The Need for Better Targets – Lucas Botkin (00:01)
One of the things that's very important to T.REX ARMS is producing solutions to problems that we find in various areas in our industry.
A few years ago, I was working with various entities in law enforcement and the military. And I was in shoot houses and I was in different classroom settings. And a problem that I started identifying with CQB is guys not getting good target identification. They were working the rooms, going to their corners, you know, working the footwork and where they need to be—first man, second man, third man. And they were just using the same three targets over and over. Well, what was happening is guys were becoming subconsciously memorizing the targets that they were engaging. So they would break the threshold. They'd go to their corner. They would see a red shirt and, having shot that target all day, they would know that's a threat target. So they're not doing target identification. They're going off of pattern memorization. So they were losing an entire process of the entire piece of the puzzle. So I was driving back from one of these trainings with one of these units and I called up my older brother, Isaac, on the phone and said, "Hey, I wanna develop something to help solve this problem, where guys can have better target identification of actually a shoot or no-shoot type situation."
Creating the Chameleon Target System – Isaac Botkin (01:35)
That's when we began working on the Chameleon Variable Threat System, which is a software package that generates realistic targets with an almost infinite number of variables. The way that it works is this fairly simple 3D mesh and then a not-so-simple animation rig running underneath. So we take our animation rig here and create realistic poses. But then, on top of those poses, we swap out a bunch of different weapons, a bunch of different clothing types, and then also a bunch of different camera angles, which gives us a whole lot of different options. But on top of that, we also are able to change the mesh so that it can become literally anyone. There's blend shapes for different body types, different face styles. So once I've created a few hundred poses like this, I can hit render and generate maybe 10,000 different images without ever seeing the same target twice.
Variations Possible –
Lucas Botkin (02:29)
So if cadre are changing out targets appropriately in a shoot house or even on a flat range, students will never have a chance to memorize the targets that they're engaging. Every time they go into a room, every time they turn on a flat range, they'll have to do a 100% full target identification process—observing the hands of the target and what's going on.
Isaac Botkin (02:47)
So we've got several categories of targets. We've got guys with handguns, we've got guys with long guns, we've got guys with melee weapons, bomb vests, hostage-takers, and then several types of no-shoot targets. So additional hostages, neutral poses, people with non-weapon items. So there's a whole bunch of different kinds of targets that can be used.
Lucas Botkin (03:05)
So depending on the scenario and what you're running your guys through, you may say, "Melee, you gotta shoot guys with melee weapons, if it's X distance from you." Or, "These guys with these weapons, based on our intel, are friendlies." There's just a lot of options you can have when training, and by changing out your targets, your guys will never be able to memorize what's going on.
Isaac Botkin (03:23)
And the Chameleon System's actually been in the wild for over a year now, which means that we've been getting feedback and improving the system and adding features the trainers have specifically been asking for.
Hit Zones –
Lucas Botkin (03:34)
Something we've done for grading purposes—and this is something that you could use or disregard based on what you're focusing on—is we have a dynamic hit zone, where this hit zone is going to be placed on the target based on their orientation to the shooter. So in this case, this threat target—or potentially a friendly, depending on the scenario—is bladed away from the shooter and his shoulder is covering up his lungs. So obviously, rounds to the shoulder having to go through all this isn't going to be as effective as actually getting a round past there.
Isaac Botkin (04:01)
So, our hitbox is actually a true 3D volumetric shape that's informed by the organs and viscera underneath. So what we have here is actually kind of a challenge. This was one of the trickier things to develop. Something that is simple enough to use that it's just like a regular A zone with a heart box. But it's also matching the deformations of the entire skeleton. And it gets occluded by the limbs and weapons at the same time.
Lucas Botkin (04:34)
We have our dynamic hit zone that, as you can see, is split around his arm—we still have a little bit of the heart here. Obviously, if you, you know, are looking past that, you could say that arm hits are okay, but that all comes down to the cadre. And we have this hit zone for you guys, and we also have a pelvic hit zone as well, that you can track accuracy with. We also have law enforcement officers. Depending on the scenario that you're running, you may have these in the scenario, give guys the appropriate intel that they need. We've got guys with weapons in a nonthreatening position where, depending on your ROE, that may be something that you need to address. We have non-threat targets as well.
Shoot vs. No-Shoot Targets –
Isaac Botkin (05:10)
So for our no-shoot targets, some of them are very simple neutral poses. Some of them are non-weapon items and more complicated poses with more complicated camera angles, which has a huge impact on how tricky the targets are to figure out. We wanted to give trainers the opportunity to have targets like this or not, depending on things that they're working on.
Lucas Botkin (05:31)
Here's a perfect example of the kind of target that you won't encounter with other systems on the market. We have a possible threat or non-threat here, who is bladed away, turned away from the shooters or the students as they see this target. And they can't traditionally just go to the hands to identify if he has a weapon. He clearly has a Kalashnikov that is in the front of the target, and he's holding it with a hand that is not visible. So this is gonna require the students to really process and mentally see what's going on and process that. And then depending on ROE, what, you know, your unit, or based on what's going on, whether you can shoot or not shoot. Maybe he's an active shooter, you're able to flank him, and now you can shoot him, or maybe it's something else where you can't.
Visual Processing Difficulty Level –
Isaac Botkin (06:07)
Now there's a big downside with the Chameleon targets. And that is that we're printing them on standard two-foot by three-foot paper, which is the standard target size that fits the standard target holders that almost everybody is using. And it's a great size for printing life-size targets of people that are squared off directly to the target with their arms together. But when you're doing more dynamic poses like this, you have to print your humans just a little bit smaller than life-size, so that those poses actually end up properly on the paper. And you end up with some interesting silhouettes that are sometimes difficult to read.
Lucas Botkin (06:42)
Another thing that's really important is having targets where the weapons or the objects are not easily contrasted against the clothing. And it's something that I see a lot with targets where the gun is away from the body or the rifles up like this. And so it's really easy to process what's going on, but when you have something like this, Beretta against this sport jacket and they're both the same color, it encourages students to activate their white lights, especially if they're even in here in the day, activating their white lights to get more identification out of this target. So these are not easy targets to identify. They're not easy targets to engage. But that's only going to increase the standards of the people training on them, which is something that is very important to us here at T.REX ARMS.
Isaac Botkin (07:18)
So, in addition to the different categories, the different camera angles, the different weapons, there's a whole bunch of additional variables that we've added to the Chameleon Targets. Things like the different clothing, different hats, glasses, different hairstyles and random hair lengths and random hair color and random skin color and random eye color, and even tattoos and insignia on some of the clothing. And that's overkill for a simple shoot, no-shoot target identification scenario, but we wanted to provide a whole bunch of additional visual information that trainees have to process. And a whole bunch of additional options for trainers, so that as they're setting up scenarios, they have a whole bunch of things at their disposal to come up with new ways of laying things out and new challenges for the guys that they're working with.
Example Scenario – Lucas Botkin (08:05)
So I wanna give you guys an example of a target presentation that I just gave these guys. So it was a murder suspect that they're coming after. They get into this first room; they've got some non-threats they quickly have to process through. Then they have a closed door, wait for the second guy. When they go to push the door open, they have two suspects here, and I gave them a description for the guy they're going after: Skinny build, silver hair. But from the threshold with this lighting and with the target itself, it's very hard to distinguish. Is it actually a threat? Like they have to take that time to process. What does he have in his hands? Is he actually a threat? In which case, from the threshold and the intel that they had going into this particular training scenario, they knew, yes, he is a threat that we have to neutralize that we have to, you know, deal with.
So they put the rounds on this guy, assess this dude. Obviously, he's a non-threat. He's showing compliance as well. They worked from the threshold, called him out, and then worked the scenario as is. But they had never shot a target with this presentation before, with these lighting conditions, hiding a weapon. And they definitely were not a fan of it, but it's good training. It's something that, you know, they hadn't dealt with before, using the same three targets in a row that they normally, you know, shoot on. So that's the beauty of these Chameleon Targets and what they can give you.
Purchasing the Chameleon Target System – Isaac Botkin (09:15)
So the Chameleon Targets are shipping now, either in tubes of 25 that you can buy from the T.REX ARMS website or fully customized bulk orders. And with those, people can specify exactly how many shoot and no-shoot targets they want. They can break down the categories any way that they want—specify precise percentages of front, back, and side view. And we're really looking forward to building out custom training solutions for people, but also getting more feedback from trainers about the things that they're looking for so that we can work together to develop this system and make it more effective in generating the training tools that guys need to save lives in the future.