Dry firing is the act of shooting your firearm without live ammunition in it. This may be done to test the trigger pull or to function check the gun to make sure it is working properly. Some shooters refuse to dry fire a gun, believing it will damage the firing pin. With some guns, this is true.
However, the only other way to check the functions of your firearm would be to shoot live ammo through it, and this is not always possible or desirable. Don’t worry. There’s an alternative to dry firing: Snap caps!
Snap caps, often called dummy rounds, are basically fake ammunition. They are nothing more than an empty plastic or aluminum shell in the shape of a standard firearm cartridge. Unlike live ammunition, there is no gunpowder or primer to ignite the round. Snap caps allow you to safely pull the trigger on your gun without damaging the firing pin or having a big bang.
Snap cap is actually a trademarked name of a product made by A-Zoom, an American firearm accessory company owned by Lyman Products. The term snap cap, however, has become the generic term for any product that serves the same purpose, much like Windex, Stryrofoam, Dumpster and Popsicle.
One great thing about snap caps is that they can be used with any gun. It does not matter if is a handgun or a long gun. They work the same on semi-autos and revolvers. Of course, you do have to buy snap caps in the correct caliber so they fit. You’ll find they’re made in all the common calibers and gauges, and some of the uncommon ones too.
Newbies and novice shooters, snap caps are for you! Using them allows you to practice the overall knowledge and function of your gun in a safe method. Just like real cartridges, you can load them into the magazine, cylinder or feed tube. Then they can be safely chambered. This allows the shooter to practice their efficiency, particularly in properly releasing the slide.
Once chambered, the shooter can practice their trigger pull. The snap cap will soften the blow of the firing pin as it comes down on where the primer would normally be on a live cartridge. This prevents any damage to the firing pin that may be caused by dry firing.
Part of perfecting your trigger control is recognizing the mistakes you are making and correcting them. Since there is no recoil when you squeeze the trigger on a snap cap, any movement you make while pulling the trigger will be more noticeable. Once the problem is realized, then you can work on correcting it.
If you have a laser on to your firearm, watching to see if the beam moves will really help you to determine if there is movement in your trigger pull. If you don’t have a laser, you can purchase a magnetic one to stick to the end of your barrel from your local gun shop. This is a perfect complement to snap caps, since it can’t be used with live ammunition. It will also help you to sight in a scope.
A chambered snap cap is the perfect way to learn how to clear a jam in an autoloading firearm. Since there is no powder charger and no bang, the slide does not cycle like it would in normal firing. This means the only way to get that snap cap out of the chamber is to manually pull the slide back by hand — the same exact way you would for a malfunction. Learning how to proficiently clear a malfunction is an essential part of general gun knowledge.
I like to incorporate snap caps into my concealed carry classes. Live ammunition should never be in any classroom portion of any gun safety class. Snap caps are essential for anyone who is or wishes to be a firearm trainer. They are reusable, usually up to three or four hundred clicks. I have all of the common handgun calibers, and I show them to new students to depict the size differences of each cartridge.
I also like to use them in live fire training. As I load the magazine for my student, I slip in a few random snap caps. When there is recoil involved it is difficult to see movement in the sight alignment and recognize errors the shooter may be making. When the student comes upon the unexpected snap cap, mistakes such as flinching or pushing are immediately obvious. And again, it gives the students the opportunity to learn how to clear a round out of the chamber efficiently.
Finally, snap caps are great for storing guns. All guns should be stored unloaded. Putting a snap cap in the chamber allows you to release the firing pin so it lays at rest. This will help relieve stress on the springs and will increase the longevity of your trigger.
Snap caps should be available at any local gun shop. They typically run between 10 and 20 bucks, but they are a priceless tool for any gun owner. Whether you are new to shooting or a veteran marksman, I recommend picking some up. Just remember, even with snap caps, always treat the gun as if it were loaded. Always!
Be safe, and happy shooting.
Jenny Malone grew up in the Charlotte County area and is an NRA-certified pistol instructor and range safety officer. You can talk guns with her at J&J One Stop Gun Shop at 2324 Tamiami Trail, Port Charlotte.