WTSC AGM

The WTSC AGM was held on Monday night out in Wilkinstown. We were afraid that the falling participation and attendance numbers we’ve seen (which we’re fairly sure the economy imploding might have something to do with) but we were happily surprised when a good number of people turned up and were eager to get involved.

The end result is that Geoff Cooney is in the hot seat as Chair for the coming year, and is all fired up with a bunch of ideas. Several of us have stayed on for this – I’m still there as Secretary, Richard Stapleton Jr is still there as Treasurer, Marina Cunningham is still Children’s Officer and Jimmy Byrne is still looking after the Archery side of things. Mark Casey is joining in as the Press Officer, so he’ll create more content for the WTSC website, and Colm Brereton will be helping out with graphic design work and other things during the year; and six of our members volunteered to do the NTSA Club Instructor course so we’ll have them all trained up to act as range officers for a night a week from now on so we can go back and reclaim all of our shooters who did the Beginners Courses, which we’ll keep on running albiet at a less frentic pace.

The Beginners Courses led to a lot of discussion, mainly about how to capitalise on them, which we haven’t managed to do this year (almost all of those who did the course didn’t continue on). We still have their contact details and we’ll be bringing them all back in and explaining how we’ll have a night every week where they can come down and shoot with an experienced person there to keep an eye out and help them. It won’t be as formal as the course, but there’ll be enough of a structure there that they won’t have to worry about anything.

Membership dues stayed at the same level, though we’ve brought in a special offer for Juniors (first Junior at full price, second and subsequent Juniors from the same family at half price).  The club’s finances in general are healthy enough, though we need to become more financially independent from Geoff, as he’s been paying things like electricity bills and so on, so we need to start picking up our own tab that way, and that’s something this year will see.

At any rate, we saw a lot more energy and enthusiasm at the meeting than we thought we were going to see, and that’s always a pleasant surprise – maybe 2009/10 will be a shining year in WTSC history after all!

Evil black gun shooting

When you’re in the Midlands, you can shoot an awful lot of stuff (really, only airgun and archery are omitted at the moment). Joe Costello (Chair of the SSAI and one of the NRAI committee) decided we should be introduced to the full range of fullbore shooting while we were there for the VCRAI shoot, so it was on to .308 shooting and .223 shooting:

Two shots, 200 yards, one (slightly ragged) hole. Nice 🙂

And of course, if you’re already doing all that, you have to do some pistol as well. So we invented the brand new sport of outdoor ISSF 10m Air Pistol. First time I’ve ever had to use the windage adjustment on the pistol to actually adjust for wind…

But you can’t go to a fullbore pistol range and just shoot air pistol, so…

Apparently, that’s not how you’re supposed to do it, but four inch groups at 10m like that doesn’t seem so horrible given the kind of kick the 9mm has and the lack of grip the pistol grip has compared to ISSF pistols.

But when in Rome…

And yeah, the results are better:

Playing about with the camera yielded some neat sequences, here’s Joe in full flight (observe the path of the brass as it’s ejected):

Our ISSF .177 -v- Bullseye 9mm match may become a new fad 😀

All in all a fun day’s plinking on the range. Not exactly training, but you have to have a break from work every now and then 😀

VCRAI Vintage Rifle Shoot

Every so often, you should try something new, even if only for the craic, so this weekend myself and Conor and Dave wandered off to the Midlands range to shoot some fullbore stuff. I brought along the airgun and smallbore kit to show them what our stuff looked like as well. Dave went there directly; myself and Conor met up at DURC to pick up kit and headed in from there. By the time we arrived the match was getting ready to start. This was a vintage service rifle match, so lots of old rifles there from a mosin-nagent to a lot of SMLEs:

We had a choice of shooting either a 6.5 mauser or an SMLE; Dave and Conor took the 6.5 as it was supposedly somewhat less punishing on the shoulder, but great-grand-dad was a sharpshooter in the British Army during WW1 so I wanted to see what the Lee Enfield was like (I know the #4 isn’t the same as the MkIII he’d have used but it’s close enough).

Conor and myself wound up on the first detail, which was somewhat unfortunate as we hadn’t shot much fullbore ourselves (I had shot a .270 once, and a .223 a few times but never without a scope). Two rifles were kindly donated by a boards.ie shooter, and we got a two-minute rundown on the basics of loading and so forth – apart from that it was the same procedure as shooting the sporters from DURC but without the scope.

The buttplate, by the way, on a Lee-Enfield is made of brass, presumably so that the soldier using one can continue to use it even after running out of ammunition. Sobering little detail that, especially when you fire it – both ends of a shot from the SMLE tend to hurt 😀

There are only ten shots in the match, and the top 8 scores count, so you have in effect two sighters. Slightly different from ISSF :D. I put two rounds in the magazine and got into position behind the rifle (the match was shot benchrest style). My first shot went high, into the 3 ring and over to the left by the same amount. The sights were already wound down as far as they’d go, however, so I had to aim off to compensate. Second shot found the centreline, so I reloaded with four rounds and started the match. The first shot of the match clipped the V-bull. By this point I was finding my rythym, but wasn’t in it yet, and I lost one of the next three shots out to the 4-ring. Bother. I reloaded the magazine and went back to it, and when we walked up to the target during the ceasefire at the end, the results weren’t awful:

Dave, of course, hasn’t let two of his slide out like that and cleans up with 40 points, while I’m stuck with 38; but I have three v-bulls to his one. In the end, he takes third and I take fourth, but it doesn’t seem to matter so much as the craic.

A great day had by all, and well done to Mick and everyone for organising it.

Of course, when in the Midlands, there’s more to shoot than just one thing, but that’s another post 😀

Irish Shooting Politics…

…is messy and unpleasant at the best of times. Oddly enough, the actual sport-related stuff is fairly free of acrimony; the negotiations between Governing Bodies and the Department of Justice are actually really quite professional and stress-free in nature (I’m not saying there aren’t different agendas there, but they readily put their motivations on the table and we do the same and we work out solutions from there); the relations between Governing Bodies and the Olympic Council and the Sports Council are likewise at least cordial (well, normally anyway); in fact just about all of the relations between anyone else and the sport itself are usually fine.

Within the sport, it’s a whole other ballgame. When you have a group of minority sports, all of which are seen as exceptionally similar by the general population and which have a long history of being ignored and under-funded and outright oppressed by legislation and policy, you’re going to get internecine stress. When you add in the fact that shooting is a sport that you can do for your entire lifetime, you add in the time that stress needs to produce grudges and personal unpleasantness. And when you add in a mixture of the 2% problem (where 2% of the people do 98% of the work); a degree of isolation between the sports themselves; normal human ego; and the particular brand of obsessive honesty that our sport selects for (the hole is in the paper, that’s your score, nowhere to hide from it, no human judge to blame, it’s all on your head)…. well, you get strife and there’s really no other word for it.

It can be childish. It can be petty. And it sucks down time and effort and enthusiasm without ever being sated. And it even winds up in the High Court in some cases. And so I don’t want it in here and we don’t want it in the Hunting or Target Shooting or For Sale/Wanted forums on boards.ie or on the official websites of the Governing Bodies, but some of the things that happen are so… damaging, that they need to be recorded somewhere for posterity.

Hence a new blog:

Irish Shooting Politics

I don’t know if it’ll do much good. I don’t know who or how it’ll benefit for sure, apart from acting as catharsis for my own peace of mind. I don’t know how long I’ll leave it up there. I don’t know how it’ll go at all, but call it an experiment and let’s see how it runs. We may even get in co-authors or guest authors. Who knows?

At any rate, that’s the last political entry I want to make in this blog. This one’s for sport dammit…

Back to smallbore…

So I gave up on finding my missing smallbore sights (I think they’ve walked at this stage 🙁 ) and last night went down to the range, took out the 2013 and put a pair of club sights on it and shot a few cards. First shot low and left and clean off the aiming mark (well, the sights weren’t dialed in). Second shot just clipped the 9 ring at 9 O’clock – yay, I remember how to do this after all 😀

Mind you, the cant on the rearsight was not what I was used to so I made a hash of the first card:

All high by a good three clicks. Some cursing and some adjustments later, and despite a shaky start, a reasonable card, probably a 97:

It was fun to get back to it, and I found that my silly boonie hat does work just as well as a fancy neoprene visor from AHG, but there are a few things I have to do. I need to get some half-decent ammunition (that’s sorted, thanks Geoff!), I need to get my buttplate reshaped, my shoulder doesn’t fit it right anymore, I need to get a doctor to check my wrist (I must have sprained it, I had great trouble hooshing the rifle about when in position because of the contortionism involved), and I need my own sights 😀

To be banned?

As mentioned here before (and in several other places and discussed extensively over on boards.ie), the Minister for Justice announced last November that all handguns were to be banned with exceptions made for olympic-style pistols.

Thing is, ‘olympic-style’ is vague. Did he mean ISSF pistols? Or did he mean those ISSF pistols used on the Olympic programme?

We’d best hope for the former. Otherwise the new ISSF 5-shot air pistol events, which finally made it into the rulebooks on Jan 1 this year after several years of trials and tuning, will be impossible to train for here because they’re not on the Olympic programme. And neither will we be able to train for the centrefire ISSF pistol events using pistols like these:

Matchguns MG4 .32 ISSF pistol

That’s the latest Matchguns MG4 .32 calibre ISSF pistol,going on display at the IWA show over in Germany tomorrow. (I don’t normally think too much about the form of the firearms we use, the function is too critical, but you have to admit that it’s a magnificently ugly beast of a thing).

And it possible won’t be licenceable in Ireland in a few months. Which is immensely sad and silly at the same time, because I would be perfectly able to licence it’s uglier .22lr cousin:

Matchguns MG4 .22lr ISSF pistol

And I can’t see why one is so heinous it must be banned but the other is a poster boy for sportsmanship and responsibility…

Money matters

Today saw the Irish Sports Council announce its funding for the High Performance Awards and the Carding Grants Scheme. These two grant schemes go to the governing body of the sport to run a high performance training and competitive programme, and to the athletes to take part in that programme, respectively. The idea is simple; you want medals, you have to be the best – and if you want to be the best, you have to do certain things, which cost money. So the ISC puts in money and gets out medals. Hurrah.

And how could this not go well for us? In the last decade or so, Irish shooting has produced a wealth of medals. ISSF shotgun under the ICPSA and the direction of Kevin Kilty, has seen shooters like Derek Burnett, David Malone and Philip Murphy and others all bring home international medals from the acme of shooting competitions. Ireland won the team gold medal in the ISSF World Championships for the Trap Shotgun event in 2002, and in 2007 Philip Murphy took the silver individual medal. There has been a host of gold and silver and bronze medals won in both team and individual events at ISSF World Cup level and at ISSF Continental Championships level, not to mention all the smaller international competitions. Right now there are four ISSF shotgun shooters ranked in the top 100 shooters in the world; only a few months back Derek Burnett was ranked 5th. This is an excellent competitive placing internationally, it’s exactly what the ISC wants to see. So a well-funded programme, right?

Try a 50% cut in High Performance funding. €60k to the programme, €20k to Philip and Derek and €10k and €3k to two others.

The inner cynic in me ponders the public image shooting has received in the Irish Times of late, and wonders if maybe the media monitoring unit in the Irish Sports Council is basically creating a control mechanism over the funding of Irish Sport for the Irish Times Sports Editor…

Look, money does matter. No point pretending otherwise. The average industrial wage in this country is €32k – if you can’t make that while representing your country, then most people aren’t going to prioritise sport. And there are certain things you just cannot do without it – right now, for example, the ICPSA can’t hire its preferred sports psychologist, but are meant to compete at a level where the mental game is 90% of winning. They can’t hire the sports physiotherapist they want, even though we now know we lost a potential medal in athletics to a simple physical ailment one runner had picked up. They can’t hire a dedicated coach, the performance director has to pull double duty even though the logistics is a job of its own (I know this, becuase I have that job in the NTSA and it is not something you can do every third tuesday like getting a haircut, it’s a fulltime thing even with a small squad).

But the Minister will be spending €5,000 on a first class ticket to Austin, Texas for St.Patrick’s day. That’s nearly two years worth of a Junior grant, for those keeping score.

And ISSF rifle or pistol shooting? Well, now that the NTSA has left the SSAI, the ISC is saying it shouldn’t recognise us, that suddenly there’s a rule of one NGB to one sport – yet the ICPSA is recognised seperately from the SSAI, the Olympic Judo and Olympic TaeKwonDo governing bodies are recognised seperately from the Martial Arts Federation and there’s no instance of the rule in writing before now. So for now, no support for the NGB. And while the ISC says they’ll look after athletes seperately if the NGB isn’t in place, that won’t happen here because the Juniors are the only ones with achievable criteria for the grant, and their grant is specifically handled through the governing body, whom the ISC won’t talk to; and the SSAI can’t even apply because the criteria say it can only be olympic shooters who apply.

What a mess.

Olympic Reports and the Irish Sports Monitor

February saw a flurry of reports into sport in Ireland, starting on Feb 9 with the Irish Sports Council review of the Beijing Games, followed on Feb 18 by the ISC-commissioned, ESRI-prepared Irish Sports Monitor Annual Report, and that was followed quickly on Feb 25 by the Olympic Council of Ireland’s review of the Beijing Games.

Critical reaction to these reports was pretty uniformly negative: the Times believed we’d win a gold medal only if finger-pointing was an Olympic event; the Independent declared “No change No plan No hope” and the general consensus amongst those reading the reports was similar.

The problem here isn’t one of vision or even of funding. There’s more than enough vision in Irish sport – hell, WTSC has produced world-class shooters in air rifle from a converted hayshed in the middle of nowhere in one of the poorest counties in the country, in a country with the most draconian firearms legislation for airguns in Europe. The ICPSA has produced Derek Burnett and Philip Murphy and a bushel of ISSF medals including Team Gold and Individual Silver in the World Championships, an 8th place in the Olympics, and they’re almost getting bored of bringing home Team and Individual Gold, Silver and Bronze medals from World Cups. And while there’s a definite lack of funding, that’s not the main problem.

The main problem here is that the ISC’s job, and the OCI’s, and the Department of Sport, doesn’t seem to be, well, sport. It seems like bureaucracy and self-perpetuation and the struggle for dominance is the main driving forces within and between these groups and sport is something that just happens away in a corner, occasionally looked at, and found wanting and somehow messy. Anyone who’s ever served on a committee that’s had contact with the ISC will know that paperwork seems to make the world go round. And that paperwork doesn’t have to be right.

Take the Carding Grant scheme, for example. Allegedly, it’s there to support our best athletes so they can bring home medals. But when you look at the fine detail, the criteria that decide what athletes have to do to get the various levels of support, you find that for shooters at least, this is not a support mechanism, but a reward mechanism. For junior ISSF shooters, it’s okay. Hit an MQS in the Nationals or a higher-ranked match and you qualify for a junior carding grant, which is enough money to go to two matches internationally, to get some equipment, to do work with Coaching Ireland, and so on. But for every other kind of shooter, the scheme doesn’t work.

If you’re not an ISSF shooter (even though the NTSA, the ISSF NGB in Ireland for rifle and pistol events, is no longer in the SSAI and so isn’t recognised by the Sports Council), you can’t qualify for the carding grant at all, an artifact of past politics. If you’re a non-junior ISSF shooter, you have to be exceptionally good to gain even the lowest rung of support. And the support is dependant on placing, not performance levels. It’s not your score that gets you support; it’s how well the other people at the match scored. We’re basicly giving out Irish taxpayers money based on how well the German or the American shooters do at a match! And the levels of performance are ridiculous – to get the top level of support, you must have already won an Olympic or World Championships medal! You have to already be the best in the world to get the grant that’s meant to support you in your attempt to get that medal? Utterly cart-before-horse.

Is this the only flaw? No, not even close. Core funding which can’t be used to pay for the rent of an office in SportsHQ. And SportsHQ is worthy of criticism in itself, as it has effectively set itself up as a headquarters for large sports only. All the smaller, “minority” sports need not apply despite having the greatest need. Even when they could apply, before the class C licences to SportsHQ were abolished, they had to have deep pockets of their own.

And while the ISC is the favoured whipping-boy, it’s not the sole rotten apple here. In the Department, which has held onto the pursestrings for the Capital Grant Scheme with great diligence, the norm has become Capital grants that have “mysteriously” seem to disproportionately
favour those clubs physically located in the Minister for Sport’s
constituency for several Ministerial stewardships, and which do not
support the single hardest part of setting up a sports club, acquiring
the land.

What needs to happen?

  • Carding criteria need to be reviewed in order to ensure that you get support to go get the medal, not to get a reward for having gotten one, and the funding levels need to be sufficient for the task.
  • Minority sports need to be given more support for lower fees, starting with access to meeting rooms and PO boxes and communications facilities within SportsHQ. It’s the smaller sports who can’t afford to hire meeting rooms for committee meetings and AGMs that need the facilities sportsHQ has. The GAA and FAI seem to have rooms of their own…
  • The Department needs to give up control of the Capital Grants Scheme. Either it or the ISC should be the operations group; splitting that function makes no sense. Subsume the ISC or let it do the job.
  • The approach that the Councils know all and the NGBs are supplicants needs to be dropped like a faeces-covered potato. The people that the Councils and the NGBs should be working for are the athletes and the coaches. When they lose sight of that, we wind up… well, here actually.

What are the odds these things will happen?

Somehow I think the answer to that might be a bit too depressing for words 🙁

Pistol case

Finally got round to buying a proper case for the Izzy. I had been thinking about a Storm or a Peli case, but the idea of a €150 case for a €250 pistol was a bit, well, off-putting. Maybe if I was shooting with a fancy pre-compressed pistol (in fact, definitely if I was – €150 for a case for a €1300-€1800 pistol makes a lot of sense). In the end, I was in Maplin buying a joystick on Sunday and came across these:

About the right size, a third what I’d pay for the Peli, and it has the pick-n-pluck foam. Right, that’ll do me, so I picked one up. Turns out it’s about an inch too narrow, so the pistol has to go in at a slight angle, which makes the square grid of the pick-n-pluck foam a bit messy, but it does the job:

Fits just about everything. though a document pouch would be handy for copies of the licence and such.

The full cutting-the-foam job isn’t finished here yet, there’s still a chunk left to be cut out for the ear defenders (did that bit this lunchtime in the office) and for a tin or two of pellets in the top right corner; and there’s nowhere for a water bottle or kneeling roll (to rest the pistol on before the shot). So it’s not a 100% solution, but it beats the original cardboard box the pistol came in and which served as the case for it for two years now (along with a large Dunnes Stores cloth bag 😀 ).

Farewell faithful box, I hope you get recycled into something better 🙂