire is the manipulation of a firearm with no ammunition present.

As soon as you introduce ammunition into an area where you’re doing dry fire training with a firearm capable of firing live rounds, it is no longer dry fire training.

I do SOME dry fire training with firearms capable of firing live rounds, but for the most part, I use inert training platforms or temporarily render “real” guns incapable of chambering live rounds while I’m practicing.

With that in mind, I want to share 8 AR Dry fire tools that you can use to make your dry fire training with an AR safer…not safe, but safer.  Safety depends on the shooter having muzzle and trigger discipline in addition to keeping ammo out of the training area.  That being said, there are a couple of options here that make it virtually impossible to have a negligent discharge.

First off is an old-school, simple as dirt solution…simply remove the bolt carrier group while you’re doing your dry fire practice.  99% of dry fire training can be done without an active trigger.  If you look at first shot speed, most shooters will make bigger gains in performance by focusing on mounting the gun quickly and consistently and acquiring a sight picture quickly than they will by focusing on pressing the trigger quickly.

AR Dry Fire With Bolt Removed

AR Dry Fire With Bolt Removed

Second is almost as simple as the first…and, in fact, can be combined with the first:  Stick a length of 550 cord from the chamber to the muzzle, and tie the ends together outside of the gun.  This way, you’ve got a visual indicator that the chamber is empty and can’t accept live rounds.

AR Dry Fire With Bolt Removed & 550 Cord

AR Dry Fire With Bolt Removed & 550 Cord

Third is our new patented and soon to be released barrel plug…it plugs the chamber, sticks out the end of the muzzle, and you don’t have to disassemble the gun to insert or remove it.

Fourth is the BladeTech AR training bolt.  I don’t have one of these yet, but I have the Glock version and I like what I’ve seen.  They’re basically a yellow plastic replacement bolt that you swap out for your real bolt.  As far as I can tell, they’re only available through BladeTech.

Fifth is the Mako Safety Rod.  These are a slick little tool.  They plug the chamber and stick out the end of the muzzle.  The only downside is that you have to pop the takedown pin and remove the bolt carrier group to insert and remove the safety rod.

AR Dry Fire With MAKO/FAB Chamber & Barrel Block

AR Dry Fire With MAKO/FAB Chamber & Barrel Block

Sixth is the SIRT Bolt.  This is a laser that replaces the bolt carrier group and emits a laser pulse every time you press the trigger.  I LOVE this setup, but it does take awhile to set up.  It’s a great situation if you can set it up and leave it, but not as good if you want to do frequent 5-15 minute practice sessions.

AR Dry Fire With SIRT Bolt

AR Dry Fire With SIRT Bolt

Seventh is a Blue Gun.  These have a use for practicing muzzle strikes and other pugilistic skills with the AR, but I’m not a big fan overall.  Some people LOVE them, so this is one time when you shouldn’t take my experience at face value.  But before you buy one, I’d suggest borrowing one from a friend.

Eighth is an airsoft gun that’s set up similarly to how your real gun is set up.  It doesn’t have to be exact.  My real guns have Aimpoint and EoTech sights that cost several hundred dollars apiece.  My airsoft guns have cheap Chinese knockoff optics that cost $20-$40.  Exact size and weight is nice, but you can do a LOT with an inaccurate analog.  Mounting the gun is the same process, acquiring a sight picture is the same, calculating mechanical offset is the same, transitioning between targets is the same, dropping a mag and inserting a new mag is the same.

AR Dry Fire With Airsoft

AR Dry Fire With Airsoft

The best part about using an airsoft is that I keep an airsoft in my living room, with the battery removed, 24/7 with no concern about my kids picking it up or someone stealing it when we’re gone.  That means that I can pick it up and do 1-15 minutes of practice any time I want with absolutely no setup time.  This is absolutely, positively, my preferred method of practice, and I choose it over my own patented device…but it’s also the most expensive option of any of the options that I shared with you today.

If you’re one of the first plank holder students of the Home Defense Rifle course, these options are going to be a big help for you and help you be more confident about how to do dry fire drills more safely with your AR.

If you’ve been on the fence about getting the Home Defense Rifle AR-15 self-defense DVD course because of safety concerns, this will have squashed those concerns…so head on over to, sign up now, and you can start training in as fast as the next 10 minutes (or anytime this weekend).

If you’re currently doing dry fire training with your AR, what method do you use?  Please share what you’re doing, as well as questions and concerns by commenting below.






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  • Andy T Knote

    Reply Reply March 14, 2018

    I use magazines that I’ve modified to be incapable of feeding ammunition, and modified to not cause slide/bolt lockback. Most importantly my dry-fire mag base-plates are painted safety orange. I always dry fire with a dry-fire magazine.

    I use laser shot indicators like Laserlyte(R). I use these in rifles and pistols. Since they have no rim they will not be extracted and ejected when the platform is cycled.
    Because they occupy the chamber it is mechanically impossible to chamber a live round. Laser shot indicators are a natural companion for Dry-Fire Training cards.

  • Chris Garvey

    Reply Reply March 17, 2017

    I would highly recommend removing #1 and #2. Without the BCG (with firing pin) the hammer slams against the forward wall of the fcg pocket and will crack near the bolt catch cut. Get blue mags and a safety rod for at home dry fire and dummy rounds for function drills at home and range day. Always be safe and check the firearm whenever you pick it up, even if you just put it down.

    • Ox

      Reply Reply March 23, 2017

      Hey Chris, Larry had the same question/comment above. Blue mags/safety rods are great, but the hammer shouldn’t be slamming against anything…here’s what I told Larry:

      you’re technically correct, but try it 🙂 If your hammer is released when you close the upper, pressing the trigger won’t release the hammer. The charging handle won’t pull the hammer back without the BCG in place (and it also won’t go back forward) so you can practice several key components of carbine handling on a dead trigger with the BCG removed.

      Is it ideal? no. Is it a perfect solution? no. Does it make the gun safe and is it ridiculously easy and cheap? Absolutely.

      Make more sense?

  • Peter

    Reply Reply March 17, 2017

    I use dumby rounds (snap caps). I see it wasn’t included on your list. Thoughts on their use?

    • Ox

      Reply Reply March 23, 2017

      Since I don’t know the safety/proficiency level of every single person reading, I prefer to give “belt & suspender” options. There are drills that I do where I just use snap caps, but all of the options that I gave in the article make it incredibly difficult to have a negligent discharge, even if you negligently introduce live rounds or even a magazine with live rounds in it into the training area.

  • Ernest

    Reply Reply December 11, 2016

    Hello thanks for all of the great information you share. I do practice dry fire with a range of weapons and shoot Air Soft regularly. Do to shoulder replacement I haven’t been to the range for about three months. When I did hit the range again I had several failures to feed and a few different stoppages with my here to for trusty Glock. A range member was trying to help me figure out the cause Ammo, magazine and firearm. Then I tried his Glock. Same problems??? So it was not my gear. I went back to basics and found the trouble to be limp wristing the firearm. So just a caution for others to consider this and not to rely on Dry Fire exclusively. Now in my practice sessions I remember to not get too relaxed. I have also started to set up my video camera on a tripod and video some sessions to look for bad habits that might creep into my practice sessions. I have considered the fact that I was telegraphing my move for my handgun.This might not be a huge factor in surviving an altercation. Yet. it could be so at least a factor to be aware of. Pleas keep up the good work.
    Keep your powder dry.

    • Ox

      Reply Reply December 12, 2016

      Hey Ernest, great job identifying the problem and the solution. Dry fire isn’t a problem with recoil…in fact, in many respects it’s easier and faster to learn good recoil control with dry fire than with live fire…but it’s not a black/white issue.

      Here’s why dry fire practice will help you with live fire recoil control…

      The short answer is that recoil happens too fast for you to react to and how you manage recoil will be determined by your grip and level of flex the instant before the firing pin hits the primer…which is something you can practice with dry fire and verify with live fire.

      A more detailed answer is that a Glock 18 full auto has a cyclic rate of between 900-1200 rounds per minute. Let’s just go with 1200. That’s a round firing every .05 seconds.

      That means that it takes LESS than .05 seconds from the time you release the sear until the bullet leaves the end of the muzzle and the gun is ready to fire the next round. That’s roughly the same with all semi-auto pistols.

      Individuals vary, but for the most part, conscious .2 second reaction times are blazing fast. Mine are about .3. If you’re curious, you can test yours here: (the conversation on why my reaction times are .3 seconds, but I shoot .14 splits and my makeup shots are as fast as .2 seconds is a longer, deeper story 🙂

      What that means is that you can’t REACT to recoil and effectively manage it. If you’re reacting, you’re behind the curve. You’ve got to have your grip correct and your muscles flexed appropriately BEFORE the gun goes off. The level of flexing you have the instant the firing pin hits the primer is what’s going to determine what happens with recoil.

      And you can practice everything that happens before the primer ignites, including your grip and level of flexing with dry fire. Get it right in dry fire and it will carry over to live fire. Limp wrist the gun while dry firing, and that will carry over to live fire too.

      It definitely takes a combination of live fire and dry fire. There’s a feedback loop that happens…you can’t know exactly which grip is best or how much you need to flex until you do live fire. But once you know what the correct grip/flex feels like, you can absolutely practice it while doing dry fire.

      Make more sense?

  • g.e.h.

    Reply Reply October 12, 2016

    I once read Air Soft is dry fire on steroids. I have used the higher quality (still not expensive) firearms for years with great success. With proper safety equipment they are also useful for force on force training

    • Ox

      Reply Reply October 12, 2016

      🙂 That statement…”Air Soft is dry fire on steroids” came from an article David and I wrote back in 2009 that was expanded on to become a chapter in Tactical Firearms Training Secrets. At the time, airsoft was generally considered a joke with absolutely no practical application. There were only a few isolated souls who realized the potential. Fortunately, we’ve come a long way since then.

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