How to Use Snap Caps

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Snap caps are dummy rounds designed to mimic the look and feel of live ammunition. For marksman, police officers, hunters and recreational shooters, snap caps protect their weapon's firing pin from deterioration (that could lead to breaking) during dry-firing. Dry-fire exercises help improve marksmanship and targeting by allowing users to fire an unloaded weapon while working on reducing anxiety and flinching during a quick-draw situation. Dry-firing can also let someone test a weapon's "action" (its rate and method of fire) before buying it. You can purchase snap caps or make your own.

Remove all live ammunition from your weapon. If you shoot with a carbine rifle, remove and empty the clip, then check and empty the barrel. If using a bolt-action rifle, work the lever to eject any rounds. If you plan on dry firing a shotgun, empty both the barrel/s and the pump-action. Finally, if you're going to use snap-caps in a pistol, take any bullets out of the clip or revolver chamber and then double-check the chamber for live rounds.

Insert a snap cap into your pistol, rifle or shotgun. You don't have to fill the clip or the chamber. However, if you plan on multiple dry-fire attempts, using a number of snap caps will help you avoid the interruption of re-loading the snap caps and then regaining concentration.

Find a safe aiming point. Theoretically, you can dry fire your weapon anywhere. However, in case of manufacturer defect (in the snap caps), or a weapon malfunction, find a point that's clear of obstacles, valuables or flammables, and use that as your dry-fire target.

Set up a target. If using a range, hang one at the distance at which you'd like to practice quick-sighting your weapon. If practicing in non-range conditions, you can either set up a target or aim at an object (such as a can).

Assume your firing stance, pointing your body downrange toward the target. You can conduct dry-fire drills with a holstered weapon, holding a rifle or shotgun across your chest or with the gun already sighted downrange. If using a pistol, set up to fire your gun as if you were using live ammunition.

Dry fire your weapon. If you are practicing your aim after a quick draw, draw your weapon, aim quickly at the target and pull the trigger until the hammer strikes. If using a rifle or shotgun (for hunting training), imagine that you've just seen the target, then raise your rifle or shotgun, sight and fire.

Remove the snap caps from your weapon and store them in a safe, dry place. According to Guns Magazine's Jim Gardner, some snap caps will last up to 3,000 dry fires.


  • It cannot be stressed enough: Double-check your weapon to ensure that it contains no live ammunition. Many shooting accidents occur during dry-fire exercises because the user has not thoroughly emptied his gun.


  • If you want to really master flinching when firing your weapon, an advance drill involves using a mix of snap caps and live rounds inserted randomly into your pistol, carbine or shotgun. In this drill, you would follow your normal firing procedure, and must focus on maintaining calm and control of the weapon when firing (because you don't know if you will discharge a live round or click on an empty snap cap). However, while you can dry fire anywhere, for safety purposes only perform this drill on a range.


About the Author

Since 2005, James Rutter has worked as a freelance journalist for print and Internet publications, including the “News of Delaware County,” “Main Line Times” and Broad Street Review. As a former chemist, college professor and competitive weightlifter, he writes about science, education and exercise. Rutter earned a B.A. in philosophy and biology from Albright College and studied philosophy and cognitive science at Temple University.

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