Editor’s Note: This is the first article in our newly minted “Christmas” series. While all the items we’ll be highlighting are not exactly stocking stuffers, snap caps certainly are. Our criteria for this series is pretty simple. We’re featuring products in the $150 range or less, that we think represent exceptional value. Stay tuned for more great gift ideas for your favorite gunslinger.
by Rob Kay
At On Target, after a flight of fancy, we like to get back to basics. For example, we’ve done a number of stories on gun cleaning. (How basic can you get?)
One of the most basic things you can do, is practice your shooting skills. The other day I had the opportunity to speak to Jerry Miculek, arguably one of the greatest shooters alive. In preparation for my interview, I looked at his videos. He is constantly asked by enthusiasts how they can emulate him. His answer was that if you stayed on the range from sunrise to sunset every day, you too, can be a pretty darn good shooter.
I would add to that (if I may be so presumptuous) that one can also practice outside the range.
Getting your muscle memory in order means a lot of dry firing at home. The more that squeezing that trigger becomes second nature, the more you will become one with your gun.
Now the confusion.
Some manufacturers say that dry firing is safe for certain guns while other gun makers state that for repeated dry firing, it’s best to use snap caps.
There are a few hard and fast rules.
Rimfire pistols and rifles should never be dry fired without snap caps. There’s a good reason for this. When a rimfire firearm is dry fired without the soft brass rim to hit, the striker hits the outside the mouth of the chamber. The result can not only damage or wreck your firing pin, but even damage the barrel face. Extensive peening can even prevent ammunition from chambering correctly.
In researching this article I found references to older pistol designs such as the CZ-52, which had especially brittle firing pins. I’m told if you dry fire that particular model on an empty chamber you’re almost assured after couple dozen strikes, of breaking your firing pin. My Freedom Arms owner’s manual specifically states under no circumstances to dry fire that gun. (Even with with snap caps they recommend only a limited amount dry firing).
Other guns, such as older Smith & Wesson revolvers, have the free floating striker pinned to the hammer. When the firing pin over-travels—as it will without a snap cap, it can hit the frame and potentially causing damage to the striker.
When a company says that it’s ok to dry fire it’s product, it’s certain that the engineers know what they are talking about. Modern metallurgy has vastly improved firearms. They are lighter and often stronger and more resilient than in the old days.
That said, guns aren’t designed to be dry fired incessantly.
Even if you have a modern gun engineered and constructed with the best materials, dry firing without a snap cap will put wear on parts that might lead to damage.
Snap caps allow you to fire nearly any gun without risk of damage to your firing pin, or any other part of the gun. They allow the firing pin to dissipate its energy by providing a malleable material (ie plastic or aluminum) where the primer should be.
My rule of thumb is to buy snap caps every time I purchase a firearm in a different caliber. They’re not expensive, and also offer an important resource for practicing malfunction drills.
In addition to using snap caps for practice, there’s also the “instructional” factor.
I’m often demonstrating gun safety to friends or showing how to properly squeeze a trigger. If you’re an instructor of any kind, snap caps can be invaluable. For example you can also instruct newbies how to load a gun in your living room without having to worry about accidental discharges.
Anyway you look at it, snap caps are a great investment and Tipton makes some dandy ones. At $12.39 at Amazon, they are not going to break the bank, or your gun.
Photos courtesy of On Target staff and Tipton.
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