Not to beat a dead horse but the skill and art of shooting is a highly perishable skill. Even without an ammo shortage or significant price hike, what can we do to keep that skill less dead and more alive? The answer is dry fire.
How To Dry Fire?
The act of dry firing, at its most basic core, is pretty simple: take an unloaded firearm and rack the slide (if it’s a handgun) or bolt (if it’s a rifle) back so that when you pull the trigger the firing pin will be released and as it goes forward, it creates an audible “click” sound.
What Is The Purpose of Dry Firing?
Dry fire training at home is great for many reasons: by partially focusing on your front sight you can determine if you are pulling the trigger too hard, anticipating recoil or you can practice and do speed reload drills and challenge yourself by tracking progress with a shot clock timer.
There’s a safety purpose for dry firing as well. When storing
You can also put on that expensive gear you just bought, giving you more time spent in it, but nothing will ever replace the feeling of your handgun’s slide racking back and forth or the cyclical action of a bolt in your AR-15… Or is there?
Best Dry Fire Methods
In this article, we’ll be reviewing the best dry fire training systems the market has to offer you today:
Dry Fire Training With Snap Caps
A lot of people make dummy rounds for training and demonstration purposes but the company A-Zoom is what made Snap Caps commonplace as you can find them today in just about any sporting goods or gun store. The term ‘snap caps’ is synonymous to dummy rounds the same way ‘Kleenex’ is to tissues.
Dummy rounds have a multitude of uses. They can be used to train for when failures happen such as when live rounds fail to feed or when casing fail to eject properly; dummy rounds can help provide that visual and hands on training of getting rid of a round that isn’t firing when you are normally expecting it to. One of the best methods to train for failures is to mix Snap Caps with live rounds so that when you hear a “click” instead of a “bang” you can practice the “tap, rack, shoot” method of clearing failures or questionable rounds.
In terms of training with dry fire purposes, if you had a full mag of Snap Caps, you could practice clearing a “failure” round and doing a reload with a new mag also loaded with Snap Caps. Loading mags with Snap Caps gives you a realistic weight to them so practicing those speed or tactical reloads will be more realistic. To further challenge yourself this could be practiced against a shot clock so you can see how long you’re taking to troubleshoot or to reload.
All that being said, A-Zoom’s Snap Caps are made out of solid aluminum so there is the concern that with repeated use it could significantly wear down your striker or firing pin. Consider other dummy round options such as ones with springs inside them or those that are simply made out of material that is more safe for your striker.
Laser Training Systems
There are several laser training systems out there but they all generally do the same thing. Products will typically come in the shape of your chosen caliber and will stay in your barrel even after racking the slide or bolt back and forth. When you press the trigger the firing pin in your gun will hit that “laser cartridge” and briefly emit a laser out of the barrel.
A quick way to gauge the quality of your trigger pulls is what the laser looks like as it comes out. If you see a dot you can be pretty confident that you had a pretty good grip and trigger pull. But if you see the laser draw a line it means you’re pulling the gun in one direction too much and need to focus on only applying enough pressure to solely the trigger and not bring the whole gun down or pull it to the left or right.
SIRT Laser Training Pistol
Or, if you’d like to be extra fancy and ensure no potential accidents such as negligent discharges you can pick up a SIRT 110 laser training pistol. They come in various pistol models and are essentially dummy guns that have the full range of motion of real firearms and act as a laser simulation training device. The SIRTs can be racked, have an ejectable magazine and a very real weight to them so practicing reloads, drawing from holsters and dealing with malfunctions are viable with this platform. In the world of dummy handguns there are multiple options but SIRT is the hands down the best option out there. The SIRT 110 can range anywhere between from $239 – $439.00.
Smartphone App-Integrated Training Systems
Smartphone apps may seem a little gimmicky at first but they’re actually quite impressive with how much they can do:
The MantisX3 is a highly functional device that was designed with a data driven approach. The device itself must be attached to the accessory rail of a handgun and when paired with the smartphone app, it can rate the quality of your trigger pulls with a percentage score out of a 100. There are practice drills in the app that can teach you how to train and there’s even a digital shot clock included in case you forgot your actual clock back at home and only realized it at the range. In terms of handgun training, we really like the MantisX for its value as an educational resource and training tool for creating handgun proficiency. The MantisX3 starts at $169.99.
Strikeman offers laser cartridges in a number of handgun calibers and only .223 or 5.56 for rifle calibers. The difference here is that it is also paired with a smartphone app which uses the phone’s camera to locate and mark where you’re hitting on a paper target. Strikeman products will usually come with a holder and tripod for the smartphone as it provides metrics in the app showing progress with each consecutive session. Within the app it will provide training drills that can feel like fun games especially if you’re running these drills with a buddy. Strikeman’s laser firearm training system starts at $99.00.
Like we’ve mentioned previously, a lot of companies make dummy rounds just as a lot of companies will make some form of a laser cartridge. The reason why we’re highlighting G-Sight’s system is because they just came out with the “Elms Plus” which has a metal backing instead of a rubber one. The backing is where your gun’s firing pin hits to actuate the laser for a moment. With enough strikes, rubber backings wear out and require replacement. G-Sight is boasting that their new laser cartridge won’t have that issue anymore with its metal backing. Sounds like worth a try to us. The G-Sight’s Elms Plus system starts at $93.50.
The Coolfire Trainer
Last but certainly not least, is the Coolfire Trainer. This is the premiere dry fire training tool in our opinion as it’s certainly not cheap, coming in at about $329.00 and increases with upgraded accessory options, but we think it holds the highest amount of value and here’s why:
You get to use your own handgun and not a dummy platform. The Coolfire Trainer works by replacing your handgun’s barrel and guide rod spring. The replacement barrel holds CO2 gas which is released per trigger pull to cycle the pistol’s slide back and forth simulating live fire. Previously, the only way to get a similar training simulation experience would be to use simunitions, which are painful and while not lethal can still be dangerous, or simply using an airsoft gun.
Airsoft replica guns are well known for their 1 to 1 copies in real firearm’s look and feel but sometimes they just don’t feel satisfying to hold because they might be too light or feel like a toy. So rather mess around with a platform that doesn’t have your modifications, isn’t the exact weight that your hands are used to, why not just use your own gun? We think the premium price of this product makes it well worth it for this perk. What’s more, the barrel can come integrated with a laser device so it’s a two-in-one training device giving it additional value of really challenging the quality of your trigger pulls while the handgun slide is racking back and forth.
When it comes to training, you should pick what makes the most sense of your budget and the type of drills or skills you wish to become proficient at. Everyone should own Snap Caps, let’s just leave that at that. We really like the MantisX but don’t like how it takes up space on a handgun’s accessory rail. What if you wish to train with the use of a flashlight or want to keep the feeling of the additional weight from the light on the gun the same? For this reason we prefer other dry fire laser training systems that are not only cheaper but also have comparable smartphone apps.
If your budget allows for it, and you plan on training a lot at home, we think the Cool Fire Trainer is the best option though it is pricey. The money you save training at home with this realistic dry firing experience will easily make you back the money if you consider how much money you are saving in ammo not being spent. Save even more money by just getting an adapter to propane tanks (the kinds used for portable stoves when camping) to fill up on CO2 gas as well. If you buy the fancy solution that Cool Fire Trainer offers it will inevitably be much more expensive. Since
Pro Tip: Instead of buying a specific company’s laser cartridge you can download all of the available smartphone training apps as most of them are free on the Google Play Store or Apple’s App Store and most of them should work with the Cool Fire Trainer’s laser just the same, though, some will require Bluetooth pairing with a company-specific device.