October 13, 2023
“Don’t aim,” said Erik Ås, manager of training for Aimpoint AB, “just put the red dot on the target.”
For a couple days prior to a two-day driven hunt at the Högestad & Kristinehof Estate in Sweden, Ås taught a class of foreign journalists, including me, how to engage moving targets with one shot using a red dot — successfully.
“It’s a three-step movement,” said Ås. “Contact, focus, and bring the red dot up to the heart-and-lung area to kill it. Don’t track the dot. Look at where you want to shoot first and then bring the dot to the target area. Don’t hunt it like you’re making a perfect shot on a stationary 10 ring; hunt the kill zone.”
Seasons in Sweden are short, and the sun sets in the winter after about 6 hours. The hunter-to-animal ratio favors game in agricultural areas, so dog-driven hunts are an important management technique for landowners to ensure healthy populations and productive crops. However, this type of hunting requires sound judgment, discipline and skill because dogs and their handlers pass through each lane.
Before one can hunt in Sweden — as it is in other parts of Europe — a prospective hunter must provide evidence of good character, safety education, and demonstrate proficient handling and use of a rifle. A practical shooting test qualifies a hunter for a license, and the training and evaluation process is strict and thorough. Training involves extensive dry firing on targets with a red dot before live-fire training at an indoor range. Referred to as a “shooting cinema,” an instructor queues scenarios from a computer that are projected on a cloth wall in front of a bullet trap downrange. Using live ammunition, the difficulty and speed increases to teach decision making and ethics.
There are rules to driven hunts and Högestad’s game manager prohibited shots on milking sows, young bucks, and boars weighing more than “50 kilos” (110 pounds). Additionally, if a hunter made a wounding shot, the next attempt had to be on an animal that wasn’t moving. If neither animal was killed immediately, the hunt was over. The thought of shooting at moving game may seem unethical to western hunters, but the European experience demands vetted competence, careful decision making, self-control and integrity. Skills are perishable, which is why the government requires requalification annually.
A life-like training aid is now available to develop and maintain a shooter’s craft. GAIM was created in 2014 and released as an entertainment app for mobile devices, which is no long available. Aimpoint’s “The Driven Hunt” developers determined that it could support affordable training, and saw it as an opportunity to showcase the brand’s red-dot technologies. In 2019, Aimpoint spun off a team of employees who focused on making a more realistic and educational simulator for hunters and sport shooters. Frederik Sandberg, son of the Aimpoint’s founder and inventor of the red dot, Gunnar Sandberg, has been involved since the beginning.
GAIM is available for the Oculus Meta Quest 2, which is a leading virtual reality (VR) system. It’s not the only VR platform, however, and GAIM is developing software to support other VR devices, too. Not only does this application (app) feature games, but the Oculus supports users with an internet browser and downloadable video apps such as YouTube and subscription-based Prime Video and Netflix services, for example. Fitness apps are also extremely popular, as are boxing and flight simulators. If you purchase the Meta Quest 2 with 128 GB of memory, you’ll have plenty of storage to run GAIM’s immersive experience as well as other applications, streaming services, and downloads.
GAIM does offer its Hunting and Sport Shooting simulators separately, but most will want GAIM Complete. To enhance the realism with the GAIM VR simulator, you’ll want the GAIM Training Handgun and/or the GAIM Wooden Rifle Controller. If you already have one trigger unit, though, you only need to purchase the GAIM Training Handgun Grip or GAIM Wooden Rifle Stock to enjoy both capabilities. When paired to the Oculus through Bluetooth, the trigger pack functions as a second controller. The rifle stock serves as a tactile training aid for added realism in scenarios featuring all types of rifles and shotguns. To switch between long-gun and handgun modes, use the provided Aimpoint T10 Torx wrench to loosen and secure the trigger housing between the handgun grip and riflestock.
GAIM Complete is the preferable option because it is not only a software bundle, but it includes both the laminate wood-stock controller as well as a pistol controller and trigger unit. The Meta Quest 2 Headset is not included with GAIM Complete though. Think of it like a game console where you purchase games and accessories to use with it. The GAIM software is available through Meta App Labs. Once you have GAIM installed, you can practice, hunt, or compete virtually anywhere. GAIM is currently a single-user, stationary position type of simulator.
The initial software bundle includes several hunting scenarios: Wild Boar, Stag and Fox, Waterfowl, and the Sim Pro module. These are being developed continuously and can be updated as they are released. The environmental graphics may feel slightly dated, but the animals are anatomically correct with kill zones carefully represented regardless of angle. A ballistic engine factors lead according to a target’s distance and movement, which ensures an experience that imitates reality.
To prepare the Wooden Rifle Stock for GAIM, the right Meta Quest hand controller is inserted in the carrier at the forend to ensure accurate tracking of the rifle’s position. With the trigger mechanism installed, it links through Bluetooth in the Settings menu. At times, connectivity can drop, occurring most often after the system is restarted. When this happens, the trigger must be “forgotten” as a controller and “paired” again. For me, the Meta Quest 2 seemed to learn the GAIM trigger. This happened less frequently the more I used it. GAIM’s Gen 2 trigger provides a realistic feel even though my digital gauge measured an average of just 1½ pounds; it is about half-as-light as a typical hunting rifle’s trigger.
The laminate stock is Italian, assembled in Sweden and unique to the GAIM system. The texture on the forend and grip feels great, which enhanced the tactile experience when playing GAIM’s Wild Boar, Stag, Bear and Moose scenarios. It even features a rubber recoil pad, which I felt was unnecessary; there’s no simulated recoil and sometimes it snagged on my clothing when shouldering the stock. To that end, the stock is fixed and has a length of pull measuring 15 inches. It could lose a couple of inches, and future stock options should feature adjustability to accommodate small-statured shooters and children. I would describe GAIM’s Rifle Stock as being designed for near-6-foot teenagers and adults.
The stock transitions well for gameplay in the Waterfowl, Pheasant and clay-shooting scenarios, the latter including Skeet, Trap, and 5-Stand. Though you can play these adventures using a simulated Aimpoint S-1 shotgun sight, a bead on top of the rib can be configured for shotgunners. A fun detail is that the shogun models are based on Beretta products. The bolt-action rifle and semiautomatic AR-15 are generic representations.
GAIM Sport Shooting
Sim Pro is included in all GAIM simulators. It is a gaming module that allows users to participate in simulated Steel Challenge or IPSC-style stages, as well as timed and configurable courses of fire. On completion, the user can analyze each shot and tune various features in the gameplay. You can even build your own practice range to simulate and prepare for a real match by selecting from several common targets, including moving hostage targets and the Texas Star. Simply set the speed of movement, distance and angle of each target’s placement. The post-analysis function aids shooters in understanding errors for proper adjustments.
The GAIM Training Handgun is built on the Arex Delta polymer grip module, which provides a realistic handgun feel. (Arex Defense is a handgun manufacturer based in Slovenia.) Interchangeable backstraps are included to optimize fitment. The trigger is almost too light for realism, but the tactile feel and reset are predictable for accurate fire with speed. Though it doesn’t have functionality with the available scenarios, the grip module does include a magazine release and removable magazine. (Perhaps mag changes will be a future update.)
The GAIM Training Handgun is a necessary controller for playing “GAIM of Steel,” which is based on the stages and procedures of Steel Challenge. Additionally, the handgun accessory can be used in the “Time Challenge,” “IPSC” and “Sim Pro” sporting-shooting scenarios, but so can the AR-15. To use the AR-15, you must install the trigger unit in the Wooden Rifle Stock. Though the tactile ergonomics are not that of an AR-15, shouldering the rifle and obtaining a cheekweld while driving the forend to each target helps you forget that you’re not actually holding an AR-15.
I have hours of practice invested in learning GAIM’s functionality. (I love my job.) I found myself frequently returning to hunt the Boar, Stag, Hunting Lane and Corn Field scenarios. Boar, especially, takes me back to memories of the driven hunt in the wood stands at Högestad & Kristinehof Estate. Using the rifle equipped with an Aimpoint ACRO and 3X magnifier was my preferred combination in real life — and simulation. For shotgunning, I enjoyed shooting the Beretta without an optic, particularly in Mallard and Competitive Trap. However, I am also working to beat my personal best scores in the Time Challenge and GAIM of Steel.
There are currently 23 scenarios with customizations available to configure more. Sandberg indicated that they are developing scenarios based on North America hunting, too, with whitetail deer being a priority. Unlike a lot of gaming apps sold in the Oculus store, GAIM is one that you won’t grow tired of once you’ve mastered its functionality. It’s a great way to practice and make the most of the time you spend indoors.
My GAIM play has turned into an addiction. Aimpoint may have set out to showcase various red-dot sights (and magnifiers) in
a simulated VR environment, but they have done more than that. GAIM is a virtual world that
we can escape to.
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