Since the invention of fire arms in the 1300s, there has been a steady and required need to tirelessly train with their use. Firearms have always been tricky to get to grips with as a first time user, so repeated drills and exercises are used to develop muscle memory. Developing a solid muscle memory and instinct for safe firearm use is the only way to operate efficiently in the field, without adrenaline and fear causing you to lock up or forget where the trigger is.
As firearms (and other military equipment) have evolved, so has the way that war is fought. Training no longer just requires weapons users to be proficient with their weapons and shoot on target like they did in the ‘old’ days. Military training is now a much more cohesive and comprehensive form of training that covers everything from fitness to firearms drills, movement drills and vehicle training. These forms of training often involve training against other recruits to develop skills against ‘real’ opponents.
How do you develop firearms skills and instinct without using real firearms, without potentially shooting fellow comrades? Initially, (and still used by some) are blank ammunition. These munitions contain no bullet and are (relatively) safe for use with proper training. However, because there is no projectile used, there’s little adrenaline, little fear that a mistake could cause serious negative consequences and little learning under pressure.
In comes simulated ammunition (simunition for short). With a small amount of modification (often just a new bolt carrier), a service weapon can be modified to shoot non-lethal projectiles called simunition. Also, as a safety precaution, this modification prevents the weapon from firing standard cartridges.
Simunition is replacement ammunition that comes in a number of calibres and fires non-lethal, non-toxic rounds with muzzle energy of up to 5.6 joules (For reference, an airsoft 0.2g BB at 328fps is 1 joule). These rounds are typically accurate up to 30m and will provide a serious impact in those ranges and can even come with a marking option, similar to how paintballs work.
Operators are required to wear face protection due to the potential damage that these rounds could impart. These simulated ammunitions allow the gun to function exactly as it would with normal lethal cartridges and simulate the dangers that occur during combat. The weapons produce realistic sounds, cycle predictably and reload realistically, allowing the operator to practice drills whilst under genuine fire conditions.
The rounds aren’t without their downsides, however. One downside is predominantly cost, as rounds cost roughly 3times the price of genuine ammunition, it can be difficult to justify the cost, not to mention the cost of weapon conversion kits. The use of these rounds also require special padding and face masks, which are not only an extra cost for forces to consider, but also impede and restrict the movement (particularly the ability to aim down sight) of the operator.
Finally, these systems are arguably no better than similar airsoft alternatives. Systems such as systema PTWs (professional training weapons) or Celsius CTWs are specifically designed for this use. They are designed to be 100% accurate compared to real firearms in operation, weight and look. Yet, they are impossible to mistake a real fire arm for since they require batteries and BBs to operate. Finally, ammunition is much cheaper and the muzzle velocity can be increased to match that of simunition rounds. The only negatives of these systems are the lack of realistic bolt movement and recoil, which is a requirement for most trainees to get familiar with.