Every hobby shooter feels the financial impact of pulling the trigger at the range. When the market fluctuates and prices inflate, it makes every trigger pull seemingly ring louder with the added sound of a hole being simultaneously burned into your wallet.
So how can you go about keeping your skills sharp with consistent training while staying within a budget? The absolute most cost effective way to extend your training budget is to utilize dry fire training aids. Our line of Mantis live/dry fire training aids are not only perfect for making the most of your range day, but also for allowing you to train in the comfort of your home.
It goes without saying that dry fire training is less expensive than live fire training, but how much money can you actually save by dry fire training? In this article, we’ll go over the costs to consider when it comes to training, and we’ll put together a rough estimate of how much we think you’ll save based on how often you train with your firearm.
First, let’s lay a bit of a foundation regarding the cost and effectiveness of dry fire training aids. Note, for the purpose of this article, we’re going to use 250 live rounds as our cost comparison.
Why are we going with 250 rounds for the sake of our article? 250 is a healthy day of shooting and will make it easy to compare the cost of a dry fire training aid versus a single day at the shooting range.
So, 250 rounds makes illustrating the cost a bit easier on our end. For the sake of fairness, we’ll be comparing prices of live ammunition by using a spectrum of costs due to how much prices fluctuate depending on market conditions. As an example, we’ll range 9mm rounds between $0.10 - $1.00. While there are outliers with this, and $1.00/round seems steep, the majority of 9mm ammo falls in this range throughout a fluctuating market.
To lay our foundation, let’s quickly go over the accuracy of dry fire training aids versus live ammunition.
Live Fire vs Dry Fire Accuracy
Ok, here’s the fun section… accuracy. Let’s get one thing straight, self-defense shooting and long range target shooting are two entirely different concepts. At longer ranges, environmental conditions such as wind and gravity are far more pertinent factors to consider.
When it comes to self-defense in real world, domestic situations, gravity and wind are nearly non-existent factors. Granted, if you’re deployed in a hostile zone and your version of self-defense is to take out an aggressor at long distance, this article is not for you. So we’ll stick to short range accuracy for the sake of this article.
For anybody who thinks (or tells you) that dry fire laser training aids aren’t good because they’re not incorporating real world conditions such as windage and gravity, they either don’t understand the physics of bullets at close ranges, or they’re thinking you’re going to drop targets at 50+ yards.
Without getting into a lesson on ballistics, which I suggest everybody become at least slightly familiar with, there’s one general rule to understand. Bullet drop under 50 yards for handguns and under 100 yards for rifles, regardless of weight or caliber of your ammunition, is so minimal that it’s considered to be a non-factor. Now, once you extend the distance past 100 yards, bullet drop becomes a very real factor to consider. At lengths of over 200 yards, the amount of bullet drop and deviation is substantial.
Of course, I’m generalizing this article. If you open up a ballistics calculator and type in every caliber, at every altitude, every wind condition, and every level of humidity, you’ll spend days crunching numbers. Even then, you’ll find that the bullet drop listed above remains fairly consistent. Let’s assume you’re practicing close range shooting, so we won’t have to list thousands of possible scenarios.
We are not going to consider ranges of over 50 yards for the sake of this article, so again, if you’re running and gunning overseas, this information may not be for you. One thing you should consider for self-defense is that most real-world scenarios happen within an arm's length, and sometimes may extend to about 15-20 feet depending on circumstance. The vast majority of defensive shooting in a domestic setting is in close quarters and within a few feet.
Being that dry fire training involves lasers that remain constant in their aim regardless of atmospheric conditions, live fire defense scenarios and dry fire training is unnoticeable when you’re training. Yes, I know that this article isn’t necessarily a self-defense training article, but the reality is that dry fire training is mainly used for defensive practice, so we’re going to remain in this realm.
Cost Of Dry Fire Training Aids
There’s truly no budget limitation when it comes to dry fire training aids. You can spend as little as $10 or upwards of thousands if you really wanted to. For those of you who happen to be an ultra serious trainer and/or business owner who requires a simulator setup, then there are more complex options to suit your needs.
The general rule is the less complex the tool or system, the less expensive it’ll be. A great and effective starter tool for dry fire training is our Pink Rhino laser training cartridge paired with the Mantis Laser Academy for your smartphone. This is a budget-friendly option that isn’t just great for visual and valuable feedback, but also a ton of fun to practice with.
If you want to take your dry fire training to the next level, you can opt to add an X10 to the mix. While your initial cost will increase, your long term ammo savings and more accurate shooting will make it worthwhile after a few days at the range… not to mention the countless days you can train from the comfort of your own home on a rainy day.
Stoppages are something you should become familiar with when you’re the owner of a firearm, and using something as simple as snap caps is a great way to practice clearing common malfunctions. Practicing clearing stoppages also helps keep your muscle memory sharp in case you ever experience this with a live round.
To train for scenarios like these, snap caps are all you need. Snap caps are dummy rounds that resemble live ammunition in appearance but don’t function as such. They also contain no primer and no powder or projectile, but can come with a metal casing in some instances. Buying a pack of 5-10 can cost you as little as $10 and they’re a great purchase to add on to any calibers you're buying.
I wasn’t going to go into too much detail regarding more complex setups, but then I realized we shouldn’t leave competition shooters and professional organizations out of this article. For somebody like this, dry fire training can save thousands of dollars, especially if your organization trains many people on a regular basis. Even more complex systems will pay for themselves relatively quickly with the right amount of use and the rising cost of ammunition.
I’ll break this down to two individuals: the ones who want a realistic blowback laser pistol to use for things like Mantis Laser Academy, and those who want to take it one step further and indulge in a full simulator. Anybody wanting to add a bit more realism to their dry fire training can get a system that offers a realistic level of blowback via compressed air and special gun or conversion kit. For the gun and air systems alone, these systems start at roughly $500 - $1,000 and can go up with additional guns or accessories.
For the more serious trainers out there, you can purchase a simulator. Keep in mind that some simulators require a specific color or invisible laser to work, so make sure you know your needs before investing in a more complex system. Simulator setups start at around $2,000 for the hobby level and more serious personal training but can easily hit six figures if you’re wanting a more immersive experience. At the time of publishing this article, if you budget between $2,000 - $5,000, you can actually create a pretty immersive training simulator that is fully capable of being used in the home or office environment, and this includes a blowback barrel conversion kit or pistol.
Cost Of Live Ammunition
Well here we are, the most important cost factor to consider… live ammunition. As if the budget scale didn’t vary widely enough in the previous section, now we’re at a point where the cost of live ammunition is changing on a near constant basis depending on time of year and overall market conditions.
For a multitude of reasons, all we can do for the sake of this article is to break down an overall range of ammunition cost and just ballpark it. Chances are that by the time you’re reading this article, the market has already shifted or some simultaneous sale and shortage is occurring and putting these numbers to the test. The point is, each and every round getting fired out of your barrel will cost a few cents each… at a minimum.
I’ll point out a few expected price ranges based on the type of round, and you can go ahead and deduce from here what the overall cost savings will be in your particular scenario. Keep in mind that prices will fluctuate and will vary based on geographic location as well, so this is (again) just a ballpark.
22 LR (Rimfire) - $0.05 - $0.15 per round
Centerfire Handgun - $0.20 - $0.80+ per round
Shotgun - $0.20 - $1.00+ per round
Centerfire Rifle - $0.50 - $1.50+ per round
Now I will say that at the time of writing this article, we’re at the tail end of a nationwide (in the U.S.) ammo shortage and prices aren’t easing up that much. In a well-stocked year, you may be below this threshold, just as in a widespread shortage year you may be above this threshold.
On a related note, 22 LR ammunition is rimfire ammunition and (in almost all circumstances) comes in at less expensive than centerfire ammunition. Rimfire ammunition works in a variety of models of both rifles and handguns and makes the overall financial impact easier to bear (while firing more rounds at the range). Having a 22 in your inventory is great for fun, utility and cost effectiveness.
Now let’s factor in the cost of actually going to the shooting range to use your live ammunition, as this is a major difference when it comes to dry versus live fire training. With dry fire training, you don’t have to even get in your car and therefore you’ll spend no time or money commuting anywhere.
Cost Of Shooting Ranges And Travel
I really wish the cost of firearm training was consistent and had an across the board average, but that’s simply not the case. As I’ve pointed out previously, even the cost of dry fire training aids varies based on level of complexity.
Shooting ranges come as cheap as public land near your house, and as expensive as very exclusive access to a gated range. I’m not even going to get started on the difference in cost between an electric car and a pickup truck to factor in your commute, but let’s just look at the potential savings from not traveling to a range.
Since you have the commute to consider, between the gas prices and the sheer time to travel, this may end up being a deciding factor for many when it comes to considering a day at the range.
If you’re traveling to a public land somewhere and expect to not pay for a range, then you should be well-versed in the local laws and ordinances that pertain to the activities you plan to partake in. You may still need to pay a fee to access the land for the day. Not only that, but if you plan on shooting somewhere on an open parcel of land, alone or with a private group, then be prepared for a worst-case scenario. Invest in a good first aid kit and the knowledge on how to use it, and while you’re at it, you can read our other article on what you should consider bringing with you in your range bag.
If you have a local gun range where you’ll be shooting, then the two potential cost factors at play are membership costs and range fees. Some ranges have a nominal monthly fee for unlimited range time, and others have a membership cost of hundreds to thousands of dollars annually while still requiring a per day shooting fee.
For those who don’t plan on becoming a member at a range, but still want to go for the day, then you should expect a per person cost between $10 - $30 for the day (sometimes for the hour). Of course, I’m sure there are plenty of places that fall outside of this pricing spectrum.
As for membership fees, you could expect to pay between $75 - $500 annually for access to a range, and don’t be surprised if you’ll need to pay a daily range fee as well to actually exercise your membership. There are ranges that are far more expensive to become a member of, but most ranges fall into this price range.
Cost Per Trigger Pull Comparison
So here’s the question you’ve all been (I’m sure anxiously) awaiting… How much does it cost to pull the trigger with a dry fire system compared to live firing?
The reality is that there’s almost no comparison when it comes to live firing hundreds, if not thousands, of rounds. By far, the winner of the budget-friendly category is definitively the dry fire option. But just so I don’t waste your time by simply stating that live fire training is almost impossible to compare costs with, let’s just go ahead and quantify this.
For the sake of this section and article overall, we’ll compare the cost of dry fire training with 250 live rounds being sent down range. The broken record in me is thinking, of course I’ve had less ammo on the range, and I’ve had days where we’ve easily reached 1,000 rounds, but 250 sounds like a nice, healthy and fun day on the range, so we’ll stick to that.
To keep this comparison congruent, we’ll compare 250 trigger pulls using the Pink Rhino and our standard Laser Academy Training Kit to 250 live rounds of a few different calibers. Being that our X3 and X10 Elite systems all work with both dry fire training and live firing, we’ll consider that a wash and not include that in this price breakdown. (I do strongly suggest checking out that line of products to greatly increase your training in both circumstances.)
Okay, okay, okay… here we go. First up, the live fire cost for 22lr, 9mm and 45 ACP. If I didn’t list your favorite caliber, then I apologize, but I’m willing to bet that what you shoot with will fall into this range. I’ll do an additional cost breakdown for 5.56 in comparison to our Blackbeard system, because anybody who is shooting an AR should strongly consider our auto-resetting trigger system for at-home practice.
KEEP IN MIND, prices constantly fluctuate with market conditions, so this is meant to illustrate a realistic spectrum as to what you can expect to pay given the current market.
22lr @ $0.04 - $0.15/round x 250 = $10.00 - $37.50
9mm @ $0.25 - $0.85/round x 250 = $62.50 - $212.50
45 ACP @ $0.35 - $0.90/round x 250 = $87.50 - $225
5.56 @ $0.45 - $0.90/round x 250 = $112.50 - $225
Not gonna lie, I stressed out about the above breakdown. I know some people can find ammo for less than this, while others are shelling (PUN) out far more just to get a few hours at the range.
Now… let’s break down your dry fire start-up cost. I say start-up cost because when it comes to the cost per trigger pull, after this initial 250 round comparison, then it’s fractions of a penny with each squeeze. I’ll let your imagination do the rest of the work when it comes to computing trigger pulls into the thousands. So assuming you purchase one of our training systems and only plan on using it for 250 trigger pulls initially, here’s how that cost would compare to the cost of a single range day.
Mantis Laser Academy Training Kit - $149 ➗ 250 = $0.60/trigger pull
Blackbeard Auto-Resetting Trigger System for AR-15 - $219 - $249 ➗ 250 = $0.87 - $1.00/trigger pull.
Every single trigger pull after 250 begins to rapidly chip away at the dry fire cost, so much so that the endless fun you’ll have will begin to push each trigger pull into the fractions of a penny threshold, which can’t be said for live ammo.
Are You Ready For Long Term Savings?
Gosh, what a build up to the price comparison! Once I actually began to quantify the cost difference between dry and live fire training, I realized that it really is nearly limitless in potential variables. Unless you’re lucky enough to have a generous connection, you’ll always pay for live rounds. However, once you invest what is essentially one day at the range’s ammo cost into a dry fire training system, you’ll never have to continue throwing money at it.
That isn’t to say that you won’t purchase multiple calibers of our Pink Rhino training cartridges in addition to a Blackbeard system for your AR (and perhaps even some awesome apparel to wear while training). So one could make the argument that dry fire training investments can skyrocket as well, but this is just meant to be a general guide to show you how one up front cost can provide endless training and fun for you to save money in the long run.
I hope you found this article helpful, especially if you were on the fence with investing in your training and trying to see the worthwhile benefit to owning such devices. When it comes to both dry and live fire training, there’s only one thing for certain… our Mantis line of products will always make you a more accurate and proficient shooter. Do yourself a favor and become a part of the Mantis family. Invest In yourself today!