To master the shooting arts, you need two thing: training and practice. Beyond practicing my cowboy-style holstering twirls and Dirty Harry impersonations in front of the bathroom mirror, I try to work in as much actual “bang bangness” down at the range as possible. Two factors stop me from shooting as much as I’d like: time and greenbacks. As Steve Miller reminded us, time keeps on slipping, slipping. Range trips tend to be day-long events; placing the pleasure in direct competition with real life. Every once and again one has to work to pay the bills, pay the bills, say hello to people and perform other activities which gun enthusiasts classify as “not range time.” As for money . . .
Money’s too tight to mention. So anything that helps make my obsession more affordable has my full attention. Writing for this website, for example. In exchange for my time and meagre talent, RF blesses me with access to OPG (Other Peoples’ Guns) and a limited quantity of free ammo (courtesy Lucky Gunner). Otherwise, well . . .
What if there were a training aid that lets you reclaim some of that precious time and hang on to some of those slippery greenbacks? Speer Bullets has an answer. Plastic wadcutters powered only by large pistol primers.
I stumbled upon this product whilst plowing through the inventory at Midway USA, looking for bullets of various weights to try new powder-loads for my .45. Despite my natural aversion to infomercial-style innovations, curiosity got the best of me. My checkout cart was suddenly $8.50 more financially burdensome.
The bullets themselves are nothing extra-special: cylindrical pieces of black-plastic not more than an inch long with a hollowed out end. I snagged a few spent casings off of my workbench, drilled out the flash holes per manufacturer’s recommendation, and set about priming them. I decided only to sacrifice 10 cases to the cause.
Prepping all 10 required less than five minutes of my time. The primer provides adequate energy to propel these from the barrel at 300 – 400 feet-per-second (FPS). No powder is used in loading. I repeat; no powder is used in loading.
I created a backstop / target out of some old shipping cardboard and unloaded my Springfield. I loaded five “training rounds” into the magazine, snugged her home, and moved to my make-shift training range.
In other words, I put the cardboard box at the other end of the garage ~25 feet away. The thought briefly crossed my mind: “Hey, this is a bad idea bucko.” But it was quickly repressed like my childhood fear of ranch dressing and Rock ‘Em-Sock ‘Em Robots. “Damn the Torpedoes!” I racked the slide. FTF (Failure to Fire). Wonderful.
The hard plastic edge of the training bullet snagged on the slide-stop inside the chamber of my 1911. Easy fix; drop the mag, clear the weapon, and try again.
A small fury face appears in the interior window of my garage as I rack the slide a second time. As the slide comes forward and grabs the round, the cat loses balance, plummets off of the laundry shelf and takes half of my laundry rack with her, dumping detergent across the room.
Why is this relevant? Frankly, it’s not. But it adds another dynamic to the “fail-arity” happening in the garage. The second round ALSO jammed. The second time, the bullet’s flat leading edge deflects off of the feed-ramp. The entire bullet wedges itself half-chambered in the pistol. Spectacular.
Not-so-easy fix this time, Mr. Bond. I dropped the mag and struggled like hell to clear the weapon. I finally resorted to resting the slide in a bench vice, using both hands and a significant amount of body weight to operate the slide.
As the bullet leaves the gun, another thought pops into my head: I could have driven to the range by now. Time to think outside the mag. Let’s load the cartridge manually.
OHD! It works! I dropped the cartridge in, sling-shot the slide, and assumed the low ready. Safety on. In other words, I fumbled with the flat-nosed way-too-lightweight and out-of-balance cartridge, gently pushed the round into place and closed the slide to bring the pistol into battery.
Safety glasses? Check. Hearing protection? Hrmm . . . un-check. Clear field of fire? Check (aim past the car, above the oil cans, at the cardboard propped on the paper-towel rack). Gentle trigger-squeeze? Check.
*POP,* *SMACK,* *TING!*
The plastic bullet impacted squarely on target, over-penetrated, ricocheted off the drywall, and landed on the reloading bench behind me.
Oops! Seem I’d disregarded Speer’s advice of Speer. I didn’t coat the inside of my bullet-trap with carpet scraps. So, I took a short break for a quick inspection of the dent in the drywall and some target “adjustment.”
Since there is no powder in the plastic casing, the pistol will not cycle after each shot. After wiping carpet remnants off my person, I ejected the spent casing, manually loaded the next round and took aim again. Lather, rinse, repeat—for a total of five indoor discharges. The cat was back in the window, with an expression that says “scuuuuse me … WTF are you doin’?” Relax, cat; I’m discharging firearms in my garage!
At 25ish feet the plastic bullets hit dead on point-of-aim, then still bounced around my garage like a blaster-bolt in the garbage compactor on the detention level. Quite fun, and reusable! As the target shows, my groupings were fairly consistent.
The novelty factor of the Speer Plastic Training Bullets wore off after about ten rounds. Don’t get me wrong; they’re a literal blast to shoot in a [well-ventilated] garage. But these not-so-bad boys are a giant pain in the rear to load into the pistol. I wonder if RF will reimburse me $10, plus shipping and handling.
Specifications: Speer Plastic Training Bullets
Caliber: Available in .38, .44, or .45
Price: ~$9 per box of 50
Ratings (out of five)
Ease of Use * 1/2
Drilling out the flash holes in the cases designated for use with these bullets takes time, but assembly / use is otherwise easy. Manually loading each cartridge into the chamber is a drag; like hanging with a Grateful Dead-loving friend, jamming is a major issue.
Fun Factor * *
Shooting in my garage was a riot . . . when I was actually shooting. The fumbling around trying to get the bullets to feed properly / having to manually load each one significantly detracts from the fun that could be had here.
Utility * * * *
I’ll give high marks here; practicing draw, aim, fire (which my local range prohibits) is a huge advantage to using these “training bullets.” Think of them as one step up from snap-caps or a laser bore sight in draw / fire drills.
What Could Possibly Go Wrong * * * * *
Truth be told, I was tempted to give the cat a 300fps smack on the butt (we have history). But I didn’t. Nor would I recommend any kind of animal cruelty to anyone at all ever so help me God. Meanwhile, I’d bet the farm that someone had the bright idea to “shoot” a friend with one of these. And yes Christmas Story fans, you can put your eye out.
Overall Rating * *
Fun, but not THAT fun. Accurate, but not THAT accurate. Delightfully useful, but not THAT useful. Home-made paraffin wax bullets seem a better bet.