By Steve Remy
One of the most dangerous things new and experienced shooters do, is draw their handgun from a holster and fire it at a target in a quick fashion. Websites like YouTube are full of videos of beginners and experts shooting themselves during the holster draw and/or return process. No matter how many times someone hears, “leave your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot”, it always seems to happen. It's nearly impossible to critique yourself during the holstering process to be sure it never happens. In the same fashion, unless someone is given the opportunity to train in a one-on-one environment, it is nearly impossible for an instructor to catch incidents of fingers being placed on the trigger before someone is ready to fire.
In walks the Smart Firearms SF3 training firearm. The SF3 is a training device that gives near-immediate feedback to users who place their trigger finger on the trigger before they are ready to shoot. When a user places their finger within the trigger guard and doesn't pull the trigger to shoot within about 3/4 of a second, the SF3 sounds a fairly loud alarm to notify the user and any instructors in the area that a violation has occurred. The SF3 is also smart enough to wait a few fractions of a second before sounding an alarm. This allows users to pull the trigger and “engage” their target without the alarm sounding. When the user pulls the trigger, a “bang” sound is emitted from the device. As with a real handgun, users are given two options of what to do when they draw their weapons: 1. Keep their finger indexed on the frame of the handgun, or 2. place their finger on the trigger and pull it to simulate firing the handgun.
The SF3 mimics the shape and weight of a loaded Glock and fits holsters designed for the same. I first tested the SF3 in a Safariland duty holster and the SF3 performed as designed. I then tested the SF3 in a Galco leather concealed carry-type holster designed for concealment. Within this holster the SF3 alarmed as if something within the holster was tripping the trigger guard sensor. I retested the SF3 in a kydex concealment holster as well and it had the same problem alarming itself within the holster. I attribute the false alarms to either an overly sensitive sensor, or the sensor design itself. With the current design, even the slightest encroachment of anything (i.e. clothing, holster etc.) into the trigger guard seems to set it off.
Overall I really like the concept of the SF3 as a training device for firearms instructors and law enforcement trainers to use in their classes. Given the problems I had with the sensor, holster selection for the SF3 is likely key to make it operate as designed. I’d like to see a redesign of the sensor in which it only alarms when something passes the midway point within the trigger guard, which would reduce incidents of accidental alarms. I’d also like to see a removable magazine and a slide capable of manipulation so users could practice reloading drills too. In addition to this, as nitpicky as it may sounds, I’d also like to see a more realistic trigger pull and trigger reset. This may seem minor, but the more realistic a training tool performs, the more likely users are to fall back on their training with the device. Another neat feature built into the device is the ability to turn off the sensor and use the gun strictly for dry fire practice. This is yet another reason why a more realistic trigger pull and reset is important.
UPDATE: I spoke with the president of Smart Firearms (Mike Farrell) regarding the issues I had with the sensitivity of the sensor in concealment holsters. Mike was extremely open and honest regarding the challenges they face with concealable holsters and their SF3. Mike stated their target market at the present time was uniformed law enforcement officers and their training departments. Typically these officers use holsters that have internal parts which don’t encroach within the trigger guard for retention. This is why the sensor is designed the way it is. There seems to be a compromise between sensor sensitivity and accurate performance. Mike mentioned a multitude of variables that can affect the sensor from finger size to skin tone. There is a fine line between dialing down sensitivity to reduce alarms in concealment holsters, and dialing it down too much which could miss actual trigger guard intrusions by users.
In the end, Mike admits that concealment holsters don’t work well with the SF3. Which I can’t fault them for because their target market is presently uniformed law enforcement officers. He indicated that Smart Firearms was in the process of redesigning certain attributes of the SF3 to make it more compatible with concealment holsters and non-LE users. I’ll definitely keep my eye out for these redesigns because the potential target market of non-LE shooters has a lot to gain from a device like the SF3. The training this device can reinforce is too good to limit to the LE community!
Firearms Insider Reviews - 8 Key Points
Claim to Fame: A life-like handgun training device that demands safe firearms handling.
Target Market: Uniformed law enforcement officers.
FNBs (Features & Benefits of this product):
- Durable design that can withstand the vigors of law enforcement training.
- Auditory warning when fingers intrude into the trigger guard without pulling the trigger.
- Ability to pull the trigger to simulate firing and engaging threats.
What other aesthetic options or finishes are available?: Yellow
What others are saying?: “The SF3 takes the training gun concept to a new level” SinistralRifleman
I need it now! Availability: Readily available online at Smart Firearms.
+ Sensor accurately picks up trigger guard intrusions. + User ability to engage targets by pulling the trigger without being “penalized” by an alarm. + Rugged design and bright training firearm color. + Dry fire mode availability. + Responsiveness of company representatives to product concerns.
- Unrealistic trigger pull weight and reset. - No removable magazine. - Slide is unable to be manipulated. - Although not their target market, incompatibility to concealment holsters is a little bit of a disappointment.
Score 8.0 (Great)