Only the police officers who have experienced an actual "active shooter" situation really know what it's like to have split-seconds to determine what is a potentially deadly threat and what isn't. Then they have to decide how to respond to the threat, and an officer's reaction time can many times have life-and-death implications.
At the 2015 SHOT Show in Las Vegas on Wednesday, we got a small taste of what that seemingly impossible situation is like with Cubic's realistic PRISm shooting simulator.
The PRISm simulator provides a "highly realistic use-of-force training that develops the skills required for personnel armed with both lethal and less-lethal weapons." Mostly sold to law enforcement, the simulators allow officers to go through realistic training exercises while also saving money on ammunition and other costs.
PRISm instructor John Murphy set up an "active shooter" scenario where there are five active shooters inside a building and several hostages that needed to be saved. He explained that the exercise would end in failure if any of the hostages were shot or if the response time to the threat of a shooter was too long.
What's too long? Murphy said as little as two seconds can mean life or death for an officer.
"The goal of the exercise is to get through this and to deal with it properly and calmly and efficiently," Murphy said. "Now I'm gonna launch you into hell."
My heart was beating out of my chest for most of the simulation as I was completely unsure of where the next gunman might suddenly appear. The rifle wasn't exactly lightweight, so my arms were also burning by the end of the exercise.
Though the simulation was intense, I managed to neutralize all five shooters without harming any hostages. I finished with 13 hits and six misses -- an accuracy rate of 68 percent.
Murphy told TheBlaze the accuracy percentage in an actual active shooter situation would likely be much lower given all the variables and high-stress atmosphere.
In reviewing the results of the training, Murphy walked us through each individual bad guy encounter. The PRISm system tracks every bullet fired and whether the shooter hit or missed his target, allowing the shooter to gauge his overall success in the scenario.
It all lasted a little more than three minutes, but it felt much longer.
All in all, it's tough to imagine how difficult a real situation would be. I left with even more respect -- but not envy -- for the law enforcement officers who put their lives on the line every day, never knowing what new threat may be just around the corner.