Is it Bad to Dry Fire a Paintball Gun? (Myths and Why it is Bad)

Paintball guns can be extremely fun tools for recreational target play. Taking care of your equipment ensures that each round of paintball will continue to be fun with a working gun. And no matter how simple or elaborate your paintball gun is, the question of whether or not you should dry fire your paintball gun is a question that plagues many paintballers.

Despite popular confusion surrounding the issue of dry firing, it is not bad to dry fire a paintball gun. This practice will not immediately damage your paintball gun or ever completely ruin it.

However, there are many reasons why the dry fire myth persists. Though it is okay to dry fire a paintball gun every now and then, and dry firing can allow paintballers to practice their rhythm and targeting, there are some downsides to dry firing your paintball gun.

Dry Firing Downsides

The most common reason why people are concerned with dry firing is the effect it may have on the gun. Though dry firing a few rounds without paintballs does absolutely no harm in the majority of cases to any paintball gun, there are some indications that over time, excessive dry firing may wear down the internal mechanisms of the paintball gun.

So while it is okay to dry fire for limited target practice, dry fire sparingly to maintain the condition of your paintball gun.

A paintball gun operates by pushing compressed air through internal chambers when the trigger has been pulled. When paintballs are loaded, nitrogen or carbon dioxide is pushed behind and around the pellets to force them through the barrels. When you dry fire, the air pushes through the internal valves without any interference from the pellets.

Dry firing is an acceptable practice for your paintball gun because the released air does not have enough force without the pellet to cause any serious, lasting damage to the chambers of the gun. Even the most ardent opponents of the practice of dry firing usually concede that it’s difficult, if not impossible, to notice any serious damage to a paintball gun that has been dry fired excessively. Even if you dry fire often, it is unlikely that you will notice any changes to your gun.

However, because of the mechanical processes of the paintball gun, some internal wear and tear do take place over long periods of time. Without a paintball acting as a mild buffer, the air hits inner valves at a slightly greater force.

Some paintball experts suggest that Solenoid O-Rings may take the hit for dry firing your paintball gun. These can wear down over time from unnecessary and unlimited dry firing, as the air is forced through the chambers without the buffer of a paintball pellet relentlessly.

Though it does take excessive dry firing to wear these valves down, Solenoid O-Rings are not easily repairable, and on most guns have to be replaced when they wear down for the paintball gun to function at its full capacity.

Again, wear and tear happens over extended periods of time with a high frequency of dry firing. If you dry fire your gun occasionally but are seeing excessive wear and tear or malfunctions, it is possible that the problems should be attributed to another cause, as dry firing, in general, is not bad for your gun.

Dry firing excessively can also use up the gas in paintball chambers. Just like firing with paintballs in the chamber, gas is utilized each time the trigger has been pulled. If you fire dozens of consecutive times either with or without firing paintball pellets, you will use the gas in the chamber. While dry firing may use up this gas, it will only do so as much as firing with pellets. If you want to conserve gas, consider firing less, whether you dry fire or fire with pellets.

The best time to dry fire your paintball gun is when it has recently been oiled. This lubricates the flow of air through the valves and allows the force of the compressed nitrogen or carbon dioxide to be pushed more smoothly through when you pull the trigger.

The Myth of Dry Firing

Where does the myth of dry firing come from? As noted above, dry firing is not inherently bad for your paintball gun, though if done excessively it could cause some damage to the internal chambers over long periods of time.

Some people may believe that dry firing is bad for a paintball gun because they have evidence anecdotally obtained from paintball users who have excessively dry fired their guns. If someone is using a paintball gun around the house without paintballs for play, target, or rhythm practice, this could over time cause slight damage to the paintball gun.

The myth may also stem from paintball gun vendors. Sellers of paintball guns will, like any pragmatic business, want people to buy new parts, guns, and paintball pellets as often as possible. In order to make more sales, they may indicate that a part of a gun or a gun is worn down even when it functions fully and without defect in order to cash in on a created myth. Some paintball gun sellers may up-play the problems of dry firing a paintball gun in order to sell paintballers a new gun or new Solenoid O-Rings that they do not actually need.

People may also confuse paintball gun dry firing protocol with that of handguns. Though some of the mechanisms that guide paintball pellets and bullets in paintball guns and actual guns are similar, guns are very different in a lot of ways from paintball guns besides the material that they project.

Because of the internal mechanisms that handguns use to eject bullets, it is bad for users to dry fire a handgun. While it is okay to dry fire a paintball gun, it wears down the internal organs of handgun to dry fire without bullets. The recurrence of the question of whether it is okay to dry fire a paintball gun may stem from a confusion between handgun and paintball gun practices.

Despite the persistence of the paintball gun myth, the question persists because dry firing can be useful when paintballers want to practice their aim or rhythm without ejecting paintballs. It may be convenient to dry fire at home, on the shooting range, or in an arena.

Because of this, many paintball guns come equipped with a special training mode. Training or safety mode allows paintballers to use their paintball guns without ejecting paint marks. Unlike the dry firing process, which mimics the full operation of the paintball gun without the paint pellet, in training mode, the paintball gun does not push compressed air through the internal valves.

Instead, most training modes will offer paintball users a small “beep,” blinking light, or similar signal when the trigger is pulled to indicate the moment when the pellet potentially would file when safety mode is exited. Some simpler, older models of paintball guns do not have this mode, and it is okay to dry fire these models, as long as you are not solely dry firing. If you do happen to use a paintball gun that can operate on a training mode, you may save your gun an incremental amount of wear and tear over time.