Problem Solvers

Anyone who s been involved in training for any length of time is always on the lookout for simple, effective, inexpensive products to resolve problems or shortcomings in their training program(s). Example: How do you safely render inert a real pistol so that it can be used in hands-on training scenarios?

At one time, the plastic blue or red gun was the answer, but they re expensive and really do nothing beyond filling the holster or shooter s hands. There s no way to practice magazine exchanges, malfunction drills, trigger control or any other manipulations essential to actual shooting.

In addition, when training for extreme close-quarters shooting, it s wise to have students actually tussle with other students so they can see how easy it is for a close opponent to foul their draw something a stationary target can't do. Lastly, students should point guns and drop the hammer on a real person during conditioning to enable them to actually perform the action in real life.

Lt. Col. Dave Grossman has made this point clear in his two books, On Combat and On Killing. If a shooter has never been taught to shoot a lifelike target, it s possible they may not be able to do it when it s time to save their life or someone else's.

Keeping It Real
The best of all worlds would be to disable (i.e., render safe) the student's personal weapon for the type of training described above while, at the same time, at a glance determine the gun is truly inert. Anything less is unacceptable.

The good news: There s a product available that replaces the entire barrel assembly and requires the gun to be field-stripped to insert. It eliminates the chance that a live round could be inserted, and, by having to take the gun apart, a real barrel being accidentally placed in the gun is all but impossible. I've used this product, and it's a good one.

However, I've broken several during demonstrations. In both cases, I was demonstrating Tap, Rack, Target (aka Tap, Rack, Access; Tap, Rack, Bang or Tap, Rack, Look) and when the slide sprung home, the barrel separated from the chamber insert, and I launched a missile from the end of my pistol. No one was hit but, knowing my luck, I'd put a student's eye out.

In any event, I ve been looking for a similar product that wouldn't suffer this breakage and, as it turns out, Law Enforcement Targets just introduced a new barrel insert it calls the Train Safe Firearms Block. Not only is it available for most all semi-auto pistols, it costs less than $5.

The Train Safe is a polymer rod that's molded to fill the barrel and chamber on specific models of semi-auto pistols, so the gun can be safely used as a training weapon. The Train Safe:

Provides a visually safe way to store firearms at home;

Provides visual evidence of disabled firearm even with the chamber closed; and

Removes the concern of dropping the firing pin/striker on an empty chamber during dry-fire training.

By using the barrel itself, there s no stress placed on the Train Safe, so the breakage that I experienced with the other barrel replacement won t occur. I ve been using the Train Safe for several months now as a dry-fire aid and as a safety device in training courses and I ve been impressed by it. I ve tried to break the Train Safe by inserting a magazine of live rounds and releasing the slide, but the insert has suffered no visible damage.

At this price point, agencies can afford to purchase them in volume so enough inserts will be on hand for an entire class, regardless of weapon type. It s simple, effective, inexpensive and nearly foolproof. The only way to insert the Train Safe is to disassemble and then reassemble the gun; you can't do much more than that to ensure training safety.

The DST 3-D Target Insert
In the September 2009 issue of Law Officer, I discussed a method based on a class I took from James Williams, MD, who is an emergency room doctor, at the 2009 ILEETA Conference, of using toilet paper to lengthen the life of 3-D targets while also offering a way to score hits to the high chest region of the body. I was looking for a way to install 3-D training into any course of fire at a reasonable price. By using a roll of toilet paper, it was possible to use 3-D target torsos like the Tac-Man or Tactical Ted and not have to be concerned about the number of hits in the plastic torso because the roll of toilet paper is being scored, not the target body.

After using this idea for several months, as well as getting feedback from other instructors who have used it, I went to the folks at Law Enforcement Targets and asked them if they could develop an inexpensive insert for these 3-D target torsos that would be as anatomically correct as possible. We corresponded regularly and, in a few weeks, they developed a folding, cardboard cut out with sticky back strips that allow the unit to be put together in about 15 seconds. The unit will cost around $1 and can withstand hundreds of hits if tape is used to reseal the bullet holes that develop much like any cardboard or paper target.

The shape of the insert is the same as the Primary Neutralization Zone of the DST series of paper and steel targets that LE Targets sells. The cardboard insert is designed to meet two goals:

  1. Create a 3-D scoring zone that can be used inside polymer torso targets; and
  2. Extend the life of these more expensive 3-D targets, making them more affordable to smaller agencies with smaller training budgets.

As Williams makes clear in his lecture, Utilizing 3-D Target Visualization (,if an officer were to return fire to the center of the chest while at an angle, the result would be a glancing wound unlikely to result in incapacitation. If you re shooting at an angle from your adversary, depending on the degree of the angle, shots would need to be delivered to the side of the pectoral muscle or even the upper arm to deliver shots to the high chest region. Shooting on flat targets head on is likely to result in inaccuracy, so training on 3-D targets is essential. Officers should engage targets at varied angles so they have a visual representation of where they need to shoot. In reality, this type of live-fire training should be undertakenbeforethey re introduced to interactive training, such as Simunition or Airsoft scenarios.

The insert can be attached any number of ways, and it s really up to the trainer involved. I ve suspended the insert, using duct and packaging tape, rubber bands and paper clips, and wire and string. In reality, whatever s on hand will work. Note: Rounds will be traveling through the target and what you use will probably get shot and break, so be prepared to replace it. Remember: Be safe, be alert, and check your 360 often.

For more information about LE Targets, call 800/779-0182 or visit



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