A Better Headset and Prescription Lenses Greatly Improved My VR Training

by Tommy Grant

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A few weeks ago, I reviewed AceXR’s VR firearms training system, and was very impressed. For those who like to incorporate VR in their firearms training, today’s VR systems have really good motion tracking, not only for which way your head’s moving, but also for which way the controllers and even your own body moves. They also track the room around you, so the experiences feel increasingly realistic. AceXR adds to the realism by having your VR controller dock into a training pistol with realistic weight and a trigger that acts like the real thing.

My brother commented that “It’s like shooting a competition with a .22 pistol with a bull barrel.” And, I think that’s about right. With a realistic environment, a realistic gun, a realistic trigger and realistic physics, the only thing missing is recoil. The end result is that it’s like dry fire practice, but with the ability to practice a lot more than basic marksmanship. The Primary Arms ACSS Vulcan optic is even available!

But, I was still struggling a little to hit some of the targets, and wasn’t really sure why. This was an especially big issue for small targets at a distance, where it was obvious that I just couldn’t see them very well. But, with a couple of upgrades, I’m not having any trouble at all, even with the smallest targets at the end of the range. Here’s a cropped video to give you a better idea of what it feels like (original video here).

This time, I used a Quest 3 (my old headset was an Oculus Quest 2). I also added some prescription lenses to the unit. As you can probably see, when the target moves out to 40 yards, it’s still pretty hard to see, but it’s just visible enough to still shoot, when before it was getting too blurry to actually see.

Let’s talk a bit about how these upgrades made the difference.

First off, the Quest 3 has higher resolution. That’s possible to see in videos like mine, and in videos that big time VR reviewers have been sharing on the internet. But, one thing you can’t see in videos is that the Quest 3 also has much sharper and easier to use lenses. Instead of Fresnel lenses, which have a small “sweet spot,” the Quest 3 uses pancake lenses that have greater clarity, less distortion and less motion blurring and “god rays”.

In other words, the difference is much greater than you can see on YouTube.

Another thing that helped even more is snap-in prescription lenses from Zenni. Because VR headsets give you 3D vision and the appearance of some things being far away, you end up needing glasses just like real life.

Before, I was wearing glasses or contacts while using VR headsets. While that works OK, you have to be careful to not let the glasses rub up on the VR lenses and scratch them. Then, the gap between your glasses and any imperfections in your glasses introduces blur into the view. So, this is less than ideal.

These Zenni lenses snap right in front of the VR lenses. This means you get not only a much clearer picture, but they protect the expensive VR lenses from scratching. Given that the headset I bought was $650, having some $75 lenses that can be replaced is a great insurance policy. The lenses can be bought without a prescription for those of us with natural great vision.

Is It Worth The Extra Expense?

I’d say the answer to that question is both “yes” and “no.”

If you have the money to buy a Quest 3 and prescription lenses, I’d say go for it. The extra clarity makes a big difference in terms of comfort and in terms of hitting those more difficult targets. My whole setup (including AceXR) comes in at about $1,150, but only because I added a premium head strap with a secondary battery, and I went with the 512 GB version of the Quest 3. With the 128 GB model ($500), the lenses ($75 shipped) and AceXR, you can get pretty much the same experience for $825.

If $825 sounds too steep, the $250 Quest 2 (about $500 total after you buy an AceXR subscription) is still a great option. For most drills, you’ll have no problems, and prescription lenses are available for it, too. You might find yourself struggling with some of the further targets, but for everything else, it’s fine.

I think the extra clarity and having a larger “sweet spot” for the lenses helps with faster drills just a little, but it’s not going to make me get into the top ten! There are some really good shooters in AceXR who are running circles around me.

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