Wednesday, March 11, 2009

(Good) Budget Training

Has the economy come down hard on you? Me neither. Want to train without spending a bloody fortune? Me too. The solution? Spend some cash on snap caps. For those of you who have not attained the rank of "Gun Nut" yet, let me briefly explain what a snap cap is, and why you need them.

A snap cap is a dummy round that is either made of aluminum or plastic, and has a bit of rubber or polyurethane where the primer would normally be. They are completely inert, and are used to prove if the action works, and also protect the firing pin from dry-fire damage. You see, when you pull the trigger on an empty firearm (ESPECIALLY rimfire guns!!!) you run the risk of damaging the firing pin. The primer would normally cushion the violent force of the hammer (or striker spring) heaving the firing pin forward. Without that cushion, the firing pin can be damaged by the weapon's frame. Snap caps can be used in auto-loaders to prove the action. Load a magazine with snap caps, and when you work the action properly, they should feed and eject like live ammunition. Note I said "when YOU work the action". Since snap caps are inert, they do not operate the action. I once saw a thread on a firearms forum that read "These things are JUNK! I put them in my 1911 and NOT ONE cycled the action when fired!!!". Snap caps have no primer, no powder, and no bullet. They are incapable of firing, and thus will not cycle the action on their own.

Ok, now we're all on the same page. On to training. This will focus mainly on pistols, and mainly on concealed carry stuff.

Instead of burning up cash on rounds at the range, there are a few simple drills you can do on your own. The first of which is to polish your trigger pull. Watch the front sight carefully as you pull the trigger. It should not move at all during the pull or follow-through. It should not dive or shake while the hammer or striker falls. Do this until the front sight post stands completely still through the whole operation. Good luck.

Second, practice drawing from concealment--real concealment. Not a kydex outside-the-waistband holster for your 1911 bowling pin gun. Practice pulling your concealed piece from an inside-the-waistband holster, or getting your J-Frame out of your pocket and firing an aimed shot. How fast are you really? Make sure you emphasize the fundamentals--and keep your body parts and clothing away from the muzzle while drawing and firing. You might find out your favorite concealed carry (CC) spot isn't terribly effective for you. You might also find out that you aren't as quick as you might have thought. Better to find out you can't draw your weapon as cleanly as you thought during training rather than when someone demands your wallet and watch. The best part is that you can do it in the comfort of your own home without spending a dime on gas or ammunition.

Another useful drill is to practice reloading using snap caps. For an auto-loader, lock the slide to the rear over an empty magazine (some smaller pistols don't have a slide lock feature) and then assume a firing stance--act like you just fired your last round. Have a magazine (you really only need one, but more is okay) wherever you plan to keep it--in a pocket, pouch, or whatever. Reload as you normally would. Try to do it precisely, and speed will come as you get better. As a twist, you can put two snap caps in the second magazine and practice clearing a misfire. You can also put a snap cap in a "stovepipe" position and practice clearing that jam.

With a revolver, you need two sets of six (snap caps in common revolver calibers come in six-packs). One set will be in the cylinder and will be considered expended ammunition. Have the second six on a speed strip or speed loader. Same as above--keep it where you will keep your CC ammo. Don't use the hi-speed-low-drag pouches and stuff unless you really plan on using it for real. Again, just focus on doing it precisely. Reloading is probably the worst time to screw up because it can leave you with an empty gun when you really need a loaded gun.

Probably the most needed drill is "simple" procedural loading and unloading. Practice safely loading and unloading your weapon in a manner that isn't really time sensitive. By "procedural" I mean safely loading it up to go out the door in the morning, and safely clearing the weapon when you're done for the day. A lot of negligent discharges result from these two supposedly simple acts. Sometimes we have a tendency to shut our brains off when performing tasks that we do often. That can result in unwanted holes in possessions or worse.

Drills with snap caps can't really replace live fire, but it sure can be a great supplement and can keep you from getting rusty. Ammunition prices continue to climb, and those lucky few with real jobs are in uncertain times. If you can't afford to shoot as much, you might want to grab some snap caps and keep practicing.


Reasonsjester said...

Really useful stuff. Since I live in New York, have no firearm and no way to get one and a concealed carry permit I will practice using my fingers and my deadly imagination. Take that commie scum!

James said...

Some brands of snap caps have metal (brass?) primers that are spring loaded. The bodies are plastic. They're crap and wear out pretty fast. I've got 8 of them for my shotgun and they already have pretty deep indentations from the firing pin. Also, I bought a set of two .223 snap caps made the same way as my 12 ga ones, and one of them has already disintegrated from being chambered a few times in my AR.

That being said, none of my A-Zoom's (CNC aluminum body/rubber primer) have worn out yet, aside from some damage from extractors.