Gun owners are defending a controversial 3D shooter app released by the National Rifle Association that allows players to work on simulated target practice by firing at coffin-shaped targets.

The game, NRA: Practice Range, has come under sharp criticism for its poor timing and the NRA's apparent hypocrisy regarding virtual violence, but Eric Pratt, director of communications for Gun Owners of America contends the title has educational virtues.

“What a kid would see with this is no different than what a kid would see if his mom or dad took him to the shooting range,” Pratt told Fox News.

“They should be teaching gun safety and gun education in schools,” he later added. “Even with an app like this to help people learn how to shoot straight because when they grow up and become adults, they’re going to have to protect their homes."

The app, released for free on the Apple iTunes store Sunday, provides news and information for the organization, but also includes a 3D shooting simulation that the gun advocacy group says “ instills safe and responsible ownership through fun challenges and realistic simulations.”

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Gamers can choose between 3 environments including a skeet shoot and 9 firearms, but further weapon upgrades can be bought for $0.99. The current top in-game purchases are the Colt Pistol along with two sniper rifles, the MK11 and Dragunov SVD.

The app’s main menu provides information for gun safety, NRA news, hunting season and relevant legislation.

The official description claims the app “strikes the right balance of gaming and safety education, allowing you to enjoy the most authentic experience possible.’

Early reviewers have been less than forgiving, incensed by what they believe to be not only ill-timed, coming exactly one month after a school shooting in Sandy Hook claimed 26 lives, but also hypocritical, after NRA head Wayne LaPierre vilified the video game industry in response to the massacre, describing it as “a callous, corrupt and corrupting shadow industry that sells and stows violence against its own people.”

"In a race to the bottom, many conglomerates compete with one another to shock, violate, and offend every standard of civilized society, by bringing an even more toxic mix of reckless behavior and criminal cruelty right into our homes," LaPierre said last month, citing the free online game, “Kindergarten Killers.”

“Is this some kind of sick joke?” wondered one user in a review titled “Hypocrites.” “The NRA complains about violent games and then releases one a week later. Sure you're not shooting at humans but does it really matter?”

“What a dumb move,” wrote another. “Good luck getting anyone to take your video game theory serious after this.”

Also controversial was the game's age recommendation, which was changed Tuesday from 4 years and up to at least 12 years of age, after sparking debate.  The game now features an added warning that it depicts realistic violence.

Practice Range isn’t the NRA’s first attempt at wooing gamers. In 2006, it released Gun Club for PlayStation 2, described as a “nonviolent first-person shooting game”.

Their latest title comes just as Vice President Joe Biden reveals his recommendations for reducing gun violence to President Barack Obama, after meeting with gun rights groups, retailers and video game manufacturers.

Meanwhile, a video game allowing users to shoot and kill NRA leaders surfaced Tuesday called “Bullet to the Head of the NRA.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.