When acclimating your pup to gunfire, it is important to start with a round with a relatively mild report and work up gradually, over at least a dozen training sessions, to your hunting loads. Several options, ranked from mildest to loudest are listed below.
- Number 209 shot shell primer in shotshell hull, fired in a 28" barrel
- Crimped “acorn” black powder blank
- Number 209 primer, fired in a pistol
- Winchester .22 black powder blank
- Winchester .32 black powder blank
- Winchester AA .410 ½ oz skeet load
- RST 28 gauge 5/8 oz lite load
- Winchester 20 gauge 7/8 oz AA low recoil/low noise load
- Winchester AA 28 gauge 3/4 oz skeet load
Note that .22 and .32 black powder blanks have a noticeably sharper report than the .410 skeet load and may, therefore, be more stressful for your pup. Two articles by Dr. Angelo Lurus published in the American Field detail the damage to canine and human hearing caused by .22 and .32 caliber blanks. Several noted trainers, including Field Trial Hall of Fame member John Rex Gates, support Dr. Lurus' conclusions.
If you don’t own a pistol, but do own a break action shotgun, inserts allowing the firing of 209 primers in your gun are available from Lion Country Supply. Primed hulls also work. This retailer and Cabela's both also offer GaugeMate tubes, which adapt larger gauge shotguns to .410 bore. A small gauge break action single shot shotgun with appropriate inserts is a handy training tool, in which you may wish to invest. If you choose this option, make sure that you comply with any regulations covering the possession of firearms and /or ammunition in the field during the off season, and always discharge live ammunition harmlessly into the air.