Not long ago I was contacted by Ryan Higginbotham of Next Level Training.com, manufacturers of the SIRT–Shot Indicating Resetting Trigger–pistols. Ryan saw one of my articles, liked it, and sought a bit of advice on marketing his product to police agencies, which are a natural market for his product. I was glad to tell him what I could, and he was glad to promptly ship me a SIRT 110 training pistol for evaluation.
It has long been known that dry fire training, for any shooter, is valuable. A great many studies have been done, including by the US military, that have indicated that proper dry fire training is fully as effective as live fire training in developing correct technique, and in producing results at qualification time.
All of the handguns I might conceivably use for personal protection are laser equipped with various Crimson Trace products, which I consider to be the state of the art. That’s not to say the other manufacturers on the market don’t make worthy products, I merely prefer Crimson Trace’s offerings. I have used those lasers for trigger practice. A laser dot clearly indicates any problem with grip and trigger pull, but this arrangement is imperfect. Each subsequent shot requires cycling the slide; laser engagement is done with a finger of the strong hand, not the trigger.
Still, even this is a substantial improvement over the training methods of my youth, which consisted of balancing a coin–on the flat, not on edge; that would be a real trick–on the front sight of my revolver and working through many repetitions of the trigger. With practice, I was able to keep the coin in place until my trigger finger fatigued. Repeatedly pulling the trigger of a double action revolver, even a Colt Python, quickly wore out my finger.
It should be noted that it’s important any carry gun laser be easy to activate and deactivate. The laser/light combination on my Glock 43, for example, has an activation switch mounted under the second finger of the strong hand. I can activate and deactivate it instantly with a slight shift of finger pressure, which is a tactical necessity.
In those days, I would have loved a semiautomatic, and a training device better than a coin, though I still sometimes use one just for fun though I no longer own a revolver. Semiauto technology and reliability eventually overtook the police market, and Glock now owns about 65% of the American police market. Smith and Wesson, in its contemporary M&P line has essentially copied Glock’s ideas, and its pistols are also popular. It’s no coincidence NLT’s first training pistol offerings are near-perfect copies of the Glock 17/22 and S&W’s full-sized M&P pistols.
As the photo indicates, the SIRT 110 is essentially identical in size to the duty-sized Glock 17/22. The 110, as illustrated by the photo heading this article, comes with two extra inert magazines. The magazines are also Glock-sized, and are weighted. The 110 Ryan sent featured the polymer slide–SIRT slides are non-functional and colored for safety purposes–and was obviously lighter than a fully loaded G17, but not dramatically so. One can spec a metal or polymer slide, and one suspects the metal slide would add a bit of weight. The balance of the 110 is not exactly that of the G17, but it’s not far off, and the 110 will fit G17/22 holsters.
The 110 model I received has a red “take-up indicator” laser that activates when the trigger is depressed a short distance, giving a visual indicator of the point where an actual trigger begins to meet resistance, or “stack” as some might say. This laser is focused below the actual point of bullet impact, and is obviously intended to be a visual signal, not only for the shooter but instructors, of any errors at the beginning of the trigger stroke. If one finds this in any way distracting, it may be deactivated by a switch on the top of the non-functional slide.
Above that laser is the shot indicator, green in the case of my loaner, but red for lower cost models. The advantage of green lasers is potentially greater visibility, particularly in bright sunlight. In bright sunlight, red laser visibility may be poor beyond 15 yards, and with certain colors of clothing. However, since most gunfights take place at 7 feet and closer, that’s generally not much of a factor. Having used both, I’ve found green lasers to fit into the “nice to have” category, but not to be worth a $100 dollar premium over a red laser.
Both lasers in the 110 are of sufficient size and brightness to compare well with the state of the art in the contemporary laser market. The take-up laser is pre-focused from the factory, but the shot indicator laser is easily and conventionally user adjustable. A properly sized allen wrench is provided.
The trigger is of a red polymer, but is narrower than that of a Glock, which caused it to feel a bit heavier than the standard 5.5 pound Glock trigger. The 110’s trigger, however, is adjustable for pull weight, and an allen wrench slightly larger than that for adjusting the shot indicator laser is provided. The 110’s trigger travel closely approximates that of the Glock, and while the overall feel cannot perfectly match the Glock trigger, it’s quite close.
Perhaps the most important feature of the SIRT pistols is the resetting trigger. This allows every mode of practice other than slide cycling and malfunction drills. The trigger does reset in a manner almost identical to a Glock, and all trigger operations are positive and easily felt. Obviously, repeated, accurate shots with a pistol are important.
The weighted magazines, which are identical in size to Glock mags, if perhaps a bit light, allow magazine changing drills. The magazine release button is positioned as on an actual Glock, and the feel of inserting and removing magazines is nearly identical, though the mag well tolerances are a bit looser than with real Glocks.
Changing the battery is a minor, but necessary chore. The longevity of the battery, a common, inexpensive 123, is dependent on the level of use. Simply put, the more trigger pulls, the faster the energy drain. A single trigger pull activates both lasers, and holding the trigger fully back at the end of a trigger stroke keeps both lasers activated until the trigger is released to cycle forward/reset. As the photo above indicates, one of the pins is located near the rear of the slide, and the other just forward of the trigger guard.
To change the battery one additional pin must be removed with an appropriately sized punch and a small hammer. The two spare magazines work very nicely to elevate the 110 sufficiently to drive the two primary pins out, and little force is required. With the first two pins removed, the slide easily lifts off. To replace the battery, the forward module is removed by driving out the forward most pin near the muzzle, providing easy access to the battery.
One might think this unnecessarily labor intensive, but it’s actually a feature, not a bug. SIRT pistols were designed with the law enforcement market in mind. The pistols will be used not only for shooting practice, but for handgun retention and disarming practice as well. In qualifications, I’ve seen officers get a bit ahead of their ability and fling brand new Glocks downrange onto concrete floors. Officers struggling over handguns can also be hard on them. SIRT’s design prevents the pistols from accidentally coming apart, and keeps the internal modules from coming loose and rattling–good features indeed.
SIRT pistols are obviously a useful training tool. They can, with relatively little time and effort, serve as a very effective “ground school” for new shooters before a first trip to the range. Having sorted out trigger control and grip, live fire is easier. For the experienced shooter, having one about to pick up from time to time can keep long-developed skills sharp and prevent losing them. Every facet of shooting is a perishable skill, and ammunition–as anyone that lived through the age of Obama–can quickly become hard to find and very expensive.
For training large numbers of new shooters, as law enforcement agencies must regularly do, the SIRT pistols are a God-send. This video of a talk by an Omaha PD’s trainer–they’re an 800 officer agency–is illustrative of how the SIRTs might be integrated.
Another area where the pistols would be particularly useful is in training teachers preparing to concealed carry in schools in tactics. There is, if proper safety measures are followed, no danger other than that which can be eliminated by proper eye wear. The pistols can serve to train not only shooting technique, but in CQB techniques.
NLT materials emphasize safety, which is an important consideration. Even though SIRT guns are not firearms, they must be treated as though they are. I’m sure it’s not hard, gentle readers, for you to imagine how mistakes that will put holes in walls, objects and people might occur if proper protocol for the use of these training aides is not developed and rigorously followed. NLT has materials to help with that, of course.
Mrs. Manor, a skilled shooter, liked the 110 sufficiently that we’ll be purchasing one for ourselves. Depending on options–different colored slides are available!–the pistols retail from $239-$439 dollars.
NLT also markets a bolt group insert for AR-15 pattern rifles that like the pistols, allows trigger reset. The laser fires down the rifle’s barrel. According to Ryan, additional products/models are in the works.
The SIRT pistols fill a useful niche, particularly for shooters, police or otherwise. For any police agency, they can facilitate more frequent and much more inexpensive training. They’re available directly from NLT (take the link in the first paragraph).