Training at the speed of life - April 2005

RBT Tip of the Month

SIMUNITION® is a company not a type of cartridge. The terms "simunition", "simmunitions" or just simply "sims" are dangerous terms. It might sound like semantics, but using the term "simmunition" as a generic term for marking cartridges is dangerous and might someday lead to somebody getting killed. SIMUNITION® manufactures a number of different types of training ammunition, the majority of which are LETHAL if fired at human targets in training.

Every single box of ammunition they make has the name SIMUNITION® on it. An uneducated user (or rather a user possibly educated by YOU through the careless use of the word when referring to their FX® Marking Cartridges) may someday pick up a box of lethal ammunition and load it into a firearm with the intention of participating in a force on force training exercise. It has already happened on at least two occasions that I am personally aware of. Fortunately, no one was injured. In fact, one of the cartridges, CQT® Target Cartridges, actually requires the same conversion kit necessary for firing the marking cartridges. CQT® cartridges have lethal potential and must NEVER be fired at human targets in training.

This month's training tip is to abandon the generic use of the word SIMUNITION® when referring to marking cartridges. Instead, adopt the term NLTA, which stands for Non Lethal Training Ammunition. This term applies to any type of training ammunition, including conventional paintball and even Airsoft, that was designed for use against human targets during realistic training. Remember, NLTA, not "simmunition."

Close Call Corner

A special response team was preparing for a realistic training exercise. The team members were told to "bring your Sims kit, and grab a box of 'simmunitions' on your way out." During the training exercise, one of the participants was experiencing chronic weapon malfunctions. When a trainer came over to help solve the problem, it was discovered that the team member had grabbed a box of SIMUNITION®'s Greenshield® Frangible Ammunition instead of the marking cartridges.

Frangible ammunition has many of the same ballistic characteristics of conventional ammunition and is definitely a lethal cartridge. When asked why he brought that type of ammunition to training, in his own defense, he told the trainer "it says SIMUNITION® on the box!" Fortunately, the pistol had been retrofitted with a conversion kit designed to fire the marking cartridges, and it prohibited the frangible cartridge from fully chambering. No one was injured. It is important to note that these conversion kits have safety features built into them to help reduce the possibility of chamber and firing a conventional round, but they are not fail-safe and must not be relied upon for this purpose.


    1. Improper use of ammunition terminology caused confusion about the purpose of a training cartridge.
    2. There was no control over training ammunition and conversion kit issuance/installation.


    1. Abandon the use of the term "simmunition" in favor of the generic term NLTA when referring to marking cartridges
    2. Utilize a single, dedicated Safety Officer who, among other duties, will convert and load any weapons to be utilized
    3. Educate all participants about the different types of training technologies to be utilized and their design purposes/limitations



A reader asks, "What is the basic level of safety equipment I should be using with marking cartridges?"


Marking cartridges can hit you with sufficient energy to break skin, leave welts, destroy eyes, remove fingernails, well, you get the picture. I believe that as a minimum, the areas of the face, throat, hands and groin should be protected from impact. Beyond this, try to cover as much skin as possible with conventional clothing - preferably tight weave fabrics such as BDU's since loose weave or knit fabrics can be damaged by projectile impact. Wrapping people up like the Michelin Man, where excessive padding is used is, to my mind, too much. It completely eliminates a pain penalty, and it is in the possibility of getting a bit of an owwie where much of the training value exists. Not because of the punitive nature of a pain penalty, but rather the psychological impact of the possibility of getting hurt. Many students become risk aversive, that is, they exhibit behaviors that they might otherwise not demonstrate when a pain penalty exists.

If training staff is properly trained to observe for these behaviors, magical training moments will often occur which will otherwise be overlooked by an untrained observer. Skills that have not been conditioned to the Unconscious Competence level will begin to fail in the presence of risk aversive behavior. Shooting proficiency will diminish, gear manipulation will deteriorate, etc. When choosing protective equipment, the possibility of serious damage to a student should be eliminated without removing the training value of a pain penalty. Of course, there is a whole different level of protection necessary for a role player. No room to discuss that here except to say there isn't any value whatsoever in causing your role player any pain.

Until next time, train hard and train safe.

Ken Murray

Kenneth R. Murray will be appearing regularly in Police One on the topic of Reality Based Training. Please send questions and comments to

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