A new shooting range in Modesto is offering an experience that generally is reserved for law-enforcement officers.
The first-of-its-kind in Stanislaus County, Lock-n-Load Virtual Shooting Range (VSR) on Sisk Road provides scenario-based training that exposes shooters to real-life-like situations in which they would use a firearm and must make split-second decisions.
“At a live fire range you’re standing at a bench and your target is down range … you stand there and you shoot,” said co-owner Norm Martin. “Here you can sit down, you can lay down, you can hide behind cover, you can move around, you can shoot while you are moving.”
The guns used in the range are equipped with infrared lasers that, when fired, react with virtual targets projected on the screen. The guns are modeled to look like Glocks and are weighted for a real feel; some have CO2 cartridges in the magazine, which create a recoil.
Many law enforcement agencies train with these simulators but it’s not often you find one that is open to the general public.
The two simulators at Lock-n-Load VSR each has hundreds of scenarios. Some of them apply only to law enforcement, but others elicit the circumstances for which citizens own and carry guns, including home invasions, ATM robberies and carjackings.
In a matter of seconds participants must assess the situation and decide how to react.
For example, in one scenario the participant unknowingly walks into a hostage situation in a college auditorium. Six people sit with grave expressions on their faces, their hands are obstructed by the seats in front of them.
Dan Gray, a Lock-n-Load instructor and owner of Trident Firearms Academy, said this is the point at which one would decide to turn around, run and call police, or act.
With panic in his eyes, one of the students on the screen nods, indicating a woman behind him. In the next moment the woman pulls a gun from her lap and begins firing.
This scenario is ideal for people with a concealed carry permit; if they chose to stay and act they must unholster their weapon and fire before the woman does, without causing harm to the hostages.
“It’s not a video game,” Gray said. “We are going to ask people, ‘What did you see, what did you do, and why did you do it?’ ”
Martin’s wife and trainer, Anita Martin, emphasized that Lock-n-Load is not intended to be a video game or laser tag arcade.
“We are a training and education center,” she said. “We don’t put people on scenarios they aren’t ready for.”
In addition to the scenario-based training, the facility offers basic pistol shooting, basic metallic cartridge reloading and range safety officer classes.
For live-range training with their National Rifle Association-certified instructors, Lock-n-Load VSR partners with nearby California Shooting Sports.
No real guns or ammunition are allowed in the simulator, and all safety rules employed at a live gun range apply in the simulator.
Lock-n-Load VSR, which opened in October, is an offshoot of Lock-n-Load Ladies, a local shooting club that was founded about three years ago to train women to become comfortable in the handling and use of firearms.
Anita Martin said she started the club after an incident in which she thought an intruder was inside her house.
Martin said she got her gun, put the magazine in, but didn’t rack it, which means there was no bullet in the chamber. She said she doesn’t know if she forgot or subconsciously wasn’t ready to fire it, but she knew after that incident – which turned out to be a faulty sensor on her alarm system – that she wanted more experience.
She and a group of women started shooting monthly at Manteca Sportsmen Inc. The club now has more than 150 members and is co-ed.
Anita Martin said static target shooting is an important part of firearms training and the simulators include static targets without the cost of ammunition. They also allow the shooter to practice with a holster, which is prohibited at most live shooting ranges.
Target practice with a real firearm is necessary to hone shooting skills, Gray said, but the simulator elevates that training.
“The bad guys, they move on the screen, whereas that little paper man (on the target), he just stands there and takes one for the team,” Gray said. “He never moves, he doesn’t fire back, he’s not a threat. This is real, this will get people’s heart rate up.”