Pistol training at home has never been easier.
By David Link
Everyone has their own approach to pistol training. While some prefer to attend regular classes and train in groups, others would rather focus on solo training and work on personal habits like trigger and breath control alone. No matter your chosen training environment, one thing is for sure – plenty of rounds need to be fired downrange. There is simply no getting around the fact that ample range time is key to becoming a competent marksman. Once there, or really before you ever get there, regular practice is needed to ensure you stay a good shot. For many of us, it simply isn’t practical to hit the range every day, and your budget can really take a hit if you do. However there are some alternatives out there that can help keep you sharp without requiring that daily range visit. Today we look at a leader in at-home laser training and simulation, Laser Ammo.
Basics Of Laser Training
Laser Ammo manufactures a complete line of at-home firearm training tools from laser cartridges and interactive targets to training pistols and advanced training “smokeless range” software. Whichever device you use, the basic concept is the same. You trigger a quick laser emission with a training cartridge or training pistol, and the target or software registers a hit if you aim correctly. If you miss, no hit is indicated by the target or software, and you correct your approach for the next shot. Laser Ammo devices are designed to be used indoor in a no live ammunition environment. This means Laser Ammo can be used essentially anywhere you can conceive of like in the garage, the living room or even the bedroom. While some setups may be more basic training focused like in the garage, you can also simulate self-defense scenarios in locations like the bedroom. Your only real limitations are your imagination and the amount of targets you have available.
In my Laser Ammo testing sessions, I looked at essentially the two primary devices you need to get started in laser training, the Laser Ammo SureStrike Cartridge and the Laser Ammo LaserPET Electronic Target. The SureStrike Cartridge is compatible with a variety of firearms, which means you can train with your chosen handgun while simulating the same weight and handling as at the range. The most basic form of the SureStrike comes in a 9mm configuration. The LaserPET on the other hand serves as an interactive target with several training settings and interchangeable targets to simulate different scenarios. For a complete training experience, you can’t have one without the other. In my case, a Heckler & Koch VP9 full size was the pistol I would be using with the SureStrike Cartridge.
Upon opening the kits (SureStrike and LaserPET are sold separately), there was a little concern about a learning curve with these products. However that soon passed as I inspected everything and read the manuals. I realized I could jump right in on testing these items. The SureStrike is remarkably easy to set up. The cartridge fits firmly in the barrel in lieu of a 9mm round, and an extension pipe inserted through the muzzle holds it firmly in place. Once installed, the SureStrike prevents any other rounds from being inserted in the chamber. There is an additional orange safety nut that can be inserted in the extension pipe to visually display that the weapon isn’t loaded. A quick rack from my striker-fired pistol and the cartridge is ready to go. I was using the visible laser version of the SureStrike, but it is available in an infrared version as well. For my uses, the laser is easily seen once the trigger is pulled, allowing instant feedback on whether the laser hit or missed.
The LaserPET is an even easier setup as it is a power on and aim device right out of the box. The LaserPET accepts two AAA batteries, and it has a 1.8″x1.8″ laser sensor area to aim for. At the bottom of the device is a universal mount just like you’d see on a spotting scope. The LaserPET comes with a mini-tripod for versatile placement, or it can be mounted on a full-size tripod or hung on the wall. The laser sensor is relatively easy to hit depending on your training distance, but a set of five target inserts provide different aiming options and block portions of the sensor to make your target window smaller. There are both traditional bullseye and silhouette target inserts available. The LaserPET has four distinct training modes:
- P1 Hit Counter: The LaserPET counts consecutive hits and shows them on the number display.
- P2 Shot Timer: The LaserPET creates a random start time and beeps to start the timer. The device will count elapsed time until you hit the target, which will then display your end time for a few seconds. The LaserPET will then reset and start over.
- P3 Magazine Change / Burst Shooting: The LaserPET counts how many times you can hit the sensor in five seconds. You can either use this to time your magazine change or simply see how many repeat shots you can achieve in five seconds.
- P4 Double Tap: The LaserPET counts down from four seconds (not displayed) and then it will flash. Once you hit the target, a timer will begin, and your second shot then stops the timer. This mode tests how quickly you can produce a follow up shot.
The primary purpose of the SureStrike Cartridge and LaserPET Trainer is to be used indoors, and that is where the majority of my testing took place. Day in and day out, I was able to pick up the LaserPET, train for a period of time, and then put it back down for more training the next day.
Part of the appeal of setting up an indoor testing environment is coming up with clever places to arrange the LaserPET. My home is certainly unorthodox when compared to most houses, but I never had any issues coming up with quality target arrangements for my training purposes. This could mean simple “across the table” setups or more creative scenarios like aiming up or down a narrow stairwell. When I felt like the distance was becoming too easy, I simply looked for a setup that placed the LaserPET farther back. Once you start to look, you’ll find plenty of viable options wherever you train, and you can switch areas up with very little effort involved.
The true glory of Laser Ammo training solutions is the whole “setup and shoot whenever” approach. It all starts with simple raise and fire drills, and I quickly found myself evaluating my sight picture, breath control and trigger control as I practiced. After all, the main appeal of dry fire training with Laser Ammo is to ingrain proper marksman habits into your brain so they become unconscious instinct. Even with the most basic drills, I was surprised to see how quickly my accuracy improved with the LaserPET. Even when I displayed how the device worked to friends, my quick shots usually fell on target, even from distance.
Then as I spent more time with the Laser Ammo training devices, the drills became more advanced. I worked on weak hand drills, and I even threw in some experimentation with racking the slide with one hand on my belt loop before the weak hand drill. When I needed a new challenge, I simply jumped online and looked for a new drill that would work in tandem with the SureStrike and LaserPET, and the scenarios kept stacking up. I’ll say it again, your imagination is truly the only limit to using this device for countless training scenarios.
Home Defense Training
Not to be overlooked as a main highlight of laser training devices, you can also simulate several self-defense scenarios with the SureStrike and LaserPET. Since your home could become the very location you have to enact self-defense, the ability to practice defense scenarios is priceless. For example, a couple scenarios I tried are as follows. First, there is the ill-fated scenario where you are unable to leave your bed or bedroom before the threat is upon you. Since most people decide to keep a handgun next to the nightstand, this is a very real scenario should you be caught off-guard and have little to no time to prepare or investigate your home. A simple mounting of the LaserPET on a tripod in the hallway or doorway, and you’re ready to simulate this scenario.
Another scenario relevant to me is that of having to potentially aim up or down a stairwell. As I mentioned before, my rather unique home contains a narrow stairway, and how often does anyone truly practice aiming up or down at an angle like that? Again, a simple setup of the LaserPET, and I can test how accurate I am at angles like this and make adjustments as I receive feedback from the trainer.
You can also practice tactical or room clearing drills with the SureStrike and LaserPET. Even though serious in nature, these can be an entertaining way to get extra value out of your Laser Ammo training systems. A typical drill might begin against the wall bordering another room. As you step into the room, you raise your handgun to address the targets. You can also practice a magazine change drill as part of this scenario. As you practice, it is easy to measure just how quickly you can address targets under stress.
All in all, I was very pleased with the capabilities of the Laser Ammo SureStrike Cartridge and LaserPET target. There is exceptional value in the $210 set, and the products are durable so you can train with them for years to come. I’ve noticed some similar laser training devices from competitors in the past, but honestly they’ve appeared cheap or not that well thought out, essentially a “red dot on the wall” setup. The real strength of Laser Ammo is the complete approach to training for users of every skill. For some, this may be a product they never thought they needed, but once they’ve tried it, I imagine most will wonder how they ever trained without out it.
Truly, the only one drawback in my testing the SureStrike was the striker-fired design of the VP9. Due to the pistol’s design, you have to rack the slide every time you want to shoot at the target. Naturally there is no blowback to load another round or loaded magazine to draw from after you shoot. This is both a blessing as it forces you to work out the slide a lot, which never hurts in training, but it too is a curse as it can become fatiguing after a while and distract from your training scenario. Ultimately I wouldn’t say this detracts from the value of the product in any way, and Laser Ammo is just making the best of the limitations given the pistol’s design. Don’t forget, there are Laser Ammo training pistols where this isn’t an issue as well as no conflicts with other pistol models.
My testing of the SureStrike Cartridge and LaserPET barely scratches the surface of the training product line Laser Ammo has to offer. Their devices are well suited for hunting rifles, shotguns or modern sporting rifles as well. The ability to purchase additional targets only enriches your training capabilities, not to mention the potential to create smokeless ranges with their software and accompanying sensors. If you’re serious about pistol training, I would recommend starting your search for indoor training tools with Laser Ammo.