Explain snap caps.

Explain snap caps.

This is a discussion on Explain snap caps. within the Concealed Carry Issues & Discussions forums, part of the Defensive Carry Discussions category; Swear I searched for a thread on this, but did not quite find what I was looking for. How are snap caps easier on your ...

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Thread: Explain snap caps.

  1. #1
    Member Array CCinaG26's Avatar
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    Explain snap caps.

    Swear I searched for a thread on this, but did not quite find what I was looking for. How are snap caps easier on your firing pin? If you are dry firing with nothing, then the pin is hitting air. Aside from practicing clearing malfunctions, why use snap caps. I am not saying they are pointless, I am saying I really don't understand them. All I know or think I know, is info on snap caps from this forum.


  2. #2
    Member Array buckeyebersa's Avatar
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    I am looking forward to good answer regarding the firing pin issue. I personally do not bother with snap caps for dry firing, although I would on a rimfire pistol, as it is my understanding that dryfiring with rimfires actually can cause damage. I use snap caps for malfunction drills and for mag change drills. I find that having a snap cap in the mag that I am inserting will let me know if I fully seated the mag or not, as if I do not fully seat then the snap cap will not end up in the chamber.

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    I wish someone would explain dry-firing. I was taught you never touch the trigger unless you are ready to shoot.
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    I can't say for sure, but I'd guess it has to do with how the motion of the firing pin is stopped. It's designed to stop when it strikes a primer with the tip; if nothing is there, it's stopped by some other part than the tip hitting some part of the housing, which may put more stress on it. It may also generate greater momentum, since it is driven further by the hammer/striker, and thus has more energy to absorb when it stops.
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    Senior Member Array XD40SCiinNC's Avatar
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    Many uses, loading, chambering, clearing drills, malfunction drills.

    Also can be useful to show bad habits in live fire. If you suspect your problem is your are pulling off target with your trigger pull, or anticipating the recoil, have someone else load your mag, and put a snapcap in the mag in an unknown location to you. See how you react to the misfire you will have when the snapcap round comes up. Where is your aim then, did the trigger pull you off target, typically low/left for right handed, or high for recoil anticipation.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Array NH_Esau's Avatar
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    I used to use them for dry-fire practice many years ago, but most modern centerfire firearms don't need them for firing pin cushioning. I've heard some people say you should use them for practicing loads/reloads so that your slide doesn't slam against the chamber, but I'm a bit fish-eyed on that.

    But, they're really useful for malfunction drills. Have your shooting coach/buddy load a one or two in each magazine before you start shooting a string. Teaches you not to hesitate after a malfunction - go straight into your tap-rack drill, and if you get two in a row, emergency reload.

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    GLOCK now suggests that you DO use SnapCaps for extensive dry firing.
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  9. #9
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    Dry-firing is simply shooting without ammunition. Most competition shooters use dry-firing as a major component of their practice.

    A firing pin typically has a step or a shoulder which limits its forward travel when it's hit by a hammer and there is no cartridge in the chamber. But when there is a cartridge in place, the firing pin hits the primer, and its travel is halted well before that shoulder hits a hard stop. Recognize that the primer is a relatively soft material and is intended to deform, in order for the anvil inside to hit and detonate the priming compound, so the firing pin has a "soft landing" when it hits a primer. Without a cartridge in place, the FP shoulder hits the gun's structure on the back side of the FP hole, and this is typically a steel-on-steel impact. That generates forces many times higher than the FP-on-primer strike, and damage can occur. Most modern guns tolerate dry-firing just fine, but older guns (I'll say pre-WWII as a gross generalization) may not, due to design and material limitations. Also, I know it's considered bad form to dry-fire break-open long guns. I don't know if this is tradition or a necessity, but in any case I use snap caps on my Beretta Silver Pigeon. Snap caps are essentially a dummy cartridge with a resilient material substituting for the primer (centerfire cartridges), so they can emulate the "soft landing" the firing pin gets when it hits a real primer.

    Rimfires are a bit different, as the firing pin necessarily is aimed at the cartridge rim in order to pinch the rim between the FP and the breech face to ignite the priming compound. Some modern rimfires (e.g., all Rugers) have a notch machined into the breech face which allows for infinite dry firing without peening the breechface. There are a lot of .22s out there with damaged chambers due to dry firing (and I own one of 'em).

    Here are some guidelines that should keep you out of trouble:
    - If it's a rimfire that's not a Ruger, ASK the owner if dry fire is OK. If it's your gun, the owner's manual should tell you one way or the other. If your gun can't tolerate dry fire due to age or design and you need to check its function, then use a snap cap or an empty cartridge case.
    - If it's a modern centerfire handgun or repeating rifle or shotgun, dry fire should be OK. (This is a guideline, not a guarantee.)
    - If it's "older" or an antique or a collector's item, DON'T dry fire.
    - If you can't tell at all, then just keep your finger off the trigger.

    Hope that helps.
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  10. #10
    Member Array buckeyebersa's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gasmitty View Post
    Dry-firing is simply shooting without ammunition. Most competition shooters use dry-firing as a major component of their practice.

    A firing pin typically has a step or a shoulder which limits its forward travel when it's hit by a hammer and there is no cartridge in the chamber. But when there is a cartridge in place, the firing pin hits the primer, and its travel is halted well before that shoulder hits a hard stop. Recognize that the primer is a relatively soft material and is intended to deform, in order for the anvil inside to hit and detonate the priming compound, so the firing pin has a "soft landing" when it hits a primer. Without a cartridge in place, the FP shoulder hits the gun's structure on the back side of the FP hole, and this is typically a steel-on-steel impact. That generates forces many times higher than the FP-on-primer strike, and damage can occur. Most modern guns tolerate dry-firing just fine, but older guns (I'll say pre-WWII as a gross generalization) may not, due to design and material limitations. Also, I know it's considered bad form to dry-fire break-open long guns. I don't know if this is tradition or a necessity, but in any case I use snap caps on my Beretta Silver Pigeon. Snap caps are essentially a dummy cartridge with a resilient material substituting for the primer (centerfire cartridges), so they can emulate the "soft landing" the firing pin gets when it hits a real primer.

    Rimfires are a bit different, as the firing pin necessarily is aimed at the cartridge rim in order to pinch the rim between the FP and the breech face to ignite the priming compound. Some modern rimfires (e.g., all Rugers) have a notch machined into the breech face which allows for infinite dry firing without peening the breechface. There are a lot of .22s out there with damaged chambers due to dry firing (and I own one of 'em).

    Here are some guidelines that should keep you out of trouble:
    - If it's a rimfire that's not a Ruger, ASK the owner if dry fire is OK. If it's your gun, the owner's manual should tell you one way or the other. If your gun can't tolerate dry fire due to age or design and you need to check its function, then use a snap cap or an empty cartridge case.
    - If it's a modern centerfire handgun or repeating rifle or shotgun, dry fire should be OK. (This is a guideline, not a guarantee.)
    - If it's "older" or an antique or a collector's item, DON'T dry fire.
    - If you can't tell at all, then just keep your finger off the trigger.

    Hope that helps.
    Fantastic and comprehensive post, thank you.
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  11. #11
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    You only need snap caps if your gun has MIM parts.


    (That's a joke! Sorry everyone, I couldn't resist. I have to fulfill my role of being "That Guy.").
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  12. #12
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    Hey, I like that guy!

    Wow. Y'all know some stuff. I've got nothing to compare to that, but...

    If you have a high-end pistol with an action job you don't want to ever let the slide go without a round on the mag, probably for similar reasons. For most it doesn't matter though.

    Dry firing is critical, because a proper squeeeeeze IS accuracy. If you only live fire your pistol there is almost no doubt you're jerking your shots. The dummy round in the mag is a GREAT training tool. It works with everything. Even accomplished shot gunners occasionally do it to test themselves. It will settle you down, and get your head right.

    Just don't do it with your carry gun!!!

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by PEF View Post
    You only need snap caps if your gun has MIM parts.


    (That's a joke! Sorry everyone, I couldn't resist. I have to fulfill my role of being "That Guy.").
    And of course, "that guy" gets a special award:
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    Senior Member Array marcclarke's Avatar
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    Many good answers in the thread already so I'll be brief. The problem is metal fatigue of the firing pin followed by breakage of the firing pin. The "hard landings" stress the metal of the firing pin, which eventually crystallizes and breaks. Snap caps provide a "soft landing" by cushioning the firing pin using either a polymer or a spring (such as the older Pachmayr snap caps), preventing metal fatigue of the firing pin.

    As noted earlier in this thread, whether the firing pin crystallizes and breaks is a matter of metallurgy and heat treatment. Modern firing pins are designed to withstand dry firing without snap caps. Nonetheless, I think it is an excellent idea to always use snap caps in all firearms regardless of the vintage of the firearm. I do.

  15. #15
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    I use snap caps for excessive dry firing. But mostly I use them for practicing dry reloads, since I don't use the slide lock, I need something in the mag to allow the slide to close. They also come in handy for practicing malfunction drills also, but I've found that spent casings work just as good if not better. If you load a spent casing in the middle of a loaded mag, it may or may not feed correctly, helping keep it random. The spent casing may actually feed and you may get a click, or more than likely, you'll get a malfunction that you'll need to clear. Snap caps will almost ALWAYS feed.

    The firing pin isn't just hitting air, but it's slamming into the back of the breech face and the pin can break, because the tip isn't hitting anything to "ease" the blow. That's how I understand it. Snap caps are fairly cheap, and not a bad idea at all to use for excessive dry fire practice. One or two dry fires isn't going to kill a gun. You can also keep a few firing pins on hand... but it's easier and cheaper to just use snap caps for extensive dry firing :D

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