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Old 06-05-2011, 09:07 AM   #1
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Making dummy cartridges

I find these to be very useful to diagnose malfunctions in all types of firearms, especially semiautomatic pistols. If one first removes the recoil spring, the slide can be manipulated very precisely so you can watch what is going on in slow motion.

Most gunsmiths I know make them as follows. It should not require mention (but I'll mention it anyway) that it should be an ironclad, strictly observed rule that NO live ammo is ever permitted on a bench where guns are being worked on.

First, do not use fired cases. They are swollen oversized and are unsatisfactory. Make dummies from live, unfired rounds, of a good standard U.S.-made ammo of reliable dimensional conformity, if available in that caliber. Read that Remington, Winchester, Federal or military. For normal testing use FMJ, unless you intend to test functioning with some other specific type of bullet.

Pull the bullet with an inertia puller, dump the powder, chamber the case in a gun and fire it. DO NOT RELY on killing primers with WD40 and the like. They are harder to kill than a vampire, and I have seen them fire after a 24-hour saturation. (A primer alone will develop enough energy to drive a bullet several inches down a pistol barrel, and just possibly clear the muzzle. It can hurt you or at least give you a brief case of uncontrolled excretion. ) So: after you have killed the primer BY FIRING IT, carefully re-seat the bullet in the cartridge case to its original depth, secured with a drop of epoxy or crazy glue. Make sure the bullet went in straight, without burring the case mouth or bulging the case wall. (If it did not, it will not make a good dummy; throw it away and start over.)

Finally, hold the cartridge in a V-block and drill a 1/8" or 3/16" hole through the side of the case; drill carefully and gently so as not to distort the case with drill pressure (the previously seated bullet will help). Deburr the hole. The hole instantly distinguishes the dummy from live ammo or a dud.

There. You now have one dummy. For a semi-auto pistol, two should be enough to replicate most malfunctions, one feeding and one in the mag directly below.

M
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Old 06-05-2011, 09:27 AM   #2
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MGMike,
Great post on making dummy rounds! I do all of the steps that you have mentioned except for drilling small holes in the cartridge case. I put a lite coat of red paint on the bullet to distinquish it as an inert training round.
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Old 06-05-2011, 09:57 AM   #3
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Thanks for that, MGMike. It's an instant Sticky.
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Old 06-05-2011, 11:06 AM   #4
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MGMike,
Great post on making dummy rounds! I do all of the steps that you have mentioned except for drilling small holes in the cartridge case. I put a lite coat of red paint on the bullet to distinquish it as an inert training round.
The idea is to replicate as closely as possible the ammo that you shoot with. Unless that ammo has painted bullets, I would not trust paint. The coating adds something to the diameter of the bullet, and --more important--changes its surface texture (as against the feed ramp or against the front wall of the magazine, let's say). Also paint comes off with handling and after a while it becomes difficult to distinguish the dummy from a live round without close examination.

A hole drilled in the case takes care of all that.

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Old 06-12-2011, 12:20 AM   #5
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Just wondering - is it OK to dry-fire your pistol with such dummies? I don't believe in snap-caps because their dimensions are imprecise and they're usually made of plastic which will quickly fail under the grip of the extractor. A fired casing will have a peen in the primer which will allow the firing pin to move that much more forward. Is that a bad thing?

I never, ever dry-fire any of my pistols except my Ruger MKII (it's OK to dry-fire that gun and beside it's the only way to de-cock it.) But for the sake of conversation, would it be safe to dry fire on one of these types of dummy shells?

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Old 06-19-2011, 11:17 PM   #6
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thanks for the info
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Old 06-30-2011, 08:32 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by Pilotsteve View Post
Just wondering - is it OK to dry-fire your pistol with such dummies? I don't believe in snap-caps because their dimensions are imprecise and they're usually made of plastic which will quickly fail under the grip of the extractor. A fired casing will have a peen in the primer which will allow the firing pin to move that much more forward. Is that a bad thing?

I never, ever dry-fire any of my pistols except my Ruger MKII (it's OK to dry-fire that gun and beside it's the only way to de-cock it.) But for the sake of conversation, would it be safe to dry fire on one of these types of dummy shells?

-Pilotsteve
Steve: Sorry, I just saw your question, to which there is no single answer.

The whole point of a snap cap is to cushion the fall of the firing pin, which --if no cartridge at all is in the chamber-- will eventually halt by impacting something else. After a few impacts from the firing pin, a spent primer is permanently deformed and has very little, if any, cushioning capability left. Whether the firing pin is then stopping against that primer or against some part of its mechanism (which is best avoided) depends entirely on the type and design of the firing pin. Either way, it may be beneficial to punch out the primer and substitute a small disc of rubber or a drop of silicone caulk.

Rimfires present a different problem because it's almost impossible to avoid steel-on-steel contact when dry firing them. With semi-autos I have used two methods, depending on how convenient it is. The first is to slightly retract the bolt or slide, but not enough to trip the disconnector, and pull the trigger; that cushions the forward impact of the hammer or striker. The other is to momentarily insert a thin piece of plastic (a bread-bag seal works) between the slide and the barrel, and let the firing pin fall on that.

M

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Old 06-30-2011, 10:58 AM   #8
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... the other is to momentarily insert a thin piece of plastic (a bread-bag seal works) between the slide and the barrel, and let the firing pin fall on that.

M
That is an ingenious solution to the problem, MGMike -- one I never would have thought about. Thanks for sharing.
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Old 06-30-2011, 11:27 AM   #9
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I work for a custom rifle maker. You can dry fire any modern center fire pistol or rifle with no worries. The firing pin will hit it's internal stop every time you fire a weapon. The pin protrudes just enough to detonate the primer. If one relied on the primer to stop the movement of the pin, you would have a pierced primer every time. The exact reason for having a dimensional spec for firing pin protrusion from the breach face (varies slightly weapon to weapon).
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Old 06-30-2011, 12:01 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by M_E_ View Post
I work for a custom rifle maker. You can dry fire any modern center fire pistol or rifle with no worries. The firing pin will hit it's internal stop every time you fire a weapon. The pin protrudes just enough to detonate the primer. If one relied on the primer to stop the movement of the pin, you would have a pierced primer every time. The exact reason for having a dimensional spec for firing pin protrusion from the breach face (varies slightly weapon to weapon).
I'm sorry but I don't subscribe to any such blanket statements. How do you measure firing pin protrusion on a Colt Government Model? Or, for that matter since this is a Walther forum, on a .380 Walther PPK?

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