Originally Published in IADLEST Magazine

Think about when you first became a law enforcement officer—whether it was a few years ago or decades. Either way, few officers had Red Dot Optics/Sights (RDS) mounted on their duty sidearms. But as time has gone on, technology has advanced and evolved to bring modern officers a tool that produces increased accuracy in the field. As such, pistol mounted RDS are becoming increasingly popular and departments everywhere are discussing the accessory.

A simple Google search will display dozens of departments nationwide who have made the switch to RDS, and often, their means of purchase. Since RDS isn’t exactly a cheap accessory—accuracy is critical, so understandably quality materials and precision cost more—some departments have to get creative with finding funds, whether it be through a fundraiser, donation or grant. This goes to show the dedication departments have to improving their officer’s abilities in the field.

So why do departments care so much about RDS? Simply stated, RDS allows officers to focus on the threat while overlaying the dot on its intended point of impact. It is easier, quicker and more accurate, making it a valuable tool to decrease liability in officer involved shootings. But as with any new technology, before jumping in, departments must fully understand both the transition from iron sights to RDS, as well as the pros and cons of this accessory.

To begin, the pistol mounted RDS was originated and popularized by Aimpoint®, which offers several models and versions, depending on the specific need. Differences can include MOA dot size, night vision settings, weight, submersible abilities, length and more—providing departments with the best accessories to fit their officer’s jobs. However, with all of these abilities comes a learning curve. The learning curve will be especially steep for veteran officers who have spent their careers relying on iron sights. It becomes a matter of learning to rely and familiarize oneself with a new sighting system. This, in addition to cost of new equipment and training, are the biggest cons to RDS.

That said, the pros to RDS are substantial. Some of the most notable are:

  • A pronounced jump in accuracy and passing scores for new recruits
  • Ability to aim with both eyes open, increasing situational awareness while reducing cross-dominance eye issues
  • Aid in shooter diagnostics, particularly isolation of the trigger

While the RDS is revolutionary, it does not replace the already-established fundamentals all officers know and were trained on. Stance, grip, trigger control and follow-through do not change, so officers simply need training on using the accessory. This reduces the learning curve to just learning the accessory, not having to change or relearn anything previously taught by instructors or the academy.

To aid in easing the learning curve, while also increasing one’s familiarity and expertise with the accessory, VirTra created a 4-hour nationally-certified course on the pistol mounted RDS. Titled “Red Dot Optic Training & Sustainment,” this course was created in collaboration with Victory First® utilizing the Acro P-2 by Aimpoint®. Instructors receive all materials needed to teach the course, such as pre-tests, surveys, rosters, instructor’s manual and, best of all, 21 training drills that are compatible with VirTra simulators to test the officer’s knowledge and RDS skill.

After all, classroom teaching can only get an officer so far. Extensive range training—whether it be on a physical range or virtual—allows for increased practice and familiarity that easily transitions to the field. VirTra’s virtual range is especially beneficial, as instructors can easily provide range training with the RDS right there in the classroom. Gone are the days of expensive marksmanship training, or that done with iron sights.

Since Pistol mounted RDS is a relatively new technology, your department may not utilize it, or at least not completely. But as your department transitions and modernizes, to ensure your officers are properly trained on this accessory, remember to train with nationally-certified materials. “Red Dot Optic Training & Sustainment” can help your department, no matter the size, unique difficulties or learning curve. Now is the time to embrace new technology, implement it and stay two steps ahead.

When shopping for televisions, speakers, smartphones, etc., consumers understand variations of these technologies exist. When shopping for a TV, you consider clarity, size, features and more. So why wouldn’t you do the same research when making an important purchase— training for your department?

Variations of law enforcement training tools exist, but not all provide the same results. Using screens and projectors gives an entirely different experience and result when compared to virtual reality (VR) goggles/headsets. VR is an improving and promising technology, but it is still not up to the task of training officers. Training is a task that requires high fidelity environments that immerse officers.

 

Avoiding Negative Training

Training scars – also called negative training – occurs when what you do in the classroom does not accurately match what is done in the real world. VR is lightweight and compact, plus the shiny new technology can sway agencies, but how is the training content?

Marksmanship is just one example of how dangerous negative training can occur with VR. When aiming a replica weapon with VR goggles on, the ballistic accuracy is not accurate enough to provide an experience that transfers to the field. The movement is not realistic, and one company even has trainees sitting down in order to use a CEW device. Officers are seldom seated when deploying a CEW weapon, so this can cause accuracy issues when trainees are moved into a real-life situation.

 

Quality & Depth of Training Content

VirTra’s scenarios are video-based, and for good reasons. Filmed with professional equipment and real actors, the goal is for the scenarios to be immersive and lifelike. This allows officers to develop empathy for on-screen characters, just as they would in reality. CGI has drastically improved over the years as we have seen in movies and video games, but VR training graphics tend to be cartoon-like and do not elicit empathetic response.

Low quality simulation can also feed into the previously discussed topic of negative training. When simulated humans are unrealistic, it is likely that trainees will not be able to pick up on subtle visual cues such as expressions and minor motions. It is also unlikely that officers will be able to experience stress in the same way as they would if they were interacting with a video-based character. If the environment is not realistic, recruits will not take it seriously.

VirTra’s Co-CEO Bob Ferris and Director of Training Lon Bartel have explored this topic. If you would like to learn more about the differences between VR and screen-based simulation training options, click here: All That Glitters is Not Gold with VR Headsets_VirTra_Whitepaper

Knowing if or when you should draw your firearm from your belt is very important when de-escalating a scene. Each call is unique, so knowing when to draw your gun versus when to pull your CEW device, or even just use your voice, is crucial.

Being able to train with your own duty equipment is crucial in establishing proprioception and developing the kinesthetic awareness of what it should feel like to draw our service weapon. Simply put, training with the weapon that you would be using on a call is the best way to refine your skills with that weapon.  However, when firing live guns in training, costs and cleanup can add up.

VirTra mitigates those additional costs and cleanup time with our laser firearms training simulators.

 

USING REAL FIREARMS

VirTra’s drop-in laser recoil kit converts a live firearm into a simulation-ready weapon with no permanent modification. Trainees can fire their real weapons in the VirTra simulators, gaining the experience of what it feels like to shoot their own firearm all in our immersive, true-to-life scenarios.

We have various laser firearms training simulator scenarios ranging from de-escalation to marksmanship. In the de-escalation scenarios, officers learn how and when firing their firearm is necessary. With extensive branching options, officers are able to learn the different de-escalation tactics that may or may not involve drawing their gun.

In the marksmanship courses, they can practice firearms fundamentals. With moving targets and selectable environmental conditions, officers can practice how to manipulate their firearm and develop a winning mindset.

Additional curriculums include Red Dot Optic Training & Sustainment, Weapon Transitions, Active Threat/ Active Killer, and more!

 

IMMERSIVE AND INTENSE

VirTra’s laser firearms training simulators range from one screen to five screens depending on what a department’s specific requirements are. For scenario-based firearm practice under full immersion, the V-180® or V-300®  would be best. For a smaller training environment that supports both marksmanship and use of force training, the V-ST PRO®  is a great option as well.

With minimized costs and cleanup and a revolutionary training system, VirTra is a valuable asset in police firearm training.

To hear more about our drop-in laser recoil kits and high fidelity simulators, contact a VirTra specialist.

One thing can always be counted on: there is nothing constant but change. One change that has come to many law enforcement agencies is the switch between iron sights and red dot sight (RDS) optics for pistols. There can be a learning curve like there is with acquiring any new skill – but VirTra provides solutions to help overcome the nuances.

If you have a VirTra simulator, you can access the “Red Dot Optics Training and Sustainment” course. This NCP-certified curriculum has 21 accompanying training drills. It was created in conjunction with Victory First® utilizing Aimpoint® red dot optics. The goal is to allow officers to learn skills in the simulator, then practice on the range with minimal transfer time.

One of the ways officers have gotten to practice both in a VirTra simulator and on the range is through the recent Action Target Law Enforcement Training Camp (LETC). VirTra’s Subject Matter Expert Mike Clark taught the Red Dot course to several members of law enforcement. Those who completed the course received a certificate as well as new knowledge to bring back to their agencies.

 

The Effects of a Smooth Transition

An agency that is about to switch out their iron sights for RDS is Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. Sgt. Micah Evans took Mike Clark’s Red Dot course in preparation for the change. Sgt. Evans and his colleagues currently utilize the simulator at Utah Attorney General’s Office.

“The simulator drills help get the officers dialed into using the optic,” said Sgt. Evans, referring to how training in the simulator helped his performance on the range. “The transition to live fire using the same drills really helped get the officers familiar with the optic.” While no training can imitate real-life ballistics with 100% accuracy, VirTra gets close with accuracy up to 2,500 meters within .02 milliradians.

 

Hands-On vs. Classroom Training

It is common to hear people say they are visual learners. Many say that they learn better by doing rather than listening to a lecture. Practicing the motor skills is far more engaging than reading about it in a textbook or listening to a presentation. It also helps acquire the skills as well as learning the difference between RDS and iron sights.

The Red Dot Optics course at LETC allowed attendees the experience of having an indoor classroom with pre-tests, indoor simulator sessions, then going to the live fire range to apply the knowledge learned.

When asked if the style of training completed in the LETC Red Dot Optics course was something he would continue to practice, Sgt. Evans stated that it is a style he attempts to do with officers whenever they train. “I am a strong believer in situational based training over flat range and class room,” said Sgt. Evans. “Using the combination that this program offers is exactly the type combined training I strive to provide to my officers.”

 

Action Target LETC Red Dot Range Training

 

Certified Coursework

As mentioned above, the course is NCP-certified – but what does that mean for you? VirTra ensures its V-VICTA® courses (such as Red Dot Optics Training and Sustainment) are certified by IADLEST to ensure quality of content. NCP certification is recognized by POST in 36 states, allowing officers who complete the courses to receive continuing education credit.

This type of coursework allows learning to be done beyond just listening to an instructor verbally explain a topic. Students practice and are tested using the VirTra simulator while learning topics based on case law and real after-action reports. Courses being pre-certified saves time for instructors. Normally approvals would be needed, coursework would need reviewing…and it would have to be written! Just one hour of curriculum saves an instructor 65 hours of research, preparation, writing, reviewing, and approving.

Red Dot Optic Training and Sustainment is much more than just a lecture or repetitive range drill. It contains 21 drills to test the student on what they have learned – plus accurate debrief sessions that follow. It only takes a second to pull in the target so you can see the point of aim over point of impact and repeat!

 

VirTra highly recommends situational-based training as it prepares trainees and officers for the real world better than any lecture could. If your agency is switching to red dot optics and interested in practicing the skills in a simulator, contact a product specialist.

Service members must be highly proficient with their primary weapons systems this requires early training for them – almost day 1.

Unlike a red or blue inert training weapon that some use to build skills, training should be as close to real as possible. Without the recoil, accurate ballistics, and the weight of a real weapon to contend with, you simply lack training fidelity and will not be as prepared.

Marksmanship Training

For any military branch, basic marksmanship is a crucial skill to acquire immediately. Skills may also become rusty if they are not practiced enough. Though nothing can compare to live fire training, VirTra’s marksmanship training options are an accurate supplement.

V-Marksmanship® allows for customizable environments and a staggering number of targets. Targets also can be programmed to move in different directions, speeds, and set up in various ways. The virtual range can be customized to include wind, rain, direction of sunlight, and nighttime conditions. With these features, a new environment is possible every time your squad steps into the simulator.

VirTra takes ballistic accuracy seriously. The ballistic calculator on our systems mimics real bullet trajectory based on the weapon being used. The ballistics have been independently verified for accuracy up to 2,500m and .02 milliradian accuracy.

Recoil Kits and Magazines

Taking realism even further, VirTra’s recoil kits and CO2 magazines provide critical recoil in the firearm that creates a disruption of a soldier’s sight picture, that must be re-established for follow-up shots. This allows skill transfer from the sim to the range. Because recoil kits and magazines fit numerous rifles and pistols, there is one out there for your duty weapon.

Installation is simple and takes around two minutes. For a rifle, remove the bolt carrier and replace it with the stainless steel, durable recoil kit. If using a pistol, the kit is a barrel replacement. Magazines fit snugly into your weapon and have the same weight and feel as a real one. The VirTra kits also preclude the loading and chambering of a live round to ensure high levels of safety.

Besides simulating an empty magazine, the custom VirTra mags can also simulate a malfunction. Firearms don’t have unlimited ammo and they sometimes “malfunction” so we make sure you are prepared for those situations too. Practice clearing a malfunction and reloading your weapon quickly and accurately while moving or finding appropriate cover.

V-ST PRO®

The V-ST PRO training simulator excels in supporting marksmanship training due to its range-like structure and ability to create six firing lanes per screen. It also provides the option to add up to five screens to train as many as 30 servicemembers simultaneously.

Clinical studies have shown that when officers are in a great deal of stress, they sometimes make the wrong judgement call. The high-definition, realistic environment shown on-screen can help trainees experience stress and learn to work through it – all while still accurately using their duty weapon as needed.

To learn more about how VirTra helps soldiers and warfighters excel in marksmanship training, contact a product specialist.

A windy and rainy day out on the battlefield is difficult to prepare servicemembers for when the shooting range that they practice on stays at a steady sunny and 95 degrees on most days. Or maybe they are having to shoot at moving targets when all they have ever practiced on are stationary ones.

You can’t control the weather and you can’t shoot at moving vehicles safely in live range training. But it is beyond important for warfighters to be keenly trained on the various conditions that they might face once they hit the field. Making sure their marksmanship skills are sharp and accurate will result in many lives saved and give them the ability to do what they set out to do – serve our country. So how can these military squads accomplish this kind of training?

Prepared For Any Condition

Live fire ranges are crucial for servicemembers to practice on. Getting used to the way that their firearm shoots live ammunition, getting to see a real bullet sink into their target – these are things that they can’t miss out on when training for the battlefield. But with that type of range, also comes the lack of variability in conditions for them to train in.

That’s where we come in.

VirTra’s marksman simulator, the V-ST PRO® is able to provide the complete firearms training experience for a team of warfighters. Rain or shine, moving vehicle or stationary, change in altitude – we cover all of the bases. Equipped with our V-Marksmanship® training and the ability to drop our recoil kit directly into their own weapons, teams will learn how to hit their target under any circumstance.

Additionally, the V-Marksmanship® technology provides a powerful training experience with the most accurate ballistic calculator in the industry. The calculator holds the ability to mimic a real-world trajectory of a shot based on the type of projectile, weapon specifications, and the environmental conditions. With this, teams have the opportunity to practice their marksmanship skills through our shooting range simulator that prepares them to take on their missions with confidence.

Advancing Warfighter Performance

In addition to the marksman simulation training, VirTra offers a variety of military scenarios that teams can train through. With each scenario, we designed an immersive and complex way for teams to learn resilience and accuracy.

This training includes:

To learn more about the chosen defense simulation by the military, contact a VirTra specialist.

Getting a new law enforcement simulator with many capabilities can seem overwhelming. With various options, it can be difficult to consider how to get started. The best way to approach this is to come up with a plan based on what skills and coursework are most vital to your officers and cadets.

Holland Police Department in Michigan was recently featured in the local news for their new style of training. Their 3-screen V-180® training simulator will train their 60 officers. They are able to use numerous scenarios and range options, as well as every tool on their belt – including less lethal options.

The agency has only been using their V-180 use-of-force simulator for two months, but training officers have already received positive feedback within this brief timeframe. As they familiarize themselves with the system, many of their experiences are useful for any law enforcement agency.

New Training Styles

When getting a new virtual training simulator, departments have already made the decision to change up the way they train. This can expand to the way instructors approach training.

A training style that is recommended by SME’s at VirTra – and one that was recently adopted by Holland PD – is called interleaving training. As opposed to block style training, interleaving is a more efficient way to learn and maximizes the knowledge gained. This style allows shorter but more frequent training sessions.

Discussing what Holland PD’s plans for the simulator are, Officer Osborn said,

“Our plan with the VirTra system is to use it in conjunction with reaction (bag) drills, scenario training, and live-fire range training. Rather than a replacement for any of these trainings, we see the simulator as something that will greatly enhance our current training in skillsets such as active shooter, suicidal/mentally disturbed individuals, de-escalation, traffic stops.”

Marksmanship Qualification

Different states have different marksmanship qualification courses and tests that officers must go through. While nothing can compare to live fire training, law enforcement firearms training is highly realistic in VirTra’s simulators. With customizable ranges, weather, environment and ballistic accuracy, they are a great supplement for the shooting range.

Holland PD has their qualification courses programmed into their V-180. Ranges can be customized to where targets are positioned at the same distances used in the live fire test. This helps officers and trainees prepare for their marksmanship qualification while reducing ammunition costs.

“With the current high prices of ammo, our department appreciates the ability to run struggling shooters through marksmanship drills, focusing specifically on skills such as lateral movement, use-of-cover, malfunctions, and reloads” Osborn said about the simulated range benefits.

Involving the Community

What many agencies do when they receive a new training tool that will help officers’ skills is promote it within their community. Holland PD began this by alerting local news who stopped by to cover the story. The effort of transparency allowed them to be painted in a positive light, showing that they are invested in improving safety and quality of policing.

Another way officers use the simulator to get the community involved is through citizen’s police academies. These courses typically last several weeks and teach members of the community about life as an officer. Letting attendees use a use-of-force simulator can help them understand how law enforcement prepare for real world incidents. This is something Holland PD plans to do in the near future.

 

To learn more about the benefits of virtual training with VirTra and how to get started once you obtain your system, contact us.

When recruits go through the police academy, not only do they need to train for various scenarios and situations, but marksmanship is essential as well. Each state has its own requirements for range performance, and if students do not meet them, they risk being dropped from the course.

There are ways to help improve range training without being on the shooting range. With VirTra’s accurate ballistics, training on a customizable, virtual range helps marksmanship skills transfer to the real range.

One example of how marksmanship simulation training can improve skills occurred with Garden City Police Department in Georgia. Sergeant Dess with the Training and Recruiting Division was concerned that two recruits were experiencing difficulty at the range. With the help of a VirTra System Installer, they were able to recreate the George Pistol Qualification Course on the simulator.

Both recruits had one more day of practice, according to Sgt. Dess, before they would take a range qualification test that they must pass or risk being dropped from the academy. After two hours of simulator practice, the students passed the qualification test the next day and are able to continue on their law enforcement training path. Their qualification scores on the Georgia Pistol Qualification Course were accurate to the scores they achieved while practicing on their V-100® simulator.

“Had they not been able to qualify, they would have been dropped from the academy class which unfortunately would have resulted in being released from employment,” said Sgt. Dess. “That afternoon I spoke to both of the officers via text message and asked if they believed the simulator attributed to their success and they both agreed it did.”

VirTra’s marksmanship program – V-Marksmanship® – allows full customization of the virtual range. Targets and shooting times can be altered to match a qualifications test or just your preference as an instructor. Law enforcement trainers can change the weather, time of day and landscape to test recruits’ proficiency in all conditions.

To learn more about how VirTra can help your agency keep their marksmanship scores high, contact a product specialist.

How do you transition your officers from traditional iron sights to a pistol-mounted red dot optic? There are plenty of good training ideas—such as increased practice on the range, lectures on how the optic works, etc.—but one of the best is having your officers engage in an extensive training course.

One such course is VirTra’s nationally-certified course “Red Dot Optic Training and Sustainment.” This new curriculum has 21 accompanying training drills and was created in conjunction with Victory First® utilizing Aimpoint® red dot optics. Just as it sounds, this course is designed to help officers successfully transition from the traditional iron sights to a modern pistol-mounted red dot optic.

How it Works

Red Dot is one of VirTra’s V-VICTA® curriculum, and thus, follows the same structure. With this curriculum, instructors receive lecture materials, presentations, handbooks, range drills and more to teach, train, test and sustain their officers on the given material. This starts in the classroom, then leads to extensive red dot optic training either in the simulator or on the range.

Since training a new skill requires extensive practice, the Red Dot Optic course includes 21 detailed drills; everything from how many yards out the target is, time limits, rounds and repetitions, etc. VirTra includes this information so instructors can either practice it on their real-life training simulators, or on the range.

After the Course

Obviously, the point of any course is to familiarize officers with the taught skill—in this case, utilizing the pistol-mounted red dot optic—but VirTra’s courses go a few steps further. After the course is completed, officers should be able to identify advantages and disadvantages of the red dot system, identify the importance of target and threat focus instead of the focus on the front sight, and more.

To continue learning about VirTra’s “Red Dot Optic Training and Sustainment” curriculum and how officers benefit from this training, please contact a VirTra specialist.

Making multiple trips out to the range and spending money on ammunition can be expensive. Simulation technology allows trainees to practice in their agency’s own facility and hone their skills before switching to live fire. While this technology is not meant to replace live fire training, it is designed to enhance it and prepare officers or servicemembers so that they perform better on the range.

From the Sim to the Range

With the proper simulator that has enhanced ballistics and tracking capabilities, instructors can deliver a training experience that not only saves time and money, but will give students better scores when they step on the range. By practicing in the simulator first, students can perfect their aim and waste less ammo on the live fire range.

Dave Patterson, a Criminal Justice Instructor at Northwest College in Powell, WY, uses his VirTra V-300® to teach three firearms courses that range from introductory to intermediate. Amazingly, during Patterson’s 2018 Fall and Spring semesters, roughly 70% of his students began with little or no pistol experience prior to the course. But by the end of the semester, the average on-range POST score was over 90%. Through extensive practice and use of VirTra’s simulation, students learned transferrable skills at a higher percentage than in years prior. Patterson noticed that students who get high scores in the simulator only experience a 2% score drop on the range.

Customizable Range Conditions

Real world conditions are never perfect, so why should they be in your simulator? Instructors have the freedom to customize range conditions all from the click of a button; whether its snow, wind, rain, fog or dust. Change the position of the sun to add the distraction of glare, or even let trainees practice in complete nighttime.

The same applies to targets and obstacles within the range. Train in a situation where moving targets pop into view from behind obstacles and through windows, or use traditional human-shaped targets that fall when shot.

Superior Ballistics

VirTra’s technology lets officers and warfighters train using their own weapon – anywhere from a Glock to an automatic assault rifle. This is possible through the numerous recoil kits and CO2 magazines that fit dozens of firearm types. The V-ST PRO® is the best simulator for marksmanship out of all VirTra’s options due to its range-like structure, .02 milliradians accuracy and the ability to have up to six firing lanes per screen. Up to five screens can be added, allowing 30 trainees to practice at once.

Aside from precise ballistics, all of VirTra’s marksmanship simulations are designed to have perspective accuracy; meaning users can kneel, crouch or lay prone without having to tilt their weapon upwards to meet the target onscreen. During the after-action report, students and instructors can view performance, such as targets hit and missed as well as bullet placement.