My time with the borrowed AutoTargets System has come to an end, but not before putting some rounds on a Gen II lifter unit with double acting pneumatics. The only gripe I had with the original setup (review here), cost aside, was that targets fell too slowly for my taste. By adding a pressure tank, Gen II units actually power their way down, cutting drop time from 800 milliseconds to as short as 150 milliseconds.
At top left inside the unit above is a small CO2 tank that’s pre-charged when the system is pressurized. It actually forces the target down when the electronics say “drop” instead of it just bleeding off gas and letting gravity take over. The strength of its downward drive is easily adjustable with the turn of a valve. Basically, fast is good but not if your targets are being smashed to bits on rough ground, so adjust accordingly.
I ran the usual whack-a-mole drills, practicing target transitions and magazine changes while targets presented themselves to me in random order. This is a hell of a good time. The faster drop of the upgraded target was definitely noticeable, and if all of my targets had the upgrade it would have made for an even more challenging, even faster-paced scenario.
In the event that the audible steel target-like “clang” the mobile app makes when bullet hits target can’t be heard by the shooter, a target that reacts significantly faster is a big deal. Most of the “did I hit it?” delay goes the way of the dodo and the shooter can move onto the next target faster and with more confidence.
A cool feature of the AutoTargets system is its integrated shot timer and scoring system. In the past I had only used this functionality for drawn out scenarios, challenging myself and some friends to various types of competition involving multiple target presentations with varying levels of difficulty (e.g. hostage taker head shot needed, failure drill needed, any hit outside the A-zone deducts points, etc.), but more recently I used it for draw drills.
Thanks to the random start delay and random target presentation options, the system can be set to surprise you with a target. It’ll then show you how long it took you to score a hit and where on the target that hit landed. Although I stayed right on “the X” for the purposes of being in-frame on the video, this sort of draw scenario is normally a useful training tool to practice drawing, moving, evading, and getting hits on target rapidly.
Of course, for timing a draw and identifying hits (and a lot of other scenarios), a lifter unit isn’t actually needed. To fill that simpler use niche at a much lower price, AutoTargets recently released its Mini-Module Static Target. Considering the significantly simpler setup, smaller size, and lower cost, I’m keen to get my hands on a couple of these for long-term use and perhaps to settle some friendly bets among the TTAG crew.
Overall, what I felt was the number one shortcoming of the original system has been very nicely resolved with the Gen II double acting pneumatic upgrade. Not only that, but this upgrade is a no-cost option when purchasing a lifter unit.
Still, the price of the lifter system is going to put it out of reach for most consumers and into the realm of corporate endeavors like shooting ranges and training centers. But with the Mini-Module units coming in at 1/3 the price, much of the AutoTargets technology is quickly becoming more accessible. I look forward to seeing — and hopefully shooting full of holes — what these guys come out with next.