Defensive Handgun Conversion Kits

You cannot improve your defensive handgun skills by osmosis or…

You cannot improve your defensive handgun skills by osmosis or imagination; it requires the physical activity of pulling the trigger while the sights are properly aligned on target. You can do this to some extent with dry-fire but ultimately you must put rounds down range. In doing so, one significant hurdle you must negotiate is the cost of ammunition.

Let’s say you shoot 50 rounds each month, 600 rounds each year from your defensive handgun. This is probably the bare minimum necessary to maintain your proficiency. To increase your skill level by a noticeable amount you will need to shoot twice that much. Unless you are a reloader, this means you will spend about $600 each year. Reloading can save you money but you must devote time that could be better spent shooting. Thankfully, there is another way.

Rimfire conversion kits are available for many of the most popular semi-automatic defensive handguns. Most retail for around $300, and you can buy 1000 rounds of .22 LR ammunition for less than $200. By using a rimfire conversion kit for the bulk of your training, over the span of three years you could save a grand or more.

I’ve been using rimfire conversion kits as training tools for a long time, but not just because they allow the use of substantially less expensive ammunition. The recoil and muzzle blast of centerfire ammunition are two enemies of accurate shooting. They can induce trigger jerk and flinching, even with seasoned shooters. The human brain is a magical thing, but it can only process so much information and control so many muscle functions at one time. When stressing your shooting ability through advanced tactical drills that require movement, threat evaluation and unconventional positions—all at a faster pace—the basic principles of shooting often become a secondary priority to your “on-board computer.” As you struggle to master the more tactical aspects of a certain drill, you often end up missing the target.

When you begin working on new tactical problems, using a low noise and low recoil rimfire conversion kit allows your brain to devote less of its operating power to struggling with the handgun and more to solving the problem. I’ve tested this on numerous occasions and found that I progress through the more difficult tactical problems if I begin live-fire with a rimfire conversion kit. This shouldn’t be a surprise; it’s a similar approach to the “crawl-walk-run” concept of training, but instead you dry-fire, rimfire and then centerfire.

If you have no experience with rimfire conversion kits, you’ll likely have concerns with how well they work. I know the concept seems almost too good to be true…could a less expensive approach to training be this simple? I’ve tested rimfire conversion kits from most manufacturers and found them to be accurate and reliable, more so if you work through a few different loads to find one the kit really likes.
Here’s a run down of five rimfire conversion kits I regularly use with four popular defensive handguns. The reported accuracy for each kit is based on the average of four 5-shot groups fired at 25 yards from a sandbag rest, with at least three different loads. Reliability is based on the number of failures to load, fire or eject over the course of a minimum of 300 rounds. All accuracy and reliability results were obtained with a variety of different ammunition in each kit.

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