As I’ve pointed out several times before, virtual reality (VR) can be a powerful tool for training. It’s obviously no substitute for live fire, but when done right it can be a great way to do things not only cheaper, but with a lot more flexibility than the one-way shooting range. Being able to slip some $250 goggles on your head and go to a virtual shooting range in your pajamas gives you a lot more chances for practice, too.
But, the biggest problem I identified with VR last year wasn’t the realistic look and motion. It was the tactile experience. Even if everything else is almost perfect, picking up a VR controller with a squishy trigger button puts the whole experience a little shy of dry fire practice. The AceXR “handset” showed me that this problem could be overcome with a better controller setup, as long as the feel of both the gun and the trigger is right.
But, the AceXR only currently replicates a pistol shooting experience, and I wanted to see if it’s possible to go play with a rifle in the metaverse. So, I started shopping again, and decided to start with something cheap: the “Magni Stock”.
At first glance, this looks almost nothing like a rifle. Sure, it’s got a grip with a trigger button, but the frame is below the grip, and the stock goes up (is this the mythical “shoulder thing that goes up“?) But, you have to keep in mind that you’re not holding a rifle when using VR. You’re holding two controllers, and they act as your points on contact with a virtual rifle in the game. But, when you can’t hold the controllers still and keep them in the same relative position compared to your shoulder, it’s a bit like shooting an AR or AK pistol with no brace.
So, in theory at least, the idea is to keep the relative position of your hands and your shoulder all the same, making for a much more realistic virtual experience.
Getting it right requires a lot of adjustment. For starters, I lined the thing up on top of my real rifle to get the position of the pistol grip and the stock to be about the same. This gave me a realistic length of pull and grip angle. I then tried to line the front controller up as best as I could with the shroud/rail system. But, I quickly found out that the angle was all wrong in the game, so I had to drop the front controller to make the virtual sights in Ghosts of Tabor (learn more about the game here) line up and feel right.
Once I got it all dialed in, it was pretty nice! I’m sure I looked doofy “shooting” in the tutorial level for Ghosts of Tabor, but the experience was pretty close to actually shooting, other than a spongy trigger on the controller and some flex in the whole setup (better rifle stocks with simulated recoil and better triggers exist, but they’re a LOT more expensive and I haven’t had a chance to test any yet).
When it came time to put the virtual rifle down on the table and do other things, the stock’s magnetic locking system came in handy. Because your virtual hands in VR follow the controllers, you need to be able to remove them from the gun. So, you pull and twist a bit to get the controllers free and let the stock hang by the sling while you do things like shoot pistols, work with supplies, etc. For things like reloading, you need to be able to take your weak hand off to grab a mag, insert it, and charge it.
What Didn’t Work Great
Because this was only $70, there are definitely some downsides.
The biggest one was how far down the stock goes before going forward. For men, you’d have the back of it on your chest going pretty far down. For women, it doesn’t work well because most womens’ chests aren’t flat. So, I had to twist the whole setup to put the stock off to the side at the bottom and clear my chest properly. My other option would have been to be an Amazon warrior, but I’m just not that committed to this rig.
Another downside is that the whole rig can be a little uncomfortable for extended use when frequently switching back and forth from shooting to manipulating other items in the simulation. There’s something about the whole experience of snapping hands onto a virtual item that doesn’t perfectly line up to the real world that was a little nauseating. But, it took over an hour of use with several interruptions (including goggle removal and replacement) before I felt sick. So, for casual and uninterrupted use, it shouldn’t be a problem.
Finally, using different simulated weapons sometimes requires adjustment. The simulated AR and MP5 guns both lined up about the same, but the simulated Barrett was completely different. So, keep in mind that the stock isn’t a cure all for stability in every game/simulation.
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