Laser-training tools for shooters have been around for more than a decade now, and run the gamut from expensive, dedicated pistols designed for serious practice and training to inexpensive toy-like products built more for fun than meaningful skill building. Fitting in the middle of that spectrum is the Strikeman Laser Training System.
The Strikeman consists of a paper target, a target stand, a tripod with a head designed to hold most smartphones, a laser “cartridge” (available in .380 ACP, 9 mm, .40 S&W, .45 ACP, .38 Spl., .357 SIG and .223 Rem./5.56 NATO) that manually inserts into your firearm’s chamber (meaning you need to drop it into the chamber yourself, not feed it from a magazine) and, most significantly, a free app for your phone.
The target, stand, tripod and laser round all set up easily, and the video instructions on the app are quite helpful both for setup and for using the system. Basically, all you need for everything to work is an indoor space with at least 3-ish feet of uninterrupted space between the phone (mounted in the tripod) and the target.
That space is necessary, because the app uses your phone’s camera in video mode to track each shot and tell you where they hit. It can set up your session to run for a determined number of shots or a set time, and you can shoot the target from any distance from right behind the phone out to 100 yards, allegedly. I was able to test the laser from close-in out to about 25 yards, but the 100-yard range test of a laser training system eluded me. Since that is most likely outdoors, you’d need to place the phone and target under some kind of cover or shade, because sunlight interferes with the laser and/or the camera’s ability to pick up the laser “impacts” on the paper target.
In that testing, the system worked well. It recorded about 80 percent of the shots “fired” from my Springfield Armory Hellcat at about 6 feet, with that percentage increasing as I moved back to the point where every shot was recorded from 5 yards and farther. The app keeps a history of your training with graphs showing your speed and the location of your hits, all of which can help diagnose problems with your grip, sight alignment, etc., that you can then work to correct, all without firing a single round of precious ammunition.
The app does not let you start a training session without answering a safety questionnaire to ensure you are in the proper mindset for dry training. This includes ensuring there is no live ammunition in your gun, in your magazine or in the room in which you are training. While the app obviously can’t check that for you, the reminder is a smart thing to include to prompt you to check safety before even thinking about pulling the trigger.
There are, however, some downsides to the system. Like most (nearly all) laser-training systems that utilize a laser cartridge inserted into a real firearm, they work best in double-action guns. Any firearm that doesn’t automatically reset the trigger after each pull will require you to re-cock it via racking the slide, cocking the hammer or pulling the charging handle. This takes some of the training utility away, because you will not be dealing with recoil or the concussion of an actual round being fired.
That said, having to rack the slide on a striker-fried handgun, for example, will force you to reacquire your sight picture, as does recoil, but in a manner unlike that encountered when firing real ammunition. That process also means that the timing features of the app are not all that useful for comparison with anything other than shooting the Strikeman system, since you wouldn’t be constantly manually racking the slide on the range.
Another problem with the system, albeit a small one, is the fact that the Strikeman laser cartridge is rimless, so it won’t extract from the chamber the way a live round would. That’s necessary, obviously, since you have to rack the slide in order to fire more than one shot and you don’t want to have to reinsert the cartridge after every trigger pull, but it does mean that you’ll need a pencil or some sort of tool to grab the round when you’re done with your training session. Again, a minor complaint, but something to be aware of.
Those concerns aside, the Strikeman is a great way to train when ammo is scarce or you simply can’t get to the range. As the company grows, I expect they will expand the app’s functionality, too. It’s excellent as it is, but I’m sure there are various updates that could make it even better, like adding a way to compete with friends anywhere in the world or share your results with an instructor who could then help you improve your shooting.
According to the company, deliveries will start at the end of April, 2021, and it is accepting pre-orders via its website. At an MSRP of $99, the Strikeman system is well worth a try.