Review: Strikeman Laser Training System
Laser training tools for shooters have been around for over a decade now and run the gamut from expensive, dedicated guns designed for serious practice and training to inexpensive, toy-like products designed more for fun than for the development of meaningful skills. In the middle of this spectrum is the Strikeman Laser Training System.
The Strikeman consists of a paper target, a target stand, a tripod with a head designed to hold most smartphones, a laser “cartridge” (available in .380 ACP, 9mm, .40 S&W, .45 ACP, .38 Spl., .357 SIG and .223 Rem./5.56 NATO) that manually inserts into the chamber of your firearm (meaning you have to drop it in yourself in the bedroom, not powering it from a charger) and, most importantly, a free app for your phone.
The target, stand, tripod, and laser tower are easily set up, and the in-app video instructions are very helpful for both setup and use of the system. Basically all you need to make it all work is an interior space with at least 3 feet of uninterrupted space between the phone (mounted on the tripod) and the target.
This space is necessary because the app uses your phone’s camera in video mode to track each shot and tell you where they hit. It can set your session to last a set number of shots or a set duration, and you can shoot the target at any distance just behind the phone up to 100 meters, allegedly. I was able to test the laser up close at around 25 yards, but the 100 meter range test of a laser trainer eluded me. Since it’s probably outdoors, you need to place the phone and the target under some sort of cover or shade, as sunlight interferes with the laser and/or the camera’s ability to pick up the “impacts” of the laser on the paper target.
During these tests, the system performed well. It registered about 80% of the shots “fired” from my Springfield Armory Hellcat at about 6 feet, with that percentage increasing as I got back to the point where every shot registered at 5+ feet. The app keeps a history of your training with graphs showing your speed and shot placement, all of which can help diagnose issues with grip, sight alignment, etc., which you can then work to correct, all without firing a single valuable ammo.
The app doesn’t let you start a workout without taking a safety quiz to make sure you’re in the right mindset for dry training. This includes making sure there are no live ammunition in your gun, in your magazine, or in the room you are training in. While the app obviously can’t verify this for you, the reminder is a smart thing to include to prompt you to verify security before you even think about pulling the trigger.
There are, however, a few downsides to the system. Like most (almost all) laser training systems that use a laser cartridge inserted into a real firearm, they work best in double action pistols. Any firearm that does not automatically reset the trigger after each shot will require you to re-cock it by depressing the slide, cocking the hammer, or pulling the charging handle. This takes away some of the usefulness of training, as you won’t have to deal with the recoil or concussion of a live round being fired.
That said, having to stow the slide on a striker-fried handgun, for example, will require you to reacquire your sight picture, as will recoil, but in a different way than you encounter when firing real ammo. This process also means that the app’s timing features aren’t very useful for comparison to anything other than the Strikeman system shot, as you wouldn’t be constantly manually dragging the slide across the range. .
Another issue with the system, albeit a minor one, is the fact that the Strikeman laser cartridge is rimless, so it won’t extract from the chamber like a live round would. It’s necessary, obviously, since you have to stow the slide to fire more than one shot and don’t want to have to reinsert the cartridge after every trigger pull, but it does mean you’ll need a pencil or another kind of tool to grab the lap when you’re done with your workout. Again, a minor complaint, but something to be aware of.
Those concerns aside, the Strikeman is a great way to train when ammo is low or you just can’t get in range. As the company grows, I expect it to expand the functionality of the app as well. It’s great as is, but I’m sure there are various updates that could make it even better, like adding a way to compete with friends all over the world or sharing your results with an instructor who could then help you improve your shooting.
According to the company, deliveries will begin at the end of April 2021 and it is accepting pre-orders through its website. At an MSRP of $99, the Strikeman system is well worth a try.