Computerized training

Timothy Hartranft, of Hellfire Tactical Training, demonstrates his virtual range by shooting his Sig training handgun at multiple silhouette targets, as his laptop records where each of his “bullets” hit.

Timothy Hartranft  is the owner of Hellfire Tactical Training, and instructs new and experienced shooters in pistol and rifle, as well as simulated pistol training.

“Simulated training allows students to practice their pistol skills indoors, using a computer simulation,” he says. “I have Sig and Glock training pistols for now. They allow students to load, cycle, shoot, and unload the pistols. The computer simulation offers various targets, from simple bullseye paper, to falling plates, to silhouette targets, to realistic self-defense scenarios. Targets are presented, virtually, at ranges from three to 10 yards.”

Hartranft says with new shooters, he starts with the fundamentals, stance, sight picture, breathing, and trigger pull, on a bullseye target. As students become more competent, and confident, they can progress to more active targets.

“It’s basically an indoor gun range, except as students shoot the computer is tracking their progress,” he says. “After they finish, the computer displays their hits, and I can use that to show areas they need to concentrate on.”

He says the different targets offer different advantages. The bullseye targets develop accuracy, as students get closer to putting all their shots in the center. The “plate” targets, which fall or flip when hit, help by combining accuracy with speed. The 50 reactive scenarios in the program go beyond shooting, to teach “shoot-don’t shoot.”

“The students face real situations in this phase. They may be defending their homes, or they may be on the street carrying with a license. As they get into the situation, they learn to handle it verbally if possible, but if that doesn’t work they have to know when pulling a gun is necessary, and when shooting someone is justified. The emphasis is on shooting as a last resort.”

Hartranft says his virtual program is particularly important right now. “There’s a shortage of ammunition. We have five million new shooters who want to practice, as well as people who want licenses to carry. The ammunition manufacturers are producing all the cartridges they can, but they can’t yet keep up with the new demand. With my system you can save the $100 you might need for a live range session.”

He says the computer, projector, and screen he uses are also portable. “I can take them to events, either training-related or just for fun. I have one target that is a ‘dueling tree.’ It has plates on either side of a central pole, and when the shooter hits one if flips to the other side of the pole. I can have two shooters competing, each shooting at the plates on one side of the pole. The first shooter who can flip all the plates to the opponent’s side, wins. It’s a blast.”

Hartranft says he developed his passion for shooting in the Army. “I was born and raised in Newark, N.Y. I played tennis and lacrosse growing up, and when I attended Newark High School. After I graduated, in 2001, I enlisted. I reported to Fort Sill, in Oklahoma, for basic training, and that was the first time I touched a firearm. I was assigned to the Field Artillery, and completed advanced individual training, also at Fort Sill.”

He says after he graduated his first duty station was in South Korea. He returned to the U.S., assigned to the 320th Field Artillery at Fort Campbell, Ky. With them, he was deployed as an artillery forward observer for the invasion of Iraq. In 2006, while stationed at Fort Drum, N.Y., he did a second tour in Iraq.

While serving, he made a friend on MySpace. Amanda Phillips lived in San Antonio, and Hartranft eventually travelled there to meet her. “We were just friends, but then a relationship developed. She had a daughter, Emily, and when Amanda and I married, March 7, 2007, I adopted her. She’s now in San Antonio getting her cosmetology license. We also have Lily, who is a student at BT Wilson Sixth Grade.”

After getting married he says he went to Pathfinder School, and changed jobs to personnel rescue during additional tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“In 2011, in Afghanistan, I was assigned to Task Force Nighthawk, going in to rescue downed personnel. I assisted the French when one of their aircraft got in trouble. Their government awarded me a ‘Témoignage De Satisfaction,’ a certificate which of course is all in French.”

Hartranft says he rose to the rank of sergeant first class, at duty stations including Fort Hood and Dyess Air Force Base in various assignments, and even two weeks in Poland working with the Polish Army. After serving 20 years, he and Amanda decided he should retire. “Usually I could only accumulate 90 days of leave. But due to COVID, the military now allows 180 days. I had 111 days accumulated, so right now I’m taking that, and will technically retire May 1.”

He says, “While I was in the Army, I really got into shooting. I was hooked so bad that I would even volunteer whenever there was range duty or firearms training. Then I went shooting with my father-in-law. So now that I’m out of the service, I decided to invest in the virtual computer training system, and start a small business teaching shooting, and renting out my system for events.”

With Amanda’s family in San Antonio, Hartranft says they wanted to settle near there. “Tammy Prout is a second cousin, and she told us all about Kerrville. I was impressed by the VA Medical Center here, and we all liked the great schools in KISD, so we found our retirement home in Kerrville South.”

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