A couple weeks ago I was at KR Training assisting in the running of a demo/evaluation event involving Walther Arms & the CoolFire Trainer. The goal was to beta-test a possible new research study on the benefit of the CoolFire Trainer vs. live fire, for shooter skill development.
Karl Rehn was host, and has posted his write-up of the event. To understand the event – see the preliminary results – and to understand the context of my comments, you do need to first read Karl’s write-up.
I was working the event as an assistant and Range Safety Officer. Given the nature of the event, there was no teaching/instruction provided to students – it was a beta-test for a study, and we needed the live-fire vs. CoolFire to be the only variable. I was paid by KR Training for my time, but I’m always paid by KR Training for my time teaching and assisting (I’m Assistant Lead Instructor @ KR Training). I have no direct relationship with CoolFire, Walther, Al Dvorak, Dr. David Paulus. I’m not getting anything out of this (e.g. there’s no free PPQ or CoolFire here). My opinions are my own.
As a result of my participation and role in the event, I was able to watch a number of people, of varying skill levels and abilities. I also got to spend some time talking with Al Dvorak (inventor of the CoolFire) and he showed me a lot about the system.
I have to say that before the event I was skeptical. After the event, I’m genuinely curious.
There are a lot of training tools out there. Like there’s a dummy magazine that has a mechanism that provides a basic trigger reset – so now every trigger press feels more like a real press, and there’s some sort of tactile and auditory (click) feedback. There’s the popular SIRT Training Pistol. I think the SIRT is an indispensable classroom teaching aid (I use one almost every time I teach to help show and explain concepts to students), but I personally do not find it useful in my own training (I get too laser/dot focused; and if I’m not looking to the dots for feedback, what does this tool offer me in my own training?). YMMV.
Here’s the kicker.
We promote the value of dry fire. It’s well established that dry fire is the true secret to success – just ask folks like Steve Anderson or Ben Stoeger. While we can do most everything in dry fire that we can in live fire, we agree there’s one thing we cannot do – recoil management.
Well, the CoolFire looks to be a way to close that gap. Maybe not a complete closure, but it’s a step.
The first time I fired a fully-charged CoolFire, I was surprised at how much kick it had! Sure, it’s not the same as a pistol firing real ammo, but it was quite ample. A little bit of noise, a little bit of blowback, hey – this is something!
It’s easy in dry fire to forget to focus on your grip. Now, not so easy to forget.
You also have the opportunity to reacquire your sights, since the CoolFire’s recoil will disturb your sight picture.
I think that’s pretty cool.
I also liked how the laser attachment only fired as a result of the air pulse – more like an actual shot. It lets you know where your shot actually went, vs. a continuous-on laser where when you finally perceive the laser it may be where you moved to to after the fact.
I do think there are some downsides.
If you don’t have a lot of hand strength, it may be difficult to operate. Look at the size of the CO2 bottles we used. They’re a bit heavy, especially when you consider you have to hold them upside down, by the nozzle end — it can be difficult to balance. Furthermore, you have to push the tank nozzle into the CoolFire’s port — that takes some oomph to do. Most of the event participants had no problem with any of this. However, as luck had it, a participant on the end of the line next to where I was stationed just didn’t have the hand strength to hold and depress/insert the canister, so I had to refill her CoolFire throughout the event.
There are only so many shots, and each subsequent shot is a little weaker than the prior shot. This is just the nature of the beast. The dropoff isn’t huge – you can get through “a magazine’s worth of shots” before things start to feel too weak to continue. But it’s still there. And if you want to use the laser? You have to unscrew it, recharge, then reattach the laser – cumbersome. CoolFire does sell an adapter that has not only a built-in laser but then a side fill-port AND extra capacity for like 50 more shots. That’s great, but adds to cost (tho you can always buy the attachment later) and will make the gun longer and a little more front-heavy. I didn’t get a chance to try out that attachment so I don’t know how it affects handling (tho I’m sure it affects holstering and drawing due to the increased length and bulk).
The up-front cost. It’s a lot of money to dish out up front. But Karl’s write-up provides a break-down of how that cost actually pans out vs. live fire. When you look at the cost over the long-term, there’s net savings – but it still doesn’t take away the up front sticker shock that many people initially feel.
I didn’t get to spend a LOT of time working with a PPQ. They have shown up in classes, they’ve always worked fine. After the event was over, I spent a little time shooting one. I’ve dry fired the trigger before and found it quite nice for a factory trigger, and live firing was consistent with prior experience. I personally find the gun’s profile a little large for my tastes, but it was comfortable in the hand (I know a lot of people find this an important quality…), easy to get to and work the controls, nice factory trigger, and shot well. Didn’t like the 3-dot sights, but if it were my own gun I’d be changing them to Dawson Precision sights anyways. We also had to disassemble and reassemble the guns to work with the CoolFire; that was very easy to handle (tho the require pressing the trigger) and I was surprised at the plastic guide rod. Still, seemed a decent pistol in the short period I spent with it.
I can’t say the CoolFire will make you a better shooter. I can’t say that CoolFire is a worthwhile and cost-effective training aid for you. I think the results of the beta-test event are encouraging, and I think Karl provides a good and reasonable analysis of the event and the product. I do hope a more full-blown study happens.
Me? Most of the other dry fire training aids have been curious, but not motivated me enough to plunk down my own money for. But after this event, I’m giving serious thought to the CoolFire. I’d at least like an opportunity to spend more time with it.