The Great Ammo Crisis of 2013 has responsible shooters everywhere looking for ways to effectively practice both with and without live ammunition. Dry-fire or dry-practice, if conducted in a serious and dedicated fashion is an excellent way to maintain and improve the physical skill needed to manipulate the machine that it a handgun.
However, even the most dedicated shooters will admit that dry-fire can be about as stimulating as watching grass grow. As valuable as dry-practice is, you do not get the stimulus or feedback that you do when firing live ammunition. If we could add some type of stimulus or feedback to dry-practice it would seem make the exercise more enjoyable and worthwhile. Enter laser training devices.
When we are discussing dry-practice while using laser device there are two basic ways to get this done. First, you can install some type of laser aiming device onto your handgun. Crimson Trace LaserGrips and LaserGuard are probably the more recognizable and practical as far are self-protection is concerned.
Using a laser sighting system to aid in you dry-practice is relatively simple, you grip the twice-checked, unloaded firearm, aim it in a safe direction and practice your trigger press. The goal of you practice is to hold the little red dot as still as humanly possible while you complete the trigger press. If the dot is bouncing all around like a rubber ball you know you need practice.
The second way to train with lasers is to purchase some type of dedicated laser training device. There are a number of companies producing these. Let's take a moment to consider them.
BeamHit has been making laser training systems for the United States Military for quite a while now. The products range from single laser trainers to complete training kits with targets and software packages. The unit I that I've been working with is their LTX-Z Internal Laser trainer. For this review we would use the GLOCK 17R, a non-firing/fully-functioning replica trainer with a 9mm barrel.
The LTX-Z package comes with a laser unit, batteries, and barrel adapters to allow it to be secured in 9mm/.38, .40, or .45 caliber handguns. To use the unit you simple install the batteries, pick the appropriate barrel adapter and insert it into the barrel of your UNLOADED handgun. The BeamHit laser unit is motion activated and the quick snap of the hammer/firing pin dropping momentarily activates the red laser. We've been using BeamHit products for several years now and always been impressed by them. The quality is unquestionable and the battery life superior.
The LaserLyte Company produces a wide variety of laser devices including laser sights, trainers and bore-sighting kits. Their green laser bore-sighting kit has been a go to product for us since it first became available.
In the laser trainer department, the unit we have to consider here is the LT-Pro laser device. Like the BeamHit product, the LT-Pro is a red laser unit that is inserted into the bore of your handgun and activated by the hammer dropping.
We also had LaserLyte's blue training pistol called the LT-TriggerTyme. This polymer trainer has a functioning trigger and 'barrel' that allows you to insert the LT-Pro laser unit. The combination of the two products, plus the reactive targets that are sold separately, make for an economical and effective dry-practice set up. The only problem I had with the LT-Pro was the battery life. The manufacturer suggests taking the batteries out after each training session to prolong their life.
Next Level Training: SIRT
The most unique laser training device on display here is the SIRT (Shot Indicating Resetting Trigger) from Next Level Training. The SIRT pistol trainers are unique in that they have two laser units built in; a green muzzle laser and a red trigger staging laser.
SIRT pistols trainers have a fixed, immovable slide, but they do have a magazine well and removable dummy magazine. The SIRT is a close enough replica to the G17 that the same holsters can be used for both guns.
Next Level Training has numerous videos and training material available. The primary benefit of the SIRT is that is allows the shooter to not only practice their complete trigger press, but it allows them to practice proper take up and reset of the trigger. This helps the shooter learn to avoid the bad habit of jumping their trigger finger off of the trigger every time the gun fires.
Laser training devices. (L to R) LaserLyte's LT-Trigger Tyme with LT-Pro barrel inserted laser, BeamHit LTX-Z in GLOCK training pistol, and Next Level Training's SIRT. Any of the these will help your shooting -if you practice correctly. Paul Markel photo with permission.
This first time a shooter uses a firearm equipped with some type of laser device they get to see exactly how much the muzzle is moving while they are holding the gun. This can be a bit disconcerting for some.
It is precisely because you can see the movement of the laser dot that makes using them as practice tools so valuable. If the red dot is bouncing all over the landscape by extension so is the muzzle and you need to work on your muzzle control and trigger press.
Unfortunately, some folks who believe they are engaged in dry-practicing are actually engaging in nothing more than a trigger snapping exercise. Without realizing it, they are ingraining the bad habit of snatching or jerking the trigger. As no projectile leaves the barrel to mark a target, these folks don't understand the impact of this subtle error.
When you incorporate a visible laser into your dry-practice you are able to see how the muzzle moves as you apply muscle tension on the handgun while pressing the trigger. Your goal while using the laser is to hold the visible red or green dot as still as humanly possible while pressing the trigger. After only a few sessions you'll have a good understanding of the value of dedicated dry-practice.
Keep in mind that the laser dot will always have some motion as living human beings are never truly still. However, that slight movement is of little consequence after you learn to master the trigger press on your gun.
Whether you use your existing laser grips or guards to add a stimulus to your dry-practice or you purchase a dedicated trainer, you should see results after only a few sessions. That mystical red (or green) laser dot does not lie. If the dot is bouncing all over the place, so is your muzzle. If you can learn to keep the laser dot still as you press the trigger, you are on your way to handgun mastery.
Yes, I know that training ammunition is harder to come by today than in times past. We don't want to stop shooting and practicing, we simply need to be a bit more creative and thoughtful.
--Paul G. Markel © 2013
About the Author
Paul Markel has been US Marine, Police Officer, Professional Bodyguard and a firearms industry writer for twenty years. He is the author of the new book "Student of the Gun; A beginner once, a student for life." Paul hosts and produces "Student of the Gun" a show dedicated to education, experience, and enjoyment of firearms. Episodes of SOTG can be viewed by simply going to www.studentofthegun.com and clicking the "play" icon