Laser Training Cartridges: Training Aid or Negligent Discharge Enabler?

Laserlyte makes laser gunsights, muzzle-mounted laser boresighters and chamber-mounted laser boresighters.  I’m currently evaluating their chamber boresighters for .223 and .270 and I’m impressed thus far; I’m sure the .223 version has already saved me almost a box of 5.56 ammo. I’ll post a full review after I can use it in a few more rifles, but I should describe its operation now: it’s a machined-brass cartridge case with a (hopefully) precisely aligned laser inside of it. When you put it in the chamber of your rifle and close the action, the red laser is activated and it shows you exactly where your barrel is pointed.  The laser stays on until you remove it from the gun. To zero your new scope, red dot or iron sights, simply adjust them until they line up with the laser dot at 15 yards or so. You’ll know your first shots will already be ‘on the paper.’ SO a good idea then. Yes, well, that’s that. This—Laser Training Cartridges—are something else . . .

In addition to the chamber boresighters, Laserlyte has released what they call their “Laser Training Cartridges” for 9mm, .40 S&W and .45 ACP.  They’re almost the same as the chamber boresighters, but they’re only for handguns and they’re momentarily activated when you pull the trigger and the firing pin hits a spring-loaded switch. They list at about $100, and advertise that their tiny batteries will last for about 1000 ‘shots.’

To safely practice shooting in your home, the idea is simple enough: you clear your pistol, drop one of these laser cartridges in the chamber,and dry-fire to your heart’s content.  Each time the hammer or striker drops, the red laser dot will show you where the bullet would have hit.

They’re only offered in these three semi-auto calibers, (sorry .38/.357 fans) and they work best with traditional DA/SA pistols. XD-istas and Glock jocks will have to partially rack the slide to reset the striker between laser ‘shots.’

I’m not sure if these gadgets are a great training aid or a “What Could Possibly Go Wrong?” candidate. Dry-firing practice is always a compromise between realism and safety, with blue plastic training guns at one end of the spectrum and real (unloaded) firearms at the other. Each compromise has its benefits and disadvantages.

Here’s where I come down on the issue: the idea of aiming and pulling the trigger of my self-defense pistol around the house with anything in the chamber gives me the willies.

I’m not a laser-hater; I sometimes use an external laser as a point-shooting practice aid for my ‘middle of the night’ defensive pistol, which wears a light and laser. Before doing so, I drop the magazine and empty the chamber, rack the slide and check the chamber multiple times, activate the slide-mounted safety (the only time I ever do that) and then lock the magazine and ammo back in the gun safe until playtime’s over.

And then I check the chamber again. And again. I’m a little OCD about that. My finger stays out of the trigger guard, because for me the laser is only for instinctive pointing practice, and not for trigger control.

As I mentioned, I’m evaluating chamber-mounted boresighters, and I like them a lot so far. They don’t set my spidey-senses tingling; they’re not meant to be used for trigger practice. The laser is always on when the boresighter is chambered (instant proof that the gun is not loaded with live ammo).

I believe I’m being as near as possible to 100% safe with the combination of an empty gun (signified by the always-on laser dot), the manual safety on (it’s a rifle) and my finger safely off the trigger.

These training cartridges would be perfect for a basement dry-firing ‘range’ or a private backyard, or any place where you can follow all the rules of gun safety while dry-firing. But I can’t imagine myself aiming them around the house as some in the blogosphere are already suggesting.  Learning to load a brass-colored widget into a 9mm, aim it around the house and pull the trigger is not a practice skill I want to acquire.