In my classroom we give a disclaimer on dummy guns that they are not firearms and I will avoid using the word "gun" further in this opinion piece as part of their name. You can call them training devices, simulators, or demonstrators. Get the terminology straight and you will avoid any confusion with the students.
We state that we will be using these inert pieces of plastic for training. They cannot fire or hurt any one in the room. We will use them to double check your eye dominance, grip, stance, sight alignment and sight picture. A laser trainer is good here as well. When we pick them up for demonstration we qualify that it is a "simulator".
I have met many other instructors who give a disclaimer in their class that while the "blue guns" are inert, they will be treated exactly like a real gun. I have no problem with that but I often ask, "why did you buy the blue gun if you could have used a real gun". Often their answer is something about being able to point the muzzle in this direction or that, showing trigger finger placement, or to show better angles to the students. To which I reply, "so you wouldn't use a real gun for that?" and they reply, "heavens no". I usually pause to see if they get the irony that they are not treating the blue gun exactly like a real gun. To be clear it doesn't bother me, as long as you are able to explain it to your students.
A quick Google search shows I'm not alone in this opinion and all the instructors that I work with are fine with our methods when a proper disclaimer and terminology is provided. Here's a great opinion piece from another instructor: http://pistol-training.com/archives/7723
So it is up to you to set the parameters for these "training devices" in your classroom. But here is how we use them. It should be obvious that it is hard to demonstrate and hard to learn something if you can't view it from all angles. Pictures are good but they are no substitute for being there. Again, when you pick one up, we refer to it a hunk of plastic that we are not treating them as a real gun. We have several that we pass around the classroom.
Eye dominance- We've seen people go through the standard methods of determining eye dominance but still do it differently when they are on the firing line. By allowing them to point a trainer at a target in the front of the class, instructors can move around the student and see what the are really doing. Its great to show those who are cross dominate how they can compensate with the pistol.
Grip - Our instructors can go around the room and check the students grip. Again, not being forced to stand behind the shooter or break the 180 line is a huge asset. Being able to demonstrate from the necessary angle quickly puts them on the right track.
Stance- Nothing like having the instructor hold that hunk of plastic and turn around the room showing the correct method and common mistakes.
Sight Alignment and sight picture - We all know the value of dry fire techniques for aiming. Imagine that before your go into the live fire portion, your students have practiced many times with a training device.
We have seen a huge improvement in our students first shots after having used these demonstrators. We've never had anyone get confused after using the plastic. I don't feel we are ingraining any bad habits and that is based on your skills as a teacher. We do plenty of demonstrations with the real firearms and have the students do their loading and unloading drills with those firearms. We are very clear and strict in their handling procedures and gun safety.
Students have responded so well that I'm often asked where to purchase these simulators.
If you as instructor or student want to acquire them for use in your program there are some great ones here (we stick to the Orange or blue colored ones so it is immediately obvious that it is a trainer). Please call them demonstrators, simulators or trainers but don't call them guns, weapons, or firearms. Thanks - Mike Michaels
http://www.lapolicegear.com/bldegun.html has some of the best prices on good demonstrators
If you are are looking for an exact model of a specific gun, Rings makes many styles:
Shooting Sports BSA >