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.
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Americans have blamed many culprits, from mental illness to inadequate security, for the tragic mass shootings that are occurring with increasing frequency in schools, offices and theaters across the US.
Yet in our nation’s ongoing conversation about the root causes of gun violence, the makers of guns are hardly ever mentioned. As a public health researcher, I find this odd, because evidence shows that the culture around guns contributes significantly to gun violence. And firearm manufacturers have played a major role influencing American gun culture.
To help spur this much-needed discussion, I’d like to share some critical facts about the firearm industry that I’ve learned from my recent research on gun violence prevention.
Surging handgun sales
The US is saturated with guns — and has become a lot more so over the past decade. In 2016 alone, US gun manufacturers produced 10.6 million firearms for entry into the market, up from 3.6 million in 2006. Pistols and rifles made up about 85 percent of the total.
In addition, only a small number of gunmakers dominate the market. The top five pistol manufacturers alone controlled half of all production in 2016: Sturm, Ruger & Co., Sig Sauer, Glock, Kimber Manufacturing and SCCY Industries. Similarly, the biggest rifle manufacturers — Remington Arms, Sturm, Anderson Manufacturing, Smith & Wesson and Savage Arms — controlled 62.3 percent of that market.
But that only tells part of the story. A look at the caliber of pistols manufactured over the past decade reveals a significant change in demand that has reshaped the industry.
The number of manufactured large caliber pistols able to fire rounds greater than or equal to 9 mm increased six-fold from 2005 to 2016, rising from just over half a million to more than 3 million. The number of 0.380 caliber pistols — small pistols designed specifically for concealed carry — jumped to over 1.1 million from just over 100,000 during the same period.
This indicates a growing demand for guns with increasing lethality and a design focused specifically on self-defense and concealed carry.
Production of rifles has also increased, rising from 1.4 million in 2005 to 4.2 million in 2016. This is driven primarily by a higher demand for semi-automatic weapons, including assault rifles.
Explaining the stats
So, what can explain the jump in the sale of high caliber handguns and semi-automatic rifles?
For example, in 2005, Smith & Wesson announced a major new marketing campaign focused on “safety, security, protection and sport.” The number of guns the company sold soared after the switch, climbing 30 percent in 2005 and 50 percent in 2006, led by strong growth in pistol sales. By comparison, the number of firearms sold in 2004 rose 11 percent over the previous year.
There’s strong survey evidence that gun owners have become less likely to cite hunting or sport as a reason for their ownership, instead pointing to personal security. The percentage of gun owners who told Gallup the reason they possessed a firearm was for hunting fell to 36 percent in 2013 from almost 60 percent in 2000. The share that cited “sport” as their reason fell even more.
‘Stand-your-ground’ laws flourish
Another possible explanation for the uptick in handguns could be the widespread adoption of state “stand-your-ground laws” in recent years. These laws explicitly allow people to use guns as a first resort for self-defense in the face of a threat.
Utah enacted the first stand-your-ground in 1994. The second adoption did not take place until 2005 in Florida. A year later, stand-your-ground laws took off, with 11 states enacting one in 2006 alone. Another dozen passed such laws since then, bringing to the total to half of all states.
These laws were the result of a concerted National Rifle Association lobbying campaign. For example, Florida’s law, which George Zimmerman used in 2013 to escape charges for killing Trayvon Martin, was crafted by former NRA President Marion Hammer.
The American Legislative Exchange Council, an association of state legislators dedicated to limited government and of which the NRA was a member, has helped push the laws around the country using a model drafted by another NRA official.
It’s not clear whether the campaign to promote stand-your-ground laws fueled the surge in handgun production. But it’s possible that it’s part of a larger effort to normalize firearms for self-defense.
This overall picture suggests that a change in firearm industry marketing fueled an increased demand for more lethal weapons. This, in turn, appears to have fostered a change in gun culture, which has shifted away from an appreciation of the use of guns for hunting, sport and recreation and toward a view that guns are a necessity to protect oneself from criminals.
How and whether this change in gun culture is influencing rates of firearms violence is a question I’m currently researching.
So there you are, standing in a narrow, walled lane at an indoor range. The range rules are stringent: no drawing from a holster; no rapid fire or “double taps” because max. 1 shot/second; no multi-target shooting. This is all very well and good if you’ve come just to stand there and slowly practice your no-stress trigger discipline, but what if you want to train?
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Despite what some might think, you can engage in valuable training in the highly constrained confines of the walled lanes of an indoor gun range. These sorts of drills cannot replace the valuable opportunities offered by a practical/tactical outdoor range, but they can greatly augment that practical training.
About the Warm-up
The point of a warm-up is to refresh your intuitive response with proper fundamentals and to better establish physical habits and the technical tone of your training. If you neglect regular attention to stance, body attitude, grip, sight picture, breath control, trigger control, and follow through your training will become a corruption rather than an opportunity for improvement.
Some conventions & ground rules:
As fits with most indoor range rules, you’ll be working from the bench and not from a holster on these drills. You will, however, be executing reloads from concealment. Even though the drills are generally appropriate for an indoor range, be sure to adhere to your specific range’s rules. If you’re not sure if a particular drill is appropriate for your range, ask your range safety officer.
Regardless of the gun handling required by a drill, be sure to keep your muzzle pointed downrange at all times. None of these drills require any deviation from this important rule.
While it’s true you don’t get a warm-up when the crap hits the fan and you have to defend yourself, this is training to build skill competence. A smart individual tests skills and competence boundaries, too, but here I’ll be referencing skill building only.
I recommend that you engage in at least one warm-up drill to begin your range training session, no matter what other training you have planned for the day. During warm-ups, pay particular attention to stance, body attitude, grip, sight picture, breath control, trigger control, and follow through. This is your chance to define the quality of your day’s training.
Warm-up Drill #1
- A 5×5 array of 1” targets; either hand drawn or printed. Make your own in a graphics program or use a Sharpie to draw it on the back of a typical target (far easier).
- Pistol or revolver, 50 rounds of ammunition.
This drill consists of 5 sequences. In each sequence you will fire 10 shots: 2 shots each into the five 1” circles on a row or column (the target is 5×5 so you can choose to address rows or columns in your warm-up). Since your magazines are loaded with only 5 rounds, each sequence requires a magazine or speedloader exchange. The objective is to hit the center of each quarter-sized circle twice, resulting in either one hole or two connected holes (keyhole). The sequences are untimed.
- Place the target at 3 yards.
- Start with 2 loaded magazines (or speedloaders for revolver), 5 rounds in each; one in the gun and one concealed where you would normally carry a spare (even if you do not carry concealed, practice like this anyway).
The starting position is low ready or compressed ready (your choice).
- Start with your gun held in both hands, in low or compressed ready position.
- Bring your gun up on target and fire two rounds at the center of the first circle (slowly, deliberately, and with good follow through after each shot).
- Move to the next circle and fire 2 shots.
- On the third circle your gun will run empty after 1 shot. Perform a speed reload and fire the second shot.
- Finish the last two circles, 2 shots each. Your gun will run empty at the end of the row or column and your slide will lock back (for autoloading pistols).
- Remove the magazine and place your open pistol down on the bench (revolvers: cylinder open).
- Reload your magazines or speedloaders with 5 rounds each and repeat for each sequence (5 in all). Slightly increase your firing rate and decrease your time between circles with each successive sequence (but do not exceed your range maximum firing rate).
Evaluate and Adapt:
Be sure to maintain your good grip—no “milking” the grip between shots. Notice and record in your notes (always keep training notes) the number of misses and non-connected hit pairs you have. In the days/weeks to come, work to reduce the number of non-connected (keyhole) hit pairs.
If you consistently have 50 good shots with this drill, all with connected hit pairs, consider moving the target from 3 yards to 4 yards, etc… Alternately or additionally, consider returning to ready position after each 2-shot circle in order to practice good/quick target acquisition. Note that adding difficulty to this drill is in no way required! Even if you consistently ace the drill, it still provides good value to your training when performed at the closest distances and in slow, deliberate manner.
Warm-up Drill #2
I found the basis for this drill on the Tactical Professor and use it myself every week (and almost every time I train at the range). By the way, I highly recommend that you follow his blog. Great stuff there!
- Any silhouette target; B-27, B-21, Q, IDPA, IPSC, etc. – or – a plain 7” circle or diamond target (maybe hand drawn on the back of any regular target—that’s what I use). Regardless of which target you use, regard a 7”x7” area of the high chest as the scoring area.
- Pistol or revolver, 50 rounds of ammunition.
This drill consists of 5 sequences of 10 shots each, performed at 3, 5, 7, 10, and 15 yards. The sequences are untimed.
- Place the target at 3 yards.
- Start with 2 loaded magazines or speedloaders, each loaded with 5 rounds. One in the gun and one carried where you’d normally carry a concealed spare (even if you do not carry concealed, try it anyway).
The starting position is low ready or compressed ready (your choice). For double action pistols, you will decock after each step.
- Start with handgun held in both hands, in low or compressed ready position. Spare magazine loaded with 5 rounds or speedloader with 5 rounds, concealed per your normal carry method.
- Bring the handgun up on target and fire 1 shot at the center of the target. Follow through for one second and then return to ready position.
- Bring the pistol up on target and fire 2 shots at the center of the target. Follow through for one second and then return to ready position.
- Bring the pistol up on target and fire 3 shots at the center of the target. After two shots the pistol will be empty. Perform a speed reload from concealment and fire the third shot. Follow through for one second and then return to ready position.
- Bring the pistol up on target and fire 4 shots at the center of the target. After the shots, the pistol will be empty. Hopefully, the slide has locked back if it’s an autoloader.
- Place your open pistol down on the bench (revolvers: cylinder open).
- Send the target out to 5 yards and reload your magazines with 5 rounds each (and repeat the sequence at 5 yards, then 7 yards, then 10 yards, and then at 15 yards).
Evaluate and Adapt:
Notice and record in your notes the range at which you first hit outside of the scoring area—and—how many hits are outside of the scoring area. In the days/weeks to come, work to extend the range at which you hit outside of the scoring area and reduce the number of non-scoring hits.
As you improve and keep all hits in the scoring area, increase your rate of fire (up to the range maximum), but remember this is just a warm-up so this augmentation is not necessary.
We’ll cover more drills in upcoming articles.
* * *
A note about magazine exchanges:
For each of these warm-ups, pay attention to the speed, smoothness, and overall competence with which you execute the magazine exchanges. While not necessarily the point of these drills, magazine-exchange competence is something you should work to continually improve. They’re useful for basic gun-handling competence, competition (if you decide to try that), and might even save your life one day. Treat them as seriously as every other aspect of your training and find ways to incorporate mag exchanges into your training drills.
No matter your plan for the day, warm-up with proper fundamentals. Training makes permanent, and should always begin with a refresher of technical fundamentals. Even if your purpose this day is to otherwise explore the limits of your skill, you should visit the fundamentals of firearms handling and marksmanship before moving onto more substantial challenges.
In future articles I’ll share non-warm-up drills that can stretch and test your gun-handling and marksmanship skills. Stay tuned.
There are only two kinds of components in a Glock pistol: those that have broken and those that will break. Despite the well-deserved reputation for being tough as nails, every component in your Glock pistol will fail at some point. If you shoot it enough. Best learn how to maintain your Glock and learn when and how to replace parts before one of them fails you at an inconvenient time.
By Andy Rutledge
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In just the past 2 years, I’ve fired 70,000+ rounds with my Glock pistols in training and competition. I mention this fact because even though I fastidiously maintain my Glocks, those 70k shots (55K of them on just one G19) have exposed some interesting and instructive maintenance issues.
In light of that experience, I’ll share here some recommendations for maintaining a Glock pistol for a long service life and a high degree of reliability. Of course, nothing is certain with mechanical devices, but these steps I’ll share here will ensure you’re meeting your responsibilities and doing your part to mitigate destructive or life-threatening chance. Even so, be advised of one certainty: your mileage may vary.
Step One: Keep accurate round counts for every component
Firearms ownership brings with it certain responsibilities. Among them is the responsibility to keep an accurate round count for every firearm you own—AND—for each of its components. Unless you keep an accurate round count for every component in every gun, and act on it when appropriate, you will suffer an inconvenient or possibly life-threatening failure while training or defending your life. Not may, but will.
Every time you replace a component (well before it fails), log the date and round count and then record the target round count for its next replacement. Refer to and record your round counts every time you shoot your pistol. When the count crosses the appropriate threshold for a particular component’s lifespan, replace it and carry on. We’ll have a look at component lifespan in a moment.
Step Two: Perform periodic complete-disassembly cleaning
First of all, clean your Glock every time you shoot it. Keep that thing as clean as brand new and it’ll run for a long time. Additionally, I recommend a complete-disassembly detail cleaning every 2000 rounds because I find that it takes that many rounds to get the internal parts dirty enough to cause concern. As with everything in pistol maintenance, I’m erring on the side of caution rather than pressing my luck.
After completely disassembling the slide and frame, thoroughly clean each component and clean every cavity in the slide and frame. I recommend that you not remove the magazine catch and spring or the slide lock spring except for replacement, as doing so can damage and weaken those springs.
I recommend that you use only dry Q-tips or other dry materials to clean inside the slide cavities for the striker and extractor. You do not want an even slightly wet surface in your striker channel. Regardless of how you clean the rest of the components, be sure to dry them off completely with a dry patch before reassembly.
Really dirty components that need extra attention include the extractor (especially the blade edge/groove), the firing pin safety plunger, and the business end of the striker. I use Rem Oil wipes or a Rem Oil-moistened patch to really dig into those parts with my finger nails to get the gunpowder residue off completely.
Step Three: Replace components before they wear out
There is no way to know when a component will fail on any firearm. Therefore, responsibility requires we replace components at advisable round-count intervals. It’s best to replace parts before you believe there is a need to do so!
Most little Glock parts are quite inexpensive and I recommend that you have a couple of each on hand for each of your Glocks at all times. That way, when you do experience a failure—and if you train much at all you WILL experience a failure—you can simply drop in the new replacement without having to order and wait for arrival.
There are a handful of Glock pistol components that wear out faster than the others and require regular replacement. These include the recoil spring assembly, the trigger spring, the slide lock spring, and the magazine catch spring.
The recoil spring is the backbone of your pistol. There are a lot of ideas and preferences on when to replace the recoil spring to, a) prevent cycling issues, and b) to prevent breakage of the locking block pin. I’ll recommend that you replace the recoil spring for (grossly overpresured) .40 cal and .357 Sig every 3000 to 5000 rounds. For .380, 9mm, .45, and 10mm I recommend replacing every 5000 to 10,000 rounds.
I also recommend that you use only Glock factory recoil springs. I’ve tried a few others and not once has any non-Glock-OEM recoil spring lasted more than 1000 rounds before it either broke or started causing cycling issues. Plenty of other non-OEM parts can work just fine in a Glock, but I find there is no substitute for a Glock recoil spring if you’re at all interested in reliability. Here, again, your mileage may vary. Recoil spring assemblies typically cost anywhere from $7 to $20. You might also consider periodically replacing your locking block pin every 30,000 to 40,000 rounds for about $3.
With a broken trigger spring, you don’t own a pistol so much as you own a paperweight. I’ve never experienced a broken trigger spring on my Glocks. I’ve read that one should replace the trigger spring every 10,000 rounds, so that’s what I’ve done. A trigger spring failure is one I’m not willing to tempt, since they only cost about $2. That’s cheap; especially as compared to a potentially life-threatening failure.
Slide Lock Spring
With a broken slide lock spring, your slide will slide right off the frame. The slide lock is the mechanism you use to take down your Glock. The two tabs sticking out either side of the frame are the edges of the slide lock. The all-important spring sits recessed into the frame and occasionally it will just break in half. The one on my Glock 19 Gen 4 broke after 31,000 rounds (I should have replaced it earlier!). I recommend you replace the slide lock spring every 10,000 rounds or so. These springs cost around $3.
Magazine Catch Spring
A broken magazine catch spring means your pistol can’t hold a magazine, which will fall right out. The magazine catch spring in my Glock 19 Gen 4 broke after 51,000 rounds. It’s a spring recessed deep into the interior of the grip that you’ll never need to remove unless you’re replacing it or removing or replacing your magazine release. I’ve never seen data on how often these break, but you can’t run your Glock without one. They cost around $3. I’ll recommend replacing every 20,000 rounds or so.
Slide Stop Lever Spring
I mention this one only because it’s not uncommon that it needs replacement, but not necessarily because of wear. I bent a slide stop lever spring only once, I think it was during the first detail cleaning of my first Glock pistol. I’ve read that it’s a common tale, though.
The slide stop lever (not “slide release”) spring isn’t really prone to failure due to shooting or use, but it’s a delicate spring and can easily be bent. When you disassemble your pistol, it’s not uncommon for the end of the spring to catch on something and get bent. It’s also vulnerable to being bent accidentally when you’re cleaning the slide stop lever with a patch. While it’s possible you can bend the spring back into proper shape, it is not likely. Don’t try to fit a new spring, but instead just replace the lever & spring assembly for about $7.
Striker, Striker Spring, and Spring Cups
I’d recommend replacing the striker spring and spring cups every 20,000 rounds or so, but I’ve not seen any official recommendation. It’s a vital spring and the spring cups are quite delicate. These components are part of a violent mechanical process for every trigger pull, so wear is a factor. The spring and the cups set each cost about $3.
The striker is probably a lifetime component in a Glock, but I’d recommend replacing every 40,000 rounds or so. Especially if you engage in dry-fire practice on a regular basis (you do, right?).
Yes, other parts can break, but these aforementioned components are the likeliest to fail and require responsible attention to their condition, function, and periodic replacement.
A Glock pistol’s strong and simple construction gives it an inherent predisposition to just keep running under all sorts of adverse conditions, but to keep it running for years and years and for thousands and thousands of rounds, it is best to maintain it like new. Especially if it’s something you carry every day to help preserve your life.
In addition to the components cited here, be sure to give ALL of your pistol components a quick check every time you clean it. Breech faces can crack, slide rails can break out of the frame, frames can be damaged, sides can crack, etc. These failings are not common, but do happen. If you take care of your Glock, you can be sure it will take care of you in return.
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As everyone is trading their pumpkins for pumpkin spice lattes and getting ready for the snow that is soon to follow which means the arrival of relatives to the dinner table and around the Christmas tree, it also marks the end of 2016. So in good holiday spirit we here at Defend and Carry want to share our fans favorite blog posts from 2016. So after you polish off the last of that turkey at the dinner table and before you try to hang those lights in the blizzard, take a moment to enjoy these awesome gun-related articles. Who knows, you might even come up with a new holiday wish-list after reading a few of these.
Top 9 Best Tactical Gear To Own
Best 9MM Ammo For Self Defense
Sig Sauer P250 Review
Top Five Jobs For Gun Lovers
Ten Best Ammunitions For Self Defense And Concealed Carry
AR 15 For Home Defense
Prepper Essential Items For Survival
Concealed Carry Vs Open Carry
We hope you enjoyed our best gun related blog articles of 2016 as much as that eggnog you enjoy on Christmas Eve. We have worked very hard this year to bring you the best and most relevant gun related content we could find and write about and are planning on an even better 2017. We look forward to seeing you on Defend and Carry after the new years and from all of us here at Defend and Carry we hope you have a great holiday season and wish you a happy 2017!