top of page

Part 2 - Laser Cartridges, Laser Trainers, IR & Recoil, what do I need to get?

If you are going to practice shooting a gun, obviously, you need to get a gun. But in addition to the gun, what you buy to practice with will also determine the quality of the feedback you'll get during practice. It is the feedback that will help you improve. To be safe, I'm assuming you will be--

  • Use a gun that shoots center-fire and not rim-fire cartridges like a .22 or .25, and

  • That you know the difference and

  • The reason why you don't practice with guns that shoot rim-fire cartridges.

If not, you can Google it or ask your local gun store to show you examples.

Center-fire cartridges, the primer cap is in the center, which is notably missing on rim-fire like the .22lr located on the left.

Remember, you are always engraining habits regardless of whether you are using your actual firearm (rendered safe & clear or ammo) or dedicated laser training device. Always employ Gun Safety Rules so these are also engrained into your lifestyle.

The basic school of dry fire.

Safe and unloaded gun, nothing else.

With your safe and unloaded gun, you can practice dry firing by looking down your sights and aiming at a point on the wall (e..g, paint chip, light switch, etc.) for sight picture & sight alignment (i.e., SP & SA).

This gives you something to focus on while developing a smooth and consistent, smooth trigger press.

The biggest disadvantage this method has is that unless you have a revolver or a double-action firearm, you must manipulate the slide just enough to reload the striker or hammer if you want to have the feel of your trigger pull.

Add in a snap cap.

Perhaps the first upgrade to your dry fire routine is to add snap caps. You load snap caps into the cylinder or the magazine of your firearm. These are molded to look and occupy the same space as an actual round for your firearm, so your firearm will chamber and eject these snap caps like an actual round when you cycle the slide. However, they are completely inert.

Snap Caps: (From L to R) 12 Ga Shotgun, .45 ACP, 9mm

The advantage(s) of snap caps is that it allows you to

  • fully rack the slide to reload the striker or hammer of your gun without using your slide stop/release level and

  • it affords some cushion to the firing pin/striker by providing an actual surface for it to fall on like it was intended.


These are the two least expensive methods of dry fire before you begin to add in some form of tech. They are effective but what is missing is the ability to see or record where your shot would have gone.

Now, let's add in some Tools & Tech.

Visible Laser Cartridge (VLC)

Very similar to a snap cap, the is the VLC. However, unlike the lower-tech snap cap, you insert this directly into the chamber of a semi-automatic weapon. If you have a revolver, you'll put them into the chamber of your cylinder.

They are often equipped with a rubber O-ring to make them snug and concentric with your bore. I have often recommended a little drop of CCP or gun oil on the O-ring as a lubricant if it is difficult to insert, as you want the slide to be fully closed.

You can see where your shot would have gone when you use a VLC because the cartridge emits a laser pulse that appears as a tiny dot (usually red) on what you were aiming at. This happens when the plunger on the back of the cartridge is depressed by the striker or firing pin. (If your firearm's striker/firing pin stays out after it drops until you rerack the slide, the laser light will say on).

VLCs are also rimless or have been machined, unlike the snap cap. This is, so the firearms extractor does not have a place to grab and pull the VLC from the chamber every time you rack the slide for your next shot.

Compared to snap caps, VLCs are rimless or machined to prevent the extractor from ejecting it.

A single VLC can be bought anywhere from $25 to $100.

With the laser dot, you can now see whether the shot would have aligned with your sight picture-giving, you feedback. This is one of the key components needed when using camera-based dry fire systems like LASR, as the software uses the camera to look for a point of light on the target.

Things to think about

Because the VLCs--

  • Require batteries to operate the laser; you will need to replace batteries from time to time.

  • O-rings degrade over time.

  • The rubber back cap that sits over the laser's actuator where the striker/firing pin hits to emit the laser may eventually need to be replaced.


Perhaps the biggest criticism people have about VLCs is that there is a potential to develop a training scar. Instructor and students have told me about developing a reflex of reaching up after each shot and racking the slide as they have done in training. Remember, we intentionally engrain behaviors and practices into our lifestyle, which works for good and bad behaviors.

If this is the stage you have reached in your training, where you are dry firing frequently enough to where you are developing the habit of reaching up to rack the slide, take it as a good indicator you are training with a good frequency. If that is the case, perhaps it is time to move onto and invest in a dedicated laser training device.

Let's talk about those tomorrow!

811 views0 comments


bottom of page