By Will Dabbs, MD
Photos: Sarah Dabbs
Shooting skills are perishable. When I shoot a lot I shoot well. When I go awhile without launching a few downrange, I have to relearn some things. Considering concealed carry is now at least theoretically possible in most states, this fact translates to an awful lot of folks who need an awful lot of practice with their weapons.
In a perfect world you would live on a farm and able to shoot off your back porch safely and regularly. While we’re dreaming, it would be nice if we didn’t have to work for a living and radical Muslim terrorists would get real jobs and settle down to become responsible citizens. As none of that is going to happen anytime soon, we need to explore other options.
Nothing is ever quite as good as live ammunition on a safe firing range. However, lots of folks live in cities or built-up areas where range space is either expensive or not available. Under those circumstances a range simulator can be just the ticket to keep muscle memory honed and sharp.
There are actually several components to the Laser Ammo firearms simulator. The Surestrike system is an innovative device that mounts in the bore of your standard handgun, shotgun, or black rifle to transform the weapon into a safe home training tool. A similar device is available for use in Airsoft guns called R.E.A.L. (Recoil-Enhanced Airsoft Laser) and even incorporates simulated recoil. The Smokeless Range, a computerized range simulator, runs on your computer and then projects via a media projector or television. The Open Range upgrade allows you to customize your own range scenarios.
A fairly typical customized shooting scenario (above) built using the
Open Range software includes targets in a wide variety of flavors and
they perform and respond however you wish. Scenarios are essentially
infinitely customizable. The Laser Ammo Judgmental and Marksmanship
Training Simulator (below) consists of the Surestrike laser adaptor
for the host weapon as well as the Smokeless Range computer marksmanship
simulator. The Smokeless Range simulator includes basic marksmanship
scenarios. The Open Range allows range parameters to be extensively customized.
The Surestrike device fits snugly into the chamber of your weapon and includes a component similar to a Snap-Cap engaged by the host weapon’s firing pin. This nifty little rig can be configured for various pistol chamberings as well as 12-gauge and .223. The laser uses tiny button cells for power and fires a visible red laser beam every time the firing pin drops. As the Surestrike device remains snugly in the weapon’s chamber, the action may be manually cycled repeatedly to recock the firing pin. In handguns with a double-action feature the laser fires with each pull of the trigger.
All components come packed into a zip-up wallet-sized case to help keep track of the tiny bits. A red cap mounts on the end of handgun barrels for safety. The bore-mounted portion of the device is hollow so the red laser beam can pass through unimpeded. The compact, built-in nature of the design allows standard holsters to be used.
The Surestrike system also comes with a series of reflective targets about the size of playing cards. These handy and simple marksmanship aids can be liberally set around your home and then engaged with the laser cartridge installed in your favorite handgun or tactical rifle. Misses go unnoticed and hits render an easily distinguishable flash. I had a ball sneaking around my house with the lights down bouncing laser beams off of these little rascals.
The Smokeless Range software package runs through a Windows-based computer and interfaces with a small portable HD camera. You load the software onto his computer and then slaves the video output to a projector or television. I am a bit of a technological Philistine yet I figured it all out in fairly short order.
Once the software is running smoothly, you set up the compact camera on its included mini-tripod and orient it toward the screen. The device then calibrates itself to make sure the camera can see the screen fully. Once the software and the camera are talking to each other the camera records the splash of the laser dot and registers it as either a hit or a miss.
The system is really designed to be used with a projector system. I used a standard flat screen TV and found the camera would not detect the laser spot. The fix for this is to drape a sheer shower curtain over the television to give the laser spot something off of which to reflect. Thusly configured, the image on the screen is still readily visible and the computer can read the laser splashes just fine.
There are 10 different scenarios built into the Smokeless Range system including fixed targets at various ranges, bouncing cans and jumping bombs, as well as trap shooting and transitional drills. The software provides moving targets as well as speed and tracking exercises. Unlike commercial range facilities, there are no safety restrictions on drawing from concealment or other advanced gun-handling drills.
The Open Range system is an add-on feature for the Smokeless Range Judgmental Simulator. Using the course editor, the shooter can design and configure personalized range scenarios, placing, moving, and resizing more than 20 pre-loaded targets as desired. Motion components can be added so targets pop up or fall down. Steel target noises can be incorporated to take the ambiguity out of marksmanship. Courses can be built to simulate indoors or outside.
The Surestrike device converts most any tactical handgun, black rifle,
or 12-gauge shotgun into a safe indoor training tool. The device will
only fire when the firing pin falls so striker-fired weapons must be
manually cycled each shot. Laser Ammo offers airsoft guns configured
to fire semi-automatically while also simulating recoil.
The Surestrike laser adaptor is capable of configuring most tactical
handguns as well as your favorite 12-gauge shotgun or black rifle to
serve as a realistic and safe marksmanship trainer. The little playing
card-sized reflective targets allow the Surestrike laser adaptor to be
used independently. Misses do not register while hits produce an obvious
flash. Will found the simple act of maneuvering around his house engaging
these little devices to be good training. In so doing the Surestrike
system allows a shooter to draw, move, and shoot dynamically without
concern for injury or risk of damage.
A built-in After Action Review allows the shooter to review shot placement along with reaction and split times. The Open Range keeps the training experience fresh and individualized. You can even let someone else design your courses so they are unexpected.
Designed by Israeli and American military veterans, the Laser Ammo system is clearly executed by shooters for shooters. The overall effect is a remarkable balance between realism and value. Cheesy video games are cheaper but poor simulators. Top-end military systems do a better job of simulating live weapons but cost as much as my house. The Laser Ammo system strikes a balance.
The system can seem awkward when used in some live weapons. The action must be cycled for each round fired and there is obviously no significant report or recoil. Cycling my action manually did force me to reacquire a proper sight picture with each shot and served as good practice for clearing stoppages. However, where the system really shines is with recoil-equipped Airsoft guns, which perform more like the real deal.
With ammunition expensive and proper range space frequently at a premium, the Laser Ammo Judgmental Simulator is a great safe indoor alternative to live rounds and gun smoke. The system is fairly easy to use and it has basically no incremental cost after its initial purchase. Practice might not actually breed perfection but, with the Laser Ammo simulator, it can at least help keep your gunmanship skills honed and sharp.
Laser Ammo USA
P.O. Box 222017
Great Neck, NY 11022