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First off, this is all my opinion and I'm not being compensated nor otherwise influenced by Boondocks.
Second, I let the training soak for a few hours before making this review, but I don't want to wait too long and miss details.
Third, I'm very wordy. It is what it is.

I took the "Lethal Force Simulator" training at Boondocks today - it was definitely a positive experience and I recommend everyone who owns a defensive firearm take it, especially if you carry. The training was not what I expected, and by that, I mean it greatly exceeded my expectations. I had used simulators before, but I didn't realize how much they have improved over the past decade. When you shoot, it records exactly when you shot and where the round went. I believe the accuracy was true-to-life (my misses were my fault, my hits were to my credit), and the precision was at high resolution. This isn’t Nintendo Duck Hunt from 1984. The instructor can then play back the encounter and freeze at each point.

The situations can be changed by the instructor on the computer, so it isn't like it's like the old simulators, which were really like watching a video with the system recording when you pulled the trigger. This is especially good if you want to re-run a scenario without preconditioning yourself to a specific result. I was expecting more of a force escalation/de-escalation training where you try to diffuse and escape a scenario where you will eventually have to shoot. This is far more active - it is also part reaction time and marksmanship training. The simulator has a far higher resolution that the old ones – if they had put up a paper target and had my digitally shoot at it I believe the results would have been valid. Aside from the lack of report and recoil, it was good enough to the point that I can see advantages of this training over live-fire shoot house training because of the added realism of it being video-based. Yes, moving targets exist, yes, pop-up targets exist, and yes, shoot houses exist, but it's pretty immersive to combine all these elements into an actual filmed location. Moreover, your ammo costs alone for live-fire would greatly exceed the total cost of this class.

Expounding on the dynamic nature of the simulations, I feel that I should note there is a bit of reasonably well modeled gore, which adds to the realism when you aren't expecting it. It's one thing to see a fake blood spot and something fall, it's another to see a splatter left on a wall that aligns with your (or someone else's) shot. The simulators I used in the past didn't have that, which I really didn't notice at the time, but having it thrown in there reminds you that it is an important part of the training, which brings me to my next point:

The simulator was clearly originally designed for law enforcement training, and a lot of that training is walking into an active shooter situation. In my past training, we were told to walk past the wounded, dead, dying, screaming, etc. and stop the killing - it's one thing to talk about it, it's another to see what that would look and sound like. It's an odd sensation, which I didn't expect to be so strange since as I had been trained to do it. (Plus, it’s one thing to come across a horrible sight at a car crash, it’s another to cause it.)

Good training, much like a good film or book, is one that keeps you thinking for a long time. I knew this training would have me critically evaluate the actions I had just taken, but I really didn't expect it to change my thought processes. Well, it did. Even over the few hours of the class, my behaviors in later simulations changed based on the discussions after each shooting. It wasn't me thinking "oh, I need to do this next time," it was a native change because how I did it before was obviously not the best way to do things. I was satisfied, in general, with my performance, but only once did I think that I had handled the situation the best way. The instructor also noted that I put a lot of rounds into my targets – admittedly true. In one case, a slow play-back of the video even made me admit maybe the last one or two wasn’t needed. Hey, he was falling, not down, right? Well, I got to thinking on the drive home – it’s because my targets don’t ever fall – I shoot at paper and steel. I had trained myself to send out a lot of bullets very quickly, and that’s not always going to be the correct thing to do. I had also been trained to not pay too much attention to my target, that is to say, don’t expect to see an immediate result from a pistol round. Don’t expect to see a big Hollywood blood splash. Shoot until the target is down. Well, as I mentioned, my paper targets never go down – it was a new experience to have my rounds drop a target, so I hadn’t ever really trained on when to stop shooting. That’s a potential legal liability, right there. I try to only carry large pistols with large magazines and multiple much larger magazines for reloads, so I can rationalize “wasting” ammo, but that would be a tough case to make in court.

You'll probably learn a bit about yourself - you think you'll react a certain way, you say you'll react a certain way, but you find that the complex calculus of on-the-spot decision-making leaves you certain that an action was the correct one, and yet you have trouble articulating that to the class and the instructor. Maybe the most important training is the fact that you have to explain why you did what you did, and if you ever fire a shot, you most certainly will have to do just that to the police and potentially a court.

In one scenario, for example, I shot very, very early into the scenario (the simulation didn’t even record the rounds), and I was certain that I was justified. I could not, however, really explain why I knew it was a good shoot given what I had seen up to that point. It probably took me 5 or 10 minutes to be able to think of all the micro-cues that I had processed to come to that point. In another scenario, I didn't ever shoot, even though it would have been a completely justified shooting. It was the kind of clear-cut "you're in the right" that I would have told anyone, "yeah, I'd have shot," if it were a table-top discussion, but when I had the chance, I didn't. Again, it took me a good while to think of why I hadn't when I very plainly could have. (If I were to encounter that same scenario in real life, after this training, I would shoot. It didn’t bite me in the scenario, the bad guy just ran away, but realistically as he moved into the darkness, he would have had full view of me and I couldn’t have defended myself. In my attempt to not kill him, I would have endangered myself greatly.)

Another important thought: the class was $100, which was a bargain considering how much I feel I got out of it. (Also, it’s important to note that the class size was small, but I can't speak to that because I don't know how large of a class they will accept.) Given the capabilities of the technology, I wish they would expand its use because I feel that it could be used for very practical training for a fraction of the cost of live-fire. I know it sounds crazy to think that a "video game" could supplant any type of live-fire work, but even with rotating/pop-up/swinging targets, it would be difficult to match the realism of having to worry about your background, bystanders, unexpected bad guys, etc. In a perfect world, I would want a new shooter to learn when to shoot, practice target recognition, and hone the draw and fire mechanics on a system like this before burning through live ammo. The first defensive/carry pistol class I took (many, many years ago at a different facility) taught me a lot, but in the end, it was really about basic handling, marksmanship, and a good draw. The targets were static paper targets and fundamentally it was a bunch of guys in a line. This type of training is far better - you can learn to shoot standing still on your own, but I don't know how else you would ever put yourself into a situation where you have to decide when to pull the trigger. Furthermore, as I said above, the technology has advanced so much that it is now more than that, because it's no longer when you decide to shoot, but exactly where you shoot. Accuracy matters.

Some downsides:
* My marksmanship during the first scenario was a little humbling (I was the first shooter and didn't really know what to expect, excuses, excuses.) - my misses were near misses, but in real life those would have been rounds for which I would have to account. The problem was, the video was bright and clear (even the night time events) and I was in semi-darkness. The training pistol had plain, black plastic sights - not even white dots. Once I adapted to that, my accuracy improved to the point where I at least wasn't blushing anymore.

* The scenarios start with a free-hand video, but once the shooting is about to start, it locks the video into a tripod position (obvious technical reasons here) - while the targets still move, it gives you an unfair advantage of knowing when things are about to pop off.

* Related to the above, you are unable to move, seek cover, slice the pie, etc. This downside, of course, is only notable because the training is so good that it makes you want to do these things. I was expecting the old style which was basically just a video of a deteriorating situation to see when it would be correct/prudent to use lethal force - this training is really, as the name implies, a Simulator for Lethal Force.

* Because the trainer can change the scenarios, the video can sometimes be a bit "jumpy" as it goes from one potential result to another. At one point it seemed like my shot had wildly missed, but that was because what would have been a center of mass shot was a miss when the target “skipped” from one position to another based on my actions. Another time a target that dropped his weapon had it in his hands again a second later because he was intended to still be a threat. Needless to say, I shot him again, but that does sort of disrupt your evaluate/act/evaluate loop. These were very minor complaints and didn't impact the validity of the scenario.

* Any other downsides are really just technical based on the limitations of the technology, which greatly exceeded my expectations.

Link to the training, if you're interested. Like I said, for $100, you should just take it. Who knows what heartache it may save you if you're put into a situation like this?
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