An essential characteristic of any paintball or other force-on-force training tool should be that it functions as closely as possible to the actual weapon it mimics. Mechanical operation, recoil, reloading, weight...If these can be made close or identical to the real firearm, then the value of using the paintball or FoF weapon for training is increased. Opposite that is the use of paintball weapons that in no way mimic the actual weapons to be used other than both fire a projectile. I was contacted some months ago by Ram Guns and asked if I'd be willing to evaluate their products. Of course. It's what I do. I received two rifles and two pistols for evaluation. I opened one of the pistol boxes first and found myself looking at a Glock Model 17 with a blue slide and orange barrel tip. Externally, as best I can measure, it is identical to an actual Glock 17 with the exception of the base of the grip where the CO2 and paintball magazine stick out. This does not affect holstering, drawing or handling and isn't really noticed at all (unless you shoot "cup in saucer" grip). The two rifles I received are of the AR15/M4 design and are equally good "copies" of the actual firearms in appearance, size and function.
Naturally, after unpacking the training weapons, I immediately set about ignoring all paperwork and instructions. After all, isn't that what cops and soldiers tend to do? They are guns. You load them. Shoot them. Reload them, etc, right? Just about.
For the rifles, the 45 gram air cylinders are refillable and arrived empty. I had to get them filled. Easy enough to do at the local paintball shop. In fact, they charged me a whopping fifty cents per because they weren't used to filling something so small. It should be noted that a conversion for using the weapons with 88 gram disposable CO2 tanks is provided with the weapons.
Once I had air, loading the magazines proved relatively easy, but--as always when you're loading magazines but want to be shooting--kind of tedious. The pistol magazines were quite easy to load as they have a small level on the side that allows you to pull down the magazine spring. Once you've done that, you push in the paintballs. With the rifle magazines, you turn an integral knob that winds the magazine spring down so you can load the paintballs in.
Shooting was fun. The rifle's safety lever has SAFE, SEMI and AUTO positions. Auto? On a paintball gun? YEAH--and it WORKS. With proper trigger control, I was able to get four shot bursts, but I never really got a three-shot burst on a regular basis. Four- and five-shot bursts were easy. The greatest distance I tried shooting at was twenty-five yards. At that distance, hitting a man-size target with the rifles was easy. Using these weapons for Close Quarters Battle (CQB) training would most likely be largely comprised of engagements inside of that 25-yard distance, anyway. Putting a silhouette target up against some wooden lattice (what I had handy), I peppered the cardboard target and was surprised to see the paintballs going through--until the air pressure got low enough that they started bouncing off. The ones that hit cardboard on top of wood broke and left easily viewable marks.
Of course, there is a twofold purpose to using such training weapons for training:
- Because you can actually see who was hit and who wasn't, and
- Because when your trainees make mistakes that get them shot, they pay a "pain penalty."
Let me just tell you that the pain penalty with these guns is somewhere in between that of a Simunitions FX Marking cartridge and a full size (.68 caliber) paintball. It's kind of an unhappy mix of the two. The sting is like getting hit with a Sim round. The bruise is like that of a paintball.
When I was first approached by RAM Guns about doing a T&E of their training weapons, I didn't understand why they'd gone with a .43 caliber paintball. Looking at the realistic appearance and exterior dimensions of their weapons, I now understand--it'd be impossible to do that with a .68 caliber paintball-based weapon.
The Glock handgun test weapon I received worked in all of my Glock duty and off duty holsters. It felt a bit heavier than my real Glock handgun, but that turned out to be a perceived difference in balance. Because of the amount of weight built into the grip frame of the RAM Guns' Glock--because of the air cylinder and other mechanics to support the magazine--it balances different. Weight difference is negligible (to me). RAM Guns also makes a number of accessories for their weapons. For the Glocks, the one I most enjoyed was the double magazine pouch that allowed me to load and carry two spare handgun "magazines." Using the disposable common CO2 cylinders in the handguns, I got about forty rounds out of the cylinder of air before the air pressure was so low as to be useless in training. That's plenty for training scenarios. Accuracy with the handguns was also good. From a distance of fifteen yards, I had no problem putting all of my shots inside the 9-ring on a B27 silhouette.
Overall, I'm quite pleased with these training weapons. I think the idea of a .43 caliber paintball might take a little time to catch on because so much of the industry revolves around a .68 caliber paintball, but, well, new calibers are always evolving and the industry adapts. With legal rulings now requiring judgmental shooting training and dynamic interactive scenarios, force on force training tools such as these RAM Guns are going to be mandatory for every agency's training equipment inventory.