I know some readers, especially the more “old school” ones, will laugh at the idea of firearms training with VR headsets. I get it, because on the surface it sounds silly. In the days that followed the Columbine shooting, journalist Karens were seriously debating whether playing Doom with a joystick might have given the shooters the equivalent of tactical training, which is laughable at best.
Anyone who has actually played first person shooter video games on a PC or console and who has shot actual firearms knows that these two activities have little in common. Very few skills from one can be transferred to the other because the body is doing very different things.
But that doesn’t stop drooling idiots on both sides of the political aisle from claiming otherwise despite plenty of evidence against the assertion that video games somehow cause real-world violence.
While violence in video games doesn’t cause a measurable difference in real life violence, the wall between real-life shootings and what you can do virtually is starting to break down. With a VR headset and motion-tracked controllers, you’re no longer just pushing buttons on a keyboard or game controller.
Now you can actually aim a virtual gun (sometimes a realistic one with sights) at the target, moving your body to take aim, and if you have a big enough unobstructed play area, you’re actually walking or running around instead of just sitting in a chair.
Here’s some gameplay from a recent SHTF survival game that’s now available on several VR platforms . . .
Traditional 2D video doesn’t really do this justice. With stereoscopic vision, head tracking, room tracking, and body movement tracking, this game and others like it gives a realistic perspective on a virtual world. That means instead of pushing a joystick and watching a 2D image on a screen change, you can actually apply real-world tactics, such as slicing the pie in these games. And, more importantly, they work.
In some ways, this is better than what you can do on most ranges. You have the opportunity to work in a realistic virtual environment and test what you’re doing against other humans to see what actually works. Paper targets never fire back, try to fool you into doing the wrong thing, or try to trick you into thinking they’re your friend.
Then again, lots of people use things like airsoft guns, Simunition, and use of force simulators to achieve most of this. But when we start to go beyond VR and into the world of AR (not Armalite rifle…augmented reality), you can start doing things that you can’t with airsoft.
Normally, having an airsoft battle in your own home would probably only upset your spouse. I know I don’t like finding airsoft pellets when my sons go behind my back and do it anyway. Plus, the faster airsoft guns aren’t great for the TV, the cats, the dogs, or the paint on some drywall corners.
If you get the latest Quest 3 headset, though, it can transform your home or business into a shoothouse complete with robbers, terrorists, or active shooters to go against…but without putting any holes in your walls or TV.
Realistic Controllers Are Still In Development
There’s still one thing that sucks about VR shooting: the controllers. For airsoft, you can get realistic looking guns that even cycle the slide to give you somewhat realistic recoil. But, if you have something like a Meta Quest, you’re stuck with the generic controllers, which have a really soft trigger button and no recoil at all.
Work is being done there, though, and a lot of progress has been made.
There’s also a rifle-oriented version with a full stock (and cheek weld), and it can also produce recoil and other haptic feedback, so the experience is a lot more realistic than it was.
That said, there are still some real shortcomings in this developing market. First off, there’s no realistic trigger available on any of these controller mounts. They’d need something like an integrated SIRT pistol. It’s also not possible to do a good two-handed thumbs-forward pistol grip, drop and load magazines, or work other controls like the action, safety, lights, etc.
These features are eventually not only possible, but I think they’ll happen. I’ve reached out to several companies to see what their plans might be for a highly-realistic VR gun.
Training-Oriented Software Is Also Needed
Another problem is that almost everything on VR is made for gaming now. Some of the games are very realistic and could be useful for intermediate and advanced scenarios, but there’s nothing out there that helps someone learn basic marksmanship, safe gun handling, or real-world defensive scenarios yet.
Like the controllers, all of this is definitely possible as law enforcement and some of the better instruction programs have been doing this on 2D simulators for decades. The next stop will be of the gaming companies working with good firearm instructors and a hardware maker to produce a realistic VR gun.