With many competitive shooting matches either cancelled or postponed and medical experts advising us to stay home for the next few weeks to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 virus, we could spend our days endlessly watching videos—or take advantage of the down time to finally devote more attention to dry-fire training.
Dry firing, of course, is our method of closely analyzing and practicing our techniques in sight picture/alignment, breath control and trigger control. For action shooters, we can add the techniques of rapid mounting and control of the firearm, and the same applies to position shooting like High Power, where we start from a standing position to drop into sitting or prone positions.
For this we don’t need live ammunition. It’s actually preferable to not have the distraction of recoil interfering with our focused attention to technique. That being the case, we don’t need to go to the range to practice dry firing; rather, it is something to practice at home.
Simple to Complex
Devices for effective dry-fire practice are as simple (cheap) or as complex (expensive) as we wish to make them. High-end electronic trainer devices that trace the motion of the firearm to provide detailed feedback on the shooter’s technique, such as those from Noptel, SCATT and Rika run into the $1,000 to $2,000 territory. The Mantis X10 Elite, at $250, is within reach of more shooters, with data displayed on a smartphone via an app. But the low-tech approach is also beneficial. A hand-drawn, scaled-down version of our target taped to a living room wall is sufficient, especially for bullseye pistol shooters interest in simply calling the shot on the trigger break.
The Mantis X10 Elite can be easily mounted to rail-equipped firearms.
Regardless of our choice of visual training device, a second aspect of dry firing is in protecting the firearm itself from the stress of snapping the hammer or firing pin onto an empty chamber hundreds or thousands of times. Because arresting the rapid forward motion of a firing pin or hammer is necessarily a steel-on-steel event, many shooters are concerned about eventual damage to the pin or other metal contacting surfaces. To prevent such damage, we have a number of protective options available, some specific to specific firearms.
The SCATT Basic ($749) is designed for beginners and intermediate-level shooters and works for both dry- and live-fire practice.
Certainly, every shooter is aware of the “snap cap,” a faux cartridge precisely made into the image of a real, specific cartridge. The idea is that the center primer area of the snap cap takes the brunt of the firing pin’s fall, preventing the pin’s shoulder or other contacting point from contacting the corresponding stopping point for the firing pin. Some argue, however, that the sudden stop without any “give” can stress the pin and eventually cause it to bend or break. Harbour Arms Precision Snap Caps utilize a spring-loaded brass plunger to take the shock of the firing pin, absorbing it in much the way a primer would and preventing stress to the firing pin caused by repeatedly slamming into a completely immobile snap cap.
These .243 Win. snap caps from Harbour Arms comes in packs of two and sell for $12.95.
Harbour Arms snap caps simulate many of the cartridges precision shooters use, such as 6.5 Creedmoor, 6.5x47 Lapua and some pistol calibers, too. Retailing at $13 to $17 for a pair, these CNC-machined aluminum snap caps can last a lifetime, but if they fail for any reason, Harbour Arms says they will replace them for only the cost of shipping.
Snap caps work fine for revolvers or for bolt guns that only need a bolt handle lift or perhaps a ½-inch of retraction to re-cock the mechanism. Semi-automatic actions, however, can be more difficult to re-cock without inadvertently ejecting the snap cap. Here are two options for AR-15 shooters.
A Delrin rod from Creedmoor Sports cushions the AR-15 firing pin and requires only a ¼-inch pull of the charging handle to re-cock.
We all know that the AR-15’s charging handle isn’t in the best location for operating while the rifle is mounted at the shoulder. The long, straight-back pull required for re-cocking means we have to break cheek weld with every dry-fired shot. A simple Delrin device from Creedmoor Sports solves this problem while also protecting the firing pin. Insert the rod-shaped device in the bolt carrier (BCG) behind the firing pin; its length allows the hammer to release from the sear and fall a fraction of an inch, and a short ¼-inch pull on the charging handle is all that’s needed for re-cocking. Creedmoor Sports sells this appropriately named “AR-15/M16 Rifle Dry-Fire Device” for $18.95.
The unique DFD—Dry-Fire Device—replaces the AR’s magazine to permit re-cocking with the simple push of a lever on the device. Open your rifle’s action (you may have to pull the front pin to completely remove the upper, depending upon your rifle’s specific handguard), drop the DFD in through the top of the magazine well and you’re ready to go. The DFD is the same size as an AR-15’s 20-round magazine, and lefties can use it as easily as right-handers. The DFD is available from both Creedmoor Sports and White Oak Armament for about $60.
The DFD replaces the AR-15’s magazine and re-cocks the rifle with a push of a lever.
Resetting semi-automatic pistols during dry fire pretty much precludes double taps or other rapid-fire practice, as we must re-cock the hammer or cycle the slide for every shot. However, the Dry-Fire Mag for Glock pistols automatically resets the trigger with an integral spring.
The Dry-Fire Mag resets the Glock trigger, allowing continuous dry fire without need to cycle the slide.
The device replaces the standard magazine and fits all 9mm, .40 S&W, .357 and .45 GAP double stack magazine configuration Glock pistols. Cost is $99 to $105; free shipping and a discount for military and law enforcement help bring the full cost down a bit.
Throwback shooters of the M1A and M1 Garand can pick up an, “M14/M1A/M1 Dry-Fire Device” to protect their rifles, too. The Delrin device goes in the chamber like a snap cap, holding the bolt open just slightly. Cycling the op rod will not eject the device, and the bolt only needs to travel about a ¼-inch to re-cock. It can also double as an empty chamber indicator at the range. Another offering from Creedmoor Sports, the device retails for $13.95.
The M14/M1A/M1 Dry-Fire Device protects firing pins and permits re-cocking with only a ¼-inch pull of the op rod.
Elective social distancing can be a time of boredom and worry, or we can make it into a constructive and productive period of dry-fire practice. Training devices can improve the quality of practice and allow us to dry fire without concern for harm to our firearms.