With all the training I have done over the last few years, I thought it might be useful to make a list of useful training items to have. As such, this article can serve as a handy complement to my article on preparing for your first firearms class. The items discussed in this list, however, are specific training tools that you might utilize in a class, at the range, or at home doing your own practice.
Snap caps are useful for several reasons. They help protect your firing pin and other internal parts of your firearm from breakage when you perform dry fire practice. If you do not think that this is a serious concern, then you probably don’t follow Kyle Defoor on Facebook, who broke the breech face on his Generation 4 Glock 19 a few months ago (during dryfire).
I also like snap caps as a safety measure, as I can chamber check my firearms and see at a glance—via the color of the snap cap–that the round in the chamber is NOT a live round . I favor the plastic Tipton snap caps, translucent red with the little spring inside. I have also had good success with the A-Zoom snap caps, but I usually use them for rifles and shotguns rather than pistols.
Though snap caps CAN fill this same role, dummy rounds tend to be more durable and thus are better for certain pistol manipulations. I use dummy rounds when practicing reloads and malfunction drills. Although they have an orange tip, due to the silver color of the casings, care must be taken to keep live ammunition away from these. These were the ones recommended to me by Jeff Gonzales prior to the class I took with him in 2015.
ALUMINUM TRAINING KNIVES
One of the reasons why I chose the Benchmade Griptilian as my EDC folder was the availability of a factory-made training knife that exactly mimics the live version. Likewise, I also have a training knife for my Shivworks Clinch Pick. I feel like, if you are doing to do any knife or combatives training, having training knives that match the knife or knives you carry on a regular basis can be of enormous benefit.
INERT TRAINING GUN
There are a number of companies that manufacture inert training versions of popular pistols and long guns. I have an ASP Red Gun version of my Glock 19, but there are also the similar Blue Guns, and I have seen other companies’ similar models made in grey, orange, and other colors as well. The inert training gun can be useful in any sort of combatives training, practicing disarm maneuvers, as well as for practicing the draw (although I prefer using my actual pistol for draw practice, since the weight of an unloaded real pistol is more similar to the weight of the real loaded pistol than most training guns). Before I had other options, I used my Red Gun to teach new shooters how to properly grip a pistol.
Next Level Training manufactures the SIRT pistol (SIRT=Shot Indicating Resetting Trigger) which shoots a laser instead of a bullet. They have versions based on two popular pistol designs: the Glock 17 and the S&W M&P. I love mine and have used it nearly daily since I purchased it earlier in 2016. It can be handy for force on force training (and was invaluable in this class I took in the Spring), training new shooters, practicing dry without the need to unload your real pistol, and practicing point shooting if that’s your thing. I have the version with twin red lasers and the plastic slide, and it seems quite durable. Their customer service is also excellent; I know of people who had issues with the circuits in the trigger breaking, and NLT just sent them a new pistol. Also, NLT makes a laser bolt for the AR-15 pattern of rifles. A friend of mine has one of these bolts—in addition to the same pistol I have—and swears by both items.
Simunitions can be expensive and difficult for “regular” people to obtain. Airsoft is far from perfect, but can be a useful training device. I have used airsoft guns for force-on-force training as well as some simple draw and fire exercises in my garage. Due to the virtual absence of recoil with airsoft guns, there are limits to their utility. A key, however, is to try to get one that as closely as possible mimics the dimensions and functionality of your “regular” firearm. This will allow the use of your regular holster, and your draw grip will match that of your real pistol. Mine is the KWA Glock 19, and can be very difficult to get (very happy I bought mine when everyone else seemed to be buying high-priced firearms in early 2013).
NOK TRAINING KNIFE
Aluminum training knives are useful to practice access and some other knife practice. However, though not sharp, they can still be potentially dangerous or at least painful. Thus, using a softer training knife, such as the ones made by Nok Hard Contact Training Knives, can be a useful tool to have when you want to mimic the real speed and power of strikes. The Nok company makes training knives to emulate many real blades. They are made of wood but are then well-padded, and unless someone “stabs” you with terrifying force or happens to hit the eye, they are quite safe. I do not yet own any Nok knives, but have used them in classes and plan to purchase my own in the near future.
For handguns, I mostly use the free magazine loader that comes with virtually every Glock handgun. It works well enough and the price is certainly right! For AR magazines, I find it useful to have an aftermarket loader like the LULA by Maglula. This can attach to every type of AR magazine I have tried (Lancer, all generations of Magpul Pmags, Troy Battlemags, and aluminum GI magazines) and are handy to have at the range/at a class, where you want to spend more time shooting/training/learning and less time loading. Maglula makes many pistol versions as well, some of which are “universal”.
Virtually ubiquitous in the firearms training world, a shot timer can be of immense benefit in measuring one’s progress. As much as I have seen (heard) them utilized in classes, I feel like they are perhaps even more important for one’s own practice, allowing the user to set par times and then push to new limits. They can also be useful to the new competitive shooter who wishes to acclimate him or herself to “shooting on the clock”. John wrote extensively about the benefits of using a shot timer in his article here and, based on his recommendation, I bought and use the same SHOTMAXX shot timer by Double Alpha Academy. I am glad I bought it when I did, because I believe they have stopped making them (apparently while version 2 is in the works)! On a side note, please don’t listen to people who say, “There’s no timer on da streetz!” Actually, there is, only you might not know when the buzzer sounded. I cannot think of too many self-defense scenarios where moving slower would be of benefit.
I am not going to list an assortment of weight-training devices, as I consider fitness a separate discussion. However, given the importance of a good strong grip on one’s pistol, I felt like it was important to list a “fitness” tool that directly relates to shooting ability. I have tried many of the “standard” types, but recently moved to this model by Prohands which allows for a bit more variation in exercises one can perform along with the ability to isolate the strengthening of each finger. They come in a variety of resistance levels.
INERT PEPPER SPRAY
If you carry pepper spray, it’s a good idea to get an inert version of the one you carry. This will allow you to test the range of the spray, wind effects, and your ability to deploy and utilize the spray in force on force training. As with most of the other tools outlined here, getting one that as closely as possible mimics the dimensions and other characteristics of the actual one you carry is important.
TRAINING TOURNIQUET/MEDICAL GEAR
Having dedicated training gear for your medical equipment can also be useful. In my opinion, the most important piece of medical training gear would be a dedicated training tourniquet. While North American Rescue makes a blue “trainer” version of their now ubiquitous CAT Tourniquet, I have simply designated one of my regular tourniquets as a trainer. It is important to have a training tourniquet because repeated applications of the tourniquet could affect its longevity. Utilizing one of your Israeli bandages and chest seals as designated trainers could also prove useful, as applying some of these items to a body—perhaps your own!—under stress may not be intuitive unless you make its so.
As noted, with the exception of the Nok training knives, these are some of the practice and training aids I have accumulated over the last few years. Some have been more useful and been more used than others, but all of them are items that I would recommend, depending on your own needs. There are, of course, other training and practice tools out there (laser targets, inert training barrels, etc.), so I would be curious to hear what such equipment our readers have tried or use regularly and what their experience has been. Please share below or on our Facebook page.
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