Snap Caps, Dummy Rounds & Tracers

Read practically any “how to” book on the market today regarding shooting and I guarantee that somewhere between its covers will be a segment on “dry firing.” In simple terms, dry firing is the “firing” of an unloaded firearm as a means of practicing gun handling and trigger control without the expenditure of ammunition. It can be done practically anywhere and at any time, and has been proven to be a worthwhile endeavor whether the firearm involved is a handgun, rifle or shotgun. Without getting into the subject of which firearms can be safely and extensively dry fired without damage to themselves (i.e., broken firing pins, damaged chambers and fractured parts, etc.), let me just state for the record here that I take the same precautions with all of my Cowboy guns that I dry fire, and I do dry fire them a lot. That precaution involves the use of “snap caps” that not only protect my firearms from damage, but it requires me to check and establish their condition before I ever drop a hammer.

During my last couple years of high school and first couple years of college I worked in my uncle’s TV shop and recall that at least once—sometimes twice—a year a TV would come into the shop for a new picture tube, the old one having been sacrificed during a dry firing regimen. The use of snap caps would have saved these owners much expense and embarrassment. Having to confess that I’ve dropped a lot of hammers in the direction of our living room TV and have used the knots in our rough-hewn pine board ceilings as impromptu bull’s-eyes on many occasions (a ritual that even my wife now accepts as being a normal evening activity), I do so only with my wheel guns loaded with snap caps. Why just last night I dry fired my 4.75-inch Colt New Frontier filled with snap caps probably 100 times while watching the latest Jesse Stone movie. It’s not only good trigger control practice, but allows me to handle and enjoy one or more of my favorite firearms without having to wear earplugs. For dry firing, function testing, easing down springs, training and safe storage, I highly recommend snap caps and/or dummy rounds, and have found the ones detailed below to be well made and durable.


A division of Lyman Products, the “patented” Snap Caps from A-Zoom are CNC-machined from solid aluminum to precise overall cartridge dimensions and then anodized with a hard coat, scratch-resistant finish that contributes to ultra-smooth functioning and long life. A patented “Dead Cap” synthetic primer insert cushions firing pin blows and is said to be able to withstand many thousands of strikes. What I particularly liked about the A-Zoom rounds is besides acting as snap caps—because they are the dimensional equivalent of an actual loaded cartridge—they function equally well as dummy rounds for reloading practice and function testing. The two A-Zoom calibers I have are .38 Special and .45 Colt, and both rounds functioned perfectly through the actions of my Uberti 73 and Winchester 92 in those chamberings. Weight-wise, however, the A-Zoom dummies weigh only about one-half of what a real loaded round weighs. Available in over 100 different sizes, I got mine out of the Brownells catalog, where the .38 Specials (Stock
No. 187-106-038AD) and .45 Colts (Stock No. 187-106-045AD) both retail for $19.98 for six.

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