E7 Smart Firearm Training

Mike Farrell is the President of Smart Firearms Training Devices. He is also a seasoned entrepreneur, as well as a professional Airline Pilot. After taking up shooting, Mike found his new passion. Mike enjoyed shooting so much that he eventually became a Firearms Instructor. Mike founded Smart Firearms after being dismayed at the poor quality of training guns available. After making his first sale in 2013, Smart Firearms has grown rapidly, more than doubling sales every year. Smart Firearms Training Guns are now found in some of the finest agencies, academies, and companies across the country, and the world. Mike has been a volunteer sworn Law Enforcement Officer since 2005, along with still being firearms instructor.

Why is it important to train with replica weapons?
What are the most common mistakes you see people make that lead to gun related accidents?
What are some of the latest innovations or products you have coming from Smart Firearms?

The Arizona Republic 15 Feb 2017 BY: JENNA MILLER
Help for police: Smart Firearms, a Tempe-based company, designs and manufactures police training weapons that are growing in popularity.  The goal is to cut down on accidental firings.

Kevin McCullar (left) and Tyler Pappas use Smart Firearms training weapons in a
“clear the room” drill at Chandler Gilbert Community College.

 

When under stress, people react in predictable ways. Pulses rise. Adrenaline spikes. And, fists clench.
It’s that last response that concerns Mike Farrell and is the reason why four years ago he created a new product with safety in mind.  Farrell is the founder of Smart Firearms, a Tempe-based company that designs and manufactures police training weapons. These training weapons are growing in popularity, with 300 weapons sold in just January of this year, already more than half the total sales last year.  Costing between $150 and $400, Smart Firearms are used in many of the police training programs in Phoenix, from college law enforcement programs to the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Department.  The goal is to cut down on accidental firings, a harmful and costly problem in police departments. Accidental firings can occur when an officer’s hand accidently clenches with their finger on the trigger, either due to stress or sympathetic reflex. The latter is a natural tendency for both hands to do the same thing. If an officer makes a fist or grabs an offender with one hand, the other hand will want to close as well.  The simple solution is to train officers to keep their fingers along the side of the gun until they are ready to shoot. But it’s not as easy as it sounds.
“From the time you were five years old and you looked up at a James Bond poster, or anything like that, where does everyone have their finger on a firearm?” explained Farrell. “It’s never where it should be, it’s always right on the trigger.”  So Smart Firearms react with a beeping sound when the user rests his or her finger on the trigger without the intention to shoot. This is a sharp and immediate notice to trainee and supervisor that something is wrong.
Like many products, Smart Firearms was born out of a gap in the marketplace. Officers practiced beginning gun-handling using hard plastic molded into the general shape of a gun. Many still train this way, but it isn’t very precise. And John Terpay, Director of Chandler Gilbert Community College Law Enforcement Academy, says it doesn’t teach important gun-handling habits.
“What you do in the real world is what you’ve done based on the training,” said Terpay, who uses 30 Smart Firearms in his training program with each class of recruits. “It doesn’t make sense for us to have molded guns . … It’s unrealistic.”
Maricopa Sheriff’s Department deputies Rod Jackson and Jeff Hall believe that molded plastic guns have a place in training. They are cheap and can take a lot of daily abuse.
However, in combination with these plastic models they use Smart Firearms, as well as other training devices. They say the department is focusing on more than just how well recruits can hit the target.
“The thing always discussed when you think of firearms is, ‘how well can I shoot?’” Jackson said. “Our philosophy here at the Sheriff’s Office is that the mind-set, the gun-handling skills and the marksmanship all carry the same weight.”
Learning police department needs was imperative as Farrell began his new business. Without a background in gun manufacturing, he relied on feedback from customers.
“What we found is from a manufacturing point of view you really don’t need a whole lot of expertise in the field to do well,” Farrell said. “You really just need to figure out a way to get them to tell you their problems.”
Smart Firearm’s first big break was getting a contract with the New York Police Department. Farrell said the guns were so new, he worried they weren’t up for the task. But the NYPD loved the idea, and had plenty of suggestions to make it better.

The stories below are presented not to point out any individual officers or departments. The fact is we all know someone who has been involved in a negligent discharge. You will read of rookies and veteran SWAT Officers, military recruits and Special Forces. The circumstances are varied but the last crucial link in the chain of all these events was an unwanted trigger pull.

 

PHOENIX (KPHO/KTVK) –
Police departments throughout the country are using a unique training tool that was invented by a Tempe man. He calls it the Smart Firearm. “It’s extremely important that our weapons are molded exactly like the live weapons,” Mike Farrell, president of Smart Firearms Training Devices, explained He created the training weapon, which looks and feels comparable to a real gun, for law enforcement after seeing a need for a better tool. “What we do is have a weapon with a sensor suite built into that trigger guard, so people are forced to keep their finger indexed along the side of the weapon until they’re ready to discharge that weapon,” Farrell said. Those sensors provide immediate feedback. If a cadet moves his or her finger off the frame of the gun and onto the trigger before he or she is ready to fire, an alarm sounds signaling that a correction is needed. The idea, Farrell says, is to build proper muscle memory. “So, when they transition to live weapons, they’re basically good to go; they’re a safe shooter at that time,” said Farrell, himself a firearms instructor. The smart gun is a huge improvement over the other simulated guns that police academies have used or still use. Those guns are simply plastic molded into the shape of a firearm, but there are no trigger and no sound effects. In fact, in various training scenarios, when cadets want to simulate firing, they have to make their own sound effect, saying, “Bang, bang,” something Farrell calls shocking. “This is real training, 21st century, happening at police departments all over America,” he said. He firmly believes poor training tools contribute to accidental shootings by officers. “If we count just law enforcement, we’re looking at two accidents a day, and a lot of it goes back to the plastic training weapons that are being used in most training institutions, civilian and law enforcement that don’t do anything,” Farrell said his company is looking to change that. Farrell’s training guns, each of which has a movable trigger, removable magazine, warning sensor and laser, are being used by nearly 100 departments across the country and locally, too. Instructors at Chandler-Gilbert Community College’s Law Enforcement Training Academy were among Farrell’s first customers. “It’s very nice having this tool,” Lt. Mike Bellows, a class supervisor, said. Bellows, who in addition to teaching at the academy works at the Mesa Police Department, says not only does it reinforce proper training for cadets but it also helps instructors be more effective. “In a place where I can’t get a good eye on what my recruit is doing, this gives me that immediate response on whether he’s doing his job or not,” Bellows explained. Smart Firearms is still a young company, but Farrell, who has been a volunteer law enforcement officer since 2005, says he and his team have already seen an impact at departments that use the smart gun. “I use Smart Firearm weapons in my concealed carry class,” NRA instructor Julianna Crowder said in a testimonial on Smart Firearms’ website. “I start every class by laying the training pistols and wait to hear the alarm go off. From there it is a great transition into a discussion on the importance of trigger finger discipline.” That “‘trigger finger discipline” is exactly what Farrell created the Smart Firearm to teach. “On our count, based on what we’ve tracked, we’ve probably averted over 600 accidental discharges everywhere in the country with law enforcement,” he said. Smart Firearms also is constantly improving the gun, too. Farrell says that’s due largely to feedback provided by top-notch department instructors. With their input, Smart Firearms is on its third generation of the training gun.

Old-School Red Guns / Blue Guns Are Failing Law Enforcement
Smart Firearms Training is the Modern Answer

Defensive Tactics Training – A revolutionary change in 40 years
It’s a scientific fact. We lose our ability to perform fine motor skills when our heart rate skyrockets. The recognition of this fact has driven a revolutionary change in defensive tactics training over the past 40 years. Police academies and in-service classes once taught martial arts and hard-to-replicate moves that, while they may have worked in the class or in the mat room, just didn’t hold up will when transferred to a real-world situation that might include a perpetrator who rudely refuses to cooperate, a suspect’s pit-bull attached to an officer’s leg, or a rush of adrenaline that results from the very real fear of getting hurt or killed.  Academies now provide officers with the tools they need to respond quickly in any situation – techniques that work in a variety of situations and are easily repeatable by the average officer who goes home to a family and not to a dojo.
We Haven’t Come Far Enough
These changes were dramatic, overdue, and have likely been life-saving. However, we just haven’t come far enough. We now know even more about how our bodies and minds respond under extreme stress and we owe our officers the tools and training that fully utilize this knowledge. However, if you walk into many training schools and police academies today, you will see the plastic inert blue / red guns that have been around for the past 40 years. They are designed to replicate the feel of an actual firearm – and they are the root cause of the majority of accidental discharges in law enforcement today.
Everything We’ve Been Taught Is Wrong
One of the basic rules of firearms handling is to keep your finger out the trigger guard until you acquire a target and decide to fire. With the old red guns / blue guns still used in many training classes today, and without the benefit of a one-to-one instructor/student ratio, there is no way to ensure that this rule is followed. And in fact, everything we have all been taught up until we enter the training room conditions us to keep our finger on the trigger – James Bond is doing it in every poster, Special Forces Operators are depicted as always ready to shoot. All of this deep cultural conditioning needs to be unlearned for the real world. But unlearning doesn’t come easily. The law of primacy dictates that what we learn first is what we retain best, and we revert to it in times of duress and high heart rate.
Unlearning Isn’t Easy
Most trainers agree that repetition is the only way to unlearn these behaviors. But it normally takes more “reps” to fix a bad behavior than a training course has time to administer. With a normal 15/1 student / instructor ratio, the task of identifying these behaviors during drills is nearly impossible and there is no time to correct them.
A Revolutionary Change In Firearms Training
Now, identifying – and correcting – this potentially deadly behavior can be done easily and quickly with Smart Firearms Training Devices. They emit warning sounds whenever a student’s finger sits in the trigger guard, allowing instructors to recognize this habit in a student. The student can also begin to self-correct and move forward with proper handling as their default function.
“BANG, BANG, BANG!”
It’s what we are all taught to verbalize in class to indicate a discharge. But it verbalizes what should be an action. With the old red guns / blue guns, which don’t have a working trigger or a sound to indicate a shot, it’s the only option – the only way to let instructors and training partners know that a shop has been fired. Numerous police gun fights have been initiated with “BANG, BANG, BANG!” This is again due to the law of primacy. When we are under stress, we simply revert to what we learned first. Smart Firearms – Training Officers To Succeed.  No one trains enough. There are not enough hours in the day to cover everything which might, in a live scenario, be important. However, we can give our officers and trainers the most up-to-date and effective tools available to maximize the time they have in training. A training gun with a working trigger that discourages bad habits is crucial. The time has come for Smart Firearms.

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