September 15th, 2013 06:35 AM
Lessons from the training simulator
Yesterday I participated in a very unique experience. As part of a program sponsored by my county sheriff, I was able to try out various scenarios on the firearms training simulator. I am not entirely certain how it works, but for those who aren't familiar with them, it consists of a large movie screen and a projector connected to a computer. You use real guns that have been modified, in this case a Glock 17, Glock 19, and a Sig P226. The magazines, which are weighted, are filled with nitrogen and circuitry in the gun allows the simulator to know when you've reloaded (drop and replace magazine and cycle the slide), cause slide action on firing, and make the gun go empty after firing with the slide locked open. My guess is that guns have an IR beam of light that hits the screen that is read by cameras to tell where you're pointing. The size screen and your proximity to it makes the virtual environment effectively life sized. Sound effects accompany the gun shots and they are loud enough to be startling, but not as loud as a real gun. The programming is complex enough that the target / opponent actors will react to getting hit, glass will explode, etc. Here is a short youtube video demonstrating a portable system by the same company. There were other pieces of equipment around the room that we didn't use and I understand that there is a piece that is used to shoot back at you (paint balls or something) that we also didn't use and apparently the system is even more capable than I got to experience.
This was my first experience trying to shoot at something other than a stationary piece of paper. It is also as close to an actual firefight as I am ever likely to, or hope to encounter. The total effect is quite intense and I learned several things from the experience. We even had an ND during class session. The ND occurred during a break and one woman, who apparently thought the system was off, pulled the trigger on one of the guns, only to have it go BANG. She got a horrified look on her face, let out a profane word, and said, "I shouldn't have done that".
Ten of us arrived at a local community college where this was being held and were taken to the training room. The instructor, a sheriff deputy, gave a very short tutorial on how to handle a firearm. One of the first things I noticed is that the instructor did NOT tell everyone to keep their fingers off the trigger and nearly everyone was walking around with their finger curled around it (ouch). Unfortunately, no instruction was given on stance, and only a little was given to holding the gun (don't get your thumb skin caught in the slide) and site picture, though time was short.
There were various scenarios, involving shoot / no shoot situations ranging from traffic stops to hostage situations. The rules of engagement were a little different than civilian concealed carry, with more of an LEO focus, but with the exception of being able to shoot to stop a fleeing felon, the same legalities of justification applied. The scenarios were designed around the idea of giving you the ability to give warnings to "drop the gun", etc, rather than an immediate draw and fire. The dialog was course, but realistic. The instructor did mention that shouting "drop the gun or I'll shoot" in part is to help get witnesses to the fact that you weren't out to kill someone. The scenarios, which included variations on the same theme, included approaching a situation where it isn't clear who is the good / bad guy/girl/child as well as having unanticipated threats come at you from other directions.
Here are some of the key things I learned:
1) Standard range practice is valuable and should not be underestimated. Grip, stance, recoil management, magazine reloading, etc are important and with practice they will become automatic.
2) it is much harder to hit a moving target
3) It is even harder to keep a proper sight picture while both you and your target are moving
4) You really do get "tunnel vision" and may not see other threats.
5) even though the target is down, they may still be a threat
6) You really will focus on your targets gun. We've talked about how victims will have this focus and so do you.
7) your innate ability to judge body language to sense when someone is going to shoot is better than you think it might be, but this is not a guarantee and can get you killed.
8) There is a lot of wisdom to be learned here on DC, especially regarding lethal force justification and I was able to correctly answer questions that most of the class got wrong.
9) there really is a time lag between the decision to fire and the pulling of the trigger and a lot can happen in between. For example, in one scenario, I had a good drop on an armed felon in a crowded court room only to have a man jump up in front of me and take the bullet (computer said it was a confirmed kill, not wound, shot), in that delay.
10) women and children can be just as deadly as a grown man and you should be prepared to shoot them too.
11) "counting your rounds" can help keep you focused and improve your accuracy.
12) as the caption written on the board said, "fast is fine, but accuracy is final". Taking those extra few moments, even when under fire, to properly align your sights, focus on the front, but make sure the rear is aligned, can make all the difference between stopping the threat and a near miss.
13) I have a much better understanding of the hit accuracy rate that the police have and performed similarly.
14) sometimes the best choice is to shoot through an object at a threat you can't visibly see.
15) hitting COM is hard enough. Trying for a wound shot (leg, foot, etc) is just plain silly.
Some people would fire and immediately empty the magazine without thinking about it or realizing that they had done so. One person actually "executed" the target after they were down, which became a point of discussion.
Many of the targets had knives and a lot of emphasis was placed upon when the knife wielder is and is not a threat. For example, in one scenario a man in drag claims you're harassing him because he's gay, pulls a knife and then backs away and climbs on top of the police car. The point was that being on top of the car diminished the opportunity part of his/her being a threat and made for a non justified shoot.
In another situation, a mentally disturbed woman pulls a knife but drops it and then advances on you with fists. The student took the bad shot, which also became a discussion point and alternative methods, e.g. hand to hand, taser, pepper spray were discussed.
Before I took my (first) turn, a scenario was presented where you've conducted a traffic stop on a person for whom an arrest warrant has been issued. The guy gets out of his truck and tries to talk his way out of arrest, but ultimately complies. As he turns around to be cuffed, his 11 yo daughter comes out of the truck with a shotgun and is pointing it at you and your LEO partner, saying "you're not taking my daddy". The scenario ends with her putting down the gun and it isn't necessary to fire. Afterwards the instructor asked, "who here could have shot the girl?" I was the only person (that I noticed) raising their hand. When it came to my turn (second scenario following the court room), I got the same stop. The girl came out of the truck and I kept a solid bead on her. This time as she raised the gun to her shoulder (I could tell she was going to fire) I fired upon her and hit. What I completely missed (absolutely didn't see) was that her father had gotten the other officers gun in the process. Later a third person had the same situation but the girl fired the shotgun without and noticeable tells that she was going to fire.
In another situation, you've given chase to a man and woman who hide in the woods near a cabin. The man came out firing at me and I returned fire with several rapid shots. I hit him enough times (include two head shots) which received a couple of "you had it in for that guy" comments. Right after he stopped (and fell), the woman came at me. Having been caught by the tunnel vision prior, this I reacted to the motion in my peripheral vision didn't really have time to take a solid aim, and shot at her with both hits (wounding) and misses.
After the scenarios, I got to try the LEO day time qualification test. It consisted of 40 rounds fired. First at 25yds, start from standing. In 45 seconds, drop to prone, 3 shots, kneel, 3 shots, stand 2 shots. Followed by shots at 10 yds, 5 yds, and 3 yds, both weak hand and hand strong hand. I was the only one who actually fired 40 shots (counted my rounds) and scored a 40 out of 40 COM hits (high score of 195 out of ?? possible)
Overall, it was a fabulous experience that I am VERY glad to have had. In follow up, I would really like to take some tactical training and get more practice at things like moving targets, firing from cover, drawing and firing. I am still surprised at how much of an advantage plain old paper target range time gave me and also made things like tactical reloads (which I hadn't practiced) second nature.
My advice to everyone would be that if you ever have the opportunity to try an event like this, do so and don't think twice about it.
September 15th, 2013 06:42 AM
Thanks for sharing the detailed post. I imagine most here would love to have been in your shoes.
"I believe there are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power, than by violent and sudden usurpations” – James Madison 1788
September 15th, 2013 07:18 AM
Great post! You illustrated very well some of the challenges faced by both LE and civilians in lethal force encounters; it sounds as though you performed quite well.
I know many shooters criticize IDPA for its rule-based structure, but the sport definitely helps enhance skills required to survive real lethal force encounters. Simulator and FoF training can't be beat, though!
[T]he unlimited power of the sword is not in the hands of either the federal or state governments, but, where I trust in God it will ever remain, in the hands of the people. ---Tenche Coxe, The Pennsylvania Gazette, Feb. 20, 1788.
September 15th, 2013 07:30 AM
Good stuff. Thanks for posting.
"Everybody's got a plan, 'til they get hit".
September 15th, 2013 07:41 AM
I wonder how much one of those simulators would cost. It would be an interesting project for a local gun club.
September 15th, 2013 08:25 AM
I was wondering the same thing. The company is called Meggitt (search for Meggitt FATS). They have different models undoubtedly with different price points and levels of complexity.
Originally Posted by lchamp
September 15th, 2013 09:07 AM
Have done one of those simulators previously. It's worthwhile, and challenging. Did a couple spins on the shoot / no-shoot simulations. Didn't get much saddle time, though, so I'm not sure how the full spread of features works either.
Thanks for the post. Great details, points.
I've always thought of these newer-generation simulators as Preconception Stress-testers. They put your current thinking and planning right on the table, against the sort of situations they've programmed for. It quickly dispels many myths, shows many weaknesses and where one needs improvement. As part of an ongoing, intensive training regimen, I'd think such simulators can be a really valuable component. The beauty is, as time goes on, these things will keep leveraging technology and improving. It'll be neat to see how they are in, say, 10-15yrs time.
Originally Posted by MJK
Your best weapon is your brain. Don't leave home without it.
self defense (A.O.J.).
How does disarming
the number of victims?
Reason over Force: The Gun is Civilization (Marko Kloos)
NRA, SAF, GOA, OFF, ACLDN.
September 15th, 2013 09:55 AM
One of those has opened for commercial use near my son, but he hasn't tried it yet.
Retired USAF E-8. Lighten up and enjoy life because:
Paranoia strikes deep, into your heart it will creep. It starts when you're always afraid...
"For What It's Worth" Buffalo Springfield
September 15th, 2013 12:19 PM
Excellent writeup. Had the chance to do a much more limited experience a year ago and it really helps one appreciate a) I'm not a LEO and don't have to put myself in bad situations b) most situations are only black and white in hindsight and can go bad very quickly c) as a civilian - train, train and then when you think your Ok, train some more.
NRA RSO & Certified Basic Pistol Instructor
September 15th, 2013 02:13 PM
Wow, cool experience. I would love to get to try something like that.
September 15th, 2013 03:16 PM
I have two questions...
1. How much does one of those training simulators cost?
2. Where can I get one?
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September 15th, 2013 03:46 PM
The Gander Mountain Academy sites (at least some of them) have these. I think it was $50 for 30 minutes the last time that I went. It's a 300 degree simulator and some scenarios have people coming out from the sides, so it does challenge your situational awareness. I found these useful, and would have to believe that the LEO versions have more / better simulations.
Originally Posted by 1MoreGoodGuy
As an aside, as good as these are, there's nothing better than Force on Force training to get the adrenaline flowing. Having someone shooting at you is one thing, but having them jump out from a hiding space you overlooked or running at you with a knife (rubber / shock) is another. But, I'm a firm believe that all quality training is good, and that each new scenario you encounter during training will ultimately be helpful.
September 16th, 2013 09:37 AM
When I did this during my academy, I asked the instructor how much the system had cost. They had a system with a single large screen and projector, and only one active gun (For two-officer scenarios they had a SIRT gun, and the second officer (ME >.<) didn't get his or her shots scored.
Originally Posted by noway2
It was a lot of fun and had a wide variety of scenarios, but the instructor said the system as they had it was $25k.
September 16th, 2013 09:49 AM
Wish something like this would set up around where I live. The only live fire classes in our area are so cost prohibitive, something like this would bring training to more people that need it. It's much cheaper for me to drive 3 hours to classes, even with the cost of gas, than it is to take them locally, training price gouging imo.
September 16th, 2013 09:54 AM
Sounds like an excellent training tool. Glad you shared this and good on you for trying it.
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"A gun is like a parachute. If you need one, and don't have one, you'll probably never need one again."
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