Dry-fire training is excellent for maintaining and improving our pistol skills. Mike Hughes, a former patent attorney, USPSA shooter and a contestant on “Top Shot,” founded Next Level Training in 2010. Hughes invented a professional-grade laser-training pistol that offered similar handling characteristics as a loaded pistol. The pistol features a “Shot Indicating Resetting Trigger,” hence the name “SIRT.”
The SIRT Pro 107 replicates a full-size Smith & Wesson M&P pistol, and the SIRT Pro 110 resembles a Glock 17 or 22, two popular models among law enforcement agencies. Originally colored two-tone red and black, SIRT pistols are offered with red, green, pink or purple metal or polymer slides. These colors help to distinguish them from their live-fire counterparts. A credit to Next Level Training’s engineering, SIRT pistol dimensions are so exact that they fit holsters designed for the live-fire pistols. Weight is also similar, which adds to these pistols’ realistic handling.
SIRT Training Pistols
The simulated magazine, also weighted, is removable in the same manner as a live-fire pistol. While SIRT pistols only come with one magazine, additional mags can be purchased separately for about $22 each, which enables practicing reloads.
In training with them, I’ve come to appreciate the attention to detail. Front and rear sights closely replicate the sights on a Glock or Smith & Wesson M&P, so the aiming process is familiar. If you desire, you could install aftermarket sights to accurately depict your firearm’s setup. Mirroring functionality continues to the accessory rail, which accepts the same light and laser that you may carry. The features that set the SIRT pistol apart are the resetting trigger and red or green laser indicators.
The resetting trigger is a benefit to training because the slide doesn’t cycle between shots. The trigger’s functionality and feel extremely close, meaning dry-fire trigger repetitions will transfer to live-fire shooting.
SIRT pistols have two lasers. The first is a red take-up indicator, which is illuminated by pressure on the trigger. This feature reinforces proper trigger prep and reset. Resist the temptation to use this laser to aim or deactivate it with the flick of a switch.
The second laser is the red- or optional green-shot indicator. This laser is illuminated when the trigger breaks, and it represents where the shot would have impacted. A dot indicates a smooth trigger press while a dash indicates trigger control that needs work. Such feedback is what we’re after.
Next Level Training offers excellent articles and videos to expand a SIRT pistol’s use including drills. There is also a SIRT AR-15 bolt to experience the same benefits of laser training with an auto-resetting trigger.
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Shotguns are an ideal home-defense tool for many reasons: For starters, they provide plenty of stopping power for close-range engagements, and yet most buckshot and birdshot loads won’t penetrate through barriers like walls the way pistols and rifles can. Most shotguns are robust and easy to operate, and they function reliably under the worst conditions. They’re also affordable. With so many new accessories available and a multitude of defensive loads available, there’s never been a better time to buy a home-defense shotgun. If you’ve got $500 to spend, you can count on these scatterguns, which we have listed in no particular order, to serve you well.
1. Benelli Nova Tactical The Nova is a no-nonsense pump gun that comes equipped with your choice of rifle sights ($419) or a ghost ring rear sight ($449), both of which are ideally suited for home defense. The steel frame of this gun is covered with a high-tech, durable polymer that protects the Nova against damage and abuse. There’s a shell-stop button on the forearm if you want to open the chamber without dropping another shell from the magazine, and dual action bars provide for smooth, reliable cycling. The Nova’s 18.5-inch barrel has a fixed cylinder choke and the gun weighs just over 7 pounds, which is well-suited to handling heavy defensive loads. Capacity is 4+1. www.benelliusa.com
2. Winchester SXP Defender The Defender may look pretty basic, but it comes with a number of great features that make it a real bargain at $349.99. The rotating bolt has four large lugs for years of reliable service and the 18-inch cylinder bore barrel is chrome lined. Winchester utilizes a black chrome finish that is more durable than traditional bluing, and the tactical forearm provides a secure grip on the gun even with wet hands. The Inflex recoil pad helps significantly reduce recoil impact and Defender is available in both 12 and 20 gauge with a 5+1 capacity. www.winchesterguns.com
3. Remington 870 TAC-14 Don’t let the TAC-14’s compact size fool you—this gun is a serious self-defense tool. Classified as a “non-NFA firearm,” the TAC-14 doesn’t require a stamp or extra paperwork from the ATF to own (although local laws may limit purchase). And while it may initially seem like a novelty firearm, the TAC-14 is easy to store in the home and offers 4+1 capacity in either 12 or 20 gauge. The Raptor glass-filled polymer pistol grip and Magpul forearm offer a stable platform for holding this gun when firing, and with a weight of 5.6 pounds it’s manageable to shoot with most defensive rounds. At its heart this gun is a true Model 870, with dual action arms and a steel receiver with a black oxide finish. Prices start at $443.05. www.remington.com
4. Stoeger Double Defense Available in either side-by-side or over/under configurations, the Double Defense is a modern take on the coach guns of the late nineteenth century. Both models offer a rapid one-two punch and their short (20-inch) barrels and compact size make these guns easy to store and maneuver for home-defense applications. Available in both 12 and 20 gauge, the Double Defense features a black-finished walnut stock and rails on the top and bottom of the guns for mounting optics, lights and lasers. Overall weights range from 6.4 to 7.1 pounds, which helps mitigate recoil with defensive loads, and the side-by-side version comes with ported barrels. All Double Defense shotguns come with high-visibility fiber optic front sights. MSRPs range from $449 to $489. www.stoegerindustries.com
5. Mossberg 500 Tactical HS410 Home Security Consider the .410 shotgun: They combine light weight and minimal recoil with ample stopping power at home defense ranges. Mossberg’s HS410 comes with a 18.5-inch barrel with a Spreader choke and a bead front sight. The forearm is equipped with a vertical pistol grip for rapid cycling and maximum stability and the tubular magazine holds 6 shells. Based on the time-tested Model 500 action, the HS410 has a three-inch chamber and a convenient tang-mounted safety. MSRP is $478. www.mossberg.com
6. Stoeger P3000 Defense The Stoeger P3000 is a basic but functional pump shotgun that is a real bargain with an MSRP as low as $289. Each of these guns comes with a blade front sight, crossbolt safety, black synthetic stock (there’s a pistol grip model available for $339) and a fixed cylinder choke. These guns come with absolutely no frills, but they function reliably and at just under 6.5 pounds, they’re heavy enough to manage kick yet maneuverable. Standard capacity for the P3000 Defense is 4+1, but there’s also a Freedom version that debuted this year with an increased capacity of 7+1. If you’re looking for an affordable repeating shotgun for home defense the P3000 is a great option. www.stoegerindustries.com
7. Mossberg Shockwave The ultra-compact Shockwave is built on Mossberg’s trusted 500 action, which features dual extractors and twin action bars for reliable cycling. Like the Remington TAC-14, this shotgun comes with a Raptor pistol grip and a short (14-14.375-inch) barrel. The “corn cob” forearm is equipped with a strap to keep the gun firmly planted, and the Shockwave is available in 12 and 20 gauge and .410 bore. All Shockwave models have a magazine capacity of 6 rounds, and they are available without special ATF paperwork in most jurisdictions. Compact, portable and extremely reliable, these guns make effective defensive guns in close quarters. MSRP is $455. www.mossberg.com
8. Remington 870 Hardwood Home Defense When you purchase a home-defense shotgun you want to know that the gun is reliable, and Remington’s 870 pump shotgun has a reputation for being fool-proof. More than 11 million of these guns have been sold, and they’re a favorite of law enforcement professionals and civilians alike. The 870 Hardwood Home Defense is a personal-protection firearm with the look and feel of a classic walnut stock. Available in 12-gauge with a magazine capacity of either 4 or 6 rounds, the 870 comes equipped with am 18.5-inch barrel with a cylinder bore and a matte blue finish. At $420 it’s very affordably priced as well. www.remington.com
9. Winchester SXP Shadow Marine Defender Kryptek Typhon Squeaking just under the $500 limit (but no doubt available for less than the MSRP in some stores), is the Winchester SXP Shadow Marine Defender Kryptek, a pump shotgun with a long name and an equally long list of features that include a matte stainless finish on the barrel, a pistol grip stock with interchangeable comb inserts, a chrome-lined barrel and chamber and Kryptek Typhon camo on the stock and forearm. One additional upgrade you’ll get with this gun—besides its ample bling—is a removable choke tube that allows you to change constrictions if desired (cylinder choke included). Other add-ons include an Inflex recoil pad, a TRUGLO fiber optic front sight and black chrome bolt. It’s available in 12 gauge with a 18-inch barrel and has a capacity of 5 rounds in the tubular magazine. $499.99. www.winchesterguns.com