More Trigger Time Per Hour: F6 Labs, Hicksville, NY

Posted on 31 May 2012 by

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This may at first seem out of place on an intelligence blog, but since much of what Dave and I talk about is technology in law enforcement, I think it’s appropriate: I spent yesterday on the indoor shooting range at F6 Labs in Hicksville, NY.

This indoor range is the only place in the US where one can experience the Digital Police Combat System (DCPS), and as I went through the exercises, my heart rate went up, my breathing got heavier, and I found myself moving, slicing the pie and reacting to others in the stack on entries.

Now, Dave and I wrote about F6 back in November in Law Officer Magazine, but I think it’s worth revisiting here. Not only did I get to walk through the F6 experience for a longer time, but I also got to see a little more about how the technology is being customized every day tomeet the needs of law enforcement and personal protection professionals.

As Dave wrote in Law Officer,

I ran through a series of scenarios that were projected on the screen of the giant rolls of back-lit paper. There were standard qualification targets, shelves lined with tennis balls, video frames of people popping up and down and video footage of live actors in a “shoot, don’t shoot” scenario. There were more than 50 different training platforms and each could be changed with the click of a mouse. All were designed to strengthen a specific shooting skill.

A few shots down range at these targets revealed the interactivity of this set-up. As I hit a stack of balls at the bottom, the ones on top fell off.

That’s still the case, but there are more and more scenarios every day. Within minutes it’s easy to see that the least efficient thing you’ll do here, the most tedious and time-wasting activity, is filling magazines with ammunition. With no time to reset targets, and with the ability to continue to go after dynamic, moving targets until you’re out of ammo, you’ll find that you can be getting more trigger time per hour than probably any other shooting activity.

We’ve mentioned before that law enforcement technology needs to do three things: it must be integrated, be simple and have utility. F6 brings all this together.

It’s obviously simple – we’ve all shot at targets before, this place simply makes it easy to shoot at lots of different ones. Why , hell, there’s a Space Invaders target session which has a mother spaceship pooping out little bitty spaceships all over the screen. As they fall, you blast em, just like in the 1980s-era video-game classic. F6 is just that simple. If you’ve ever played Time Crisis, you get it – it’s Time Crisis with real ammo and your duty weapon.

The utility is obvious; as Dave said in Law Officer, “…features include an automated score calculator and time recording between shots. Even if you drop multiple rounds through the same hole, the system records this information for you. The operator sitting at the integrated PC receives live feedback of data, including shot placement and shot times, and the system can manage historical data on individual shooters.” Imagine how fast your agency can do qualifications if scoring is done by the time the smoke gets extracted through the air filter!

The integration is in the ability to score like that, plus in the video recordings of everything that’s being done. The diagnostic value of seeing myself from the rear, the front, the side and the target itself is incalculable. When, precisely, did I de-cock? How long was that magazine change, and could I benefit from holding the gun higher into my workspace? Only with an integrated system like F6’s can I see the answers so clearly.

Personally, I plowed through 620 rounds of .40 and 5.56 in about 45 minutes on the range, only about 24 of which were warm-ups with static sillhouettes. First out of the gate was a sobering reflection on how much I haven’t practiced drawing from concealment: the shot timer’s random beep and I’m out of the holster on moving “metal” targets which float across the target screen until I plink them down. Each shot resulted in that satisfying feedback “PING” I’m used to on my own metal target, but I could never move the targets like that.

After ten minutes and about 50 targets like this, Greg, the tech, let me know that instead of a drill of four to six targets after the draw, he could just keep them coming after the initial draw. Heyell, yeah. Beep! Draw, and shoot at moving metal targets for all 60 rounds I had in my magazines.

We then went into some live action, and as Dave mentioned in Law Officer, the realism was astounding.

…If I hit a gunman in the arm, I had to continue firing until I placed a vital shot. The targets reacted exactly as you’d expect in a real-life scenario. The amount of firepower needed and effectiveness of each shot is predetermined by the agency using the machine—it’s fully customizable. The Digital Police Combat System also has the ability to incorporate return, simulated fire to the shooter. If you notice one of the targets refusing to go down from a volley of center-massed shots, it’s not a glitch in the system—look closer, and you realize that your target is wearing a ballistic vest.

Suddenly I was in the stack, entering a stairwell; an officer in front of me and just to my left was clearing left when a man appeared in the stairwell, leveling a pistol towards us; as we cleared corridors and rooms different threats appeared – this was when I found my heart rate increasing and my training coming out. As we approached corners I found myself adjusting my body to slice the pie.

I’ve only experienced this level of realism once before: I’m a pilot, and in 2003 I had the opportunity to use a full-room simulator at Proficient Flight in Waukesha, WI. In the first five minutes, as I got accustomed to the controls and instruments, I went through my checklist and found myself leaning forward to look out my “window” to see whether my “ailerons” were responding when I turned the yoke. I actually expected to see wings, and I was shocked when I remembered I was in a sim.

F6 is just that good. During the exercises, I found myself as engaged as I can possibly be outside the real thing. It’s not just me. Some extremely good teams practice here, some of the best in the world, for the same reason.

And as the instructors at F6 recognize, the law enforcement mission differs from that of the military elite operator. We are not there to smoke everything in the room; 99% of the time what we do with our handguns and rifles is defensive.

The recognition of that in the training scenarios, instructors and philosophy at F6 is another thing that makes it one of the finest facilities I’ve ever been to.

Contact F6 Labs at 230 Duffy Avenue, Unit C, Hicksville, New York 11801,  (516) 470-1590. Neither Police Led Intelligence, Nick Selby or Dave Henderson received any consideration for this review. Police Led Intelligence does not accept consideration for coverage.