Why Use a Virtual Range for Firearms Training? Home / Virtual Range vs. Live

Why Use a Virtual Range for Pistol Training?

Live-fire ranges will always have a place. There's no other way to get 100% recoil and test your grip technique.

But most live-fire ranges don't let you test shooting skills found in every real gunfight:

Live Fire
Virtual Range
Recoil 100% 66%*
Basic Target Shooting
Moving Targets
Draw from a Holster
Fire over 1 Shot per Second
Shooting on the Move
Cover & Concealment Drills
360º Drills
Seated Drills
Video Scenarios
Scenarios w/ Actors
Safe Environment
Lead Exposure
Risk of Hearing Loss
Risk of Hot Brass

*With Coolfire Trainer System
You can train many skills in live fire at a range with a "tactical bay". The catch? You'll have to pay more or wait in line. One tactical bay can fit 5-10 lanes of traditional shooting practice.

Do Virtual Ranges Build Real Shooting Skill?

Virtual ranges and other simulators have been used by the US military for years:

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  • Marines , , , , , ,
  • Navy , , ,
  • Air Force
  • National Guard ,

Police departments across the US use virtual ranges. That includes Georgetown and Cedar Park.

But what about civilians? Let's see:

When used the right way, virtual ranges carry over 95% of your skills to live fire.

Most virtual ranges have problems with recoil and training content. But those can be solved.

Recoil and Grip

You must grip the gun the same way you do in live practice as you do in a virtual range. Otherwise you'll have problems with real recoil. How do we get there?

You first need to know the principles of good grip technique.

Then you need to do grip tests in dry practice until you're sure you're applying those principles. You can then test your grip in virtual practice (with the right gear) to find any major issues.

That will get your grip about 90% of the way. You'll still have to do live fire to check that your grip is right under full recoil.

You'll then use your live fire grip in dry and virtual practice. Doing dry grip tests helps keep your grip refreshed. Getting recoil in virtual practice teaches skills you can't in dry practice.

Most training pistols at virtual ranges give just 10-20% of 9mm recoil.

The only one that gives enough for training value is Coolfire Trainer. With the right setup, it gives at least ⅔ of 9mm recoil. That's enough to show you most problems with your grip, and to show tension issues in rapid fire.

Training Content

Courses of Fire

Virtual ranges that focus on entertainment can build confidence. But if you want skill, the targets, scoring, stage setup, etc. all need to be just like what you would do in live fire.

So if you had a shooting qualification to train for, the virtual range needs to copy that. It must also train all the basic skills that lead up to it.

Virtual Scenarios

Some trainers offer scenario-based training. Live actors take on roles like bystanders, robbers, and police. When done right, this is an awesome training capstone where you get to put all your skills and tactics to the test.

Virtual scenarios are events preprogrammed into the virtual range, much like live scenarios. Recorded actors present a convenience store robbery, home invasion, carjacking, etc. They look realistic, but the content must also be realistic.

There are thousands of videos of real use-of-force events online. A live or virtual scenario may not be realistic if your instructor can't point to videos of real events like it. In a defensive course, you should see many real videos before any live or virtual scenarios.

What about our FBI Transformation course? You'll see and discuss over 50 real events before any live or virtual scenarios.


  1. New virtual trainer improves marksmanship skills (2019)
  2. Squad tactics tested on new virtual marksmanship trainer (2019)
  3. Digital marksmanship training enhancing readiness and saving money (2016)
  4. Virtual trainer saves time, money, increases skills (2013)
  5. U.S. Army Engagement Skills Trainer - Virtual Simulator (2013)
  6. Bringing the Virtual World into Reality (2023)
  7. Integrating the Live and Virtual Environments for Development and Training (2022)
  8. VIDEO: Navy Expanding Use of Virtual Trainers for Surface Ship Crews (2020)
  9. Warfighter Performance (2017)
  10. EVERY MARINE A RIFLEMAN! Indoor Simulated Marksmanship Trainer (ISMT) utilized aboard Camp Pendleton (2022)
  11. New simulation tech heading to 5 Marine bases by 2025 (2022)
  13. Marines Virtual Shoots (2020)
  14. Combat Center’s Battle Simulation Center: virtual training for the Corps (2017)
  15. Marine Corps’ next-generation virtual marksmanship trainers hit the fleet (2017)
  16. Marines take on virtual battlefield to sustain real-world combat skills (2008)
  18. Learn Marksmanship Skills in the National Guard (2019)
  19. Air Force Aims for Common Virtual Training Environment (2022)
  20. SASP Title with Holdon Perez (2022)
  21. Laser Shot Success Story (2022)
  22. Virtual World to Real World (Firearm Simulator Applicability) (2022)
  23. Point Blank Simulator vs Smokeless Range (Review / Overview) (2021)
  24. Georgetown Police Dept. uses virtual simulator to train officers for real-life 911 calls (2021)
  25. Georgetown Police use simulator for ‘real-life’ training (2020)
  26. PHOTOS: Cedar Park police simulator on May 2 (2017)
  27. CoolFire/Walther evaluation day (August 4 2018) AAR (2018)