Last week I had an opportunity to visit Fort Bragg, where the headquarters of the Army Special Operations Command is located. While there, I had the privilege of utilizing an advanced virtual firearms training facility. It was a simply incredible experience and really demonstrates the future of training for military, law enforcement, and yes, even intelligence officers.
This facility has multiple screens set up, each which can support one or two shooters participating in a particular training scenario. The weapons used are real firearms, but heavily modified. Of course, the first modification is the addition of a laser that fires an encoded pulse that uniquely identifies that particular firearm. In addition, the magazines are modified to contain small CO2 tanks, and the firing mechanisms are modified so that the slide or bolt will actually reciprocate when a weapon is fired, driven by the CO2. This makes weapons handling as realistic as possible. You also had to regularly swap mags to keep the guns running.
The weapons themselves were both handguns and carbines. I had an opportunity to shoot Glock 17 and S&W M&P handguns, and an M4 carbine, complete with red dot sight. There were a large variety of other weapons available which I did not have a chance to use.
The training scenarios were incredibly varied. All were tracked in detail for the time required, total hits, total misses, and any penalties incurred for hitting no-shoot targets. Some were straightforward shooting drills like dueling trees, plate racks, trap shooting (especially challenging with a handgun!), arrays of random numbered targets (which had to be shot in numeric order), and arrays of colored targets (you could only shoot one color).
The picture shows a Special Operations soldier shooting against a Ranger using a Texas Star scenario. Texas Stars are diabolical targets because they are actually wheels with targets that will fall off of a spoke when hit. This will change the balance of the wheel and it will start rotating in a fairly random manner. The physics of the virtual Texas Stars was right on and they could spin wildly, especially after any misses.
Of course, there were also combat scenarios which were quite realistic. Some even featured innocent civilians who might randomly run around in a scene and who must not be shot. This type of training is extremely effective in helping learn all about target recognition and the handling shoot/no-shoot decisions under extreme time pressure.
I was able to compete against a Ranger and a Spec Ops soldier in different scenarios, and managed to hold my own against both of them. In general, I beat them in scenarios that required precision shooting, and lost to them where flat out speed shooting was required. Their young reflexes were clearly superior to mine! Regardless, I had a great time, and it was a really incredible experience in what is surely going to be firearms training of the future.