March 02, 2023
By Joe Kurtenbach
Don’t fret if you haven’t heard of the shooting-inspired Swedish tech company GAIM before now. By reading this article, you can consider yourself ahead of the game. The firm’s simulators and virtual scenarios have been making the rounds in the old country for nearly a decade, and GAIM has now set its detailed, digitally-rendered sights on the North American hunting and shooting market.
Now a standalone organization, GAIM began as a special project from renowned optics maker Aimpoint. In the mid-2010s, Aimpoint began using virtual reality simulators at tradeshows to showcase its line of red-dot optics and demonstrate their use and advantages over traditional iron sights. The primary audience, at first, was professional users – military and law enforcement agencies – considering a switch to electro-optic weapon sights. However, it became clear to Aimpoint that the same simulator tech could be used to win new commercial business, as well.
Around 2019, the former tradeshow attraction began to seriously level up. For one, Aimpoint launched GAIM as an independent, though subsidiary, business unit to continue evolving the simulator technology as well as expanding its applications. Too, the newly created brand began a search to replace its large, complex and expensive equipment with something more accessible and user friendly. By 2020, the widely available Oculus platform was selected as the new vessel for GAIM’s simulator.
Today, GAIM is considered a sister company to Aimpoint, and like its sibling operates an international headquarters in Malmo, Sweden, as well as a United States office in Manassas, Virginia.
As mentioned, GAIM selected the Oculus as its standard at-home delivery platform. Specifically, the company uses the Meta Quest 2 device. GAIM does not make or sell Oculus headsets, but the VR platforms are readily available online and from brick-and-mortar retailers.
On the other hand, GAIM does make the trigger assembly and replica firearm controller mounts that elevate the simulation from visual to tangible. Powered by a common CR2032 battery – the same battery that runs my Aimpoint ACRO P2 and other optics – the GAIM trigger connects to the Quest 2 via Bluetooth and, along with the Oculus controller, mounts into a GAIM training gun.
Two options are available: The GAIM Wooden Rifle controller for long-gun scenarios – rifles and shotguns – is a wooden rifle stock, complete with buttpad and grip checkering. It hosts a drop-in trigger/trigger guard assembly and mounts an Oculus controller above the forend. The second firearm adaptor is the Training Pistol, which is built on a real Arex Delta grip frame, and includes a bright blue slide assembly for the trigger and controller. Cleverly, an Aimpoint sight tool is included to aid in assembly the trainers and mounting the trigger and controls.
In my testing, the trigger paired to the Meta Quest 2 without issue, but users should read GAIM’s instructions to understand the pairing process and decipher the flashing LED signals. Too, assembling the training guns and attaching the controls was straight forward, but a magnetic screwdriver with the proper Torx bit made handling the small screws much easier. The smooth, curved trigger is enviable for its crisp break, and serious users can even adjust the pull weight to better match the feel of their favorite firearms.
While the tangible products are smart additions, the real heavy lifting behind GAIM’s simulator is done by the company’s software. And, regardless of the scenario, the company’s watchword is “realism.”
Preparing this article, I spoke with Fredrik Sandberg, GAIM’s expansion manager for North America. “Everything in this simulator is based on reality,” he said, “Everything is developed with the intent to make you a better hunter and shooter in reality.” The company sees these simulators and scenarios as a complement to live-fire practice. Certainly, it is a fast, easy and safe alternative to the range, and by facilitating dry-fire practice at home, live-fire training can become more focused. Efficient and effective use of range time can offer significant savings in costs live gas, ammo and rental fees. Plus, the feedback and analysis provided by the simulator, such a movement tracking and shot placement, elevate the training value of the dry-fire repetitions.
Of course, to sell the simulation the details must be right. That’s why GAIM dedicates a huge amount of time and resources into perfecting the realism. As an example, true ballistics provide the basis for all the digital projectiles. Users have the ability to set up the “fit” of their virtual firearms and select the zero distance and optic/sight style (including, of course, a variety of Aimpoint optics) within the GAIM app. The benefit of personalizing these settings is twofold: First, the zero distance selected matters because the simulation accounts for bullet velocity and trajectory. Second, I can tell you from experience that the simulator becomes much easier to use and enjoyable once you’ve set up a profile and adjusted the firearm fit and style. Remember, your real movements are being projected into a virtual world, so it pays to spend a little time calibrating the system.
If the attention to detail with regard to the guns and ammo weren’t enough, GAIM went above and beyond to ensure the environments, and particularly the quarry, were on point. The company claims to have spent a year developing its virtual boars which, along with all the various animals in the hunting scenarios, are anatomically correct. GAIM even brought in wildlife experts to ensure its simulated critters move and react as they would in real life.
GAIM, today, focuses its scenarios and product offerings on both the professional and consumer markets – the focus of this review is the latter. (For readers interested in military and law enforcement virtual reality training aid, be sure to consult the GAIM website.)
Not surprising given its European roots and familial bonds to Aimpoint, GAIM’s consumer offerings are fairly hunt centric and quite continental, but there are also some great recreational, target, and competition-oriented scenarios. It’s catalog for the U.S. market breaks down into three primary packages: Hunting, Sport Shooting, and Complete.
The Hunting package is based around long-gun simulations. Priced at $550, it includes the trigger assembly and rifle controller, as well as a robust software suite. The eight rifle hunting scenarios offer a shooting opportunity akin to blind or stand hunting. There is a variety of game animals, from boar to bears and moose, and some scenarios replicate European driven hunts (Don’t shoot the dogs!) while other offer scenic fields and meadows with meandering game. Sight options for the rifle scenarios include iron sights, a ghost ring with red dot, or a selection of Aimpoint reflex optics and optional magnifiers.
Shotgun scenarios are also part of the Hunting package, and include pheasant and mallard hunts, as well as skeet, trap, and five-stand courses. Sights offered are irons, ghost ring or the Aimpoint S1. There is also a customizable Sim Pro options that allows shooters to customize the environment, targets and their behaviors. And, finally, the Hunting package includes a limited selection of sporting scenarios, including a time challenge and the company’s take on a Steel Challenge course of fire, aptly called “GAIM of Steel.”
For $440, the Sport Shooting package also includes GAIM’s trigger assembly, but also ships with the blue Arex Delta pistol controller. The software suite includes a GAIM of Steel, time challenge, and SIM Pro. But the highlight has to be the IPSC-style shooting scenarios. These include steel and paper targets, set or adaptive courses of fire and, of course, full analysis features to help users shave tenths off their splits and transitions. Sighting options with the pistol include irons, ghost ring or the Aimpoint ACRO P2.
Finally, although pricey, the best deal may be GAIM’s Complete package. For $1,100, customers receive the trigger, rifle and pistol controllers, and access to GAIM’s entire catalog of hunting and sporting scenarios. These scenarios, too, are continuously updated, with new updates and improvements launched every two months.
After a little more than a week with GAIM’s Complete package, I can say with a certainty, I’m just getting started with virtual reality simulator training. As I noted before, the hardware set up was a breeze and I’m very glad I spent an extra 20 minutes or so setting up a profile with firearm settings. It’s no small feat to be holding a rifle stock, essentially blind folded, yet be able to see the rifle, the optic, the field and the game in front of me. And, if I do my part, I can actually “look” through the virtual Aimpoint, find the reticle, and squeeze the trigger to produce an on-target hit – often the VR equivalent of an ethical harvest.
The environments are immersive and 360 degrees – be sure to follow the Oculus procedures for setting up a safe gaming environment. And the shooting analysis is excellent. Whether it’s a miss on steel, a C-zone hit on paper, or an errant shot on running game, the ability to replay the shot, track your movement and see how to correct and improve your performance is invaluable. I believe that users will get out what they put in with GAIM; if they take the scenarios seriously and take advantage of the analysis tools, they can become better, more prepared hunters and shooters.
And really, that’s the whole point. As Sandberg told me, “The value of virtual simulations is to make hunters and shooters better prepared for reality.”
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