Live-fire training obligates us to ammunition expenses that may come dearly for some. Thankfully, dry-fire practice needs not be so expensive and so it can be far easier to schedule as a multiple-times-per-week activity. There are, however, some equipment needs for a more robust dry-fire and dry-training experience. Well, some are needs and some are nice-to-haves. Let’s look at them and examine some ways to use them in effective home practice.
Home Training Kit
While there are all sorts of kit you might get for your training, the things I believe are good home-training components for everyday carry, in order of importance, include:
- Snap caps
- Blue gun (full-weight +1)
- Airsoft replica
Snap Caps and Blue Guns
Snap caps are mostly known as live-fire training aids, to be used as dummy rounds mixed into a loaded magazine to simulate a malfunction. They’re good tools in this role, but they have a role in home dry-fire practice, too. Even if your dry-fire practice is nothing more than trigger-press precision training, I recommend using snap caps. These dummy rounds help to protect your gun’s components from undue wear and potential damage that dry trigger presses can bring, especially to striker-fired pistols.
The snap cap allows the striker to impact as normal on the back of a shell, saving the striker from repeated impacts on the rear of the breech face in striker-fired pistols. While it takes many dry strikes to do so, repeated striker impacts can cause cracks in the breech face and can ultimately damage the striker. When I use snap caps for home dry-fire practice, I load one or more magazines full of them, so as to add some weight to the magazine for a more realistic feel.
The plastic, florescent orange snap caps are great for range use because they’re easier to find on the ground than the maroon or brass kind. But for home practice I use the kind with a brass case because they’ll last longer. The orange plastic kind tend to wear over time at the case rim area, and have to be thrown away.
A blue gun that is an exact copy of your carry gun is a very useful, even vital component of dry training, both for at home and for practical training at the range. A blue gun allows you to practice manipulations and engage in hands-on partner practice safely, because it is 100% inert.
Blue guns come in light models and true-weight models. You can practice with a lightweight blue gun, but for more realistic training the weighted kind is best. I carry a Glock 19 every day, so my blue gun is a true-weight, exact copy of my G19. I use it at home to practice left-handed concealed carry manipulations and I use it at the range to do a few first runs of new manipulations so that I can make mistakes while maintaining safety. Moreover, I’ve used my blue gun in hands-on practical classes for retention defense and grappling with pistols. This is a very handy tool for gaining firearms and EDC competence.
I recommend airsoft in a very narrow context for firearms training. I’d say that an airsoft pistol has value if it is 1) an exact replica of your everyday-carry pistol, 2) is a blow-back gun so that the slide cycles when firing, and 3) is used only for practical-scenario solo practice and practical-scenario force-on-force training. Airsoft is a huge industry and hobby endeavor that is mostly focused on airsoft gaming and I suggest that any prolonged participation in that aspect of use for replica weapons is very harmful to your self-defense competency and firearms safety habits.
That said, I believe there are very good ways to use an airsoft replica gun to aid in the development of practical competence. In much the same way a blue gun affords us the opportunity to practice certain manipulations and drills safely, an airsoft replica allows for a next step in that process with the added benefit of a functioning tool. Airsoft practice is not “safe” in the way that blue-gun practice is, but it allows for complete follow-through in scenario-based training, provided you take simple precautions like wearing good eye protection (goggles are best) and perhaps heavier clothing to protect from the very real sting of the airsoft bbs.
These practical-scenario uses aside, I use airsoft for the same reason I do static, dry-fire trigger presses: to develop my hands’ ability to stay still while pressing and breaking the trigger. In this way I train my hands, body, and brain to not react to the break of the live-fire shot and develop myelin pathways to cement the habit. The benefit of the airsoft gun is that it provides the pop, the cycling slide, and a very mild recoil impulse in that still-hand training. I believe it to be very beneficial.
Some of the dimensions of home dry-fire practice are outlined very well in this (somewhat hilarious) video from the “warrior poet,” John Lovell. John is the real deal and I highly recommend his videos.