Although we spend a good deal of time discussing firearms and ammunition on this site, they wouldn't be all that interesting to own without quality shooting ranges where we can exercise our rights. One company that's often overlooked by the average shooter for its important contribution to the industry is Action Target of Provo, Utah.
Founded in 1986, Action Target started out by providing a pneumatic turning-target system for the Provo Police Department to use for training its officers. Over the years, this company has developed top-grade range technology favored by military and law enforcement around the world.
If you attend SHOT Show, you’ll find that Action Target takes up a section of floor space more like a city block than a booth slot. Today's in-house options from Action Target include a variety of equipment such as portable interactive steel targets, eco-friendly bullet traps and entire training structures like the ALERRT shoot house. A tour of its production facility revealed just how much steel the company processes into range equipment.
As much as we can appreciate the services and facilities that help keep our country's service personnel sharp, most of us will never get to use them. I wanted to learn more about how Action Target is tackling the training needs of John Q. Public. To answer this question, I was invited to company headquarters where I was introduced to the AWD Range System, one of the more advanced options currently installed at commercial indoor ranges.
The AWD, or All Wheel Drive target support (called a target retriever), was just one part of the complete set of furniture at the test range I visited. The shooting stalls, ceiling-mounted rails, noise abatement, bullet trap and ventilation were all selected from Action Target Offerings. These elements all came together to form a professional grade, clean-lined shooting environment that was comfortable and convenient to use.
Traditional square ranges, which wheel paper targets back and forth, are useful for developing important marksmanship skills such as forming a sight picture, trigger press and reloading. Paper targets also have the advantage of being fairly inexpensive. However, back-and-forth targets don't offer much more than that. Even the most devoted shooting enthusiast can, at times, find traditional square ranges to be a little tedious.
The AWD system employs the rail-mounted target retriever paired with a programmable, wireless touch-screen control pad. The retriever is fast, smooth and quiet, traveling at up to four yards per second. It's also accurate, consistently stopping along the rail within 0.5" of its programmed position. The retriever's paper-target clamp is motorized to rotate 360 degrees. This allows it to display the front, back and side edge of the target toward the shooter and present a variety of shoot/don’t shoot configurations as the target changes locations.
What makes the AWD system such an interesting and useful update to square-range shooting is software programmed into the wireless touch control. To keep folks engaged, it's preloaded with more than two dozen different games and drills developed by professional instructors. Beginner, intermediate and advanced formats are available for pistols and rifles. The Pistol Qualification Drills can be used by civilians or law enforcement to practice using standardized qualification scenarios. The personal-defense programs provide self-guided training with charging, reload and decision-making drills, while the game programs keep things interesting.
One of the system's programmed behaviors that was refreshing and challenging to work with is called a “tease” function. There are times that when the target is turned edgewise, it will twitch as if it’s about to turn, but then it doesn't. In other words, it tries to fake you out once in a while! If you're too quick on the trigger you'll send a round hurdling downrange into empty space.
The AWD's programmable controls and the option to use a wide variety of different paper targets make the system one of the most flexible indoor shooting experiences available. Using a duty-size Smith & Wesson M&P 9 mm pistol provided by the staff, I started off with a basic shoot/don't shoot drill with the target stopping, turning to face me and then moving further away for the next series of shots. Simple exercises are a great place to start for the beginner or to get warmed up.
Then we switched over to an intermediate skills drill using a target with much smaller round strike zones. The target's face times were much shorter, varied in length, and the target would tease me from time to time. This was much more challenging. For those ranges that choose to add it, the system includes advanced lighting features. Choose from a constant on “daylight” white light, or low-light situations that include simulated muzzle flashes or police-car strobe lights.
The shooting session wrapped up with self-defense scenarios, which can provide a real eye-opening experience. Unlike most ranges, where the targets usually rest a good ways out, the AWD can be programmed to drive a paper target straight toward the shooter at high speed to simulate the charge of an assailant. In my case, we used an image of an attacker wielding a knife. I caught myself “rubber necking” with this target a couple of times.
When drivers become focused on an accident at the side of the road, their hands will turn the steering wheel toward that spot, causing the car to drift out of its lane. As the target charged me from several yards away, I had a few shots drift from center to the left side of the target as it rushed up to me. That’s where the knife was, over on the left side. As the threat drew closer, I let my attention drift from center mass to the knife. As a result, the shot placement followed. Details like these can only be learned through personal experience.
The Action Target AWD system has been installed at commercial shooting ranges all around the country. Just follow this link and use the map at the bottom of the page to locate a facility near you. And as long as you're on the site, take a few minutes to look over the top-notch selection of portable steel targets the company offers as well.