Robotic Tactical Training Targets


In combat, most targets will be moving; the enemy or a bad guy with a gun will not present himself or herself for a deliberate shot. They will move quickly from cover to cover, exposing themselves for the shortest possible time. A moving target must be engaged quickly before it disappears. For effectiveness in combat and in order to stay alive, the shooter must engage and hit a moving target, as the shooter would hit a stationary target, under a variety of combat conditions. A close-quarters gun fight is not like standing on a line facing a target while being focused with the dominant eye open. Line up the gun sights on the center target, then slowly squeeze the trigger and do not anticipate the gun going off to get a target/bullseye hit. Shooting against a lifeless paper target does not provide the same stress level as a street gunfight, so success in competition may not correlate to success in a gunfight.

The aim of this article is to present an introduction to the world’s most advanced robotic target, the Targabot. It’s the world’s first portable, battery-operated, live-fire moving target that is designed to behave unpredictably—like real threats in the real world. The Targabot target platform offers the modern-day warfighter, law enforcement officer, security official and tactical/competitive shooter a challenge, engagement and heightened realism to small-arms training. Shooting techniques like the modern technique/sighted method and point shooting/unsighted in close quarters shooting will not be described—experts have written a lot about that elsewhere. The advanced Targabot robotic target makes a paper target that shows up, moves and moves away in cover.

“The bad guy.” This author has 38 years of army service and has used rifles and pistols both for training and competition. Shooting against the robotic target was the most thrilling ever.

Clark County Shooting Complex, January 22, 2015

Targamite, a robotics company which produces advanced tactical training platforms, invited this author to come to try the world’s first portable, computer-controlled target system, Targabot. This is a target system that offers both predicable and unpredictable behavioral characteristics. Targamite had arranged a shooting point with the robotic target at the rifle range at the Clark County Shooting Complex. Anyone who wanted to shoot could select between 9mm or .45 caliber pistols and an Armalite 7.62mm rifle. The Targabot:

  • Features up-and-down or 180-degree rotational movement patterns or a combination of both functions.
  • Is lightweight for one person to carry (only 20.5 lbs.).
  • Can be carried and rigged up in a few minutes. The Targamite representative set up the system by himself.
  • Operates autonomously or can be remote controlled.
  • Is battery powered and can be used stand-alone in the field or can also use AC in an indoor range, for example.
  • Allows difficulty and complexity to be adjusted to accommodate for user skill level, tactical situation or training needs.
  • Can be networked with multiple other units to create complex training scenarios.
  • Can be used at long range (beyond 1,000 meters) by snipers, in close for handguns or mounted inside of shoot houses.
  • Is compatible with almost all existing paper and cardboard targets.
  • Has future accessories including laser targets, hit counters and virtual gongs.
  • Is affordable. The Targabot costs about the same as many static steel targets.
  • Is user-programmable—comes with built-in sequence patterns, or the instructor can create his own pattern on a real-time remote control.
The 1,000-meter range Targabot real-time remote control with graphic sequencer interface gives the trainer, trainee or spotter a master control for multiple units or one simply programs any autonomous scenario he/she imagines, with the user-friendly graphic sequencer. (Targamite)

Aside from being unbelievably engaging and fun, the Targabot gives the shooter a new dimension of challenge and training ability.

It is an effective way to enhance live-fire unpredictable engagement and marksmanship capabilities. Training with the Targabot improves critical shooting skills such as rapid sight and target acquisition, rapid target engagement, rapid target identification and vision effectiveness. It can be programmed for random movement that more closely reflects unpredictable “field” conditions. One can create complex hostage and combatant scenarios with multiple Targabots. For example, switching between different targets forces the shooter to distinguish between “bad guy” and “innocent hostage.” The Targabot chassis requires only approximately 14-inch by 16-inch protective steel plate. This author had a miss with the 7.62mm rifle and accidently hit the steel protective plate. The plate withstood the force from the strong 7.62mm projectile without any damage. And, most important, the exposed plastic shafts and target mounts are designed to be shot at and are inexpensive to replace. A shooter that is training with this system can build muscle memory in his/her shooting skills that will translate into confidence and effectiveness in the field. Tactical training for military, law enforcement officers and security personal with Targabot will help increase the hit rate.

The Targabot comes with eight factory-modes of operation, each with individualized difficulty-ramping capabilities. Simple movements or random behavioral capability (unpredictability). The trainer may also direct the system in real time by remote control. (Targamite)

Targabot users include:

U.S. Army
U.S. Army Asymmetric Warfare Group
U.S. Marine Corps
U.S. Marine Corps Security Forces Regiment
U.S. Coast Guard Academy
U.S. Coast Guard–MSST
U.S. Coast Guard–MSRT
U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM)
Dept. of Homeland Security–ICE OFTP (DHS)
Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
Internal Revenue Service–CIU
Federal Corrections Complex
Federal Bureau of Prisons
Fort Bragg Provost Marshal Office
Las Vegas Metro Police Dept.
Unified Police Dept. of Greater Salt Lake City
Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Office, Salt Lake City
Louisiana State Police Training Academy, La.
San Diego Co Sheriff’s Dept., San Diego
Allen Co Sheriff’s Dept., Fort Wayne, Ind.
Porter Co Sheriff’s Dept., Valparaiso, Ind.
LaGrange Co Sheriff’s Dept., LaGrange, Ind.
Coshocton Co Sheriff’s Office, Coshocton, Ohio
Charlotte Co Sheriff’s Office, Punta Gorda, Fla.
Freemont Co Sheriff’s Office, Cañon City, Colo.
Gwinnett Co PD, Lawrenceville, Ga.
Trinidad Police Dept., Trinidad, Colo.
Alliance Police Dept., Alliance, Ohio
Whitehouse PD, Whitehouse, Texas
SIG SAUER Academy, Epping, N.H.
Smith & Wesson Academy, Springfield, Mass.
National Rifle Association, Fairfax, Va.
Calgary Police Service–Alberta, Canada
Tasleeh Consultancy–Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Dubai Police Force–Dubai, United Arab Emirates
NATU–Indonesian National Counter-Terrorism Agency

Target shafts (3 feet), target mount adapters, target backings (12-inch by 12-inch) and paper targets are easy to change.
Targamite is developing an enhanced version of the Targabot platform that will be available later this year. (Targamite)
The Targabot is a lightweight (20.5 lbs.) all-weather system that can be used indoors and outdoors, as well as in shoot houses, inside/around motorized vehicles, on boats and ships, or on mobile ranges. Here is the inside of the Targabot main unit. Power supply AC or battery-powered (onboard; up to six hours runtime). (Targamite)