A-Zoom .223 Snap Caps: What Are They For?

Have you ever heard of snap caps? If you have, it probably had to do with dry firing. But did you know they can be used for much more than that?

When I was little, dry firing a gun was a big no-no with my grandpa and all his friends. If you ever dropped the hammer on any type of gun, they would give you a look like you just shot Grandma. Rimfire guns can be damaged by dry firing them, but most modern centerfire weapons will not be affected by dry firing them.

In firearms instructor school they taught us to dry fire our Glock and AR-15 as part of our training. This helps with trigger pull and increases accuracy when on the range.

A snap cap gives the firing pin something to strike against. This is extremely important on rimfire weapons as the firing pin will strike against steel if the bullet is not there to stop it. This will damage the firing pin making it less reliable. So, if dry firing an AR-15 does not hurt it, why would you need snap caps? There are some handy purposes snap caps can be used for, so let’s look at what they are.

Snap caps for training
A-Zoom snap caps are blue and come in multiple calibers. The .223 pictured above is perfect for training with AR-15 rifles.

Proper Cycling

I know most people check out the cycling on their semi-auto guns by heading to the range and running ammo through them. If a gun is having cycling issues, however, a snap cap is the perfect way to see what’s going on. If it feeds okay and ejects okay when you pull on the charging handle, that narrows down what issues are causing the problem.

I also like to see how well the weapon feeds when I have just purchased one. Maybe I get too picky, but I like to see a smooth motion as the bolt face pushes the round into the chamber. If it has a clanky, rough sound and feel, there may be issues down the road.

Someone brought me an older Colt M4 that was having cycling issues. They couldn’t narrow down for me if it had feeding, extraction, or ejection problems, so I turned to a snap-cap. Why waste a trip to the range if the problem can be identified in a cheaper, faster, and safer way? One pull of the charging handle chambered the snap cap without issue. The next pull left the round in the chamber and tried to load another round, causing it to jam. The extractor on the bolt was worn down and not catching the lip of the casing. I replaced it and ran the same drill with a snap cap before taking it to the range and firing a few rounds through it to confirm that was the only issue.

Extractor Test

If you pull the charging handle on your AR-15 and the snap-cap comes flying out, it is doing what it was designed to do. But there are some common issues that can arise with extractors over time. Like any mechanical parts, they can wear out. The extractor can break or wear down causing it to malfunction all or part of the time. The extractor spring can also wear down over time making it weaker than it should be. This can cause issues because it may eject the shell casing, but not with the force required to clear the ejection port fast enough.

A snap cap is a perfect tool for testing the ejector spring with the bolt out of the gun. Simply push the back of the snap cap into the face of the bolt and release the side that has the pressure. It should shoot off sidewise from the bolt face with some force. If it does not, it could be time for a new ejector spring.

Snap caps for cycling your AR-15
Snap caps are great for function tests on the AR-15 rifle. They allow you the ability to perform checks in the comfort of your home without needing to be on the range.

Buffer Spring and Bolt Seating Test

Another test that helps with performing function checks on an AR-15 can be done by chambering a snap cap from a mag. The round should smoothly slide into the chamber. Once in the chamber, I pull the bolt back three-quarters of the way and release it. If it still seats the snap-cap all the way into the chamber, that’s good. This does not mean the gun will malfunction if it doesn’t, but it could be an indication the buffer spring is wearing out.

Magazine Check

A magazine test should really be the 1st thing you check when you are having cycling issues. Most of the time, cycling issues are because of the magazine and not the rifle. You can check this by inserting a magazine full of snap caps and racking a round. Repeat this process until the mag is empty. This will not always reveal the issue, but most of the time it will identify a bad mag. If the snap caps are not cycling properly, try a different mag. If that fixes the issue, then your magazine may have a worn-out spring, or it may need to be disassembled and cleaned.

A-Zoom snap caps for training
Snap caps are great for checking magazines when a gun has cycling issues.


Besides using snap caps for identifying issues or dry-firing, they are great for training. They are specifically useful for misfire drills. When the trigger is pulled and the gun doesn’t go bang, we train to slap the magazine to make sure it is seated, rack the bolt, and then pull the trigger again. Snap-caps for this drill are very efficient because you can perform every part of the test without the actual bang. This allows you to practice the drill indoors when it is rainy or snowy and you can’t make it to the range. Or maybe you just want to save the ammo but still get in some good training.

Snap cap compared to a .223 live round
Snap-caps are blue, making them easy to tell apart from real ammo. Above a .223 round (left) is next to a snap cap (right) of the same caliber.


Snap caps may not be the primary thing you think of when buying accessories for your AR-15, but they can be useful in many ways. Teaching a new shooter on the AR-15 rifle, doing function checks, and training are all helpful ways snap caps can be used. The A-Zoom snap caps come in blue, making them easy to identify. They come in all kinds of calibers so they can be used for just about any gun.

Sheriff Jason Mosher is a law enforcement generalist instructor as well as a firearms and tactical weapons trainer. Jason graduated from the FBI-LEEDA (Law Enforcement Executive Development Association) and serves as a Sheriff for his day job. When he’s not working, he’s on the range, eating steak, or watching Yellowstone.

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