Month: March 2013
Action Target engineers are doing more on the beaches of Florida this spring than just surfing or getting a tan: they are designing the biggest bullet trap ever built.
Lotus Gunworks of Jensen Beach, Fla., will be opening its doors next week and inviting shooters to try out its new double-decker shooting range featuring a two-story steel funnel bullet trap. Nicknamed the Lotus 8/11 for the number of steel panels used to create it (eight panels on the bottom slope and 11 panels on the top slope), this version of Action Target’s Total Containment Trap is the first of its kind.
“No one has ever seen a range like this before,” Lotus Gunworks’ Director of Operations Robbie Abell said. “We’re truly making industry history.”
Abell stumbled into the gun industry a few years back when he and a family member decided to go in on a gun store. It seemed like a crazy idea, he said, but with a little bit of luck and ingenuity, they just might be able to make it work.
“We spent about eight months riding around different areas and looking at gun ranges,” Abell said. “After some research, we ran into Action Target and were introduced to the local shooting range consultant Robb Anderson. After that it was a no-brainer, so we freight trained forward.”
They found an existing building in Jensen Beach that met their needs but quickly ran into issues when it became apparent there would not be enough room for two adjacent ranges and a gun store. Abell did not want to cut back on the number of ranges, so the only option was to make a double-decker range where both levels shot into the same bullet trap.
“It hasn’t ever been done before, and at first, the answer was that it couldn’t be done,” Abell said. “I believed there had to be a way, and after three weeks of pushing, I got a call from Robb at Action Target saying, ‘We think we might be able to do this.’”
The answer was to extend the Total Containment Trap (usually just 8 feet tall) to a whopping 19 feet and to mount steel cross beams to support the Mancom Touch ‘N’ Go target retriever system.
With the equipment issues resolved, the next hurdle was proper ventilation to prevent customers and employees from being exposed to hazardous lead dust. The sheer size of the room presented a unique challenge, so Lotus Gunworks enlisted the help of industry ventilation specialists Carey’s Small Arms Range Ventilation.
Despite doubts that a range that tall could be ventilated at all, Carey’s managed to create a system that not only met environmental standards, but exceeded ventilation standards for even federal shooting ranges.
“The air flow in the upper level was the best I have seen on any range, and the airflow on the bottom was also very good,” Carey’s controls and commissioning tech Mark Hanson said. “This was one of the easiest range ventilation systems we’ve installed.”
Aside from being environmentally safe by completely replacing range air every 80 seconds, all of the filtered air pumped into the range is refrigerated, which, according to Abell, is a pretty big deal in Florida.
“We want this to be the most comfortable range possible,” Abell said, “and we’re doing that with refrigerated air, great lighting, great service and friendly employees. We want people to come and stay. We want this to be a destination point where you hang out for the day.”
Lotus Gunworks is especially friendly to new shooters with a Ti Training simulation system that allows those completely new to shooting to try it out on a real gun equipped with a laser before hitting the range. Friday night fun shoots will also allow people to try out a variety of firearms including fully automatic rifles.
The range is expected to open for business the first week of April and will be holding a grand opening celebration April 20.
By George Harris
Much has been written about precision shooting in the world of combat skill development and pistol shooting in general. Perspectives and definitions of how and why we hit the intended target vary so greatly that two people involved in a heated discussion regarding precision shooting may be very parallel in their thinking, but they don’t recognize it. In this article, I will talk about how and why our views concerning this subject work. Ultimately, the goal is to bring us all a little closer in defining this controversial subject and understanding what we need to see in order to deliver a successful shot.
All of my training methods stem from simplicity in firearms training. I like to cut through all of the fluff, and present concepts that make sense and are easily reproducible by the average shooter. Most of us subscribe to the age old premise that most likely originated with the invention of firearms in that the objective of shooting is hitting your target.
Let’s start by discussing the two absolutes of hitting a target. They are muzzle management and trigger finger discipline. Since the bullet exits the muzzle on the way to the target, it seems likely that from zero to fifty yards (plus or minus), if the muzzle is pointed at the target when the bullet exits, then we will have ourselves a hit where we want it. Trigger finger discipline refers to how we release the bullet toward the target. If you stabilize the muzzle of the pistol on the target and operate the trigger without disturbing that stability, you will experience success. Make sense? My students think so!
Precision shooting is a total mystery to some simply because they are confused about what they must see to consistently hit the target. Sight alignment and sight picture are two regularly used terms in the precision shooting world, but they aren’t always fully understood. Sight alignment is nothing more than the front and rear sight as viewed by the eye. Perfect sight alignment is the front sight vertically and horizontally centered in the rear sight notch. Sight picture is the target, front sight and rear sight as viewed by the eye. Perfect sight picture is the front sight centered vertically and horizontally in the rear sight notch superimposed on the desired point of impact of the target.
In studying human vision, we find that the eye can clearly focus on a single plane, plus or minus an inch or two. Everything else ranges from a little to a lot out of focus. Relate this to a camera lens. The camera has clarity at its primary point of interest and everything closer or further away is less than perfectly clear. A little known fact is that the eye can pick the center of any object, regardless of its shape. It can do this without having total visual clarity of the object and can be accurate down to one minute of angle (a half inch circle at fifty yards).
Now, let’s take a closer look at how and why precision shooting works. The muzzle of the pistol must be square with the target to hit the target. Think perpendicular with a very slight upward angle to account for the effects of gravity on the bullet, and horizontally centered. We use our sights as a guide to position the muzzle on the target. The more precisely we align our sights, the closer the muzzle is to square with the face of the target, and the more likely we will hit our desired point of impact, assuming that the pistol is already zeroed. The clear focus on the front sight as viewed through the slightly out of focus rear sight allows us the best chance to position the muzzle square to the target. The target should be out of focus, but its shape should be apparent. As stated above, the eye will automatically find the center of any object.
What this boils down to is that precision sight alignment will square the muzzle (where the bullet exits the gun) on the center of the target, which our eye automatically finds, for a hit in the desired location.
Bull’s-eye shooters that shoot the blank side of their target and shoot better groups than when they are shooting the target side prove the concept that the eye will naturally find the center of an object consistently. By keeping the eye focus on the sights through the release of the shot, the muzzle remains square with the target, and a consistent impact point is hit again and again.
A simple and extremely effective sight picture that we developed for the aged-eye shooters (those in bi-focals and tri-focals) has become the standard sight picture for all of our students who aren’t happy with their present method of hitting the target where they want to. We recommend a dot on the front sight and the widest notch available for the type of rear sight to be used. This allows us to use the eye’s natural ability to center round objects in square openings with incredible precision. We zero the pistol for the strike of the round to hit whatever we put the front sight dot on, just as we would a red dot sight system. The regimen is to center the dot in the rear sight notch and float the dot on the target. With a smooth trigger press to release the shot, the thrill of a center hit is felt again and again.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Action Target as a company.
About George Harris
George Harris has spent his entire adult life working in the world of firearms. For over 30 years he has been a successful and motivational educator and trainer in all aspects of small arms. His simplistic approach to firearms training has an unarguable track record in extracting performance from his students of marksmanship, tactics, and maintenance.
As a business developer in the firearms field, George co-founded the world renowned SIG Sauer Academy and led it to become a profit center before retiring after twenty-one years of service.
George has the enviable record of leading industry test programs for multiple government and military agencies achieving successful results and contracts for firearms 100% of the time.
Many of his innovations and ideas in firearms design features have evolved to production firearms improving function, ergonomics, and aesthetics.
George has served as the subject matter expert involving firearms and related matters on television, radio, and in legal proceedings.
Among his personal accomplishments, George earned the coveted U.S. Army Distinguished badges for both Service Pistol and Service Rifle. He also coached and was a firing team member of the World Champion U.S. Army Reserve International Combat Team before retiring with 40 years of continuous Military Service.
Since it was founded in 1986, Action Target has had the pleasure of working with some of the greatest innovators in the industry from mechanical engineers to world-renowned law enforcement trainers. Each has left a unique impression and, in some cases, has even shaped the future of the company.
One man who has played a significant role in influencing the culture of life-long training at Action Target is Clint Smith of Thunder Ranch. As a seasoned veteran and avid proponent of realistic scenario training, Clint has made a name for himself as one of the greatest firearms trainers in the world. This year marks 20 years of working closely with Action Target to create the most innovative and effective training methods available today.
Clint’s natural ability to teach makes it seem almost effortless for him to convey difficult concepts to his students, but his experience is what has made him one of the greatest trainers in the world. Clint served two tours in Vietnam as a marine and worked in law enforcement from 1970 to 1980 as director of the firearms training division, S.W.A.T. team member, and precision rifleman. After leaving law enforcement, he entered the civilian arena as operations officer for the American Pistol Institute at Gunsite Academy where he was dean of instruction.
Three years and several curriculum developments later, Clint decided to take his unique training techniques on the road as president of his own business called International Training Consultants.
“There’s always the need to take the training to the people, so from 1983 to 1993, I spent most of my time on the road conducting trainings across the country and internationally as well,” Clint said. “When conducting trainings on the road, I started using all Action Target products because they were so portable. That portability made it so I was able to make a home wherever I went. I would just show up in a large van or with a trailer full of steel targets and have a full range set up in an hour or two.”
Before long, Clint’s portable training program was nationally recognized for innovative courses in urban rifle, shotgun, precision rifle, and various handgun formats. The more places he visited, the more popular his program became. All of the traveling eventually took its toll, however, and in 1992, Clint decided it was finally time to find a home.
“I loved the flexibility of being out on the road where I could bring training to anyone who wanted it, but in order to conduct more advanced training, I need my own setup,” Clint said. “The redeeming value of being able to have my own facility was that I was able to control the environment. I was more comfortable there because it was my home. And when the trainer is comfortable, the students learn better.”
Along with settling down at a permanent facility, Clint’s training company also got a facelift.
“When we moved to Texas in the early ‘90s, we decided to update the name from International Training Consultants to something with more kick to it,” Clint said. “We had a popular training drill called Rolling Thunder, and since we’d settled on a ranch in Texas, we called it Thunder Ranch.
Thunder Ranch officially opened in 1993 with five outdoor ranges including 300-yard and 1,000-yard rifle ranges, two classrooms, a computer controlled Hogan’s Alley nicknamed Thunderville, a four-story tower that housed additional indoor ranges, and two tactical shoot houses with movable walls.
“Everything on the ranch was done with Action Target equipment,” Clint said, “and at the time, it was the premier training facility of the private sector. You couldn’t find better anywhere.”
The program was set up with five-day courses on various firearms training techniques being offered to the general public. Word spread and before long, Thunder Ranch instructors were training 1,500 people a year.
In addition to civilian courses, Thunder Ranch also accommodated the occasional specialty course for law enforcement. The ranch’s training facilities were put to the test in 1996 when Action Target held its annual Law Enforcement Training Camp at Thunder Ranch. More than 120 law enforcement officers descended on the ranch for an entire week of intense training and informative seminars.
Nearly every aspect of law enforcement firearms training was covered from team tactics and police equipment to semiautomatic shotgun techniques and submachine gun deployment. Clint personally taught several of the courses along with other renowned law enforcement trainers.
Less than a year after opening Thunder Ranch, Clint began working with Action Target to create new training products to meet the needs of his students including the Portable Bullet Trap and a reactive target system that was both affordable and realistic. He wanted to see how close he could take his students to a real life confrontation without actually putting anyone in danger. To do that, he needed a moving target that looked and reacted like a real threat.
“Most active shooter situations aren’t that difficult from a marksmanship standpoint,” Clint said. “The difficulty comes from mental blocks and an elevated heart rate. If I can put my students in situations where they are constantly training under mental and physical stress, they will be so much more prepared for a real world situation.”
The solution was a 3D cardboard torso target made reactive through the use of balloons which could be blown up in the head, chest, or lower abdomen cavities. When inflated, the balloons put pressure on the steel rebar that runs through the middle of the target and hold it up by pressing against the sides of each of the three cavities. As soon as the balloons are popped, the target no longer has anything to hold it up and falls to the ground.
Clint built a platform to house his new 3D Target training scenario with a PT Runner to add the realism of a charging or moving threat. No longer were his students just firing into an unreactive piece of paper, but they were firing at a moving target that looked and reacted like the real thing. As their heart rates and stress levels increased, students were forced to focus on their sights and aim for strategic kill zones. Shooting it anywhere wouldn’t bring it down, just like an actual assailant.
Inspired and designed by Clint Smith, the 3D Target has been an essential part of law enforcement training programs nationwide for nearly a decade. Clint continues to work with Action Target on new product developments and acts as a consultant to the company on training methods.
Thunder Ranch Today
Thunder Ranch remained in Waller, Texas, from 1993 until 2004 when operations were moved to southern Oregon. Clint Smith purchased 800 acres of land just outside of Lakeview and built brand new facilities from the ground up with equipment provided by Action Target. Though smaller, the new Thunder Ranch allows Clint to get back to doing what he loves.
“The bigger the business got in Texas, the less I was able to actually teach,” Clint said. “In Oregon, I get to interact with people one-on-one, and that’s what I want. I personally teach all of the classes.”
Courses are now only three days long and classes are smaller, but Thunder Ranch still boasts state-of-the-art training facilities and more than 400 trainees a year. Current classes include defensive handgun, urban rifle, team tactics, home and vehicle defense, mid range rifle, defensive concealed carry, high angle, and defensive revolver. Most classes have already been filled for the rest of the year.
Action Target continues to support Clint Smith as a friend, and we hope for another 20 years of working with Thunder Ranch to bring superior training to law enforcement officers and civilians.
PROVO, Utah – March 7, 2013 – Panteao Productions announced that Action Target is now the video production company’s official target provider. Beginning immediately, all videos featuring firearms training on steel targets will exclusively feature Action Target products.
As the industry leader in instructional firearms videos, Panteao Productions needed a dependable target that could hold up to intense use while functioning safely. Panteao chose Action Target after putting several companies’ products to the test with its rigorous training courses.
“After using steel targets from different companies over the last two years, we found Action Target to produce the strongest and best designed targets on the market,” president and CEO of Panteao Productions Fernando Coelho said. “Today, all the steel we use on our video shoots is exclusively from Action Target.”
Panteao Productions currently has 45 instructional videos on everything from the combat mindset to the fundamentals of everyday carry taught by professional firearms trainers and military veterans. Panteao even provides an instructional video on how to capture shooting events on film taught by industry photographer Yamil Sued.
“We’re thrilled to be working with a company like Panteao Productions,” director of Action Target’s portable target division Chad Burdette said. “The range and level of training they provide is unmatched. We have admired their work for a long time, and I think there are some great things we can do together in the future.”
Panteao Production’s instructional line called Make Ready with the Experts, which often uses steel targets for training scenarios, is available for purchase online in DVD format or through a monthly subscription which allows unlimited video streaming on a computer or mobile device.
As an official product provider of Panteao Productions, Action Target’s logo will be featured on the back of Panteao DVD cases and on its website as a sponsor.
About Action Target Inc.
Action Target Inc. is a privately owned business headquartered in Provo, Utah. As the world leader in shooting range technology with more than 4,000 products and 40 patents for the systems it designs and manufacturers, Action Target has installed thousands of shooting ranges across the United States and in 25 other countries around the world. Action Target also designs systems and conducts firearms training for law enforcement and various military divisions. For more information on Action Target, visit www.ActionTarget.com. To learn more about Action Target products or to purchase items online, visit www.ShopActionTarget.com.
About Panteao Productions, LLC
Panteao Productions is a video production company based out of South Carolina that produces instructional videos from the top firearms instructors in the world. For more information about Panteao, visit www.PanteaoProductions.com. You can find Panteao on both Twitter and Facebook.