I’ve had the Salted Earth Atlas 8 target systems for a little over a month now. I have two units, but this review will be solely on the Atlas-08. For picture references, it will be the black unit, with a multitude of buttons. The gray model is more or less a prototype and wouldn’t be fair to review completely.
The Atlas 8 – It’s what you make it
One thing with these laser training systems is that the more creative you are the better. Dry fire practice is certainly a solid method to build your skills without live ammunition. Let’s face it, it can get boring. A laser training system certainly makes this a more entertaining enterprise, that provides immediate feedback. These systems also allow you to be a little more creative when it comes to training.
The Atlas 8 does an excellent job of providing a base of entertainment with skill building. Dry fire, and firearms training, in general, is a lot like working out. If all you do is one type of dry fire you are going to hit a plateau and you’ll only be maintaining and not gaining. With this system, you move from practicing basic trigger control and sight alignment into speed based, and stress induced drills.
Here is a short video I made when I began training with the system,
Here’s a Few things the Atlas 8 can help you hone.
Drawing and Reloading
Drawing and firing a gun is easy, anyone can do it fast. What a lot of people fail to do is draw fast, and hit accurately. This system has a timed reaction mode that allows you to improve you draw speed and hit a small target accurately.
The same can be said for reloading drills. The specific reloading drill will time you after an alarm goes off. The SIRT has a removable magazine and Glock mags fit in the SIRT. However, you can’t cycle the slide. Using my own handgun with a Laser Ammo cartridge does allow for reload drills a little more efficiently.
This is one of the cooler settings for doing so basic accuracy training. The Atlas 8 displays a red target on the trainer. Simply shoot the target. The target will get smaller in size for every successful hit. To get the most out of this target system you should place it as far from you as possible. This will really exemplify the need for proper sight alignment and trigger control.
With new shooters, it’s great because they learn sight alignment and trigger control in a 100% safe manner. No gunfire, no ear muffs, just me teaching and observing. I can also walk around them to better observe issues they may be having with trigger control, proper grip, breathing, and it’s easier to diagnose flinching or sympathetic hand movement.
The Heat map system is also great for new shooters. It’s basically a free form mode that changes colors as you shoot the target. It can be used to practice making smaller groups, and really stressing basic accuracy. For new shooters in my basic pistol class it was great because as long as they hit the target they were happy. There was no induced bullseye stress when using Heat Map.
Accuracy and Mental Flexibility
The memory based mode gives you four different colored lights that will flash in a random pattern. Your job is to remember the pattern and shoot the same pattern on the multi-colored squares. The faster you go the faster the system will go. This one is actually a lot of fun. I had friends over one night and we made it a game to see who could go the longest. It’s also great when playing with a crowd for disengaging distractions and focusing mentally on a task.
Since I found it fun I found it an excellent way to train new shooters. I teach basic pistol classes and this target system has been a hit with new shooters.(More on that later.) However, this mode is fun, but requires basic marksmanship skills. New shooters hardly know they’re training, and when they ‘fail’ it’s in good fun and not in frustration.
No Shoot – Shoot
The Salted Earth Atlas 8 system is designed to be used with multiple targets to create a laser shoot house nearly anywhere. One single target isn’t too challenging with shoot and no shoot situations. What it does do is keep you from settling into a pattern and does make you think before you take every shot.
Placed in a room with several of these targets it would represent how apparent good guys can become bad guys. It’s great for reaction and drawing drills.
This multi-setting has two different modes. The first displays a number and then you shoot the target that many times. The number is random, and the system doesn’t follow a pattern. That’s great, but the second multi mode is a better training device. It does an audible ding and then you shoot the target until it stops. It could be one shot or 9 shots, you don’t know. A lot of training revolves around placing a set number of shots on a target. This randomized system teaches shooters to shoot til it’s over. It may take two rounds or it may take five rounds.
One method for advanced training I experimented with was force on force training. I had a good friend over and we were going over the system and were brainstorming different methods that could be used. At the same time, I’ve been reviewing the Blue Force Gear Plateminus plate carrier.
The words “It’s like Laser tag” were said, and we got the idea to strap it to the plate carrier. How? We knew Velcro would work, but I didn’t have any and wasn’t going to town. (A 40 min round trip yay rural living) The Atlas 8 has a camera tripod adapter point and I had a flexible leg tripod.
It was a five cent solution with about five minutes to rig up. Attach bipod, run flexible legs through webbing, and profit. It’s rough and a MOLLE adapter or some velcro would also work. My friend donned the vest, took a training knife and we squared off.
We started at random distances. We set the Atlas 8 trainer to multi, with a random number of shots needed. My friend then charged at me with the knife, and I would have to draw and fire. (The SIRT pistols or course.)
This was not only fun and exciting, but it’s excellent training for combat scenarios. You have to hit a small ‘kill’ point on a moving target. Placing the kill point on the chest creates a realistic area to effectively stop an attacker.
Here’s just a short vid on how it all functioned.
This was something we created and practiced in under an hour. With more than one of these systems, and more SIRT guns you could create dynamic training scenarios.
There is one downside I discovered that bears mentioning. The system does not work well in the direct sunlight of Florida. I moved into the shade of my barn and it worked perfectly. In direct sunlight the system would not register hits.
The battery in the system seems to work pretty well. Atlas says the battery will last over 8 hours. I didn’t do an exact time, but I used the system for roughly 20 to 30 minutes at a time. The battery seemed to last right around 10 hours. Battery releases will probably vary by brightness level. Speaking of which the system can get very, very bright, and even when we took it outside it was bright enough to see.
There are multiple mounting option for the system including, magnetic, a bipod mounting system, and simply setting it down on its square body. The body is ruggedized for taking falls and bumps.
Price – Atlas 8 Tier 2 Kit – $999
Where can you get it? http://www.thesaltedearth.com/
The Atlas 8 system itself would be excellent for a Law Enforcement, military, and civilian firearm instructors.