It’s safe to say that frequent guest blogger Maggie describes a dream day of training for most of us in her article below. Check it out:
I recently had the opportunity to try out the F.A.T.S training system after taking a level two Urban Pistol class at the Police Academy range. The class was fantastic (who doesn’t enjoy an afternoon of shooting from the floor and taking out terrorists holding hostages?) but after it was over, I peeked in the room where the F.A.T.S training sessions were being conducted. F.A.T.S stands for FireArms Training Simulator. It is an entirely interactive system that uses a computer program, a large screen and very realistic firearms that are loaded with computer chips instead of ammunition. It looks somewhat like a big video game, but it is definitely not a game.
The F.A.T.S system is used in police and military training. It costs upwards of $150,000 and was designed to be used with many types of firearms — however, each type of firearm added to the system costs several thousand dollars. The software on this F.A.T.S system was designed to simulate police calls and stops and the firearms were all corded (i.e. attached) to the computer. There are systems where the firearms are not corded, and the guns have magazines filled with nitrogen gas to simulate recoil. With certain software, it is also possible to create scenarios where the suspects will not only be shooting back at you from the video screen, but the instructor can launch soft foam projectiles at you from a device called the Hostile Fire Simulator. In this case you would need to make use of available cover in the room to avoid being hit.
The instructor personalizes each scenario for the individual shooter and can increase or decrease the intensity of the situation to match the shooters ability level even as the situation progresses. For example, if the shooter is handling the scenario well, the instructor can increase the stress level by adding threats to the scene or having the shooter run out of ammunition. When I was offered the chance to try out a few scenarios I jumped at it.
To begin with I chose my weapon, and since I am most familiar with my Glock 19, that is what I chose. The gun is created so that the physical dimensions exactly replicate the real firearm. The first thing the large screen tells you is to “load your weapon”. This is done as you would expect, by pressing the magazine release button which pops the magazine out about an inch from the grip. Then you push it back in and rack the slide and you are good to go. I stood in the ready position aiming the gun at the screen waiting to see what would come next. My first scenario was a woman with mental health issues who was crouched down on the grass in a park. The scenario was introduced by another police officer and although I was standing in place, it appeared as if I was approaching the threat. The woman was wailing about her dead husband’s grave when she pulled out a gun and aimed it at me. I fired a few times until she was down and the computer decided my scenario was over.
The next part is the replay and analysis of what happened. The software can track exactly where the muzzle of your gun was as at all times, when you decided to fire, how many shots you fired, whether they were lethal hits or not and so on. I did alright on my first try — three shots, three hits, one was lethal and brought her down. The computer can tell where each shot was placed and know how the suspect would react to the gunshots, thus either continuing or ending your scenario. You will know instantly whether you made the right decisions and if not, where to concentrate your attention the next time.
The other great component of the experience was the fantastic instruction I got from the Gun for Hire instructor. Even though I was shooting at a video screen it was still a very different feeling to aim at a moving “person” who was pointing a weapon back at me – instead of at a piece of paper. In the replay analysis, I could see how the muzzle of my gun was jumping a bit off target after taking my first shot which required a realignment of the sights before firing again. I was instructed to let the trigger out more slowly and just until it reset to keep the sights lined up and on target and therefore decrease the time needed to pull off my next shot. I was able to try this over and over and a get a good feeling for it before trying my next scenarios. (I was also eager to try it out at my next outing at the range — I had success easing the trigger out shooting .22s, but I’ll need more practice with 9mm.)
The next couple of suspects went down with all shots fired being lethal shots. I was feeling pretty good and all was well until a second threat was introduced in one of the scenarios. Now there were two people to divide my attention between, who would become a threat first, where should I point the muzzle of my gun? I found as well, that I was only firing a few shots each time, instead of just unloading my magazine at the suspect. The machine becomes very addicting, even as I could feel my stress level increase as the scenarios progressed it did not stop me from wanting to continue. Each time the instructor said, “Do you want to try one more?” There was no hesitation from me, “Yes!”
Although the FATS system was created as a great training tool for law enforcement, anyone who is looking to take their shooting to the next level should seek out the opportunity to take instruction using it. Each time I take an advanced live fire class, I take it because I enjoy it, but I also know that whether or not I hit my targets each time I am gaining knowledge that will always stay with me. I hope I never need to draw upon that knowledge to protect my family, but there is no question in my mind that I would do anything in my power to protect my children. The difference with the FATS training is that I had a chance to test my reflexes and my judgment and have it analyzed by the computer. Speaking as a mother, I can tell you that I take my job to protect my children very seriously. Whether it is advocating for my children in school setting, or standing between them and a threat to their physical being, there is no question that I will always run towards the danger if it means they remain safe.
To this end, there is definitely valuable information to be learned about your ability to shoot under stress and at another human being by running through the FATS scenarios. Thank you to Anthony at Gun for Hire (www.gunforhire.com) for giving me the opportunity to try it out. And as for future training, my husband doesn’t know this yet, but if we ever get around to refinishing our basement, I may try to slip a FATS setup into the plans.