Dvorak brings high-tech shooting simulator to Spink County
By Shiloh Appel
On Friday, June 12th, Kayla Understock and I took a trip to Mellette, South Dakota to try out a new shooting simulator created by Ti Outdoors described as “the only simulator of this complexity in the state of South Dakota or in this region” by owner, Willie Dvorak. It is also the same kind of simulator used by the NYPD, “the largest police force in the country,” to train their policemen and women.
Once we arrived, Dvorak took us to see how the simulator was set up in a dark room with one white wall (used as a screen) in the upper level of his home. From his computer, Dvorak can project videos of realistic situations with real actors onto the wall, such as school shootings, robberies, traffic stops, domestic abuse situations, and many more. The system has 650 possible scenarios, each of which can be customized in various ways, Dvorak explained. Dvorak then showed us his table of guns featuring three polymer pistols, a Glock and a Smith&Wesson.
“These are real pistols that have been modified. So it is not like a duplicate or a similar pistol,” said Dvorak. “They have the recoil. They are run off of C02 cartridges and the system, you can remember it pretty easy, because it is my last name. It is called the Dvorak System. You can actually drop that [system] into any other pistol.”
Dvorak handed Understock a pistol and holster and flicked out the lights. An outdoor scene with targets appeared on the bright screen and the sounds of birds singing, along with varied other outdoor sounds came from the five surround-sound speakers and filled the room. As a computer voice began to count down seconds, Understock aimed and shot at each one of the targets.
After practicing on targets for awhile, Dvorak introduced both of us to the real-life scenarios.
“There is a sensor that covers the whole screen in a grid of about a centimeter. Wherever you point that gun, whichever grid you hit, that is where it takes its reading from. It shoots it back through the computer and the guy either falls down dead or keeps coming,” said Dvorak. “The software is pretty unbelievable.”
To keep it as realistic as possible, Dvorak does not tell people very many details before pressing “play” for a scene to unfold on the screen. For example, in one instance he said, “You are a cop performing a routine traffic stop. Do what you need to do.” If a person came out with a weapon and we told them to drop the weapon, he could sometimes manipulate the scenario and make the person drop the weapon. At other times, the person just kept coming. Sometimes with a gun. Sometimes with a bomb. Sometimes with a knife. We had to be prepared to shoot.
The simulator, which Dvorak said he bought about a month ago for $30,000 from a police officer in Michigan, was purchased for entertainment, but Dvorak said he has received increased interest in using it as a training and public awareness tool.
“The realism is incredible. As you are well aware, cops get accused of poor judgement by many folks in the media, politics and at the water cooler and coffee shops around the country. A few minutes on this simulator will open the eyes of criticizers and test them in real life situations in real time. It is pretty awesome,” stated Dvorak. “I have had quite a few people try it out already. They can’t believe how it gets their heart pumping. They want to show me what they can do, but they realize pretty quick that that’s not the way it works. They are realizing how humbling it is. They might show up with the notion that they are going to show Willie how good they are with a gun, but they might leave here thinking this is like real-life situations that are way more complicated than we train ourselves to believe by watching TV or a movie.”
In the beginning
Dvorak, who runs a hunting business in South Dakota and Alaska, loves shooting. He said he first saw a shooting simulator on the Eddy Murphy show “Beverly Hills Cop.”
“It was the first time I had ever heard of one, and I didn’t know if it was real or not. If you remember, I think it was the first Beverly Hills Cop,” said Dvorak.
Much later, he was able to travel to New York, tour the New York Police Department, see their shooting simulator and try it out himself.
“Two gunsmiths from the NYPD are clients of mine in my prairie dog hunting business. They come out about every other year. One of them came with me to Alaska last year and he came up there on a fishing deal,” said Dvorak. It was his clients who invited him to visit the NYPD.
“I was looking at buying one because I wanted to buy the same one that they used in the NYPD,” said Dvorak.
Try it out
Dvorak has made the simulator available for public use in his home at $30 per person per hour. He believes it may be a valuable experience for law enforcement, teachers, school board members and all who are interested in self defense. He also believes it can be a fun opportunity for bachelor or bachelorette parties, office parties, and other events. The program not only offers real-life scenarios, but also has a zombie shooting option as well the target shooting and other fun settings.
Dvorak can be contacted at 605-228-8162 to set up a session or through his website that will soon to be finished: www.shouldweshoot.com.