Dummy rounds come in a variety of configurations, some specifically designed for firearms training.
I’ve worked with dummies on every job I’ve had. I’m not saying all my fellow employees were a few fries short of a Happy Meal, but there was always a few bulbs in the bunch that were a watt or two on the weak side. The upside to working with dummies is it makes you feel or appear smarter [eds.: Tell us about it...]. Similarly, when it comes to firearms, working with dummies is the smart thing to do. I’m not talking about dummy instructors, I’m talking about dummy rounds.
Dummy rounds can help you become a better shot and teach you to handle your firearm more competently. But, don’t just take my word for it. Dummy rounds are included in the curriculum of one of the most esteemed handgun-training courses in the world: the 250 Pistol Course offered by Gunsite Academy. In fact, at the end of the first day of the five-day course, instructors issue dummy rounds to every student so they can do homework.
Dummy rounds come in a variety of configurations. Some are simple plastic cartridges and others are ultra-high-tech intelligent. Here’s how you can use them smartly.
Knowing how to sort out a stoppage with your firearm quickly is an important skill. By having a shooting buddy mix the aforementioned inert ammunition in your magazines, you can easily simulate failures-to-fire and they will occur when you’re not expecting it. You can also use dummy rounds to set up a stovepipe or a double-feed stoppage, so you can practice clearing those, too. In my opinion, learning to clear these stoppages with dummy rounds should be a prerequisite to conducting these exercises with ammunition that will actually go bang and make holes in stuff.
Dummy rounds can be used to help you practice speed or tactical reloads. They will fit in a speedloader, magazine or revolver cylinder just like real ammo. You simply cannot properly practice reloading a revolver without individual cartridges or a full speedloader. And, if you’re practicing reloading from slide lock, you need ammunition (dummy rounds) in the magazine or the slide will not go forward when cycled by hand. Knowing how to port or tac-load a shotgun is also a worthwhile skill, and since you can get dummy rounds for shotguns, you can practice these techniques safely, too.
Another kind of dummy round is the snap cap. Snap caps are a bit more expensive and are intended for dry-fire training. The most expensive snap caps contain a spring-loaded plunger in place of the primer to help reduce stress on the firing mechanism/firing pin of the firearm. Other, less-expensive versions have a polymer insert where the primer is supposed to be to provide the same service. Are they necessary? With the exception of rimfire firearms, probably not. However, one thing the snap cap does do is to help circumvent the accidental insertion of live ammo when you are conducting dry-fire training. The two loudest sounds in the world are a click when you need to hear a bang and a bang when you expect to hear a click.
The most expensive fake ammunition you can buy is a cartridge-simulating device that contains a laser. This high-tech ammo is also designed for dry-fire practice. These miniature laser devices fit inside the chamber of your firearm and when the firing pin strikes them, they emit a laser beam. They can be used by themselves or in conjunction with laser-reactive targets when you want to make dry-fire practice something other than the mundane, anti-climatic ordeal it generally is.
Where to find Dummies
If you handload, you can create your own inert cartridges. This is probably the most cost-effective solution. Just leave out the powder and primer when you load. Or, when you size your cases, leave the spent primer in place by removing the de-priming rod from your sizing die. When I load my own dummy rounds, I like to use nickel cases because they’re easier to find on the ground. You can even spray paint your homegrown dummies, but the paint wears off with little use.
Optionally, check out Magpul. It offers a five pack of 5.56 NATO dummy rounds for $4.95. My favorite dummy rounds are probably those from ST Action Pro. Its dummy rounds are built with plastic bullets and nickel cases, and are available for most defensive handgun cartridges, the .223 Rem. .308 Win. and 12 gauge. They sell for about $1 each.
Pachmayr and Tipton sell snap caps for a variety of chamberings including .22 LR. Prices range from about $0.50 to $5 per cartridge. If you want the advantage of dry-fire training with a laser, LaserLyte offers a variety of laser cartridges and kits with prices starting at about $100.
Dummy rounds may not be real ammo, but they are real important if you want to train better and train safer.