Among the wide variety of responses to TTAG’s recent blog on the Missouri training-fatality “Irresponsible Gun Owner Of The Day,” many of our professional Armed Intelligentsia expressed their horror that a novice shooter died while attempting a live-fire exercise involving both a weak-handed cross-body presentation and an unfamiliar gun type. They also expressed their outrage that an alleged ‘firearms instructor’ allowed, much less encouraged, the victim to try it . . .

When becoming familiar with new guns or shooting styles, our ad-hoc panel of professionals stressed the importance of safe (read “unloaded”) familiarization and training before practicing such evolutions with live, loaded weapons. One way to do this is to unload your pistol, safety-check it several times, and put all your ammo out of reach. Another option is to use a blue plastic training gun.

There are drawbacks to both of these choices. An unloaded gun doesn’t cost you an extra dime, and it handles just like a loaded gun except for the bullet-thingy that comes out of the business end. It looks just like a loaded gun, too.

In fact, that’s the problem: the only thing separating a loaded semi-auto from an unloaded semi-auto is the handler’s act of dropping the magazine and clearing the chamber. Another person (your shooting partner or instructor) can almost never tell visually whether that Glock is loaded or empty. Much anxiety may result, and hence, much safety-checking must ensue.

Blue guns are absolutely safe lumps of plastic, and they’re instantly recognizable as such. You can holster them, twirl them and even point them at your pets and friends without risking criminal negligence. (Poor etiquette? Maybe.) Blue guns are good for instructors’ longevity and peace of mind, but they’re useless for building muscle memory for more intricate evolutions like reloading, weak-hand drills, getting a good sight picture, or clearing jams. Blue guns also run about $50, which is cheaper than a funeral but still a lot for a lump of plastic.

Now there’s a third way: for fourteen bucks you can replace your Glock’s barrel with an inert, bright yellow plastic stick from Blade-Tech Industries. Okay, it’s not really a stick; it’s a plastic non-barrel with a solid breech (no chamber at all) and a skeletonized ‘barrel.’ The plastic chamber block has the same external dimensions as a real barrel’s chamber block, including the tilting bolt lug, but it’s solid so it cannot chamber or fire anything.   I don’t know if it has a snap-cap built in (how cool would that be?) but it lets you manipulate your gun in almost every other way imaginable including dry-fire.

It also advertises its “THIS IS NOT A LOADED GUN” status very loudly, both to you and to others.

The barrel chamber block is bright yellow instead of blued or stainless steel, and a friendly yellow plus-sign replaces your gun’s ‘Mouth of Hell’ muzzle cavity. Both you, your friends, and your instructor can tell instantly that your gun is completely safe. Your pets probably won’t care.

I’m intrigued, and at this price I sure wouldn’t mind trying these out for my own semi-autos. At this point they are only offered for Glocks, and alas I am Glockless.

They seem like a good safety idea, but without handing a crate of them to a statistically-valid sample of gun noobs and taking careful note of how many of them still manage to accomplish an AD, there’s no way to tell for sure. They may be foolproof, but fools are very clever.

What say you?

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11 Responses to Empty Gun, Blue Gun, or Plastic Training Barrel?

  1. Learn with the gun you’re going to use. Thus, train with an empty gun. Anyone who is so ignorant or stupid that they can’t check the gun and make it safe has no business handling it in the first place. And by the way, if there’s such a thing as muscle memory, mine must be senile.

  2. Sounds like it could be useful for group instruction with multiple trainees per trainer. For one-on-one instruction or solo practice, I agree with Ralph.

    Oh, and here’s a link to the Blade-Tech page for this training barrel.

    ETA: The training barrel is available for some non-Glock pistols.

  3. According to Blade Tech’s website, they have training barrels for a variety of popular semi-autos beyond just Glock.

  4. That is very interesting. I’m in the process right now of indoctrinating a close friend into the world of target shooting. We have spent a fair amount of time thus far handling various guns with any bullets for them tucked safely away in another room. These fake barrels would add an additional level of safety to the process.

    I lost count how many times I handed Paul an obviously empty gun and asked him if it was loaded. He gets it now; the answer is always yes.

  5. I just completed part 1 of the NRA pistol instructor class at AFS today with Henri (he’s french and this is how he spells his name). Henri’s main objective thru out the entire class was SAFETY SAFETY SAFETY, he told us that you can never be to safe and that we should stress this fact to all future students. I told him about the student that shot himself, and Henri’s smile disappeared instantly. He then asked each of us in the class what could and should have been done to avoid a similar tragedy.

  6. Sounds like Ralph is supporting a “common sense” requirement for gun ownership.

    FWIW I use an airsoft replica for handling and holster work with the kids. Much better to have a $100 toy get tossed 5′ from sloppy handling than then real thing.

    I use a snap cap with a little plastic “tail” that hangs out of the muzzle.

  7. I haven’t run across a Hipower airsoft yet so I use a 1911 airsoft to do most of my training with. The Hipower and 1911s usually fit in the same holsters an such too.

  8. I like them. You can do all the dry fire/manipulation training you want with these training barrels in place. At only about $11 they’re a no-brainer, imho.

  9. 5 years later and I find this while trying to find more of the practice barrel I found on Amazon 3 years ago. Glock 17, I swap out to the yellow practice to do my dry firing routine in the bedroom to a target on the bathroom wall. I’m a Jerry Kuhnhausen disciple so I put a square piece of rubber in the extractor-headspace to cushion the firing pin when fired.
    Well worth the under 20 bucks to make it as safe as a dumbbell. I think I want to be a carrier, so I need one for a Glock 26.

  10. Wow, what a terrible attitude is expressed toward new shooters — of which I am one, and female, too — by Mr. Dumm. “Gun noobs” doesn’t bother me. But gun noobs as “fools”? Extremely arrogant and offensive.

    Weren’t you once a noob, Mr. Dumm? And suppose some noob did, God forbid, manage an accidental discharge during training. Is that entirely the fault of the “fool”? Mightn’t there be fault on the part of experienced trainers whom noobs like me rely upon to teach us safely?

    You have some rethinking to do, Mr. Dumm. And a rewrite would wouldn’t hurt, either.

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