Thursday, October 07, 2010

Writers' Police Academy, Part 4 - FATS

What I'm reading: Shoot to Thrill, by P.J. Tracy

A bonus guest this week. The Hubster is here recounting his adventures in the Firearms Simulation Training at the Writers' Police Academy.

The FATS Experience, by The First Victim

The decision to sign up for Firearms Training Simulator (FATS) module at the Writers Police Academy (WPA) was virtually a “no brainer”. You handle guns and get a big adrenalin rush. However, as it turns out, not all FATS programs are the quite same.

My first experience with FATS was at the Orange County (Florida) Sheriff’s Office as a part of the Civilian Police Academy. The OCSO’s simulator was in a small room with the projection screen up front and a ‘shoot back’ function whereby the operator could shoot nylon balls at the trainee if she/he doesn’t seek cover at the appropriate time. The operator chose a ‘scenario’ for the trainee to experience and make appropriate decisions.

The trainee was equipped eye protection and with a Glock 9 mm that ‘fired’ individual cartridges that were mini compressed air cylinders. When fired, each cartridge generated recoil and was ejected. Ammunition was limited to the capacity of the magazine. I don’t remember what my scenario was but I do remember that my heart rate jumped while going through the scenario and wondering if and when I’d have to make a decision to shoot or not. I made a decision to shoot. The system tracks each shot fired and you can see how you did on playback. My wife wanted the operator to test the shoot-back function on me but he wisely declined. It was interesting to note how each student handled the Glock – where it was pointed and whether or not a finger was on the trigger at inappropriate times. A few folks were clearly in need of some serious handgun safety training.

My second (and third) FATS experiences were at the first WPA held at Guilford Technical Community College. Prior to departing for the WPA I received an email containing a waiver which absolved everyone of everything should the FATS simulator ‘take me out’ or otherwise create bodily injury! What kind of a simulator was this going to be?

Waiver in hand, I arrived outside the FATS room on schedule. I was escorted into the room wherein the second set of ‘victims’ had already been seated and my partner for the event had already arrived. This FATS simulator could handle two trainees at a time with handguns and also had the capability for Taser and long gun training. I was partnered with Dr. Jonathan Hayes, a NYC Medical Examiner. This was great. We could take out the bad guys and then he could do the autopsies!

We were given appropriate instruction before the scenarios began. The system tracked where each gun was pointed at the screen and where each shot went. We used Glock 9mm handguns but, in contrast to the OCSO Glocks, these weapons used a compressed air magazine instead of individual compressed air cartridges. I don’t know how many ‘shots’ each magazine held, but it was plenty. Recoil but no cartridge ejection. This system had a ‘shoot back’ function but it wasn’t used. Whew! Prior to the start of each scenario we had to remove and insert the magazine and rack the slide, and away we went. Heart rate appropriately high; would we have to shoot or not; would we hit or miss; would we ‘take out’ an innocent by-stander instead of the bad guy; would we shoot when it wasn’t necessary? After each scenario was completed, the trainer played it back showing where our guns were pointed, where our shots went, how many shots we fired and whether they were hits or misses. Our actions (or inactions) were critiqued by the trainers. We did fairly well for beginners and I earned the reputation of taking out a bad guy by shooting him in the crotch. (Thanks, Lee.) A little below the center of mass but certainly got the job done. I think I also took out an innocent by-stander (a panicked student) who ran in front of my line of fire just as I was taking out the bad buy. Next time hit the deck or run away, run away! The other way, that is.

After completing our session we were asked if we wanted to go into the next room to experience a different FATS system. Didn’t have to be asked twice.

The second system handled one trainee at a time and used a .40 caliber Glock with recoil generated by a compressed air magazine. No ‘shoot back’ function here but, in actual training, the trainee would be fitted with a unit containing a battery and a couple of electrodes. The pack is attached to the trainee’s belt with the electrodes appropriately placed over a buttock. If the trainee doesn’t seek cover the trainer can zap her/him. I asked to try it just to see what it was like. The jolt lasted a fraction of a second and certainly gets your attention. No lasting after effects. We each went through several scenarios while the system tracked our actions. This system had some unexpected graphic embellishments. Make a good hit on the bad guy and the trainee is rewarded with a big blood spatter (or maybe a splatter) on the screen. Woo Hoo!

Bottom line: We’ve all been told how little time LEOs have to make critical decisions on the use of deadly force. For a citizen, the FATS experience drives this home. Anyone who doesn’t believe this should have a FATS experience.

This FATS experience was the best ten bucks I’ve ever spent and I’d do it again in a heart beat! Thanks again to Lee Lofland and his co-conspirators for organizing the WPA and the FATS experience.

Regular visitor and frequent commenter, Gun Diva was also at WPA and she posted her experiences with FATS training here.


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Very interesting! Thanks so much for sharing your experience with us. I think that would be such a scary moment for a policeman--the moment where you're trying to decide what kind of force you're needing to respond with. And it all has to happen in a split second.

Terry Odell said...

Elizabeth - there was a lot of new-found respect for the LEOs from participants who realize how little time there is to decide whether it's a shooting situation. And most shootouts last between 7 and 44 seconds.

GunDiva said...

Hubster, I wasn't nearly as brave as you when it came to trying on the butt buzzer - I'll take your word for it that it got your attention.

I had a fabulous time at FATS and was surprised at the number of scenarios we ran in just 30 minutes; it seemed as though the action would never end.

I'm doin' it again next year!

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad everyone enjoyed themselves. FATS and VirTra were huge hits. By the way, Jeffery Deaver also volunteered for the "shock treatment."

And...we're driving back to N.C. tomorrow for a meeting to discuss the possibility of a 2011 event. If we do it again we'll be opening registration in November.

Terry Odell said...

GD - Hubster read your blog about FATS and noticed a very different take. Your backgrounds mean bringing different expectations to the table.

Lee - I'm sure you'll have people clamoring for a slot. It's a one-of-a-kind conference.

GunDiva said...

November?! Yikes, better start saving up now :)

I've got two others who are dying to go next year and I'm sure I can wrangle up some more...just save me a seat.

jenny milchman said...

I would just love to do this! Thanks for the blow-by-blow (no pun intended)!