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I’ve been doing a lot of shooting lately for TTAG. Unfortunately, not many of those shots have been for my own personal pleasure or joy. I’ve been really focused on collecting data or trying to break something. Even though I have put thousands of rounds down range this year, I haven’t focused on becoming a better shooter. My peers call that “a really sucky situation.”

With my fiancée working another graveyard shift and the cat giving me the stinkeye, I decided to hit the range with my very dusty 1911. I wanted to put some holes in paper just for the sake of putting holes in paper. And honestly, the old girl needed some attention (the 1911, not my fiancée).

My dad bought this particular Colt in Houston in the early 80’s after a break in. He shot it a few times over the years, but it remained largely unused. I resurrected it last year after being afraid to shoot it as a youngster. And I’m happy to say that I regularly outshoot my stall mates at the local range with a gun that is close to thirty years old. But after spending decades without getting regular exercise, I know the old girl is sensitive about lack of use. I should be a better caretaker.

If I’m being honest, I need to get my ass in gear about getting my CHL. I know it and so do you. So I figured that this would be a good opportunity to practice some very basic FTF drills, mag changes, and one handed firing. Ideally, I want to establish a baseline for where I am now versus where I want to be six months from now.

When I arrived at my favorite range, I realized that I didn’t own any snap caps. Luckily, my local shooting hole is more than happy to sell me snap caps for just a bit more than MSRP. While I was at it, I figured I should film myself shooting so I could critique things later. I picked up on some nasty habits watching myself shoot for the Umarex/Colt reviews. Here, for your viewing pleasure, is my first go round using said snap caps.

First off, I have no idea why my index finger is riding the front of the trigger guard. If you had told me that I do that, I would have called you a liar. Second, look at that flinch when I squeeze the trigger. I never would have known that I did that without the caps. And the camera. I’m not sure if you can catch me cursing at myself under my breath and that’s probably a good thing. Fast-forward a few minutes and about 20 rounds later…

I fixed that little finger thing and felt like I had quite a bit more control over things. And check out that snap cap fire. I cut down on the flinch. And damned if my shooting didn’t get a lot better for it.

So what have I learned? $15.95 was a small price to pay to not only identify my weak areas, but bring them out in the bright, harsh light of reality. I’m willing to bet that some of our readers are going to pick apart some other aspects of my shooting form, and I welcome the criticism. I’m only going to get better because of it.

I also know that I won’t feel comfortable carrying concealed until I’ve spent some time with a competent instructor. I hope Nick is ready to do some pistol shooting while he is down here. Lord knows I need the help.

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  1. I’ve been doing ball-dummy drills with my wife, who’s never owned a gun before her Glock 26 9mm. It revealed she was dipping the muzzle as she squeezed the trigger, which explained why she was always hitting low. The thing is that I don’t know, as a coach, how to fix it. Any suggestions?

    • Place one hand under her hands as she holds the weapon. Place the other one on her back to re-assure her. Have her dry fire and when she starts to dip the weapon, provide resistance to her. She is either closing her eye/eyes or she is flinching somehow. She has to improve her trigger drawstroke.

    • the trick i was taught is that you can only focus on a few things at the same time, tell her to focus on the target and making a smooth consitant trigger pull at the same time, if she still anticipates the recoil then add in working on breathing control in addition to the other two steps. the second thing is snap caps and dry firing at home will also help when you dont have to worry about recoil you start to do things right and it only gets better from there.

    • A Crimson Trace laser on her Glock 26 might might give her a visual of what she is doing during the trigger pull. I’ve taught people with mine.

  2. Before putting live ammo into my Garand and my Mossberg 500, I bought dummy rounds, and I’m glad I did. Having never handled either before, I got a lot of administrative handling practice with both. I still haven’t taken the Mossy to the range yet, but I did shoot the Garand over the course of a day, and the prep I did helped make for a much smoother, safer and more enjoyable session.

  3. Sorry if I’m being an early morning idiot, but why are snap caps “firing” out of your .45? Snap caps are inert, correct, and used for firing pin cushioning when dry firing.

    • The 2nd magazine has both live rounds and a snap cap in it (preferably the snap is in a unknown order). So when you shoot the magazine, you will have a non fire with the snap and you will see the flinches or bad habits (or lack thereof) you have aquired.

    • I have snap caps that I use for dry firing exercises, but in watching the videos, it appears that he’s mixing the snap caps in with live ammo. I’m assuming the idea is if you think the round you’re firing is live, but it’s not, you’ll get to more easily observe (and hopefully correct) any bad habits you have with flinching or pulling. Recording it like that would make it even more obvious. I’m going to try it myself next time I’m at the range.

      • It’s called a “ball-and-dummy” drill, and yes, it makes flinching very obvious. It very nearly cures flinching in most cases too. Once people are aware of what it looks like, it’s easy not to do it.

  4. my only thought on your grip is experiment to find whats comfortable and improves your accuracy. I prefer shooting my 1911’s with one thumb on the slide safety and the other resting in front of the slide release, I feel it gives me more control over the gun. but grip is slightly subjective because not everyone has the same build or body mechanics.

  5. Being the ‘tinkerer’ that I am I built a cheap laser attachment for my guns out of a piece of 1/2″ pvc, a $3 laser pointer and some nylon screws, total cost less than $8. I then taped it to my pistols and used the screw to operate the laser control button while I pressed my trigger with snap-caps inserted. Seeing a red dot move on a wall when you press the trigger is a wonderful way to allow someone to train their body to move only their trigger finger when they operate the firearm. A good feedback loop for very little cost.

  6. I find that shooting a .22 helps my occasional flinch problem. After shooting some full-sized rounds, I move to my old High Standard 9 shot revolver. The low recoil uncovers my tendency to flinch and helps me correct for it.

  7. Snap caps also help in making the “tap, rack, bang” drill a little more reflexive if you concentrate on doing it and getting the gun back on target quicker as you go along.

  8. FWIW – if you’re not doing the ball-and-dummy type drills (that is – if you are only dry-firing at a point on the wall at home to work on form) you can make a “snap cap” out of an old piece of brass & a tube of some silicone. Fill the brass and let cure – put it in the chamber & click away…

    The downside can be that when you’re looking at the round in the chamber it can look like a live round. You can color the brass to help with this (red magic marker or some such). But you may need to reapply over time as it wears off.

    Of course, if you’re really a cheapskate and want to do the ball-and-dummy drills, you can make your own out of various mold-and-fire plastics… But that may not be the best idea around….

  9. i practice all the time with specifically a zoom brand snap caps like in the photo. Practicing with 45 acp 9mm and 7.62×39 has definitely helped maintain my skills. I’m a big fan.

  10. I’ve found filming myself to be a priceless training aid.

    Regular trigger time is a double edged sword. It’s an absolute must to stay competent, especially with your CCW and home defense gun. On the other side, though, it is also a terribly effective way to cement truly bad habits into your muscle memory.

    By filming myself, and reviewing it in the middle of practice sessions, I’ve been able to self correct a myriad of odd habits I had picked up including stance, grip, and reloading issues I wasn’t aware of at all (though the results were showing up in the holes on the paper). I’ve even found it helpful for sporting clays and bench shooting.

  11. If you look a the first video you’ll see that you’re reobtaining your grip after each of the first several shots. With a better grip in the second video your hold is much more consistent. I use snap-caps extensively, both teaching and practicing. I made my own before A-Zoom came out, but since then have gone to them.

  12. I don’t like snap caps, I think they teach you bad habits like the loading of a gun and expecting it NOT to shoot and most people end up doing it at home, I believe this to “lower your respect” for the firearm and could lead to a ND.

  13. We never used snap caps years ago when we were at the range for yearly quals. We would fire a couple of dozen rounds to warm up. Some of that empty brass was loaded into future clips to see if flinching was an issue. The change in shooting dynamics over the 14 years was amazing. At the start in ’89 you would simply raise your hand if you had a malfunction or failed to get all your rounds off in the allotted time. We switched to Beretta 9mm in 91. They still gave us commands on how and when to reload our mags. After a few years, it became apparent we would shoot in the street like we practiced biannually. So it was overhauled and we had to manage our own reloads and mag changes. If you wound up with an empty clip there were no alibi shots, like in real life! I wasn’t ever the best shot in our force, but I always qualified and felt confident if I ever needed to draw it I could utilize it effectively. Given the hate and hysteria against law enforcement, I do not miss wearing the gun, badge or vest. These days I only protect and serve my own!

  14. Although I was able to glean worthy info from here, it surprised me that none of the responses covered the snap cap area of function that is one of their central purposes; smoothing the trigger mechanism with repetitive dry firing w/o damage to the firing pin (nor wallet).
    A world of positive improvement on my CZ 75B , SP01 and Rami .

  15. My father, bless his heart, had me shooting 12 ga and 30-06 at the age of 10. I was about 5’7″ and 85 lbs at the time. I sincerely hope that he didn’t do it just to watch me get stomped, but what he did was instill bad habits that took years to break!

    Come time to train my kids I did it right: .22LR until they had mastered everything. Then we moved up to .30 Carbine and .308, and (eventually) to .338L. Inspired? I dunno, but it must have worked, because my boy just made the swat team aboard his carrier. He’s a real son-of-a-gun!



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