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?