WTSC 10m Airgun Open

Not a bad match this weekend. Shot air rifle on Saturday, then helped out with setting up for the Sunday, and shot air pistol on the Sunday itself.

The air rifle detail went reasonably well in that I shot around what my average is right now – 564, with only two shots where carelessness dropped a point (two 8.0’s that really deserved to be sevens). The second string could have been moved a bit to the right and I might have picked up a few more points, but not many.

The problem is the same thing – that there wasn’t much I can do in the way of correcting major mistakes to improve. Instead, I’m going to have to seriously get back to training. The lack of a proper goal has been letting me procrastinate, I’m afraid. And I’m starting to hate the end effect. My PB is currently 569 – I want my average to be in the 80s range by the end of this calendar year. That’s going to take a major effort. πŸ™

The air pistol was again, just a fun match. 471 in total, and my average is creeping up on holding the black. I’m happy enough with that for now. At some point I’ll probably do some real training for it, but for now, I’ll settle for just having fun. Especially as that score’s about fifty points over my previous PB πŸ˜€

Criminal Justice Bill 2004

I normally try to keep non-training topics out of this blog, but this one’s too damn nasty really. For those that haven’t seen yet what the Criminal Justice Bill 2004 will do to our Firearms Act, try reading this composite document. The list of things that affect both shooters and non-shooters adversely is insane. For the non-shooters, are you ready to have your homes, cars, aircraft, boats and business premises made searchable at any time without prior notice by someone who’s neither a Garda nor a civil servant?

I’ll go through the problems in the order they’re in in the Bill for the first eight sections (I’ve not finished the later sections’ restatements yet).

Section 1
First off the bat, there are two conflicting definitions of the word “firearm”. To me, that’s pretty serious. “Prohibited weapon” is also defined twice, but at least it’s with the same definition, which is just tautological.

Section 2a
This is the new Firearms Training Certificate – originally intended to let under-16s train for target shooting legally. Only now, the age limit for this certificate has been raised to 16 – at which age you can get a full certificate anyway, so why bother? In fact, it gets better – if you go for a training certificate at age 16-18, you have to supply parental permission in writing – which isn’t needed for a full certificate! So why get a Training Certificate? Well, the only reason I can think of is that you want to avoid all the new stuff in Section 4 indefinitely, as there’s nothing in Section 2a to say that an applicant for a Training Certificate has to fulfill any of the conditions in Section 4!

Section 2b
Ah, this is a doozy. Basicly, it says that for any firearms the Minister wants, he can force more hoops to be jumped through to get them, to the point where noone can get through the hoops, and it’s all legal and above board and can’t be challanged in court successfully. Two guesses what fullbore rifles and pistols will be declared restricted once this Bill is enacted?

Section 3a
Described as the “do anything you want” clause, this section empowers the Commissioner, or – according to Section 1 – any Garda at or over the rank of Superintendent that the Commissioner wants to let do so – can set out “guidelines” for how the act is enforced, and for any extra conditions that we have to fulfill to get our licences. No mechanism for appealing these of course, nor for ensuring that firearms experts are consulted first, nor even for ensuring that these guidelines are put in the public domain…

Section 4
Not just almost rewritten, this section has been rewritten completely. No longer a simple section with just three conditions to meet to get a certificate, now you have – count ’em – nine conditions (or eleven for a restricted firearm); plus you have to furnish more information as the Gardai see fit, including character references, permission to check your medical records and proof of competence with the firearm.

Argh! Okay, first the information – how do tourists or those outside the state provide character references, and if they don’t have to, why do I? Why should the Gardai be able to see my medical records when for every other licence (driving, pilots, etc) that has a medical concern, I just take a test and either pass or fail? Who in the Gardai sees my records? The Commissioner? The Superintendent? The secretary? Are they returned to the doctor? Are copies kept if they are returned?

Now, the mandatory conditions. (a) through (c) are just the current conditons, and (d) is just secure storage, which most shooters will have anyway, if they’re in any way sensible – though what exactly “secure” means isn’t defined.

(e) where the firearm is to be used for target shooting, is a member of an authorised rifle or pistol club,
What about clay pigeon shooters then? Or do you not need to be a member of a club for shooting at clay disks? If so, I predict a rise in the number of shooters shooting rifles and pistols at said disks…

(f) is of sound mental and psychiatric health,
Okay, I know I’m of sound psychiatric health, but how do I prove it? And not just right now, but also that I will be so for the entire duration of my certificate? Medically speaking, I’m told that that can’t be done – so then noone gets to have a certificate! Wonderful!

Oh, and for the record – are you feeling a bit blue during winter because of the short days and bad weather? Then you may have SAD, a kind of depression that 60% of us get – and therefore can’t have a firearms licence as you’re not of sound mental health…

I suppose I should be happy. Prior to committee stage, my dentist was qualified to testify to my mental health, according to the bill…


(i) complies with such other conditions (if any) specified in the firearm certificate, including any such conditions to be complied with before a specified date as the issuing person considers necessary in the interests of public safety or security, and

Ah yes, the “do whatever the hell I want” clause. How wonderfully just and fair…

(j) in case the application is for a restricted firearm certificateÒ€”
(i) has a good and sufficient reason for requiring such a firearm, and
(ii) has demonstrated that the firearm is the only type of weapon that is appropriate for the purpose for which it is required.

Excuse me? “Weapon”? That’s the term for something used in a crime, not something you give out a licence for!

Section 4a
Here’s where it gets even more fun. Any shooting club or range that’s not authorised isn’t allowed to exist, basicly. Anyone shoots there, then both they and the operator of the range/club get fined anything up to Γ’β€šΒ¬25,000 and go to jail for up to seven years. No, that’s not a misprint. You can go to jail for up to seven years for not having paperwork authorising something that the Bill doesn’t even define.

And if that authorisation is revoked and your rifle is in the club safe? It goes to the gardai lockup. Doesn’t matter that it’s not owned by the club.

Oh, and the authorisation can be set according to the competence of the people using the range – and from what we’ve heard, that’s a very, very, very likely thing to happen. By the way, how many newbies do you know who are competent from before their first shot? And yet, if they get a training licence for target shooting, they can only shoot on a range; but if they’re not competent they can’t shoot on that range. Lovely, isn’t it?

Section 4b
Sweet. Zombie. Jesus.
Okay, I know all the above only applies to shooters. But this little section applies to the entire nation. It creates the post of Firearms Range Inspector, and it then empowers this person – who doesn’t have to be a Garda, a civil servant working for the Department of Justice, or even a firearms expert – hell, they don’t even have to not be a criminal – to enter and search anywhere they want to, any time they want to, without a set warrant, in case they think there’s target shooting going on in that place, dwelling, vehicle, aircraft or hovercraft (no, I’m not making that one up). Want to search a house but don’t want that pesky wait for the warrant? Hark! Is that a target shooting noise I just heard! I must inspect the house! And goodbye to civil liberty safeguards that apply to Gardai and Customs officials!

Oh, and since neither what a range or a target is is defined in the Bill, who can say if the search did or did not succeed?

And that’s just from reviewing the first few sections. I’m half afraid to study further πŸ™

Intervarsities 2006

I haven’t posted anything on the Intervarsities since the match, mainly because of some problems regarding team makeup and scores caused by confusion on the day, but that’s now been resolved. Scores are up on the DURC website, but suffice to say, we won πŸ™‚

The DURC Colours squad post-victory

Personally, I’m quite happy with the way the squad performed on the day. They put in a large amount of training (over three months – not so easy when also managing a full academic workload and keeping a club running) and made dramatic improvements in their shooting standards, as predicted – even though on the day, match pressure took a heavy toll. However, I don’t think I did as well as I had hoped in their training. Several elements I had hoped to introduce had to be dropped for lack of time and resources. Next year, however, we’ll try again. And since we’ll have a larger body of experienced shooters, it should be interesting. We’ll probably need a second day of training per week just to keep up.

I also have several ideas on improving the ab initio training we’ll be doing with the juniors. I’ve said it before – it is perfectly possible to take someone who never saw any form of firearm prior to joining the club in Fresher’s week in October, and have them shoot over 520 by the time the Intervarsities roll around in March/April the next year. There simply is no technical, physical or mental obstacle to this that we don’t know how to overcome and which we have not already overcome. It does, however, require a training regieme that is somewhat counter to the classical approach we’ve seen in Ireland for the past few decades. Writing it up is something I want to do before this October. We also need to set a date for the colours very early indeed – I’ve asked Iain to try to sort this out before everyone heads off for the summer break, so that not only can we better plan our training, but also get the event on the CUSAI calendar and handle logistics with more lead time.

Back to smallbore…

Now see, this is when shooting can just be a pleasant passtime for those that normally prefer golf πŸ˜€

A beautiful sunny spring day, a new range a stone’s throw from the beach, a calm breeze if any – the only thing missing was a barbecue πŸ™‚

It was fun to get back to smallbore as well, I’d almost forgotten how relaxing it can be – but I don’t think this will be the year I take it up as seriously as I would air rifle, the budget demands are just too much. Batch-tested RWS ammunition, two new buttplates, more raiser blocks for sights, and a few other odds and ends, and I’d have to find a range I could get to during daylight hours to train for 3P (I’m not sixty yet, I’m not going to train for only belly shooting! πŸ˜€ ). I’d love to shoot it again, but until I can afford it, I’d be just wasting time I could spend on air rifle, and it’s far more expensive and akward a pasttime than air pistol.

But still… it’s a nice way to spend a sunny day πŸ™‚

(564 in case anyone’s wondering, about ten points down on my average when I was shooting prone regularly, and I did manage a 192 for the first card, which is a new single-card PB for me, I think).

You have to love electronics, you really do…

RIKA system The RIKA home trainer is probably one of the more sophisticated tools we have to use for training in target shooting. The idea behind it’s use is fairly simple. You sling the sensor (the little thing that looks like a torch) under the barrel, you plug all the bits into one another and into the computer, and you aim at the target which is mounted on the transmitter. Fire a few shots to calibrate it, and then every time you fire a shot it shows you precisely where you were pointing for the few seconds before and after you pull the trigger. Additional sensors let you monitor heartbeat and trigger finger pressure (and there’s a second pressure sensor input for good measure), and you can then watch the shot played back with all that data to figure out where problems lie and how to attack them. It looks a bit like this when it’s all up and running:

Wonderful. Only problem is that ours is currently being a total pain in the rear end to set up. Three hours on Sunday trying to get it to correctly calibrate, and nothing. *sigh*
Oh well. I’ll figure it out at some point…