The Irish Defence Forces Shooting Team is competing in the 45th World Military Championships right now:http://bit.ly/gbtk4l
Live target display for Joe O’Donoghue, currently in 4th place…
The UCD Open is coming up on Thursday, so this Tuesday on the range was spent both shooting the UCESSA postal round and doing some basic rifle work making sure I could replicate what happened last Thursday. Mostly it worked, the mechanics were all sound and the rifle settled the same way. The actual aiming was off quite a lot – my head wasn’t fully in the game:
Nonetheless, the basics are sound.
I entered this year’s UCESSA air pistol postal earlier this year because I knew I probably wouldn’t get to shoot too many shoulder-to-shoulder air pistol matches for a while. The first two rounds are due in this month, so last night I shot the first round before rifle training:
So that’s 87 + 84 + 80 = 251/300. Not too horrible, and about where I’ve been in the past.
Of course, you have to have some way to spot cheating, so for this match, you stick stickers on the back of the cards before shooting (mind you, the glue’s not so good, so several of mine – 4/6 – were shot off and had to be stuck back on afterwards 🙁 ):
More on this match as it goes on…
Last nights training was… hard to explain.
There’s this moment you often get when learning a new physical skill, whether it be learning to ride a bicycle, learning to drive a car, or learning to correctly take high ukemi from kotegaeshi:
In each case, there’s a kind of phase change that takes place between the time where you learn the basic components of what you’re trying to do and have only a rough idea of how it should go at best; and the time after you first do it properly. The before and the afterwards are utterly unalike in every respect, everything works differently afterwards than before and there’s a seemingly impenetrable, unsurmountable barrier in between the two which is very hard to communicate across – after the change, questions from before seem utterly silly and wrong (phrases like “you’re making it too hard for yourself” come to mind quickly); whilst before the change, answers from after sound like the most stereotypical zen quotes delivered with a cartoon-like cadence. There’s a near-complete lack of shared mental context between the two sides.
And as hard as communicating across that gap is, it’s even harder to actually cross it. Sometimes it takes lots of effort; sometimes – as with kotegaeshi – it takes a conscious letting go of the idea that you can’t possibly do it, and just doing it (and if that sounds easy to you, you’ve never done it!).
Turns out, shooting is a lot like that sometimes. Last night was initially very fustrating. 7s and 8s abounded – even the dude could not abide. And then, after about thirty rounds or so, I just gave up. Walked away from the line. Drank some isotonics and took a breather. And I don’t know why, but rather than just draw a line under it and pack my kit and go home, I went back to the line and just fell into a mental state and a rythym that I’ve only ever hit a few times in the last few years. It’s a bit hard to describe, it’s like a cross between a deep zazen state of mushin and a state of mind best described by the phrase “stop faffing about and get on with it ye gobshite”. No expectation of results, just getting on with the task in hand. No pomp and circumstance about the rifle lift or mount, just my basic average position, no extremes, just what I’ve done ten thousand times before. And not so much taking my time with the shot, as being unhurried while not wasting time on the superfluous. And I shot one of the tightest, most centered groups I’ve ever shot. Deep tens to outer tens (and okay, a 9.9 as well). But it was the best shooting I’ve done in months, easily better than anything I did in Kuortane, and it all felt natural, all very “what’s all the fuss about?”. My coaches, Matt and Geoff, have been saying for years, forget the details, just aim and shoot. And that’s what it felt like.
There were definitely notes taken afterwards, true; like the timing of breathing and head drop and how I was doing the aiming, and the conscious relaxing of the left arm from wrist to shoulder during the pre-aim; but none of it was anything Matt and Geoff hadn’t been telling me to do for years, and it was all small technical details that framed the change rather than described it. None of the details caused the change; it’s just that last night for some wierd reason I don’t understand yet, in an instant, it all just started to work perfectly, like someone threw a switch in my brain and suddenly I knew how to shoot.
Here’s hoping it’s not a phase change you can go reverse! 😀
So the plan was to finish work at 1800h, get home by 1830h, eat, change into underarmour and tracksuit, head for UCD by 1900h, get there by 1930h and spend at least 20 minutes wall-watching, be on the line in full kit and good to go by the start of prep time. It didn’t quite work out that way, I deferred leaving until 1940h and got to UCD by 2010h. Still plenty of time, still did my wall watching, wasn’t rushed and somehow still manged to be dressing during prep time. D’oh.
Still, I did get a good five minutes of settling into the position during prep, so that was an improvement on the usual mad rush I get buried by.
Herself Indoors also turned up to watch and take photos, which was nice 🙂
The position felt constructed in the first third of the match; by which I mean that it felt like it has in training – set up the position, hold and wait for the rifle to come down and take the shot. It wasn’t horrible, but it didn’t feel remarkable really, just putting training into practice on another range. But… there were eights. Bleuch.
I’m not even sure of why there were eights. Though, apart from them (to play the traditional “what if I’d shot better” game beloved of shooters 🙄 ), the group was nice enough.
I hit problems in the middle of the match more than anywhere else; the position lost its definitive ‘clunk’ when dropping the rifle into position and I found I was having to watch my sight picture far more than normal. Most of the nines in the middle 20 shots were down to sight alignment, not sway or wobble, oddly enough. I dropped the foresight from 4.4mm to 4.3mm and dialed down the rearsight diopter to 1.1mm; this seemed to help a lot.
Then the last 20 shots came up, and by now I was concerned over time pressure and was shooting faster; and something just clicked and the rifle started to lock into the position. Buttplate, pistol grip, glove hand, raise rifle, swing elbow, drop into –thunk– place, cant into the face, roll head forward, drop eyes to look at bear, raise eyes to check NPA and aim, pause, hold, shoot, follow-through, and up and reload and do it over again. It felt wonderful. No sway as such, all the muscles had relaxed, everything was just flowing along. Brilliant.
Yes, I said bear 😀 Meet the mascot, which also plays the role of giving a visual focal point when looking away to check NPA…
Now as to the results, I was hoping to break 540. I comfortably left that behind:
564 is 5 points below my PB; and there are five 8s in that score. So it was potentially my PB. Not bad for a first match back…
The first match for the new cheekpiece left an impression as well:
Postscript: Came in second when all the scores were in, Ray posted an excellent 580 for a convincing trouncing, but 2nd place on the first match back is still fine by me!
Air Rifle 60 Shot
|14||Ian Beatty Orr||DURC||80||76||80||77||75||82||470||(6*)|
|22||Julian Ewers Peters||DURC||76||69||79||68||70||77||439||(2*)|
|24||Ivan De Wergifosse||DURC||71||76||70||51||72||81||421||(1*)|
Air Rifle 40 Shot
Air Pistol 60 Shot
|4||John Lancaster ℗||UCDRC||81||83||85||82||87||85||503||(1*)|
|9||Aisling Miller ℗||DURC||58||51||51||65||71||62||358||(1*)|
Class A 40 Series
Class B 40 Series
Class C 40 Series
Class D 40 Series
|7||Ian Beatty Orr||DURC||80||76||80||77||313||(3*)|
|15||Julian Ewers Peters||DURC||76||69||79||68||292||(1*)|
|17||Ivan De Wergifosse||DURC||71||76||70||51||268||(0*)|
|7||Ivan De Wergifosse||DURC||5.3||9.0||6.4||4.9||9.9||10.0||2.8||9.5||3.2||9.0||70.0|
Right, so first of all, a small note. I dislike winter training in WTSC without the heating 😀
Mental note: must buy oil for the range’s central heating. Also, must reset range clock, it’s still on BST.
Today was the last training before the DURC Air Open so I thought I’d just put lead downrange and do some final tweaks, and afterwards do a few minutes live-firing off of these puppies:
You might remember these from an earlier mention from Kuortane. The idea’s simple: stand on them and shoot.
They’re also easy to find in Ireland. And they worked very well, though you have to remember to keep your toes overhanging the edge of the cushion so that when you’re in position your weight is centered on the cushion – otherwise, balance isn’t hard, it’s actually impossible.
As to the tweaking, it went fairly well:
And who said coaching is all hard labour and no laughs?
The results weren’t too bad either:
(though you can see a bit of confusion with the sights there at the end. I really do need to benchrest that rifle and get some hard data on how many clicks per ring those sights give me with my sight base length, but there’s no time before the DURC Open, so I’ll do it next week in WTSC. Oh, and that last 8.7 was shot standing on the balance bags, so the other shots give an idea of my current best horizontal hold – the vertical hold is okay too, but when you’re mucking with your elevation setting on your sights, it’s hard to measure vertical hold 😉 )
As to the DURC Open, what do I expect? Well, given how the rifle feels right now, I’m guessing I’ll start well, but given that I’m still coming off the tail end of a cold and that I have to shoot late on the 2030h detail, I’m guessing I’ll have some stamina problems. I’m hoping to break 540. The plan is to finish work around 1800h, get home for 1830h and eat something and change into the underarmour and tracksuit, head off around 1900h, get there by 1930h and spend at least 20 minutes warming up by wall-watching and be on the line in full kit and good to go by the start of prep time so I actually have my prep time for prep rather than the usual mad rushing about. I’ll post here after the match when I have the scores. Wish me luck…
So before training yesterday, there was a bit of experimentation. For a while now we’ve been looking at cheaper ways to get started in ISSF shooting, and we’ve found that the lowest cost of entry is for air pistol with either an IZH-46M or a Tau7 pistol, for about €300 all in. Which isn’t bad, and since both are russian in origin, we’ve been looking at other russian rifles to find a cheap way into other ISSF disciplines. In smallbore, the IZH CM-2 is well-known already as a good basic beginner’s rifle:
and its price is competitive with other possible options like the Vickers Jubilee I looked at in an earlier post.
Today though, we had access to an IZH-61 air rifle to test, and it’s in air rifle that we’ve had the least success in finding a reliable, readily available, basic beginners entry-model firearm (for those outside of Ireland, yes, airguns are classed as firearms here. Yes, we know, that’s daft, but we have to work with it. Stop showing off 😛 ).
So here’s the IZH-61 for those not familiar with it:
The stock is mostly black plastic, but it’s sturdy enough. The buttplate is adjustable for length via the small screw you can see underneath the cheekpiece, and the trigger is adjustable for location and weight and travel, though the trigger itself… is not the crispest, smoothest thing on the block. But that’s okay; we’re looking for cheap and basic here, and so long as it’s not so bad as to actively hinder a beginner, we can tolerate imperfections, even gross ones.
As you can see, it’s a hand-cranked side-lever affair, and you can just see the release catch inside the handle:
It has a standard globe foresight, but doesn’t come with a diopter, having instead a leaf-type adjustable rearsight. This is easily removed and replaced with a standard diopter rearsight however; the rail is the Anschutz 11mm standard affair. Hence this very incongruous photo of a €100 air rifle wearing a €500 rearsight:
One oddity is that the IZH-61 is a five-shot repeating air rifle (there is a single shot version, the IZH-60, but we didn’t have it to hand; it’s identical except for the magazine arrangement). There is a simple plastic magazine to hold the pellets:
Once the pellets are loaded in, the magazine is inserted into the rifle:
And then pushed home:
Now, every time the side handle is cranked to compress the spring piston the magazine is advanced to the left a notch; and when the side handle is then returned to its rest position, the bolt probe pushes a new pellet forward and seats it in the barrel:
You can observe the bolt probe (the silver bit) cycling back and forward under the rearsight there:
Okay, so that’s a quick walk-around of the rifle. So far, seems promising. Good foresight, easy to fit a rearsight, it’s very light so good for juniors, it’s basicly adjustable, it’d pass the ISSF equipment rules at a pinch, and it’s quite inexpensive (this one is on the secondhand market for €100 at the moment). So all that’s left is the key requirement of accuracy, so I tried five rounds from the shoulder:
Not the best group (they’re all high because I didn’t adjust the rearsight); and it has the traditional spring piston habit of trying to give you a dose of scope eye, though not as badly as the FWB300 series used to. I did fire another five from a sandbag just to be sure it wasn’t me:
Sadly just not that great. As you can see, it’s not even guaranteed to hold the aiming mark for a rifle target. If someone was just starting out, it might suit, but it wouldn’t be a great idea after that point. For plinking at knock-down targets yes; but for paper targets in competition, not so much. However, I should point out that others with brand new IZH-61’s have reported groups that were as small as 10mm edge-to-edge after picking out suitable air pellets. 10mm is about the absolute maximum group size you could accept for a beginner; a proper match rifle will have an edge-edge group size of no more than 5mm. So perhaps with a new IZH-60, without any inaccuracies from the magazine system, and with some pellet selection, we could have a candidate here for a €100 entry point to ISSF air rifle. Investigations to continue…
Okay, so apart from the obvious tummy size issues, the jacket has been causing me all manner of hassle with tension in the left shoulder when mounting the rifle:
I’ve been trying various things to fix it, from modifying my position slightly to moving my buttplate in somewhat, to moving the buttons on the jacket across the top of the chest, but nothing was working. Then I was watching the long footage of the World Cup Final competition for Men’s Air Rifle and I noticed that both Camprani and Sokolov (the overall winner) had taken knives to their jackets:
Now I generally don’t like the idea of cargo cult shooting (I can think of one Irish shooter who aped Peter Sidi’s mannerisms to a T, right down to pseudo-random discards of pellets, and it didn’t get him past a competition ceiling of around 580 which isn’t even competitive in much of europe). But when you have a problem, have tried other alternatives and you notice someone doing something that analysis says might help, well, why not?
Besides, the jacket’s almost a decade old and frankly, it’s not doing it’s job so if a cut or two can help, then hand me the knife.
That’s the first cut. Small, and then back on with the jacket again to see if it helped any. And it did; but the tension was still there, just reduced. So what the hell, off with the jacket, out with the knife, and it’s psycho time again…
And this time it felt far freeer in the shoulder (well, there’s virtually no shoulder left, so no shock there 😀 There’s still a strip across the top and the patch where the shoulder top grip patch is, so it won’t fall apart, but there’s almost no tension being transferred from the back panel to the outside of the sleeve anymore. So I shot a quick ten-shot series to check it:
Not too shabby a group, with just one flier:
Sights are still a bit out though.
After that evening, I came down with whatever manflu bug is going around, so no training (or anything else for that matter) on Thursday or Friday, but hopefully back to training on Tuesday and the DURC air rifle open on Thursday in UCDRC. Which will be the first match back since the wedding hiatus, so the outcome should be interesting either way!