(NV) High-tech gun range puts shooters in unpredictable situations


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Drizzt
January 9, 2003, 07:56 PM
FIREARMS TRAINING: Moving Targets

High-tech gun range puts shooters in unpredictable situations

By JOHN PRZYBYS
REVIEW-JOURNAL


The woman kneels on the ground, crying and babbling incoherently about her dead husband.

Suddenly, in a move so casual as to be nearly unnoticeable, the woman reaches into her purse, looks up expressionlessly and pulls out a gun.

Scott Leonard shouts for the woman to drop the gun and put her hands up. He shouts again. The exchange takes scarcely longer than a heartbeat.

The woman fires two shots. Leonard -- community policing officer and rangemaster for the Boulder City Police Department -- squeezes off three quick shots of his own, and the woman falls forward, dead.

In real life, many news stories, a departmental board of review, a coroner's inquest and maybe even a lawsuit or two would follow. Today, the fatal shooting is followed only by Leonard catching his breath for a minute or two and a computer operator cueing up yet another tricky scenario for Leonard to face.

Leonard is trying out a FATS -- Firearms Training System -- live-fire video handgun range system at The Gun Store, 2900 E. Tropicana Ave.

Owner Bob Irwin said that, unlike other video shooting ranges, the FATS range allows shooters to use real guns and ammunition and lets them face unpredictable scenarios that change in the blink of an eye.

According to Irwin, the range so far has been popular among both area law enforcement officers and private gun owners wishing to test their marksmanship skills and judgment.

But, he continued, it's also been a hit among locals and tourists who simply wish to try out their arcade game-honed target practice skills in a more realistic way.

Irwin said he began installing the FATS system about six months ago. "We got it up and running in stages," he said. "It's really complicated. It took quite awhile."

Most shooting simulators use laser weapons, Irwin said. "This one -- one that you use live bullets in -- is relatively new technology."

The system consists of an overhead TV projector that displays videotaped shoot/don't shoot scenarios on a screen about 25 feet away. The screen is made up of two layers of self-sealing, permeable rubber.

Positioned along the sides of the rubber screens are sound sensors that "hear the whoosh of the bullet going through," Irwin said. "The sensors decide where that whoosh was so the computer knows the bullet hit there."

The system's computer then matches the bullet's impact with the image seen on the screen in real time. So, the shooter can tell via colored dots that appear on the screen whether he or she fired a lethal shot, a nonlethal shot or a shot that completely missed.

The sophisticated system also offers "the capability of branching scenarios," Irwin said, "meaning it will change facts in midsequence and present a slightly different scenario."

For example, the scenario Leonard faced could, at the whim of the operator or of the computer itself, call for the woman to draw a knife instead of a gun or simply get up and walk away.

The computer also has the ability to react to what the shooter does. For instance, Irwin said, "if you shoot the bad guy when he turns with a gun and you shoot him dead-center, he simply falls to the ground. End of scenario.

"But if you hit him in the shoulder, it reads that hit and he falls, but then he fires at you again because you didn't hit him in the middle. And if you fire and miss, he may fire at you or he may run away."

Leonard said the system is more realistic than the laser-based systems he's tried "because you're using an actual gun."

That means the shooter will experience the recoil that comes with firing a real gun, Leonard said. "With the laser, it's an actual gun, but it's hooked up to a compressed air tank, and there's no recoil."

Irwin said he purchased the system -- the version he has cost about $60,000 -- for use in security guard training classes and as a resource for area law enforcement officers.

The range also can be a resource for gun owners who either have or want to obtain concealed carry permits. Cost considerations prohibit including the range as part of concealed carry classes now, Irwin said, but it is available to students "as an addendum, if they'd like to try it on a different day or something."

But, such serious uses aside, Irwin estimates that 90 percent of the 1,000 or so people who've tried out the simulator so far simply wanted to play what is, in effect, a seriously souped-up video game.

Even more surprising: According to Irwin, about half of those people have been tourists.

Alex Ward lives in England and said he vacations in Las Vegas four or five times a year. On his last trip, he stopped by The Gun Store to use its target range. Last week, during a New Year's Day vacation, Ward tried out the video range, too.

Because private gun ownership is severely restricted in England, "you can't do this in England at all," he said. "You don't have facilities like this."

Facing the simulator's unpredictable shoot/don't shoot scenarios was more difficult -- and much trickier -- than shooting at a stationary target, Ward said.

"It's not like you see on TV," he said. "I shot someone for spraying graffiti on the walls."

That's a common reaction among civilian shooters, Irwin said.

"This thing makes fools out of us. You think you can shoot fairly well at a target, but when the target is moving and reacting, you really have no idea," he said.

"It's amazing how many people who think they shoot really well go, `That's interesting, but I'll be back tomorrow,' and they don't come back."

Shooters pay $30 for 10 scenarios, which translates to 12 to 15 minutes of shooting time.

And while most private gun owners do use the range for entertainment, Irwin said, "if you sit there and shoot 20 or 30 scenarios, you'll learn a great deal about your own capabilities."


http://www.reviewjournal.com/lvrj_home/2003/Jan-07-Tue-2003/living/20397660.html

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Baba Louie
January 9, 2003, 09:03 PM
I got to use the one that LVMPD has some 10 years ago as part of their Citizen's Police Academy.

An amazing learning tool.

Shoot or no shoot scenarios, multiple bad guys, guys that look armed but aren't, domestic violence scenes where you can't turn your back on anyone.

A blast. It marks your shot placement and you lose when the "bad guy" shoots, with the scene ending. Various scenarios may be programmed into each scene with different positions, characters, now he shoots, now he doesn't, she does... you get the drift.

Even tho' the cops running that particular class warned us not to shoot where the bad guy WAS, to shoot him where he IS... It was amazing, simply amazing, how EVERYONE (me too) fell for it in a parking garage scenario with 3 - 4 guys near a van and a car with an open trunk. Bad guy gets his shotgun from trunk, turns around and takes two steps to his right (your left) and ... dammit, I shot at where he HAD BEEN, now he's two steps to my left and I'm dead.

Been aware of that ever since.

The officer told us that "It's human nature at first. We have to train it out of the recruits. Keep your eye and your gun on the hands. The Hands!"

I've watched guys and gals shoot at the Gun Store's FATS.

If you're an alumni of the citizens academy, you can take any and all of the class's again. It might be worth another shot, neh?

Adios

sm
January 9, 2003, 09:14 PM
I wish we had one here. :(
I have heard others that have used express what a great training tool it is. And as stated really gets you to think, and shows your weaknesses-real quick.

blades67
January 9, 2003, 09:25 PM
Like I needed another excuse to go to Vegas.:evil:

dinosaur
January 9, 2003, 09:29 PM
Years ago I attended the 2 week S&W Firearms Instructors course. Outmoded now of course but it was great!:D They used the Motorola "Shoot, Don`t Shoot" scenarios which I guess is the grandfather of FATS. Now with computerization I would imagine any course could be devised for certain groups of people such as the armed citizen. The scenarios were mostly taken from police situations such as car stops gone bad etc. but this system seems like you could gear it towards any group of shooters.

We shot hundreds of rounds at both the indoor and outdoor range but the videos were very realistic for their time.

rock jock
January 9, 2003, 09:30 PM
My wife and I are going to Las Vegas next month. I am so there.

J.Gillespie
January 9, 2003, 10:58 PM
I got to use the FATS when I took the CCW class here in Vegas. Absolutly amazing! Alot of fun and very challenging! The senarios are quick and you don't have to much time to react. That was what I liked. Even better for me was the gun that was used was a Glock, a gun that I was very used to (because I own one) but I must say, the recoil wasn't all that much. It was very controllable. As realistic as FATS is, I give it a definite thumbs up...it would just be nice if they could increase the recoil more, get it closer to what is being used to shoot with. Other than that, I know where I am going tomorrow...:neener: heh heh heh!

El Rojo
January 10, 2003, 02:24 AM
I used the FATS system at the Bakersfield PD range here in the PRK (I have the in with the range master, he taught me how to be a gunfighter). I went to go get the range master some Taco Bell afterward, and it was the most tactically aware I have ever been. I had a couple of dozie scenarios.

One of the first was a guy come walking out of this store, he has his hands in his jacket. I tell him to come out and talk to me, I tell him keep his hands where I can see them. He goes back inside. He come back out with a gun. I shot him.

Then the same scenario except this time the first time he comes out he has a bundle of dynamite in his hands!!! I yelled twice for him to set the dynamite down. He didn't comply. I shot him in the head. The range master started to grill me. "Why did you shoot him in the head." I replied, "I didn't want him to set the bomb off." He said it was a good shoot. No kidding Rangemaster!

I had a hostage situation that I failed because the gun wasn't calibrated. My shots hit the hostage. I told the rangemaster I was pretty sure the gun was off so we recalibrated it and I was right it was shooting left. The last scenario was the craziest. I had pulled this guy over in this car and was talking to him when the female passenger got out of the vehicle. I asked her to step back inside. She started to walk away. I watched her walk away. The rangemaster asked me what just happened. I said the lady got out of the car and walked away. He asked why I didn't shoot. I told him there was no reason, she wasn't a threat. He said good job. That is where I learned you can actually walk away from a traffic stop if you are the passenger and there is nothing the cops can do.

Well that same type of scenario happened like 5 times. I pull the guy over, he gives me some lip, nothing happens. Suddenly the car has its top down (it was a convertable). There is a single female driver. My female partner walks over towards the car on the right side. I am watching her walk up there. Without warning, the driver pulls out a 1911 and drills my partner!!! Just like that, no warning or anything. I manage to yell at her, but she is going to take off. I was so thrown off by the suddenness of it all I threw my first shot just over her head. The next shot center punched her in the back of the head.

Overall I liked the system. I thought it was a good way of learning shoot/don't shoot. Plus it gets you thinking. No joke I was waiting for someone to hold up that Taco Bell 20 minutes after I was finished. I was waiting for the bomb holding, shotgun wielding lunatic to come through the front door and I knew how I was going to stop him. All that I got was 10 tacos and took them back to the range. :)

jim
January 10, 2003, 02:46 AM
i did the fats system about 5 years ago. basic stuff then 3hrs using the lapd police scenario's.
talk about pumped!
i know a guy who writes/did write different scenario's for these systems.
they had also used a similar program to recreate the columbine school incident.
like or hate them. it's interesting some of the information you learn from cops.

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