The Benefits of Dummy Rounds or Snap Caps in Dry Firing
Dry firing is simply pulling the trigger of a firearm without live ammunition in the chamber. Since the chamber is empty, nothing will go off and hence the shot is "dry".
Why would you dry-fire your firearm? Well, some shooters would say it cures flinching or it helps muscle memory. I would say ammo is not cheap nowadays. If you are competing in the shooting sports, nothing—and I mean nothing—can beat spending time at the range for some practice sessions. But that will cost you a lot of money. Muscle memory plays a very important role in almost any sports and repetition is the key to muscle memory. In order to develop muscle memory, you'll have to shoot thousands and thousands of rounds. And in order to maintain a certain level of skills, guess what? You have to shoot regularly.
Dry firing not only allows you to save on ammo but be able to practice some important skills away from the range or in the comfort of your home. I used to do this a lot... sight alignment, target transition, and trigger pull while sitting on my couch watching TV. So here are some of the benefits of using dummy round or snap caps when dry firing, as well as some tips.
Will Dry Firing Damage Your Firearm?
You'll hear this from time to time. "Don't dry fire... it will damage your firearm!"
To find out, the first thing to do is check your manual. Some firearms cannot be dry-fired like those rim-fire firearms because their firing pin is designed to strike the rim of the casings and if the chamber is empty, the striker will most likely hit the shoulder of the chamber wall and break. I would not dry fire old or rare firearms because it might be difficult to find replacement parts.
Newer firearms, however, are typically dry-fire friendly and if you are really worried, use snap caps. Think about it... if you are into the shooting sports, putting thousands of rounds to develop muscle memory instead of dry-firing will wear out your firing pin anyways and at some point will break. Which is more practical then?
What Are Dummy Rounds or Snap Caps?
"Dummy round" and "snap cap" are usually interchangeable words but dummy rounds are typically made of plastic while snap caps are replicas of a live round minus the ammunition. Both are inert and won't go off, but good for dry firing practice. They load into the chamber through the magazine like a regular live round but they don't eject by themselves so you need to manually rack the slide to extract them.
At some point, we all need to do some work on our guns, and sometimes you need to check the feeding and extracting of the cartridge from the chamber. No matter how careful you are, if you are using live rounds to do this, there is still some risk involved. If you are at the range, then it's probably a different story... but if you are in the comfort of your home, then it's the absolute worst place for accidental discharge to happen. Using dummy rounds or snap caps to check feeding and extracting is a safer way to go because they will never go off.
Using dummy rounds or snap caps is like adding an extra layer of protection for your gun's firing pin or striker. I know that modern guns will most likely be dry-fire friendly, but it wouldn't hurt to use snap caps as well. Also, you are trying to avoid the scenario where your firing pin snaps or breaks at the most inconvenient time, like in the middle of a shooting competition. If it breaks during regular practice at the range, that's fine.
Are You Flinching?
If you are shooting low, you can use snap caps to find out if you are flinching. In your next practice session at the range, bring some dummy round or snap caps and blindly load them in your magazine in between live rounds. Or ask a friend to load the magazine for you so this way you don't know when you're gonna get a dummy round... it's called "ball-and-dummy" drill. Setup your video recorder, or if you have one of those POV video camera, and start recording shot after shot. If you are anticipating the "bang", you will discover any flinching movement when you fire the dummy round because nothing will go off. This trick is timeless! Even experienced shooters can flinch and the use of dummy rounds or snap caps can reveal this bad habit. Dry firing, when done properly, can significantly minimize flinching, if not totally eliminate it. When your target is huge, flinching is probably out of the question... but when shooting far away targets or steel plates, then even small movements when you squeeze the trigger can have a huge impact on your accuracy.
Buying and Using Dummy Rounds and Snap Caps
When buying dummy round or snap caps, make sure you know what to looking for. Some dummy rounds are just, well... dummy. Made of plastic for the purpose of dry firing only. Snap caps are made with real casings and rubber or plastic primer to protect the firing pin that's same weight and feel of live rounds. They are really good not just for dry firing but for reloading and firing training as well.
Make sure your dummy rounds or snap caps have different colors than your live ammo to avoid mix-ups. If your live ammo is brass, you should get the nickel snap caps and if your live ammo is nickel then get the brass snap caps. This will help you easily tell the difference. The tips also come in different colors so that's another safety net there. Also, do not store the dummy rounds in the same place as your live ammo. This is not only for safety purposes but in case of break-ins, you don't wanna accidentally load your gun with snap caps!
Snap caps aid in tactical reloading practice too. It's perfectly safe... no ammunition and it closely represents the true weight of loaded magazine. Don't use the plastic dummy rounds because it will be lighter than the actual weight so your loaded magazine will feel lighter too.
As always, follow the necessary safety precautions when handling firearms. It's loaded every time you pick it up unless after you checked the chamber. Make sure that you are using the dummy rounds or snap caps and put away all the live ammo before you begin dry firing. You can never be too safe!