Simunition – Realistic Training

What is Simunition?

Simunition is a specific type of training, usually used for training military and police. Humans, understandably, become incredibly stressed during firefight and live gunfire situations. Thus, practicing in the realest conditions possible will help people be more effective when in true combat. This form of training underwent prototyping and testing beginning in the 1980s. Originally, it was only intended for members of the U.S. military, but the user base has expanded significantly. Usually, Simunition rounds are used in guns like those used in the armed forces or law enforcement. Unlike other forms of combat training, Simunition bullets can be used in real guns, not oddly shaped training weapons. These rounds are either effective at much shorter ranges or made from rubber. Thus, they are still incredibly painful, but won’t cause death upon impact.

A Simunition marking cartridge as compared to an actual 9mm cartridge.
A Simunition marking cartridge as compared to an actual 9mm cartridge.

Who Uses Simunition for Realistic Training?

The biggest group that uses Simunition training is the U.S. military. This method of training is incredibly high stress, but it helps troops perform significantly better in the field. After the efficacy of Simunition training was proven, cities with large law enforcement contingents also adopted this training method. Recently, civilians have been permitted to take part in Simunition training after passing a safety course.

Loading Simunition marking cartridges into the magazine for a converted weapon.  Also visible is the converted weapon.
A security forces specialist from the 193rd Special Operations Security Forces Squadron, Pennsylvania Air National Guard, loads Simunition rounds into a magazine during armed vehicle defense training July 26, 2018 in Annville, Pennsylvania. The 193rd SOSFS Airmen utilized Simunition rounds to conduct realistic force-on-force scenarios meant to simulate engaging a threat by shooting from inside or around a vehicle. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Tony Harp/Released)

For military and law enforcement users, common scenarios are set up with Simunition equipment. For military participants, these scenarios are usually responding to enemy combatants in fake urban environments or dealing with anti-vehicle mines or ambushes. For law enforcement participants, the common scenarios may be dealing with simulated gang violence or robbery situations. Both groups practice with simulated terrorism situations. Some members of the department will pose as innocent civilians that need to make it through the simulation alive. This helps train the participants not to shoot at every sign of movement.

What are the Benefits of Realistic Training with Simunition?

As stated previously, Simunition training helps those participating control their fear response. This means that if they are in a scenario with live ammo, they should be able to respond calmly. The theory behind Simunition training is that by practicing combat skills in the most realistic situation possible, respondents can become better suited to these scenarios. According to law enforcement and military data, Simunition training has been largely successful in this aspect.

Simunition gear being used for small team tactics training.
U.S. Airmen with the 139th Security Forces Squadron, Missouri Air National Guard, conduct small team tactics training at an abandoned elementary school, in St. Joseph, Mo., June 2, 2018. The training utilizes simunition rounds, which are paint-based rounds that provide a realistic training environment. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Patrick Evenson)

Regular firearms can be converted to Simunition weapons easily and the process is reversible. Once a gun is converted, it will not be able to chamber or fire a standard bullet. This is a critical safety feature. Simunition bullets have a colored solution inside that washes off clothing easily. Instructors can order different colors of bullet, allowing them to evaluate the marksmanship of individuals by assigning them a color. There are Simunition blanks, too, that are significantly safer than regular blanks. The blank conversion makes it impossible for the gun to fire a regular blank or bullet.

While it may not seem like a benefit at first glance, Simunition bullets are painful. With other forms of combat training, the projectiles don’t hurt enough for users to fear getting hit. Thus, some participants may not take the instruction as seriously as they should, because there is no true risk. Simunition has a greater risk and pain factor, which drastically increases the realness.

Gear Required for Simunition Training

Most standard military and law enforcement firearms can be temporarily converted to Simunition weapons. This is great because training with the weapon that will be used in the field is ideal. In addition to a weapon, there are three necessary pieces of gear for Simunition training. Eye and head protection are required during all Simunition simulations because these areas are susceptible to injury. Groin protection is also required, regardless of the sex of the participant.

ANG EOD units participate in training exercise [Image 24 of 24], by TSgt Mary Greenwoo
An Explosive Ordinance Disposal Airman with the Air National Guard defends their home base against opposing forces June 28, 2018, during a simulated warfare scenario as part of the Audacious Warrior exercise at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin. The Audacious Warrior excercise allows Airmen to hone their skills in simulated real-life scenarios. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Mary E. Greenwood)

Beyond the required equipment, there are several optional pieces that users may choose to wear. For participants that are training for military or law enforcement applications, their traditional uniform or gear is worn. Simunition suppliers make armor pieces for the arms, legs and chest which can be worn during training, should users choose to wear them. These pieces are more commonly used during civilian exercises.

Photo by Tech. Sgt. Mary Greenwood
An Explosive Ordinance Disposal Airman with the Air National Guard advances toward opposing forces using a wooden chair to steady his weapon June 28, 2018, during a simulated warfare scenario as part of the Audacious Warrior exercise at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin. The Audacious Warrior excercise allows Airmen to hone their skills in simulated real-life scenarios. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Mary E. Greenwood)

There are also special safety magazines that only allow the loading of simunition rounds.

Further, they are translucent so that a quick visual check can be made at any time.

This unique design prevents standard live ammunition from being loaded, and reduces accidental injury.

Lancer’s new L5 Safety/Training Magazines are specifically optimized for use with non-lethal ammunition and marker rounds. Their unique design prevents standard live ammunition from being loaded into the magazine, reducing accidental injury and providing a safer training environment
A Safety Magazine is a translucent magazine that only allows loading of Simunition rounds – so a live round cannot be accidentally loaded.

How is Simunition Better than Paintball?

Simunition has a few key benefits over paintball. Paintball utilizes specialized guns that are incredibly different from actual combat weapons. This difference is critical, as training with a non-standard weapon does not have as much beneficial carryover. Paintballs also don’t hurt like Simunition bullets, which lowers the stakes and therefore, the realness of the exercise. Thus, it is ineffective for training the crisis response and stress response.

Paintball gun and protective gear
Paintball gun and protective gear

How is Simunition Better than Airsoft

Airsoft has a lot of the same pitfalls of paintball. For instance, the lack of pain and the odd weapons that lack realism. Airsoft, moreso than paintball, lacks the pain factor that creates realism in Simunition. Unless hit from incredibly close range or in a sensitive area, airsoft pellets do not hurt at all; there is no risk of pain. Thus, like paintball, lacks the ability to train the crisis response under stress.

Airsoft gun and protective gear
Airsoft gun and protective gear

How does Simunition Compare to the MILES System of Training?

The MILES training, or Multiple Integrated Laser Engagement System, is another type of combat training that is primarily used by the military. Soldiers have a full system of sensors are scattered across the body and helmet. These can detect hits from other lasers. If there are participants acting as medics, these sensors will provide a readout on the location of the hit, so that they can practice first aid.

MILES gear as worn by service members
U.S. and Croatian service members equipped with the multiple integrated laser engagement system (MILES), a green vest with black infrared sensors which beeps to let Soldiers know when they have been hit by the opposing force and either “wounded” or “killed in action.” (U.S. Army photo by Pvt. Laurie Ellen Schubert, 5th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)

While the MILES training method can be useful in some scenarios, it is essentially glorified laser tag. The guns are real weapons that have been modified to shoot an invisible laser. Beyond this, however, there is no noise when fired and no pain upon impact. Thus, it is hard to train soldiers to be calm in situations of high stress. The most expensive MILES apparatuses can provide advanced analytics for each participant but to many, these are not worth the cost.

MILES sensors fitted to helmets
Multiple Integrated Laser Engagement System (MILES) sensors on helmets. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Gary A. Witte, 207th Regional Support Group)

One clear benefit of the MILES system – vehicles (and their weapons) can be simulated as well.

Simunition gear in use for vehicle defense training
Security forces specialists from the 193rd Special Operations Security Forces Squadron, Pennsylvania Air National Guard, conduct a force-on-force drill during armed vehicle defense training July 26, 2018 in Annville, Pennsylvania. During the final day of a three-day armed vehicle defense course, 193rd SOSFS Airmen utilized Simunition rounds to conduct realistic force-on-force scenarios meant to simulate engaging a threat by shooting from inside or around a vehicle. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Tony Harp/Released)

References:

The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.

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