In order for practice to be effective, it has to be realistic. This is an underlying theme in all forms of shooting and applies equally to all disciplines, whether it is competition or life-or-death training. Therefore, dipping a toe into the other shooting sports can sometimes introduce you to products and practices that you would have never normally considered for your particular brand of gun ownership. Such was the case one year when I found myself wandering around the Law Enforcement hall at the NSSF SHOT Show. Although the sea of handcuffs and stun guns didn’t do a whole lot for me, I was immediately drawn in by a new product called The gunSHOT BOX by Scenario Trainer Inc.This device creates realistic gunshots without the use of gunpowder or any other expendable medium and is realistic enough that the company was asked to keep it in a sound-deadening enclosure. In the small world that is the firearms industry, I found that these folks were working with my friends at Smart Firearms to link the box to their guns, turning an inert training pistol into something that now can potentially require ear protection. Putting it all together in my head, I realized something that I don’t think either company has considered, and that was that they had created the perfect tool to train away a flinch.
Flinching (sometimes referred to as anticipating) is the human reaction to a gun going off. When the trigger stops moving, violent noise and recoil are created just mere feet in front of our faces. Our bodies receive that as a threat and, appropriately, push the gun away. Ever had a handgun that shot low and left? That’s not the sights; that’s you. For years we’ve been told that dry fire will cure that, except there is a problem with that idea; dry fire doesn’t create any of what your body is reacting to. Sure, you can perfect a draw, sight alignment, and trigger squeeze, but without that bang, things are going to stop right there.
Train Like You Fight
Together, the two products create a realistic marksmanship training system, but that is only because both companies took the time to ensure their products are fair representatives of the real ones that they replace. Smart Firearms SF-300 Instructor Series pistols fit the holsters of the most common handguns on the market and faithfully recreate the most defining external features. Fitted with a removable, weighted magazine, these point better than their real-steel counterparts do when they are stripped of ammunition. Most importantly, the trigger operates as it should. A number of us worked with the owners in the early days to ensure this most critical of components has the correct take-up weight, a defined wall, a crisp break, and even a positive reset. It was only one year after our feedback that SF delivered on all fronts, an astonishing feat for any manufacturer. At this time, the guts were also upgraded to pull even more functionality from the pistol. The trigger of the SF-300 will activate The gunSHOT BOX, as well as the programable laser muzzle device (for simulators), while the trigger finger sensor alerts you if your booger hook is resting on the bang switch.
While Smart Firearm’s SF-300 represents an upgrade, Scenario Trainer’s product is unlike anything that we’ve ever seen. To cut down on the physics lesson, essentially, it creates literal thunder through the use of capacitors. After plugging it in, the controller can use the keypad to fire single shots or two different multi-shot patterns. The idea is to train first responders to run toward gunfire and to create unannounced drills to critique and correct their responses. The main goal is to ensure team members don’t freeze up when the chips are down and to help them overcome any issues they may have.
As I unpacked The gunSHOT BOX, I snickered as I peeled back the yellow tape, which had every iteration of “not for prank use” written all over it. My wife made me swear that I wouldn’t use it to wake her up, to which I reluctantly agreed. Moving to the basement, I plugged it in and tested the remote by unleashing a single “shot.” At 125 dB, the noise level was uncomfortable but not painful. I would recommend some level of hearing protection in this instance, but rooms and ears will differ. It’s also a good time to remind everybody that I’m not a doctor, so if your hearing is a concern, you might want to have a conversation with somebody who has the appropriate degree hanging on a wall in their office.
Indoor / Outdoor Training
I decided to test the box in a live-fire indoor range with one of my newer clients, whom I know to have a pronounced flinch. Letting him know what was about to happen, we both muffed up, and I allowed him to start dryfiring. With each trigger press, I watched his grimace increase until, eventually, the gun went “click.” I didn’t know it at the time, but the SF-300 can be programmed to “run out of ammunition.” The default setting is 17 shots, but there is also a setting for random which recreates the famed ball & dummy drill. As time went on, I noticed the grimace faded away, and he was no longer blinking with each bang. Immediately, I had him load up his real firearm and start plugging away at the paper. His shots were dead center, and he was printing one of the tightest groups to date. After confirming his gun was empty, we returned to dry fire with the gunSHOT BOX and SF-300 to build more comfort and then bounced back to live fire with the same results. I considered the experiment a success and continue to use it in this capacity to this day.
Although I took The gunSHOT BOX to the range to prove this theory, its true value comes in using it at home with the SF-300. Dry fire has always been about being able to squeeze in practice when time doesn’t allow for a range trip, and this combo only helps to make these instances more effective. The only downside here is that it is indeed loud, so you’ll want to warn everybody in the house before conducting your favorite drills. Aside from that, I can’t think of a better way to build familiarity with gunfire without bringing lead and smoke into it. For more information, visit smartfirearms.us and scenariotrainer.com.
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