Executive protection training with a Citation, with no risk of damage to the aircraft.
Executive protection training with a Citation, with no risk of damage to the aircraft.

Quite by accident, I recently became aware of a revolutionary new fully programmable adaptive laser training target system from Chandler, Arizona-based start-up company Salted Earth, LLC. Called the ATLAS-08TM, it was developed specifically for military and law enforcement training applications, but it’s also an unbeatable training tool for all shooters.

I was intrigued and arranged to meet with the principals of the company (all of whom are avid shooters) at C2 Tactical in Tempe, Arizona for a demonstration of its capabilities.

The ATLAS-08 allows you to train virtually anytime and anywhere, turning any location into a dry-fire shoot house for safe and effective training in real-world scenarios. While other laser training systems exist, none can currently come anywhere near to providing the functions of the ATLAS-08. 

The ATLAS-08 is the only dry-fire target currently on the market that provides real-time prompts and feedback. It has a full-color visible display with 49 programmable hit regions that provide you with unlimited possibilities. 

HOW DOES THE ATLAS-08 WORK? 

The adaptive sensor array on the ATLAS-08 can detect red, green, and infrared laser emitters, while differentiating be- tween laser aimers and flashlights/weaponlights to enable true low-light or no-light training. Most laser training systems cannot differentiate and, as a result, greatly handicap training. 

Unlike many systems on the market, the ATLAS-08 target can be used outdoors, though, depending on the time of day and angle of the sun, you may need to adjust the direction of your training to keep the target sensors out of direct sunlight. The ATLAS-08 is weather-resistant but should not be left outdoors for prolonged periods, or in weather exceeding the maximum operating temperature of 120 degrees Fahrenheit. 

The ATLAS-08 targets are powered by an on-board rechargeable, cost and environmentally effective lithium battery that provides over eight hours of training on a single charge with standard settings. To recharge, simply plug the ATLAS-08 into the included charger or use any USB power source. The ATLAS-08 can be used while charging, so your training will never be interrupted by a depleted battery. The battery is included and easily replaced by the user if needed. 

ATLAS-08 targets are wirelessly enabled and mesh networked for robust communication. They can be easily deployed in large-scale operations to create sophisticated training environments. Multiple ATLAS-08 targets can be wirelessly connected to create immersive training environments anywhere. 

During the demo and testing at C2 Tactical, targets were placed at opposite sides of the building, several hundred feet apart and separated by glass and steel framing, in order to test the wireless functioning. The targets communicated flawlessly. The building is of modern steel-frame construction. 

TRAINING APPLICATIONS 

The training applications of the ATLAS-08 are endless. The ATLAS is perfect for training students on a square range; putting officers through active-shooter scenarios; practicing room clearing, hostage rescue, tubular assaults, and vehicle takedowns; or simply getting in some trigger time in one’s own home. The ATLAS-08 can do it all. The wireless functionality can also be disabled for use in secure locations or for solo practice.

Crowd Control mode running on four networked targets.
Crowd Control mode running on four networked targets.

Mobile and desktop apps are currently in development that will allow you to control the training environment, while also receiving real-time feedback (drawstroke, split times, accuracy, etc) on your smartphone or computer. It will provide the option of tracking the metrics over time to provide a real data set to track progress and document skill sets. 

All products in the ATLAS family are fully compatible to give the user the ability to expand the system at any time and train for any mission requirement. The ATLAS-08 includes free firmware updates for the life of the system, to continually expand the available features.

Training solo in C2 Tactical office with ATLAS-08.
Training solo in C2 Tactical office with ATLAS-08.

On the bottom of the device, the ATLAS-08 has a standard 1/4-20 UNC mount that enables it to be mounted to tripods, RAM mounts, or any standard camera mounts, so the user can mount the targets to suit individual needs. Optional accessories include a magnetic target stand, vehicle suction mounts, and a magnetic battery cover. A lanyard loop on the ATLAS-08 lets the unit be secured with paracord as a backup when using the trainer in precarious positions.

On-board keypad makes set-up simple.
On-board keypad makes set-up simple.

TRAINING MODES 

You can simply turn on the ATLAS-08 and begin training or take advantage of the many training modes that are programmed to the device, including Reaction and Draw Stroke, Accuracy and Trigger Control, Memory and Cognitive Improvement, Decision Making and Crowd Control, Shot Indicator and Heat Map, Reload and Malfunction training, Failure Drills and several other modes. 

The user initiates the desired mode and waits for a visual and/or audible prompt to engage the target. When using multiple targets, modes can be mixed to simulate almost any custom training regimen.

Indoor carbine training is a great use for ATLAS-08.
Indoor carbine training is a great use for ATLAS-08.

Reaction Time and Draw Stroke mode is designed to help trainees improve their drawstroke, reaction speed, and split times when using multiple targets. The tracking metrics in this mode can provide an historical data set to visualize muscle memory improvement and drawstroke refinement over time. A hit within the “hit” region on the target stops the timer and records the metrics. The user’s reaction speed scrolls across the target for immediate feedback.

Using Shot Indicator and Heat Map modes.
Using Shot Indicator and Heat Map modes.

Accuracy and Trigger Control mode forces trainees to make quick decisions as to which targets should or should not be engaged, combined with the need to place precise shots on the appropriate areas of the target. It is designed to increase speed of target recognition and requires trainees to practice adjusting for height-over-bore at varying distances. 

Metrics can be tracked to know split times, reaction speed, overall accuracy, and the number of shoot vs no-shoot areas struck. A hit within the “hit” region of the target stops the timer and records the metrics. The color of “hit”’ and “no-hit” regions is set at the user’s discretion within the mobile application.

Having a desk job is no longer an excuse to skip training.
Having a desk job is no longer an excuse to skip training.

Memory and Cognitive Improvement mode is designed to improve cognitive function and memory. It requires the trainee to memorize a sequence of colors. The targets must then be engaged in the correct color sequence in order to pass. A hit in an incorrect color is a fail. 

This mode can be run on multiple targets and include stationary and moving targets. The target cycles through three colors with an associated auto prompt and these colors must be remembered in the correct order. The target then illuminates with several colored boxes and each box must be hit in the correct color sequence to pass. This mode works well for cover and concealment training when using barriers. 

Decision Making and Crowd Control mode is designed to assess trainees’ abilities in shoot/don’t shoot scenarios. It provides numerous targets that change over time and must be assessed by the trainee not only by the color but minor differentiating features to determine if they are hostile, friendly, or neutral, and engaged accordingly. 

The targets can be set to update randomly or change in response to feedback from trainees in order to create a realistic crowd environment and increase trainees’ ability to assess evolving situations with multiple targets. Hits on hostile, friendly, and neutral are recorded. The method of completing training mode can be user-set (e.g., end on friendly hit, end on hostile hits). 

Shot Indicator and Heat Map mode is designed to give real-time feedback of shot placement and group size. Tar- gets can be configured to give a visual prompt indicating threat, non-threat, or no visual prompt prior to engaging the target. 

A hit on the target displays where the shot would have impacted. Visual feedback can be in real-time or after action at the users discretion. Heat Map mode shows shot placement and frequency of heats with colors: light blue = 1 shot, red = 5+ shots.

Using ATLAS-08, room-clearing training can be done without risk of injury.
Using ATLAS-08, room-clearing training can be done without risk of injury.

Mozambique Drill mode is designed to practice placing multiple shots on multiple targets. The Mozambique Drill, also known as the Failure Drill, Failure to Stop Drill, the “Djibouti Shooty,” or informally, “two to the chest, one to the head,” is a close-quarters shooting technique. 

In this mode, the ATLAS-08 displays a number from 1 to 5 and must be hit that number of times as quickly as possible. To add a level of uncertainty, targets can also be set to display a shape and conceal the number of hits required from the trainee. They visually and/or audibly alert the trainee that the target was struck the correct number of times. 

Multiple trainers can be deployed and set to require the trainee to engage them in a specific pattern, randomly, or at their discretion. A hit on the target generates audible and/ or visual feedback to alert that it was struck once the target has been engaged the correct number of times, depending on how the training is configured. 

SE SIRT TIMING CHIP 

Salted Earth offers an SE SIRT Timing Chip, a drop-in modification for any Next Level Training SIRT-brand training pistol or AR bolt that converts the laser to a pulsed output. SIRT is a great dry-fire training tool, but users have a tendency to “slap” the trigger in order to give the dry- fire target the short pulse it is ex- pecting (the ATLAS-08 won’t let you cheat by sweeping the target with a laser, in case you were wondering). 

This in turn often leads to bad trigger habits. The SIRT Timing Chip corrects this. 

SUMMARY 

The ATLAS-08 is an outstanding training system and definitely a heck of a lot of fun. It’s easy to use and exceptionally versatile. At $649.99, it’s not inexpensive but will pay for itself after 2,500 rounds or less. And given the training possibilities it provides, it really is a no-brainer. All Salted Earth products are engineered and manufactured in the USA. The SE SIRT Timing Chip is priced at $29.95. Pricing had not been set on the other ATLAS-08 accessories at the time of this writing. 

The author would like to thank C2 Tactical for the use of its facilities for the article. 

Eugene Nielsen’s background includes protective intelligence/ investigations and threat management, as well as red team- ing/security consulting. He is a Licensed Private Investigator in both California and Arizona. 

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