AirSoft type equipment, paintball and MILES gear have all brought different tools to the table, as have the minds behind the iCOMBAT technology and training systems. My contacts recently put me in touch with SBTactical, a veteran owned and operated business out of Santa Barbara, California. As the National Law Enforcement and Professional distributors of iCOMBAT equipment, they are 100% committed to serving those who serve.
“With over 40+ combined years of planning, resourcing, and conducting training, we are confident that we are the right team to meet your needs,” SBTactical says. SBT’s experience plus iCOMBAT’s technology leave no training question unanswered. “With SBTactical you will replicate, not simulate, the situations your officers will encounter. Every day we strive to advance your organizations training to the next level. SBTactical’s mission is to Replicate real world scenarios, reduce training costs, and maximize training time,” SBT says.
So how do they deliver?
The iCOMBAT technology is a weapon, sensor and control system. It currently offers an M4 style weapon and a Glock style weapon, to better replicate weapons common among police and military units.
The irM4 replicates an M4 in feel and function. The selector switch allows the training rifle to operate in safe, single shot, and three round burst. It can be outfitted with duty sights, lights, stocks and other attachments, the entire range of accessories you have come to expect from the M4 platform. The irM4 syncs wirelessly to the irVest to record shot data, accuracy and other data. The irM4 features a bright muzzle flash, ammunition accountability with the SmartMag, live noise and recoil (more on that in a moment). The irM4 comes in both standard or short barrel length.
The design mimics an actual AR15/M4 rifle, including weight and size. You’ll have to think twice when picking up the irM4, to ensure it’s not an actual rifle. The irM4 packs all major components into a modular design allowing easy part swapping or replacement. The main modular component is the barrel and top rail. Lithium ion batteries, infrared LED, and lenses are stored within and allow the system to shoot distances of over 45m (150′) in broad daylight. Indoors, the range increases to 150+m (500+’). Internal air-powered pneumatics create what they call a “realistic recoil and shot noise”, adding to training realism. There is definitely a crack for each shot, and a kick. Not a strong one, but recognizable, and when you have a cheek-weld you certainly feel each shot.
These pneumatics are powered by the patented SmartMag, which houses the air source and ammo electronics. Throw in a new standard 12 gram CO2 cartridge, and it resets your ammo count. Magazine changes work just like they should; the magazine release action, and charging handle all function as expected to reload, which the onboard computer recognizes as a new magazine’s worth of ammo.
You even have the choice of shooting in semi or full-automatic mode by thumbing the standard selector switch, depending on how the software is set up. The trigger mechanism and main electronics are housed in the main pistol grip. Inside is a battery indicator light, 2.4Ghz RF chip, and USB port for software updating in the future. The RF chip is used for syncing to the irVest. Each irM4 laser rifle is constructed of extremely tough cast aluminum and glass filled nylon, providing unmatched durability.
The magazines follow suit. Apart from the access port to enter the cartridge and the view port to see if there is a cartridge loaded (which is obscured when the magazine is seated), the magazines look and feel pretty spot on.
As well as the M4, they offer the irPistol which is based on one of the most popular pistols in the world, the Glock17. Never before has a laser weapon of this caliber been created. The weight, function, and action are identical to an actual 9mm pistol. The irPistol can also be synced to the vest and used in conjunction with the irM4. It features a bright muzzle flash, the same live noise and recoil effects as the irM4, as well as real pistol action including a locking slide, and and the same ammo accountability as the irM4’s SmartMag.
Accompanying the weapons systems is a full-scale MOLLE vest that houses ten sensors for receiving iCOMBAT weapon shots. The MOLLE irVest allows attachment of your service pouches, providing nearly unlimited tactical configurations. The irVest is constructed of durable rip-stop nylon and meets industry standards in toughness. The irVest is the central component of the iCOMBAT system because it tracks all data and communicates with the ICE software. All weapons and add-ons sync wirelessly to the vest in seconds for a hassle-free training experience. Multiple illuminating sensors and audible beepers alert the officers to hits. Pair it with the StressX belt for even better training. They’re available in black or ACU pattern.
An alternative, or in conjunction with the irVest, is the irHEADBAND. The wireless, adjustable headband includes four additional sensors and a beeper to guarantee effective head shots. It’s also available in black or ACU.
A third and exciting element available is the StressX add-on for the irVest, which provides more realism to your training by creating pain stimulus when the user is shot. The StressX is a safe way to create stress-based training when using irTactical gear. Simply sync the StressX belt to the irVest, set your mode, and begin training. StressX is completely wireless and has a variety of modes ranging from vibration to mild or strong shocks.
They can be adjusted on the fly and customized depending on the user’s training role. The belt is extremely durable and is capable of delivering a shock through one layer of clothing. As an option, trainers can also pair the heart rate monitor belt with the StressX. This allows operators to see the physical stress elevation within the trainee’s body. The monitor works wirelessly with the StressX and requires no additional set up. It really works. From my personal experience, I can report that in its shock settings it will certainly get your attention and make you jump. If you’re caught unaware it really bloody stings, but just for a moment.
For the times you want to test the equipment or train alone in the house, the wireless target from iCOMBAT gives you a quick and easy way to train anywhere. The wireless target is smaller than a smartphone, making it extremely portable. It lights up and beeps when you shoot it for instant feedback and can be used in stand-alone mode for basic target shooting. You can also link multiple targets together with the ICE software for advanced target training and game modes.
I interviewed one of the proprietors of SBTactical, Ocie Matheniaon, how it all holds together and what they have in store:
What combinations of taggers, sensors and accessories typically get used for professional training?
Professionals typically use the iCOMBAT Tactical Vest. The headbands are used in some instances but not many as Law Enforcement training dictates center of mass shooting and not head shots.
How do these combinations of hardware interact with the software to supply training feedback to professional organisations?
The software maintains an account of all occurrences during a scenario. Who, what, when, and where are all accounted for.
How do professional users track their own training progress?
The equipment is used mostly in decision-making training. Force on force is rarely ever the same even if all parties try to replicate their actions. Humans always react differently. Baseline training is typically established by using screen simulators and in this way the situation is the same every time. Our equipment is used to put officers through situations and to evaluate how they reacted in the situation. Trainers are then responsible for assessing and directing the training and retraining.
What hardware options and combinations do you foresee being released in the future?
Shotgun for breaching entry and non-lethal rounds for de-escalation training.
Any other weapon platforms and “shells” in the pipeline?
We indeed do have other platforms releasing shortly but I am not at liberty to discuss them!
What can you tell me about the training you offer that uses the iCOMBAT systems?
We conduct a four hour course at your location focusing on employee Active shooter response methods. Utilizing the most of effective training methods available, employees will stay engaged & participate throughout the course.
Any other styles of training? Do you offer Force on Force?
Yes, our approach to training is centered on the principle of replicating real world conditions as opposed to simulating them. This concept can be applied in the simplest of training tasks to the most complex of scenarios.
Do you offer any equipment rental options?
Yes, Our equipment, your trainers. Utilizing the most of effective training methods available.
And as far as equipment sales?
SBTactical is the national LE & professional distributor of iCcombat force on force training systems. We offer iCombat train the trainer and armorer courses for LE agencies fielding the equipment.
I had opportunity to use iCombat gear on a couple of occasions, both at the OzApocalypse zombie-themed event (for which I tested a pain belt to the amusement of those around me), but also to their Force-on-Force Battle Arena event, which was also a lot of fun. I wasn’t game to wear the StressX pain belt for long in that one, mostly as I would be the ONLY player who considered it, and that would have been …. a slapfest. The weapons felt and worked really convincingly. I admit I haven’t had the chance to fire either an M4 or a Glock, but, they felt the piece. My Army buddy with actual combat experience who came along one night confirmed that the realism was entirely adequate.
Here’s a clip of me testing the StressX belt at the Glock-range set up at the zombie event. Laugh at my kit all you like, I had a fun night.
I’d heartily recommend iCOMBAT gear if you need a totally safe but realistic training system, without the risks inherent from blanks, “dry-fire” or even MILES-gear type systems, and want gear more realistic than Blue Guns or even AirSoft type systems. Train well.
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