By David Link
Like it or not, you can’t always practice at the range. Gas costs, soaring ammo costs, and range fees can really add up, and there isn’t enough time or money in the week to match up recommended practice time with the time you actually get to practice. Handgun owners need more practice than anyone, and developing a good in-home training regiment is key for conceal and carry, home defense and general handgun proficiency. Owners of other firearms like rifles or shotguns can also benefit from in home practice as well. Since you can’t be at the range all the time, several companies have developed in-home training tools you can use in your basement, garage, den or wherever you deem appropriate. In this article, we’ll be covering several of the popular options on the market today.
Before we start, if you’re in need of an in-depth article about training techniques, check out our article on Building Skill With Dry Practice.
The first and most common way to practice at home is with snap caps. Snap caps can serve several different purposes in home training exercises, but the most important is protecting the firing pin from damage. While some handguns like Glocks are incorrectly advertised as safe for dry fire, repeated dry firing has been known to damage almost every firing pin. Since in-home practice requires hundreds if not thousands of dry fire actions, snap caps are a worthwhile investment for anyone looking to train at home. You’ll want to pick up the same caliber snap caps as your firearm, and opt for metal snap caps over plastic ones since they will have a longer service record.
A-Zoom is a popular maker of snap caps like these anodized aluminum 9mm Luger rounds. All A-Zoom snap caps have a specially designed “dead cap” capable of withstanding 3,000 dry fires.
You can practice a variety of actions with snap caps like trigger control, reloading / unloading, clearing jams, and cycling through rounds. You’ll want to pick up a pack of snap caps versus just one if you own anything that is not a single shot firearm. Quality snap caps can also be used to preserve spring life when you’re storing your firearm. Snap caps handle just like real ammo, and they are an important resource when learning how to safely handle and operate your firearm.
Snap Cap Laser Trainers
Certain manufacturers like LaserLyte have taken the snap cap design to the next level by adding a laser pointer to the tip of each cartridge. Each laser trainer cartridge fits into your firearm just like a regular round, but the laser pointer at the tip is activated whenever the firing tip strikes it. The laser will fire for a short time and you’ll be able to gauge where your round would impact based upon the red dot displayed. You can use these cartridge laser trainers just like the snap caps mentioned above, but since these trainers are much more expensive than regular snap caps, you’ll probably only want to purchase one per firearm. This means that the “dummy” snap caps are still a worthwhile investment for training with multiple rounds or storage even if you get a laser trainer cartridge as well.
LaserLyte makes a variety of laser trainer cartridges like this version sized for .45 ACP handguns. Once struck by the firing pin, this model emits a laser for 100 milliseconds and can handle 3,000 dry fires before the batteries need replaced. Note, this model is rimless and won’t eject like a normal cartridge.
For those hard to find calibers or a more universal laser trainer, this LaserLyte LT-Pro fits in handgun barrels 2 inches or longer with an arbor system. The LT-Pro fits 9mm, .40 S&W, .45 ACP as well as .38 Special, .380 Auto, .357 Sig, 10mm, and 45 LC.
Plastic Training Pistols
There are times when a real firearm fitted with a laser trainer might not be suitable for in-home training situations. In cases like this, you can still train effectively without having to use an actual firearm to do so. Several different companies produce training pistols that emit lasers similar to the trainer cartridges outlined above, and since they are safe for all ages, you don’t have to be concerned about controlling or monitoring your real firearm during training sessions. Most models are made of plastic but are realistically balanced and weighted to match real firearms. The trigger pull on many models will also match that of actual firearms so you can practice your trigger control accurately. While these training pistols won’t load or eject snap caps, they can be useful for holster drills as well as targeting drills. Best of all, when used with laser training targets, you can set up a variety of scenarios and measure your accuracy and response times.
This LaserLyte Trigger Tyme Training Pistol is realistically modeled after a Glock 23 and features a resetting 5.5 lb trigger. Note that you’ll still need a laser trainer device like the LaserLyte LT-Pro to use this pistol with laser targets.
Laser Training Kits
These days there are a wide variety of laser activated targets and kits that transform your home into your own personal training range. They all operate with laser trainer cartridges or similar devices, and they provide feedback whenever the laser from your trainer cartridge or training pistol strikes the target. It is common to see more than one target in a pack, and multiple targets let you practice scenarios like near-far or left-to-right shooting drills. Advanced target kits come with several different modes to enrich your training sessions so it isn’t just point and shoot drills over and over again. At times the targets will prompt you to fire within a given time window, but you can also switch on receptive modes that announce the times when you successfully hit each target. Laser training targets and kits are safe for all ages as long as you combine them with a trainer pistol, but you can also use your real firearm with a laser trainer cartridge as long as there is proper supervision.
These Plinking Cans by LaserLyte make for interesting training targets. Whenever a laser strikes the target, a spring in the can is activated mimicking real can plinking action.
But a comprehensive training option comes in these LaserLyte Trainer Reaction Tyme Targets that can be set to reaction and training modes. These targets can function separate from one another and successful hits are announced by beeps and LED flashing lights.