The Day – Range of virtual weapons emphasizes the opportunity to hone skills safely

East Lyme – A trio of local businessmen deconstruct the gun training process.

Facsimile handguns, rifles and shotguns that will be in use when Viking Firearms and Training opens in about 45 days have had their firing mechanisms replaced with laser technology to point at a screen.

East Lyme Police Department Detective Mark J. Comeau, Niantic Sportsman Club President Matthew Fleisher, and local businessman Jas Awla are planning a sprawling 40,000 square foot virtual filming facility where found Bob’s Discount Furniture.

The relatively new phenomenon of the virtual firing range has begun to emerge over the past two years, with Viking Firearms and Training claiming the largest and most sophisticated operation in the region.

Construction is expected to begin next week on 16 range ports with 8-by-12-foot screens, according to Comeau and Fleisher. There will be a training space for de-escalation simulations focused on reducing the use of force among police officers. There will be a VIP room, a cafeteria, a shop and a seminar area.

There is also opposition from those who believe that guns and entertainment do not mix.

Comeau said the sign at the entrance to the property was defaced with the spray-painted message “the system is down” shortly after the Zoning Commission gave the green light to the project in November.

The commission approved a special permit for the facility in a 4-1 vote with little discussion. The move came after a two-and-a-half-hour public hearing in which opponents expressed concern about contributing to a culture of gun violence. They criticized the decision to name the virtual shooting range after the high school’s mascot and to place the company near two schools.

Proponents have said that proper gun safety training is enhanced by computer simulation, as is in-flight training. They argued that it would fill a need for shooting time among law enforcement officers, as well as provide an outlet for friendly competition that would be cheaper and have less impact on the environment than live shooting. direct.

During a site visit at 15 Industrial Park Road on Saturday, Comeau and Fleisher said the retail store would include items such as safes and gun holsters, but not actual weapons.

“We’re not going to sell guns,” Fleisher said.

Comeau put it this way: “We could, but we’re not going to. That’s not our goal. Our goal is education, teaching.

They also stated that they would not sell alcohol as it did not align with their mission to educate new gun owners.

“We can, but we choose not to because we can’t introduce alcohol and firearms,” ​​Comeau said. “They just don’t mix.”

Guests must be at least 16 years old or accompanied by an adult. The decision to allow young adults unfettered access was a cause for concern for some at the Zoning Commission’s public hearing, who argued that young people are not mature enough to take on the seriousness of the responsibility and that they are more prone to addictive and reckless behavior.

Comeau stressed that no live firearms will be allowed in the facility. He said there will be two metal detectors at the entrance gates to identify those carrying a firearm or ammunition. It’s a departure from a plan outlined in the public hearing that said patrons with their own weapons could put them in a locked box in the lobby.

“Shoot, don’t shoot”

Comeau demonstrated the inert facsimile of a non-blowback Glock handgun on Saturday.

“All that fires is an infrared laser pulse,” he said, pulling the trigger to fire a silent flash of red light. “Done. Super safe.”

A second option uses a magazine filled with carbon dioxide to simulate recoil.

Owners said the realistic yet safe facsimiles allow people to practice their grip, trigger control, aiming and other skills, including those that cannot be perfected at a shooting range. traditional.

“You can practice stowing and drawing,” Comeau said. “You can’t do that in any range with live firearms. That’s a big no-no.”

People can conjure up simulated scenarios ranging from outdoor target shooting to indoor battles, where they are called upon to shoot shadowy, shapeless “villains” in silhouette while dodging the silhouettes with graphic hands raised to represent the “kind”.

Human targets are restricted to the de-escalation room as part of what the owners describe as “critical” or “shoot, don’t shoot” training for law enforcement and military personnel, the owners said. The expansive warehouse with a loading dock door will feature a 120 degree screen for a more immersive experience.

According to Fleisher, there are around 800 titles available that encompass thousands of scenarios. He said the software also has implications for civilians who could gain a new respect for law enforcement by being faced with the same kind of decisions that police have to make.

“We can put you in a situation that can make you sweat,” he said. “You have to make an instant decision that can take someone’s life. This is no joke. This is the real deal.”

e.regan@theday.com

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