Recoil|September - October 2021
We Try Out Both Big-Screen and Virtual Reality Training
Dave Merrill and Patrick McCarthy

Since the first time someone picked up a tree limb and pretended it was a sword, we’ve been continually seeking out and developing new training techniques. The search for better and more immersive environments while balancing time and cost is unending. New technologies often start as expensive propositions, but they become more viable as development continues and cost diminishes.

Today, we’ll be covering two different approaches to the same thing: advanced, safe, and immersive training systems that don’t require the use of live ammunition. In particular, the VirTra 300, which uses a large screen, and the ChimeraXR Mythos, which uses virtual reality headsets.


Summer 2020 in Arizona wasn’t conducive to live-fire training, given the perfect storm of 115-degree temperatures, wildfire-related shooting restrictions on public land, COVID-induced range closures, and extremely high ammo prices. Rather than rely solely on dry-fire practice at home, we decided this was the ideal time to try out the state-of-the-art VirTra firearms simulator at the Haley Strategic headquarters in Scottsdale, Arizona. Haley’s D7 Disruptive Performance course is a two-day program that’s limited to just five students, and it takes place without a single live round fired. We attended a D7 Carbine class, but Handgun and Handgun Lowlight versions are also available.

The VirTra system is no oversized arcade game — it’s a sophisticated simulator with an impressive degree of realism. Students use real BCM AR-15s retrofitted with VirTra internals that produce CO2- powered recoil and a corresponding laser flash with each trigger press. An array of sensors detects where the laser impacts on a projector screen, a computer calculates ballistic trajectory in the virtual environment, and the shooter receives real-time audio and visual feedback.

The D7 Carbine course began with a classroom portion that introduced Haley’s “thinkers before shooters” ethos, thoroughly analyzing the mental and physical aspects involved in firearms training. After discussing zeros and holdovers for various distances, we stepped up to the VirTra 100 (for a 100-degree viewing angle) single-screen simulator, firing our ARs from a prone position at virtual targets from 50 to 500 yards. Our instructors, Josh Logan and Robert Bruce, were able to instantly enlarge our targets and provide guidance based on our shot groups.

Next was a detailed discussion of shooting fundamentals, such as stance, trigger control, sight picture, and eye movement — the latter becomes especially important when dealing with multiple targets in a dynamic setting. Back on the single-screen sim, we ran various drills from low ready and high ready, maintaining an even cadence between shots and receiving one-on-one evaluation from instructors. We finished our first day in the flagship VirTra 300 simulator, testing our ability to pivot and transition between simulated clay targets across the 300-degree screen.

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