The control panel can change aspects of instruction.
The student’s view of the range setting.
Videos can be customized by the department to reflect local threats.
Students are able to review their shooting performance.
FEATURED IN TECHNOLOGY AND COMMUNICATIONS
The topic of technology rarely revolves around training—that is, of course, unless it’s time for the department to purchase a new projector or television for a classroom. It seems as if this aspect of policing is simply overlooked by manufacturers—and who’s to blame them? Officers tend to think of training classes as “part of the job” or a short break from a current assignment.
Firearms training is no exception. Across the country, cops pull out the staple guns, slap up silhouettes and stand behind a line. They lob lead down range at static, two-dimensional targets—50 rounds at the predictable cadence of a range officer. Simply put: This isn’t training. It’s a waste of valuable time.
The Digital Police Combat System
A few weeks ago, I traveled to Long Island, N.Y., and met with a few guys at an industrial building in the heart of an overpopulated suburb of Manhattan. A short walk through a half-paved parking lot to the inside revealed the most sterile, well-organized and futuristic gun ranges I’ve ever seen. This place is the home of F6 Labs—the only American distributor of the Digital Police Combat System (DPCS). The F6 Labs firearms instructor took me on a tour of the facility, explaining the nuts and bolts of the DPCS. I soon learned that the DPCS system is nothing short of an indoor, live-fire training beast.
The tour of F6 Labs started at the back of the DPCS range. The bullet-trap of the range was capable of stopping rounds up to 7.62 mm and, amazingly, was just 12 inches deep. In front of the trap there was a series of splatter-curtains that prevented any stray lead from ricocheting back to the line of fire. A few feet in front of the splatter-curtains was a back-lit alley with a gigantic, motorized roll of paper that stretched the entire width of the range.
At the 50-yard line, there was a projector mounted flush with the ceiling and a glass window above my head. The back wall was lined with built-in positive pressure fans that pushed 100 cubic feet of air per minute, allowing the range to silently clean its own air. (This equipment reduces the amount of lead officers inhale—a common problem with indoor ranges.) The walls were made of easily replaced panels. Behind the walls, ballistic material prevented any misplaced shots from escaping.
The Training Scenarios
I ran through a series of scenarios that were projected on the screen of the giant rolls of back-lit paper. There were standard qualification targets, shelves lined with tennis balls, video frames of people popping up and down and video footage of live actors in a “shoot, don’t shoot” scenario. There were more than 50 different training platforms and each could be changed with the click of a mouse. All were designed to strengthen a specific shooting skill.
A few shots down range at these targets revealed the interactivity of this set-up. As I hit a stack of balls at the bottom, the ones on top fell off. If I hit a gunman in the arm, I had to continue firing until I placed a vital shot. The targets reacted exactly as you’d expect in a real-life scenario. The amount of firepower needed and effectiveness of each shot is predetermined by the agency using the machine—it’s fully customizable. The DPCS also has the ability to incorporate return, simulated fire to the shooter. If you notice one of the targets refusing to go down from a volley of center-massed shots, it’s not a glitch in the system—look closer, and you realize that your target is wearing a ballistic vest.
The system also allows for the user to input custom video into the system. This is extremely useful for fulfilling department- or unit-specific training. Why should a marine patrol officer, a transit cop or a cop who works at an airport shoot at a silhouette? No one ever shoots a bad guy wearing a 10-ring on his chest and standing still. DPCS makes the firearms training scenarios mirror those you’d encounter on the field. We need to train for the environment that we work in and the DPCS allows us to do just that. Departments can now anticipate what situational use-of-force issues are likely to occur and choose to train within that environment. The possibilities are endless when you add your own footage and incorporate your own attributes to the targets’ susceptibility to individual shots.
Operation cost and maintenance of the DPCS are reasonably low. Time-saving features include an automated score calculator and time recording between shots. Even if you drop multiple rounds through the same hole, the system records this information for you. The operator sitting at the integrated PC receives live feedback of data, including shot placement and shot times, and the system can manage historical data on individual shooters.
Other features worth noting: The light level of the room and screen can be dimmed to create a nighttime environment for shooting at any time of the day. I plinked away on the night scenarios at 3:00 p.m., and my eyes and body were telling me that I was engaged in a gun battle at night. It was then that I realized I had finally found a flaw in this system: How can you possibly conduct tactical-light training while shining a flashlight on a projector screen?
But my newly found faux pas was quickly corrected. The system comes with specially designed flashlights that you can point at the screen, which increase the brightness of video in the area of the beam placement. With the flip of a switch, the system kicks in red and blue lights, screaming sirens and even verbal commands for status updates over a radio. The addition of this stress really adds to the intensity and value of the training. By the way, if your sergeant doesn’t like the verbal commands given, he has the opportunity to control how actors in the videos react.
Additionally, it’s easy for the shooter to see shot placement during a scenario due to the penetration marks on the back-lit paper. No staples, no tacks, no changing targets between shooters. With the click of a button, the giant rolls of paper slide over to reveal a clean backdrop for the projector.
Of course, this system can be used to fulfill routine and required firearms qualifications as well. DPCS can be scaled up or down to accommodate any size range and has even been incorporated into a mobile format that’s housed in a shipping container. Props can be placed in a room and shooters are encouraged to move and take advantage of both cover and concealment to make for a more real-life experience. Through its ability to provide customizable, timely and realistic training, F6 Labs has set a new standard in firearms training with DPCS.