main story image for facebook sharing

Around The Fleet

Easing Into Weapons

The guns may be a simulation, but the effects are very real

At Recruit Training Command (RTC), Sailors are learning a skill that can potentially save not only their life but many other lives as well. That skill is learning how to aim and fire a gun. While it's hopeful that they will never have to use it, it's also a terrifying reality being in the military.

Someday, these fresh recruits might have to shoot a gun at a real person in order to protect the ship and everyone inside it. It comes with the job. And there is no way to know when or where it will happen.

But just simply handing a recruit, with no training, a loaded gun could carry disastrous results. Not to mention being very intimidating to someone who has never touched a gun before.

That's why, to help recruits prepare for the real deal, RTC has an air compressed gun simulator. Giving recruits the look and feel of a real gun without having to worry as much about their safety or everyone else's.
Two photo spread showing Sailors shooting and computerized target screen.

Sailors at Recruit Training Command (RTC) participate in gun simulation training.


"I think it's 74 percent of the recruits who come through here have never even touched a weapon before," said Machinist's Mate 1st Class Daniel Packer, a weapon's simulator instructor at RTC. "There's a lot more chance to instruct and teach and educate them about not just the safety of shooting, but how to do it properly,"

The guns operate by using air compression to give a realistic feel of what happens when a real gun fires, giving the gun a kick back, helping recruits learn how a gun can contort when fired.

Attached to the front of the hand guns is a laser that hits an electronic target and shows up on a digital screen behind the recruits, showing them, and instructors, exactly where the recruit's shots are hitting.

The instructors can have approximately 360 recruits a day, according to Packer, so the instructors have their process of training the recruits down to a science.
This is a two photo spread of an air gun sitting in a holster and Sailors showing recruit how to aim.

Air gun standing idle in holster and Sailors learning from instructors Recruit Training Command (RTC).


The simulator starts with recruits getting instructions on what to shoot while being untimed. Bit by bit the instructors up the challenge until recruits are shooting the same course as the live fire.

By having recruits use the simulator first, instructors are able to make sure that recruits are handling weapons safely and correctly before they move on to shooting live ammunition.

"Our instructors actually care," said Aviation Ordnanceman 1st Class Daniel Heinlein, a weapon's simulator instructor at RTC. "We're not here to just hurry up, get the recruits out. We actually care how they do."

Sometimes, duty may call for a watch stander to fire their weapon. Knowing how to use a gun properly can mean the difference between life and death.
Shot line graphic

Shot line graphic