Kill house

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An open-air shoot house as used by Colombian special forces.

A kill house or shoot house is a live ammunition small arms shooting range used to train military and law enforcement personnel for close contact engagements in urban combat environments. Kill houses are designed to mimic residential, commercial and industrial spaces and are used to acquaint personnel with techniques to infiltrate (gaining access) structures and the methods used to overwhelm the target(s) in the quickest and most efficient manner. The construction of one of these facilities can vary in material and cost depending on the needs and the resources available. Like any shooting range, there are rules that must be followed to ensure a safe kill house training session.


A kill or shoot house is a type of indoor firing range modified to resemble a residential environment and with walls and floor fortified to safely absorb rounds fired from close range. It is used to train soldiers and police for various urban combat scenarios while permitting them to use their full power service weapons. The scenarios trained for include room and apartment clearing, door breaching and the inclusion of hostage or noncombatant targets along with enemy targets ("shoot/no shoot").

Simpler kill houses without the necessary fortification to be safe for live fire can be used for blank or dry fire training of the same variety. As necessary this can be reduced even further down to the "glass house", which is merely a residential floorplan marked out in full scale on the ground.


The British Special Air Service pioneered the use of such CQB training facilities. Their Killing House was one of the first of its kind and was emulated by units from other countries.[1][2][3]



US Army live-fire shoot house showing construction layers.

Kill houses can be built from almost any materials, ranging from concrete to something as simple as plywood depending on the needs of the users of the kill house. For structures that need to contain and absorb gunfire, stronger materials are needed such as concrete or ballistic rubber. It's important to note that using materials that can't absorb gunfire may lead to injuries and death. For more temporary or cost-effective needs, plywood or a plastic sheet can make a suitable wall.[4]

In addition to the actual facility, the shoot house also requires targets to simulate the individuals they must subdue. The most common and recognizable targets used in shoot houses are paper silhouettes and mannequins. To simulate the movement of an actual person the targets are either placed on rails or they can pop up from an undisclosed location.[5][6]

Virtual kill house[edit]

US Marines clearing a room in a virtual shoot house at Camp Pendleton, California, 2008.

An alternative to the more traditional shoot house is a virtual kill house. Virtual kill houses make use of audio and visual technology to create an interactive, if not video game like, experience. This version of a kill house uses a projector to display different scenarios on a screen while sensors keep track of the soldier's relative position and if he/she has hit the target on the screen.

Virtual kill houses provide a similar experience to a traditional shoot house, but are more interactive. In a normal shoot house, soldiers would shoot at silhouettes or mannequins, but in the virtual counterpart the targets are life-sized and free to move along the screen. These shoot houses usually only require a flat surface to display the scenarios, so wax ammunition is used in place of actual bullets.

One notable virtual kill house is the Army Live Fire Virtual Targeting system used at Fort Bragg. Previously, the software used for the facility was part of America's Army, an online recruitment tool, which has been adapted for use in real training exercises.[7]


To avoid unwanted discharges and accidents, there is a set of guidelines, known as the cardinal rules, used to ensure a safe shoot house session.

These cardinal rules are:

  1. Treat every firearm as if it's loaded.
  2. Keep your firearm pointed away from other people.
  3. Keep your finger out and away from the trigger.
  4. Be aware of not just your target but everything beyond it.

In addition to the cardinal rules other guidelines include:

  • The mandatory use of ear and eye protection.
  • The mandatory use of body armor.
  • Targets should be placed around the room so rounds hit the impact areas.
  • There should be no one in the shoot house before the training exercise.
  • Equipment (guns, ammunition, targets, and the shoot house) should all be authorized and inspected before the training exercise.[8][9]

Public use[edit]

In addition to military and police use, kill houses, like shooting ranges, are available for public use. Companies such as Meggitt Training Systems and Pareti Mobile Walls offer to build permanent or portable shoot houses for the public. There is also a community of enthusiasts that build and use kill houses for their own purposes and entertainment. Kill houses though are still a training tool first and foremost.[10][11]


  1. ^ D'Costa, Ian (16 March 2021). "This is why the SAS trains with the British royal family". We Are The Mighty. Archived from the original on 5 August 2021. Retrieved 23 July 2022.
  2. ^ Haynes, Richard A. (1999). The SWAT cyclopedia : a handy desk reference of terms, techniques, and strategies associated with the police special weapons and tactics function. Springfield, Ill.: Charles C. Thomas Publishers. p. 62. ISBN 9780398083434.
  3. ^ Arostegui, Martin C. (1997). Twilight warriors. New York: St. Martin's Press. p. 75. ISBN 9780312304713.
  4. ^ "Building a shoot house on a shoestring budget." Police Officers, Cops & Law Enforcement, PoliceOne. (accessed October 31, 2011).
  5. ^ seventh, the, eighth days, and “they will be going full speed. "Association of the United States Army: Inside the Shoot House." Archived 2012-04-03 at the Wayback Machine Home. (accessed October 31, 2011).
  6. ^ "Meggitt SHOTT House (Shoot House for Optimized Tactical Training)." Meggitt Training Systems. (accessed October 30, 2011).
  7. ^ "Shoot house tests servicemembers with video technology - News - Stripes." Stripes - Independent U.S. military news from Iraq, Afghanistan and bases worldwide. (accessed October 31, 2011).
  8. ^ "Shoot House Instructor." Singleton International - Tactical Weapons Training. (accessed October 31, 2011).
  9. ^ Meyer, John. "A shoot house is not just another kind of range.." Police and Security News. (accessed October 30, 2011).
  10. ^ " Shoothouse (MATCH) | Action Target." Indoor and Field Range Products, Military Supplies and Accessories. (accessed October 31, 2011).
  11. ^ "Shoot Houses & Live-Fire Training Products - Ballistics Technology International - BTI." BTI manufactures and supplies SACON® shock and bullet absorbing concrete - Ballistics Technology International - BTI. (accessed October 31, 2011).