Dan Williams heads to The Gun Shop in Botley to try out their new Marksman ST-2 Shooting Simulator and see how realistic it is

The Gun Shop in Botley, Hampshire, have just had a Marksman ST-2 shooting simulator installed and were kind enough to invite me along to try it out before the official opening. There are only a handful of these simulators in the country, so I couldn’t refuse the offer of trying one out, just 20 minutes from home!

After a cup of tea and a quick chat, we were led into the simulator room and got straight down to business. The system is effectively a projector, a huge screen and a series of sensors rigged to the gun, all run through a purpose-built computer. Setting up takes only a matter of minutes, with the camera and trigger sensors fitted, a few measurement inputs into the system, and a quick calibration shot at the screen before you’re good to go.

You can take your own gun along with you, which I would highly recommend, or use the dummy gun that comes with the simulator – although it must be said the dummy gun does lack a bit of realism, being just a little too light for my liking. I managed to forget my gun, but the guys in the shop were good enough to lend me one for the hour.

We got straight into it with some basic clay targets. Nothing too fancy, just a few to get my eye in. Once I got a feel for it, I was ready to play with a few of the built-in options. The thing that took some getting used to was the trigger pulls. You only get the minimal movement on the trigger for obvious reasons, but I got over this very quickly. Once I had destroyed a good few clays, we moved onto grouse, pheasant and duck.

The system has some quite useful tools, which make it an invaluable training tool. For example, if you miss a target, which I was guilty of on several occasions, you can have a replay of gun movement in relation to the target. This allows you to see if you were giving the target too much lead – or not enough, in my case.

It will even give you a ballistics breakdown when you do manage to find your target. This will include how much lead you shot the target with and the impact speed, along with various other bits of information down to how many pellets hit the target. I was shooting duck at around 70m and having to give them a good 3m of lead, something that took me a while to get used to.

The variables of the system seem almost endless. Most features seem to be customisable, with the background photography and targets being changed easily from the grouse moor to a pheasant drive. Even factors such as choke, pellet size and type can be changed to suit the style of shooting you are having a go at. So, say you’re a coastal wildfowler who shoots 34g Bismuth 5-shot cartridges – the settings can be adjusted to show a ballistics report for that cartridge.

As well as all the usual game birds and clays, there are some very interesting targets more suited to rifle shooters. There is a deer stalking taster, moose, driven wild boar and even brown bear, with the latter being quite interesting because if you don’t manage a clean kill with the first shot, the bear will then turn on you to attack!

I think this simulator is going to prove extremely useful to many shooters as a training aid. My apprentice came along with me to check it out and, having never even held a shotgun in his life, was smashing clays within minutes after some quick tuition from instructor Dave. I feel that I could improve my shooting with it too, and will most definitely be visiting again.

I must say that an hour can be quite testing on the arms though! My shoulders were certainly burning after about 20 minutes. It is surprisingly realistic in my eyes, all barring weather conditions, and I think it is about as close as you will get to the real thing without getting out in the field. The question is, will the wife let me put one in the front room?!

For more information, call 01489 797677 or visit www.thegunshopbotley.com

To check out Dan Williams’ awesome shooting blog, follow this link