There is no doubt that we are experiencing an ammo shortage of historic proportions — one that makes the ammo shortages of the Obama and Clinton eras pale in comparison. I don’t think anyone could have conceived of the extent an ammo shortage could reach. But that doesn’t mean the range is out of the question.
Gun owners should spend time at the range for two reasons. No. 1 is obviously to keep shooting skills in tip-top operational shape. The second reason is to help keep the ranges open — in particular, the outdoor ones. If ranges go an extended amount of time without shooters (aka customers), they won’t be able to afford to stay open. I recommend “ball and dummy” drills to help on both accounts.
Ball and Dummy Drill
The “Ball and Dummy Drill” involves mixing dummy rounds with live rounds in a pistol, rifle or shotgun magazine. The purpose is to help you develop a trigger pull that is free of jerking, yanking and pre-ignition push (PIP). All of these reactions lead to shots that usually fall low on the target relative to the point of aim. The “Ball and Dummy Drill” can also help reinforce proper malfunction-clearing techniques as well as basic loading and unloading skills. (Note: The “Ball and Dummy Drill” works best on outdoor ranges where it is easier to recover brass.)
I used the “Ball and Dummy Drill” during 27 years of training police academy cadets. Every time I employed it, the trigger issue(s) the shooter had were fixed.
A shooter who has developed a flinch, jerk or PIP is generally not aware of the problem. This is because these problems are covered up by the blast and recoil of centerfire cartridges. To properly execute the “Ball and Dummy Drill,” mix (or have a partner mix) a combination of non-firing dummy cartridges with live ammo and then load the random combo into a pistol or rifle magazine, revolver cylinder, or shotgun magazine tube. Once loaded, begin slow-firing at a reasonable distance to the target until the magazine or cylinder is empty.
The flinch, PIP or jerk becomes readily apparent when the firing pin strikes a dummy round. You can actually feel and see it. If you are using a semi-auto pistol or rifle for the drill, move on to the next round by using a tap-rack-bang malfunction-clearing drill and continue the exercise until the gun is empty. Feeling the flinch will cause you to concentrate more on subsequent shots and focus on sight alignment while controlling the trigger. The error then disappears over time.
ST Action Pro Dummy Training Rounds
Over the years, I’ve used a number of different types of dummy cartridges for training, including one-piece all-plastic rounds that get chewed up even with limited use and brass-cased FMJ dummy rounds that are too similar to live rounds and easily lost in grass. A few years ago, I discovered ST Action Pro dummy rounds and quickly realized they are the best on the market.
ST Action Pro dummy rounds are available in a number of different calibers/configurations. In pistol calibers, the brass cases have been brightly nickel-plated, while the “bullets” are bright orange plastic. A lime-green plastic bullet option is available in addition to orange ones for .40 caliber. I recommend getting the lime-green .40s so they can’t be inadvertently mixed with 9mm dummy rounds and vice versa. For rifle shooters, there are brass-cased .223 and .308 cartridges loaded with orange bullets. In 12-gauge, the high brass shotshell bases are loaded with solid-orange plastic hulls.
ST Action Pro dummy training rounds function perfectly and are easily spotted in grass when manually ejected. They are also great training aids for new shooters to use before handling live ammo and are essential for teaching magazine-loading and pistol-cycling.
Dummy Rounds at the Range
By using ST Action Pro dummy training rounds in the “Ball and Dummy Drill,” you can cut down your live ammo consumption by a third or more while honing your trigger-management and malfunction-clearing skills. And you can still fire some live rounds. ST Action Pro dummy training rounds can be purchased by single unit (cartridge) price or packed in 50- or 100-round ammo boxes.
If you haven’t gotten out to the range in a while because of ammo costs, grab some ST Action Pro rounds and enjoy some ball and dummy practice. Remember: You will also be supporting your local range.
ST Action Pro: STActionPro.com
About Scott W. Wagner
After working undercover in narcotics and liquor investigations, Scott W. Wagner settled down to be a criminal justice professor and police academy commander. He was also a SWAT team member, sniper and assistant team leader before his current position as patrol sergeant with the Village of Baltimore, Ohio, Police Department. Scott is a police firearms instructor certified to train revolver, semi-automatic pistol, shotgun, semi- and fully automatic patrol rifle, and submachine gun.