Targets used for shooting purposes haven’t changed all that much since firearms were invented, and frankly could use a bit of freshening up. Sure, we have myriad images to shoot now instead of just old Coke bottles. We even have 3D zombie targets that ooze blood when hit. But the principle hasn’t changed. For the most part, the vast majority of us shoot at static targets with our rifles and handguns. Throughout my almost two-decade career in law enforcement, it has struck me as odd that most of our firearms training for a gunfight does not resemble a gunfight that any of us will ever encounter. The majority of targets are stationary— something rarely seen in an actual gunfight.
In real life, bad guys don’t stand still while they are being shot at. So why do we train on stationary targets instead of more realistic moving targets?
There are many reasons, most operating under the auspices of convenience and economy. Current moving target systems can be complicated and expensive affairs that the typical range or shooting enthusiast cannot afford. However, that may be changing soon.
Over the last few months, I’ve had the privilege of testing and evaluating a new target system called the Targabot, created by Targamite, an American company located in the Hoosier state and founded by Gary Kaufman. It is a self-contained portable unit, able to run on batteries and be set up just about anywhere, indoors or out.
The system itself is a computer-operated mechanism contained within a steel box that can hang on a common post, steel target stand, wall or even a tree. Protruding from the unit is an arm that holds whatever target the user prefers. The computer actuates the arm to move the target in the way that the programmer inputs. The target itself can extend, retract, move in an arc, or disappear in one area and re-emerge in another from behind user-supplied cover.
All movements and time limits are adjustable and fully programmable by the user. The time the target is exposed can be set from “Forever” to “Jerry Miculek Fast.”
JERRY MICULEK NEEDS TWO
I didn’t pick that name at random, although no doubt it’s immediately recognizable to readers of S.W.A.T. I haven’t been the only one testing the Targabot. Jerry Miculek has also been testing the device and has endorsed it for training. Team Miculek will be incorporating the Targabot into his training camps later this year. Explaining Jerry’s performance on two Targabot systems simultaneously during a recent outing is … well, it just has to be seen.
Jerry told me one of the things he likes most about the Targabot is its randomness. With the majority of turning and moving targets currently available, the shooter knows what to expect after a few iterations, which lessens the training value and makes the shooter “a bit lazy,” as Jerry correctly stated.
He is currently using a pair of Targabots spaced as far apart as his peripheral vision allows, in an effort to overcome tunnel vision and quickly acquire and dispatch a target not immediately in front of him. An ambitious undertaking but certainly a goal worth pursuing, both for competition and real-world dangerous encounters.
The first prototypes of the machine were rather heavy and unwieldy. The set-up was also labor intensive. But I recently had the opportunity to test the new production model at Mindset Laboratory’s force-on-force mock town known as Pleasantville.
The Targabot isn’t just for live rounds. It works well for UTM, Simunition, Airsoft, BBs or any other projectile you’d like to shoot at it. We spent a day with Mindset Laboratory’s owner, Shay Van Vlymen, shooting UTMs at the new Targabot model.
The changes made for the production model are extremely welcome. The new machine is relatively light—all components weigh in at just under 20 pounds. The battery life is a generous 6.5 hours and can be recharged in two hours. Additional batteries are available and it can also run on standard AC power.
Setup was simple and we were shooting at it within minutes. It retails for just under $3,000, which while not exactly cheap, does not put it completely outside the realm of possibility for the serious shooter. For about the price of a fully kitted-out AR, one can purchase a training aid to provide years of challenging training.
The production model’s movement is not limited by a computer program. It comes with a remote control that lets the user manually control the movement of the target while the shooter tries to hit it.
The new antenna extends the range of the target out to 1,000 yards, making it an easily controllable moving target for long-range rifle shots, something rarely, if ever, seen on extended rifle ranges. Take a couple of shooters with a competitive nature, add a lot of ammunition and you’ve got a pretty full day, as one tries to out-shoot the other.
When one shoots at a non-predictable moving target, it changes the game immensely. Sure, I’ve broken my share of clays and hit targets running on strings, but those are all predictable movements and basically a question of lead. Targabot gives you unpredicted movement that you must react to—and react quickly.
Problems with shooting fundamentals are exaggerated and immediately recognizable. Slapping the trigger on a static target with no time limit? Good luck hitting a moving target in less than a second. Problems focusing on the front sight? It will be evident the first time you shoot at the Targabot.
The Targabot is a great tool for shooters who want to be more accurate at higher speeds. That’s generally everybody. Whether law enforcement, military, responsible armed citizens preparing to protect their families, or competition shooters interested in improving their game, the Targabot can help. Plus it’s just plain fun to shoot.
In a recent press release, Jerry Miculek stated, “This is the first target system that develops rapid target acquisition skills, which have become a primary focus in the tactical training context.” Targamite calls it the world’s first portable computer-controlled robotic target.
Robotic target? This is technology at its finest, offering the potential to make us all better gunfighters.