Smoke and mirrors have deceived audiences during magic illusions for generations for one simple reason—they’re very effective at fooling our senses with tricks of perspective. One company, Troysgate, is using these very basic principles to create a training simulator that’s so realistic, some participants break down when confronted with the reality of shooting another person.

Many shooters do things like run a couple laps or do a series of pushups to get their heart going while training, to help replicate the stress of a deadly encounter. That’s pretty much what the Troysgate system does, but its turned up to 11, and without the calisthenics.

This story from explains how the whole thing works using a high-tech mirror film that absorbs bullets and angles them harmlessly toward a rubber trap, while all your senses tell you you’re engaging a home intruder in a firefight. The ability to use a wide variety of real props, including real firearms and ammunition, offer a wider variety of situations the simulator can replicate.

From the story:

“Randy Martin developed the mirror film and shoot house to bring more realism to firearms training after spending decades in law enforcement and surviving a deadly force encounter. Traditional training with paper targets can give you experience with shooting real guns and live ammo, video-based training can present you with different scenarios where you ‘shoot’ at pre-recorded and semi-reactive video of real people, and training with simunition can give you experience with shooting fake guns at real people while they shoot back at you. Troysgate can give you the best features of all those training techniques at once.

“It’s incredibly versatile as well. Since the mirror film is thin and flexible, it can be easily set up in any number of configurations for any number of training purposes. While I was at Troysgate’s Lenoir, North Carolina, facility I shot through a living room set, a simple hallway, a parking lot set with a real car, and a guard posting along a road.

“I shot through scenarios with home intruders, kidnappers, and long-distance threats. My heart was racing even before I began my first shoot. It didn’t get any less stressful throughout the day. One of the hardest parts was pulling the trigger on a rifle after centering my sights on the face of an actual person. While I knew, intellectually, it was a mirror I was actually aimed at, my eyes couldn’t tell the difference.”

The story says that Martin has videos of participants breaking down during the training, which he says can be helpful in that it lets the training help them work through the mental end emotional issues that arise from shooting a person if they have to.

Troysgate can be used to train people for civilian situations as well as law enforcement and military scenarios. The company has built specialty shoot houses at two locations in North Carolina that are open to the public. It isn’t cheap, with a full day of training running $250, but if you get a lot out of it, it could certainly be worth it.

The system isn’t limited to handguns either, can be configured for pretty much any firearm, and is said to expose problems that you may not know you had.

From the story:

“The stress induced by firing real guns at real people while they shoot right back at you is, well, real. That stress reveals problems that you may not detect in other training contexts—for my part, I had consistent problems with retrieving my spare magazine during reloads. I couldn’t recommend Troysgate more for exposing those flaws that other less stressful, less realistic training may not.”