In today’s article, Scott Conditt reviews the CoolFire Trainer with the Springfield Armory Hellcat Pro. The dry-fire training system is designed to work with striker-fired handguns to provide a recoil impulse in addition to a visible laser that shows where your shots are landing. One of the additional benefits is that the system also resets the striker, meaning you will spend more time perfecting your trigger pull during a practice session. Let’s see how well the dry-fire training system works.
For those who carry a firearm daily, I firmly believe training is the one thing we can never get enough of. On average, I can get out to the live-fire range at least a few times a month. This leaves the only other time for skills development in the evenings and weekends, when I do dry-fire and reloading drills in my garage or bedroom at home.
If I’m being totally candid, dry-fire practice is not something I have viewed as something I look forward to in quite a while, but rather have viewed it as a necessary evil to help retain perishable skills. No matter how many different ways I try to change up the drills, dry-fire training has become just that for me — a little dry. That perception recently changed after I got my hands on the CoolFire Trainer for use with my actual EDC, the Hellcat Pro.
[Not familiar with dry fire practice? Be sure to read Dry-Fire Practice Tips to get up to speed quickly.]
Dry-Firing the Springfield Armory Hellcat
The CoolFire Trainer is essentially a dry-fire training product that can be inserted into your own firearm and provides users with the sensation of recoil. The system I received consisted of a CoolFire Trainer recoil spring/guide rod and barrel module for the Hellcat Pro (they also offer it for the Hellcat and the XD-M). I also received an optional Soda Maker CO2 Fill Device, an optional Soda Maker CO2 Tank, and an optional Visible Red Muzzle Laser attachment for the CoolFire Trainer barrel. Interestingly, the barrel is what stores the CO2 gas when you are using the system.
To use the CoolFire Trainer, I simply field-stripped my Hellcat Pro and replaced the factory barrel and guide rod + recoil spring with the respective CoolFire Trainer components. The installation was smooth and the weight of the pistol felt pretty exactly like it did when the factory components were in place. The system completely prevents firing live ammo while still maintaining the external functioning of the gun for dry practice.
[Be sure to catch Massad Ayoob’s take in his Springfield Hellcat Pro review.]
Then, I threaded the CO2 fill device onto a bottle of CO2, which you can buy at any store that sells soda-making kits and supplies. All that was needed to fill the CoolFire Trainer (CFT) was to press the barrel into the soda maker fill device to charge it, taking about a second or two. Lastly, I threaded the visible laser module onto the barrel.
The result: when you press the trigger, a quick burst of CO2 gas discharges, cycles the slide, and the vibration of hammer/striker impact at the start of the recoil cycle activates the optional laser to give you a visual indication of your shot placement. After my first test “shot” with the CFT, I knew this device was going to have a place in my training regimen because it provided me with the one thing my dry-fire training has always lacked — sensory feedback.
CoolFire Trainer In Practice
The instant I depressed the trigger, the sensation of the pistol cycling surprised me — in a good way. I wouldn’t say that the discharge of the CO2 gas is as snappy as firing an actual cartridge, but isn’t as light as most airsoft pistols I’ve played around with. It felt like it was somewhere in between.
What I really liked about it though, was that there was instant feedback not only from the cycling of the slide, which necessitated resetting my aim on target thereafter, but also being able to clearly see the visible red laser on the reflective target downrange. I knew where my hits were landing. The test system I received had the red visible laser, but an infrared option is available for those training within the invisible spectrum.
Whichever module you decide to work with, the laser’s point of impact is fully adjustable to the point of aim of your sights, using small adjustable set screws that are installed around the bezel of the laser module. The kit I received also included three reflective targets that really help illuminate the laser’s impact point, and there are even compatible electronic targets available that will light up on the detection of the laser.
Considering the extremely compact nature of the CFT barrel, I was impressed to find that I could get about 15 consistently forceful cycles, or shots, out of one fill from the CO2 tank using the rapid fill adapter.
The Right Training Aid?
I admit I went into the experiment with this new technology with a little trepidation as I had heard some thoughtful criticisms of training with CO2 platforms, primarily from opponents to training with airsoft pistols. Most of the contention is that training with anything shy of your actual firearms and their respective manual of arms, or by not inducing completely accurate recoil sensations, would potentially ingrain bad habits. Or, at the very least, ingrain a false sense of expectation in a true live-fire instance.
I could see the argument’s validity as it pertained to airsoft pistols, which are traditionally composed of plastic and are much lighter in weight than the true firearms they are modeled after. Not to mention, airsoft variants aren’t always a 1:1 replica of their real-world counterparts.
However, with the CoolFire Trainer, you can train with your actual EDC or compatible firearm, which is a huge advantage in the realism department. Also, with the CFT, the simulated slide cycling automatically on trigger press versus manually resetting the trigger during dry-fire by racking the slide yourself to reset the trigger in between each and every shot is, in my opinion, a far more valuable, realistic and satisfying training experience. You can actually practice controlling recoil and follow-up shots.
This is not to say manual dry-fire is without its merits, as it can certainly be valuable to work out specific mechanics and actions with the right mindset and discipline. For me, training with the CoolFire Trainer just presents a superior and more visceral option as the sensation and feedback of the recoil is far better than sensing no recoil at all in my book.
After spending a few months training with the CFT and also going to sessions at the live-fire range, I genuinely feel the CFT has assisted me with alternating between and acquiring new targets rapidly, accuracy during hammer pair and failure drills, and improved my general overall accuracy. It’s somewhat hard to quantify or explain, but it feels like training with the CFT has made running my Hellcat Pro even more comfortable and fluid for me.
My main takeaway is that the CFT has made dry-fire training something I actually look forward to. I actually lost track of time during training with this unit and wanted to keep practicing long after I would normally call the session “good”. It took a skill development and retention discipline from feeling like somewhat of a necessary evil to a fun, engaging activity I looked forward to.
If you value training and keeping your off-range training fresh, I highly encourage you to check out the CoolFire Trainer for yourself.
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