Thursday, May 17, 2018

They May Be Dummies But...

...the folks who sell dummy rounds certainly are not - certainly not when they are charging up to $70.99 per box of 50 9mm dummy rounds (price source). Dummy rounds are inert rounds without  primers and lacking any gunpowder so they cannot be fired. Thus, they can be used in several different types of firearm training scenarios such as malfunction drills, one handed loading drills, testing shooters to see if they are anticipating recoil and so on. If you are not familiar with dummy rounds, and are a shooter, you are missing out on using an invaluable training aid.

As I noted above though, they are not inexpensive. A typical box of 9mm practice ammo can be had for around $11.00 plus or minus a dollar or two. Yet, dummy rounds - that lack any gunpowder and do not have primers and are essentially a bullet in an off colored empty shell casing, or are a solid piece of plastic, or are a more complex Snap Cap with plastic and brass body and an internal spring mechanism to absorb the impact of the firing pin - are way more expensive that actual live rounds. I suppose it somewhat has to do with supply and demand and I know that they are not very high in demand. When you consider that the price I quoted above for a box of 50 9mm dummy rounds means they are selling for almost $1.42 for a round it is no wonder that more folks do not purchase them. The thing is, you can use them over and over again to a certain extent before they break or otherwise become unusable and as I said they are an excellent training aid.

From left to right: metal dummy rounds, plastic ones
and snap caps which are probably the most expensive.
I recommend them for anyone who dry fires. My thought is that having them in the chamber helps prevent the firing pin spring (on semi autos) to overextend as the firing pin hits something stopping its forward travel as would happen when striking a primer. I also highly recommend them to anyone who wants to practice malfunction drills.

These metal dummy rounds never had anything resembling a
primer to stop the forward movement of the firing pin and just
take a good look at them. There is an indentation well beyond
where the base of the primer would have been seated proving
that a firing pin will go well beyond where it was meant to stop.
Randomly loading one or maybe even three of them into a magazine along with your live rounds (when shooting at a range) is one of the best ways to practice live fire malfunction drills. For instance, say you randomly load a 15 round magazine with 12 live rounds and three dummy rounds (just mix up the proper caliber rounds and load them as you pick them up without looking at them but first make sure there are no rounds of other calibers within reach). You do so with as many magazines that you have available. Then begin to fire at your target. The gun goes bang, bang, click. You have just simulated a failure to fire - what do you do to correct that? If that gun is the only gun you have, you tap, rack and reengage. Note I did not say you tap, rack and fire. While you may need to fire, you need to assess before pulling that trigger again.

Okay, you need to fire - so you pull the trigger. The gun either goes bang, bang, bang with a click sooner or later if there is another dummy round remaining in the mag or it just goes click. If it just goes click, you have obviously loaded one dummy round right after another and again have simulated a failure to fire and possible a failure to feed due to a magazine malfunction by which the mag is not feeding ammo into the chamber. What do you do? Nope, you do not tap, rack and reengage. You strip the magazine out of the gun (hopefully you have another loaded mag), rack and lock the slide open as you tilt the pistol up to assure and look to assure it does not have a round stuck in the chamber or the action, shove a new mag into the mag well, slingshot the slide and reengage as you assess. Of course, you fire if necessary. Dummy rounds are perfect for this type of drill. Of course you can also use spent shell casings and there is a good chance they will not feed properly and thus cause a failure to feed instead of a failure to fire. They sometimes get stuck and do not go into the chamber but this often results in the same type of clearing drill as the two I just mentioned.

Although I use both dummy rounds and spent shell casings in malfunction drills, there is a very important thing to consider before using spent shell casings in certain types of training. Spent shell casings are the same color as live ammo, so I do not use them while dry firing. It's too easy to mix them up and mistakenly load a live round. It is a good idea never to have any live ammo anywhere near you while dry firing and even more so when using spent shell casings because it is just too easy to confuse the two. Another reason I prefer to use dummy rounds is that they can help diagnose things a shooter is doing wrong when firing whereas spent shell casings may not if they do not properly feed.

Even the best of instructors cannot always tell why a shooter is missing the mark - it is truly difficult to tell sometimes what action it is that the shooter is taking that is making his shots go anywhere but center of target and that is often because the recoil comes on so quickly and does not allow one to clearly see what the shooter is doing wrong. With dummy rounds though, the problem often become obvious. Take for example a shooter who is anticipating recoil and is pushing forward and downward with the shooting hand(s) just before firing. An eagle eyed instructor may catch it or may not when live ammo is being fired. If on the other hand you have a couple to few dummy rounds loaded in with the shooter's live ammo you are in for a good show. As the shooter is firing and the gun goes bang, bang, bang, bang then click something quite remarkable often happens. The gun dips very noticeably on that shot that went click. That is because there is no recoil to obliterate the dip by almost immediately pulling the pistol back up. Not only does the instructor now clearly see the problem but so too does the shooter. It is an eye opener and a big step in correcting the problem. This works as well with faults such as jerking the trigger, palming (pivoting the muzzle of the handgun upwards before a shot) and so on. You can train with dummy rounds in semi-auto pistols, revolvers, rifles and shotguns. There are dummy rounds available in many different calibers, especially in the most popular ones.

When using dummy rounds, even when you think your firearm is completely loaded with only dummy rounds, never assume that the gun is not actually loaded wit a live round. Follow the rules of firearms safety and treat it with the same respect that you do a gun that is loaded with live rounds. In other words don't become a dummy just because you think you are loaded with dummies. Playing with it like a toy and or pointing a gun loaded with dummy rounds at an improper target could lead to you killing someone if a live round somehow gets mixed in. One other thing you want to assure when using dummy rounds is that you completely unload them from your guns after using them and then separate them from any live ammo you will be loading for carry. It would not be a good thing to wind up in a self-defense situation only to have to tap, rack and reengage because you somehow mixed a dummy round in with your live ammo for carry purposes. Anyway, as I said, they make an invaluable training aid and if you do not have any for certain types of training drills, I strongly recommend you pick some up and start using them. I also strongly recommend that you get your first experience using dummy rounds during training given to you by a certified firearms instructor  but I know some folks do not follow such advice and will take it upon themselves to train themselves. So, bear in mind that if you are for some reason going to do it yourself, at the very least - do some additional research into the proper application and use of dummy rounds in training scenarios before actually beginning to train with them.

All the best,
Glenn B