Why Everyone Should Be Getting Into VR Training

by Tommy Grant

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When I was a teenager, I liked to play paintball with cousins and friends, along with a few army guys from church. The realistic fighting environment, including some pain if you lose, was a lot of fun. Being one step removed from risk of death along with some people to teach me about things like cover fire was a lot of fun. During those years, I came across a video game on the shelf at Best Buy that made me laugh out loud (and draw some confused looks from other shoppers).

It was a game where you play paintball, which is silly because paintball is already a simulation. A simulation of a simulation was both unappealing and hilarious. I bring this up because I’d imagine that this is how many readers feel when they hear about VR training.

After all, shooting at the range is a simulation of real fighting, so simulating that is a bit like the paintball video game. Instead of spending money on a pair of VR goggles and some accessories, why not just head to the range, right?

In this article, I want to explain why VR firearms training has become so much more than that.

Benefit #1: Realism

In some ways, 1990s VR was terrible for the industry as a whole. Better VR experiences felt like you were wearing a Volkswagen on your head. Cheaper ones, like the failed Nintendo Virtual Boy, flopped because the technology was just too expensive and immature to impress people. It was so bad that even today, the industry is still making jokes about it, like this recent April Fool’s joke. Other VR and AR flops since then, like the Google Cardboard, Samsung Gear VR, Google Glass, and Microsoft HoloLens (including a failed military version of the product) further justify people’s skepticism of the idea. Even the $3,500 Apple Vision Pro has been a bit of a joke.

On top of reasonable skepticism, there’s also the problem of sharing what it does with people. Because modern VR headsets give you a 3D view that follows the movement of your head, it’s really not possible to convey the full experience on a 2D phone or computer screen. So, I can share a video of VR firearms training, and people will be like, “That’s a lame video game. No thanks.”

So, the only way I can really convey how much the technology has improved is encourage readers to find a store that lets you try one out. I wouldn’t recommend heading to the Apple Store for a demo, because their headset just doesn’t have any training apps available. The Meta Quest 2 or 3 (I highly recommend the 3) is not only affordable, but can do 80% of what the Apple can do, and probably more because software and games of all kinds are available. Best Buy has Quest 3 demos on weekends at some stores. The Meta website has a tool to look up other stores with demos.

Benefit #2: It’s Very Cost Effective

Once you get a chance to try a Meta Quest headset out, you’ll probably next wonder why you should spend anywhere from $200-$650 on one. But, I’d invite you to both take an inventory of your ammo and then take an inventory of your gun safe. Chances are that you’ve spent a lot more than your significant other knows, and some of it was spent on guns that rarely leave the safe. And have you seen the cost of ammo these days?!

Being able to train not just on your fundamentals, but also things like competition shooting and facing off against other people in virtual environments isn’t cheap on the range, nor is it cheap in places that offer things like airsoft and Simunition. VR can’t replace those sorts of training, but it can help you progress and improve faster for the cost of a PSA Dagger and a few boxes of 9mm.

Think of it as a force multplier in your training toolbox. With ammo-free practice between range sessions, you can get a lot more good out of your live-fire time.

Benefit #3: Time Is Money

Finally, let’s consider how precious your time is. If most of us are honest, we’d have to admit that we don’t get to the range every day or even every week. Many if not most of us struggle to get out there once a month. Unless it’s your job to hit the range, other life obligations make it tough to fit in.

With a VR headset and software/hardware like AceXR, you can hit the virtual range anytime you have 20 minutes to spare. You don’t need to load your guns and targets up, drive to a range, spend time shooting, and then pack up, drive home, and unpack. Reasonably good practice is right there ready to go in two minutes, no matter where you are. You can even pack it in a suitcase to get some range time on business trips!

Next week, I’m going to write a follow-up article that shows you what some of these real benefits are. But, in the meantime, be sure to see if you can find a place to try a VR headset out!

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