The Wasted Time of Range Training

Gordon Klein, Vice President - Innovation; Improve Group

Technological solutions maximize small arms training efficiency and effectiveness

Traditional small arms range training is a stop-and-start process. For each exercise, time is spent sighting, shooting, securing the weapon, walking down to the target, taking notes on the results, walking back, and starting again. For safety, all activity needs to cease every time a student or instructor needs to walk downrange. Even if each pause point is only a minute or two, these small inefficiencies can add up to create significant lost time, especially at scale for a large training class.

This lost time is more than a nuisance. It can put students at a disadvantage in the field. Time wasted while learning basic skills means students can’t progress to more advanced techniques that will increase tactical efficiency and safety in the field.

For example: research suggests[1] that students who primarily train in static-line arms ranges do not develop the reflexes and motor neural pathways necessary to draw and fire quickly when faced with an actual threat. The goal of arms training should always be to prepare operators for combat, and inefficiency stands in the way of that.

Lost time is common, but it’s not inevitable. Technological improvements, applied intelligently and with purpose, can reclaim that time. Improve Group’s methods reduce these training inefficiencies and create better opportunities to ready warfighters for the future fight.

KAFB Firing Range

Smart Targets Provide Real-Time Results

Smart auto-scoring targets eliminate time wasted walking downrange. Sensors transmit data back for each lane so students and instructors can see how they are performing in real time. These targets instantly capture the shot result and provide scoring based on zones within a target area.

Shooters can easily see the results of each exercise as soon as it’s been completed, and get immediate visual feedback on their shot placement. Accuracy and speed can be measured and compared in real-time leaderboards, allowing instructors to compare results across the class or between classes completing the same exercises. This instant feedback makes it easier to spot trends and make tactical training decisions.

Is everyone improving at a consistent rate? Did performance drop or improve after applying a new methodology? Are results consistent between instructors? Where are areas for improvement, and what might be the driving force behind these results? Real-time data collection can help guide improvements not just at an individual level, but in the approach and methodology employed in future classes.

Quick to Set Up and Easy to Execute

Programmable pop-up targets and HEKTRs (Humanoid Engageable Kinetic Training Robots) provide an added layer of realism and challenge to a shooting scenario. Accuracy and timing at a flat range is an important foundational skill, but it does not adequately prepare warfighters for conditions in the field. Programmable scenarios and moving targets allow shooters to face far more sophisticated challenges.

Maintaining accuracy in the face of physical, emotional, and psychological stress is the ultimate goal of small arms training. Modern technology makes it easier to create those conditions in a controlled environment.

Different scenarios can introduce distractions and demand a variety of response types. Preconfigured exercises allow instructors to implement the same challenges across multiple training classes, collect real-time data, and compare student performance. Because targets can be configured in near endless behavioral variations, multiple layers of difficulty can be applied. As students master foundational skills, their training can be scaled without any delays in creating new training programs.

Numerous scenarios can be programmed in advance and saved, allowing for pushbutton execution. No time needs to be spent thinking up or explaining new scenarios during class, and targets do not need to be manually reset or maneuvered between exercises.

An instructor can run a scenario for one group of students, then bring in the next group and begin immediately with minimal set-up or transition, allowing for more time spent practicing and less time wasted on setup. And because students are reacting to things happening in real-time, rather than needing to pretend or imagine scenarios, they train psychologically and physically to the hectic demands of the field.

Making Time for Increasingly Effective Training

Traditionally, small arms training has focused on preparing students for the checkpoint scenarios necessary for graduation. These foundational skills are essential, but inefficiencies at ranges have left little time to advance beyond mastery of these scenarios. Our tech solutions can solve this.

At the live-fire SMC training range for Air Force Special Warfare that we recently designed, students would routinely spend 90 minutes completing all 12 checkpoint exercises. Once we implemented smart auto-scoring targets and programmable scenarios, the time for completion dropped to an average of 30 minutes.

With an hour of time reclaimed from inefficiencies, instructors can employ additional training scenarios that help build upon those foundational skills and put students through their paces with increasingly realistic and complex challenges. By collecting and analyzing performance data in real-time, instructors can also identify what areas need to be worked on and monitor for performance improvements or struggles. In this way, IG’s technological integration works to overcome the problems of traditional range design and leads the way into the future of warfighter training.

[1] Butler, C. (2022, February 24). Firearms training for real-world assaults. Police1. Retrieved September 16, 2022, from