Which way’s up again?

When I started shooting (back in ’94), the sights on the smallbore rifle I started out with(Ah, DURC#8, I remember it well 😀 ) looked like this:

Anschutz 6827 sights

Over the next few years, we got more fancy-looking sights, but they all had one thing in common with these, and that was that the sight remained upright relative to the rail on the rifle, so that the elevation knob (marked with T and H above) operated in the vertical plane defined by the rifle stock and the windage knob (L and R) at right angles to this. This makes a lot of sense if your rifle is held vertically (and indeed, many top shooters now have upright rifles when in position, abandoning older principles of shooting to maintain that, such as keeping your head upright). However, if – like me – you cant the rifle (ie, tilt it towards you), your elevation knob is now working at an angle. This was why I paid a bit extra when I first bought my rifles to get the fancy schmancy sights:

Anschutz 7020 sights

The reason was fairly simple – while the 6827 sights above are fixed, these 7020 sights rotate, allowing you to cant the rifle and have your sights upright, like so:

Canted 7020 sights

This becomes useful when you have to adjust those sights, for when you’re grouping well, but the center of the group is off to one side of the target. With the sights upright like this, all you have to do is figure out how far left or right you are and how far up or down you are on the target, and adjust the sights directly. But with the fixed sights above, you have to play with angles in your head and try to remember how many clicks up and how many clicks over it takes to move the shot horizontally on the target. Which, in a match, is a pain in the fundament.

Hence the hassle with the MEC Free rearsight. It’s a lovely bit of kit, but it doesn’t cant 🙁

MEC Free sight does not cant....

So when the rifle is in position, the rearsight is canted, and that means it’s back to guesswork again. And to add insult to injury, it has two windage knobs – one on either side as you can see – which is lovely and symmetrical, but can lead to confusion when you adjust the wrong one in the heat of a match and move the shots in the wrong direction (because, being on a common axle, they of course have different senses when seen from different sides – you’ll note the earlier sights avoid this by having only one windage knob). And the elevation knob , being under the sight instead of on top of it, also confuses your mental model of how the sight adjusts.

It’s not exactly rocket science, it’s more along the lines of “No, your other left…”, but who needs that in a match? Especially when it costs points and time and mental calm to get it wrong?

Hence a bit of experimentation this evening to make sure I had the sense of how the adjustments work correct in my head:

MEC Free clicking around the target

That’s two shots, then 30 clicks left and one shot, 30 up + 30 left and one shot, 30 up + 60 right and one shot, and 60 down and one last shot, which landed back in the central group, so I’m happy enough with that. This done, a bit of computer graphics fun later, and I have this printed out on a handy reference card to keep with me at the firing point (and yes, in colour – colour printers are a bloody useful thing!):

MEC Free Rearsight Adjustment Reference Diagram
MEC Free Rearsight Adjustment Reference Diagram

 

Still only approximate, but good enough for government work…

 

 

 

 

Trigger work

After last Friday’s thoughts on trigger weight, today was the put-it-into-practice day. Reduced the trigger weight down to the 20-40g range (no gauge to measure exactly I’m afraid). Then adjusted six other things to get the same length of pull on both stages and weight on the first stage of the trigger that I had before and to ensure the sear engagement was correct – the match 54 trigger Anschutz uses is definitely excellent, but adjusting it isn’t really a tweak-one-screw-and-you’re-done sort of job…

 

Match 54 Trigger
Match 54 Trigger diagram

 

Match 54 Trigger
Match 54 Trigger Photo

 

Once that was done, it was a lot of dry-firing to get used to the new trigger weight. It’s a pretty large change since the triggering is such a major thing in target shooting, but it was going reasonably well after a half-hour or so. But the ten-shot series shot at the end wasn’t so great, something else crept in (Matt thinks there was a problem in my sight picture, I think I might just have been tired – it had been a rather longish day at work before coming out to WTSC).

 

Ten-shot string composite
Ten-shot string composite

 

 

Either way, we get to do this again on Thursday and Friday, just dry-firing and visualising and dry-firing and firing the occasional live shot just to check on things. Change one major thing, shoot a hundred shots to see if it’s worth shooting the next nine hundred to properly test it…

Practice, practice, practice…

Some (well, it should be most, but I’m not there yet) days aren’t about experimenting and changing stuff, but just practicing what we’ve changed. Today was one of those days. Just dry-firing and visualising, and more dry-firing. At the end of the night, fired one live shot to check all was well.

Test shot, end of the night
Test shot, end of the night

Seemed okay to me.

We did find though, while comparing triggers on the Steyr LG100 and my Anschutz 2002CA that my trigger was set very heavy compared to the others – somewhere around the 80-100g level or so. Next time, that has to get dialled down – a lighter trigger would mean a smoother release and less of the pulling off to one side we’ve been seeing in the RIKA.

New cleaning kit

VFG Pullthrough kit

I’ve tried a couple of different types of cleaning kits for rifles over the years, but mostly I’d settled on using the VFG pellets on cleaning rods for smallbore rifle and shoot-through cleaning pellets for airguns – I’d tried using the jags and cloths and so forth before but they’re just too damn fiddly, and as to bronze brushes, well, they’re a great way to etch your barrel as the bits of bronze break off and then get pounded into the barrel by the first post-cleaning round you fire; but apart from that, well, they’re not much use unless you’re shooting fullbore.

But I always had an aversion to pull-throughs for one simple reason, and that’s the crown of the barrel. For those who don’t shoot, the most sensitive part of the entire rifle is the crown at the end of the barrel – this bit:

Rifle barrel crown
Rifle barrel crown

See, if you use a pull-through improperly, or any other cleaning method, and you let something abrade the edges of the crown (that’s the bit where the hole in the middle meets the end of the barrel, for those still confused), the accuracy of the rifle is monumentally altered in a bad way. And since a pull-through is basicly a steel wire with a cleaning patch or pellet on the end, if you pull it through and don’t take care to keep the wire away from the edge of the crown, you could destroy a rifle barrel (and since they’re worth a few hundred euro, you don’t want to do that).

However, cleaning an air rifle with a cleaning rod is … awkward. You either disassemble the entire rifle or you clean from muzzle to breech, (which isn’t the right way to do things really) and it’s quite awkward to do either, so you wind up doing neither, the rifle barrel doesn’t get cleaned and your group opens out to as much as 8mm for an air rifle – which is not competitive. So I was looking at the new VFG kit. It uses a plastic-coated wire for a little protection and the bloop tube on the end of the air rifle muzzle makes it easy to keep the wire centered coming out of the barrel (you just pinch your fingers on the end of the bloop tube and use that as a guide for the wire). Plus, the kit is tiny – it’s far smaller than the palm of my hand, so it’d take up next to no room at all in the case.  So I ordered one (again, ebay is your friend, though Intershoot carries them as well) to give it a try. What’s in the kit?

VFG cleaning kit

First thing you see when you remove the lid is a large styrofoam packing peanut. Word to the wise – that’s part of the kit, it’s not some packing material gone astray. Don’t chuck it out. You see, beneath it, is the disc you use to grab the wire:

VFG cleaning kit

And coiled around inside the case is the wire itself and the pellet adapter on one end and small balls on the end and about a third of the way along, which the disc grabs onto to let you pull the wire through the barrel (personally, I’ve never needed this, finger pressure has been more than enough, but it’s nice to have the option just in case):

VFG Pull-through Cleaning Kit contents
VFG Pull-through Cleaning Kit contents

I usually keep a few cleaning pellets in the case as well these days. I’ve been using it for a fortnight now, and I’ve become a fan. It’s light-weight, it’s compact, it’s easy to use, and it’s faster than the rod and more thorough than the shoot-throughs (though I’d still use the shoot-throughs after a match and do a proper cleaning session then when I got back home or to the home range with the rifle). It’s very simple to use, just mount a cleaning pellet on the adapter, thread the wire into the barrel from the breech, and pull through – being careful to keep the wire away from the edges of the crown.

Rocket science it ain’t, but it’s one of those nice, simple little solutions…

Painting the ten…

Friday’s training is best summed up in one single shot:

(Excuse the speed being off, screen capture software wasn’t quite on the ball today)

Seems my approach is okay, and my hold is okay, and even my triggering is fine (some of the time) but my release (deciding to pull the trigger, rather than the actual pull itself) is just shite.

Lots of mental exercises needed for that one.

Meanwhile, move the buttons in by about two inches on the jacket and I’m getting a little more support from it now. Still rubbish, and it’s still going in a barbecue pit with a pint of petrol and a match, but at least I’m not in as much pain at the end of the night’s training now.

 

Training series 1
Training series 1
Training series 2
Training series 2
Training series 3
Training series 3

Facepalm

UCD was an utter disaster for me. A complete kick to the gut. The groups were so haywire that I was sure there was some sort of deep problem with my match prep or shot routine, and that would mean that months of work was wasted.

So last night, the objective was simple – find the cause of the problem. I thought it’d take all night. I set up the firing point just as I had in UCD, and killed the lights at mid-range and the near end of the range to simulate the lighting in UCD (which is much darker than WTSC because it’s a larger space and damned hard to light properly):

Firing point set up as per UCD Open

And I’m sitting there behind that, in the chair putting on my boots when I spot the problem. See, normally in WTSC I train on that firing point because I have the RIKA set up there and it saves time. But when I set up normally, it looks like this:

 

Firing point set up as per normal WTSC training

Spot the difference? Here, look at the UCD setup in the same lighting:

Firing point set up as per UCD with WTSC lighting

Hint: It’s the ruler. The two floor panels come together to form a reference line of sorts that I’d been using subconsciously while training, but while that line is parallel to the line to the target, it’s about four inches forward of it. So when I laid down the ruler in UCD and built the position around that, I was building the position perfectly — but four inches to the left of where it should have been.

 

Toe position and reference line
Normal toe position and the line it was positioned on for the UCD match

 

Facepalm

There’s an upside to this — ie. it’s a simple fix. But it’s really annoying that such a small stupid mistake cost so much.

So having a hypothesis that made sense, now was time to test it. First off, ten shots in the UCD setup:

Ten shots, UCD setup
Ten shots, UCD setup

And the RIKA traces:

 

Then ten shots in the normal WTSC setup:

Ten shots, WTSC setup
Ten shots, WTSC setup

And the RIKA traces:

 

Ignoring fliers, the normal WTSC setup group is smaller (it’s offset, but ignore that, the sights aren’t dialled in between strings), but not by a heck of a lot. But I’ve not shot since sunday, so I have more energy and maybe that’s making the earlier shots better? So five more shots in the UCD setup, because now I’m getting tired and the extra energy that might be compensating for bad setup isn’t there anymore:

Five shots, UCD setup (while tired)
Five shots, UCD setup (while tired)

And the RIKA traces:

 

I thought that was reasonably good supporting evidence, if not conclusive. And then I remembered that Matt had been ticked at a small flick out to the right he’d been seeing in my shooting all last week, and I wondered if I was still misaligned; so just for fun, I moved my position even more to the right of the target line:

New toe position with respect to target line
New toe position with respect to target line

The idea is to be as sure as I can be that the rifle’s plumb line (a vertical line down to the floor from the barrel when in position) is intersecting the line to the target. And this new position seemed to work very well – my balance in position felt much better, and while my triggering was awful a lot of the time, that’s a seperate problem. I’ll be trying this position more in the sessions to come, but I’m quite hopeful for it. Ten shots taken at the end of the session, while tired, looked like this:

Ten shots, new WTSC setup
Ten shots, new WTSC setup

And the RIKA traces:

Shot seven, when you ignore the RIKA calibration drift (it was actually a 10.4) is what gives me the most hope, especially when I recall that my shooting suit is old and doesn’t fit right, and that I was tired  😀

Shot seven. That'll do...
Shot seven. That'll do...

Peashooters: UCD Summer Air Open 2011

Peas And Potatoes

The Peashooters list from the UCD Summer Air Open 2011 is up:

Peashooters (Air Rifle) 

Shooter Club
Ray Kane DFST
Sean Baldwin DFST
Terry Wearen DFST
Aisling Miller DURC
Emily Wallace DURC
Julian Ewers-Peters DURC
Lorcan O’Carroll DURC
Micahel Cullinan DURC
Siobhan Scarlett DURC
Vladimir Untila DURC
Cillian O’Sullivan UCDRC
Joe Thompson UCDRC
John Lancaster UCDRC
Nicolas Nalpas UCDRC
Tian Carey UCDRC
Mark Dennehy WTSC
Paul O’Boyle WTSC
And here’s the Spudgun list :
Spudguns (Air Pistol)
Shooter Club
John Kinsella CIPC

Congratulations all 😀

UCD Open 12.6.11

UCD Summer Air Open 2011 MD

Megalink target

DNF.

Pretty much sums it all up really.

No idea of what went wrong. Shot routine was fine, certainly nothing as bad as the results suggested. Sight picture was good, though I had to crank my rearsight up to 1.3-1.4 to get enough light in. Foresight was at 4.2. Position was good – no significant back pain after a short break around shot 16 or so to hike up the trousers a bit. Rhythm was a bit off but not enormously so. Mental game was mangled, but that was done by the results rather than anything else. Had plenty of time pre-match, was doing holding exercises ten minutes before prep time started. Blinders worked fine, all the reference points worked fine.

Just no clue as to what went sideways. Have to watch the video.

DIY barrel weight plus proper mental game equals tens!

Yesterday was a shorter training run than tuesdays, only about an hour or so spent shooting on the line, but there were non-shooting activities to get through as well, with cleaning the rifle with my new cleaning kit (more on that in another post) and adding a weight at the muzzle end of the barrel.

The weight proved awkward – we didn’t have any of the over-barrel weights I was hoping to use and my anschutz-specific barrel weight (the only one I have to hand) is on a shelf over the workbench in DURC which is awkward when you’re in WTSC 😀 I scoured around looking for unused weights but didn’t find anything that would fit, and then I found some leftover lead from when we were making up the weights for my home training setup (which is a wooden stock weighed with lead to let me do balance work at home). A bit of rolling and a lot of electrical tape later and viola, a standard WTSC bodge job homemade barrel weight 🙂

DIY barrel weight

Some of the more observant readers may have noticed that this homemade contraption is hanging a little low and that the air cylinder appears to be closer to the barrel than the edge of the weight… and they’d be correct. On dissassembling the rifle after training, I found that the weight prevented removal of the cylinder, and as you can see, it’s taped in place. So out with the penknife, cut away all the tape, then rework the weight so that it’s thinner underneath and all the weight’s up above the barrel:

 

DIY barrel weight, Mk2
DIY barrel weight, Mk2
DIY barrel weight, Mk2
DIY barrel weight, Mk2

 

The air cylinder can now be inserted and removed at will, and as soon as the match on Sunday’s over, I’ll get something a little less… homemade sorted out.

The idea behind doing this in the first place was simple enough – a little weight out at the far end of the barrel will add to the barrel’s inertia and make it easier to reduce side-to-side wobble in the hold. Allegedly. In theory. I have to say that I think there was an improvement, but it’ll take more RIKA time tonight to tell for sure and to quantify it. I’ll have to shoot on better shooting days than last night (when my position and hold didn’t feel as solid as they have on other days) in order to confirm it.

However, last night did have some good results. I was working on the hold initially, but Matt changed focus a few shots in after noticing that when I was settling towards the pre-aim, the RIKA showed me hovering off to the top right of the target, and then moving in during the preaim; and then as I was dropping my head to the cheekpiece, moving out to the right again. After a while of looking at it, I noticed that during my preaim, I’m lining up a spot on the rearsight and the center of the foresight ring with a plumbline down from the bull; but because of the shape of my face, when I drop my cheek to the cheekpiece, it pushes the rifle out the right slightly. The fix seemed simple; now, instead of the foresight ring being on the plumbline, I use the gap between the foresight ring and the right-hand-side cant bar in the foresight tunnel:

 

Plumbline movement against foresight during pre-aim
Plumbline movement against foresight during pre-aim

 

With that change made, the preaim is a little finickier, but the aim gets much better. The results show this:

Training series 1

The two nines were fliers shot before the changes to the preaim, as the RIKA shows:

 

RIKA time-v-score chart
RIKA time-v-score chart

 

Again, ignore the score values as the RIKA calibration was a tad off:

RIKA point of impact captures

And here are the traces, looking at the hold:

And looking at the approach:

Long gap there between shots #3 and #4 as we changed the pre-aim routine (and started the RIKA saving the last 30 seconds before the shot instead of the last 10). And then there’s the really good bit of the evening, between shots #8 and #9. There’s a hole in my mental game where I catch sight of a string of tens and think “just one more…” and then promptly stuff it up and shoot an eight. We’ve been working on that too – it’s why the shot routine has morphed into a series of changes and checks, along the lines of “Do step 1; check step 1; only go on to step 2 if step 1 passes the check” and so on. Tonight it worked for the first time – it was hairy and difficult and nearly didn’t several times, but eventually I was able to rely on the checklist approach to get me through the shot and put in a decent execution (and was rewarded with a 10.0). That is the part of the evening I’m really chuffed with.

So tonight, we’re going to test the new routine a bit more, and also shoot on the RIKA with a few different foresight sizes – that group above was shot with a 3.8 foresight (which is a wee bit small for those who don’t shoot much air rifle, it’s as low as my foresight can adjust to, and normally you just use that for training and shoot a match on a higher setting). We need to shoot some shots on the RIKA at 3.8, 4.0, 4.2 and 4.4 to get an idea of what the effect on the hold will be. Given that you normally set the foresight according to the range lighting, it’s worth knowing what the different sizes will do to the hold; though I’m reasonably sure that the change in lighting might also be a factor in the hold…

Endurance, a new blinder, and trigger changes

Last night was originally going to be for endurance training. The idea was simple enough – dryfire to get set into position, then fire a hundred shots (basicly  just empty the shakerbox of pellets). Do this on a tuesday and there’s time to recover before the match this sunday.

In the end though, it didn’t quite work out that way. There was still a test of endurance (I think I was in position for an hour and 45 minutes before taking a quick break to stretch, and in total I was on the line shooting for a little over two hours), and today everything hurts, as you’d expect, but Matt noticed that I was still having issues with the trigger, and so we tried addressing that instead.

RIKA capture of shot with poor triggering

As you can see, the triggering (the blue line) dives right out of the hold area and the shot lands away from where we were holding the rifle. Not good.

The original trigger setup was right back in towards the pistol grip – to the point where I had to dremel out a cutout on the pistol grip to allow the trigger to be pulled at all:

 

Original trigger setting
Original trigger setting
Dremelled cutout on pistol grip for trigger
Dremelled cutout on pistol grip for trigger

 

Matt now moved that trigger far forward, and altered the angle it was set at. After some experimentation and a lot of shooting, this is the new trigger setup:

 

New trigger setup
New trigger setup
New trigger setup
New trigger setup

 

And yes, that trigger angle is deeply unorthodox. However, because of the cant I hold the rifle at and the natural angle my hand is at and the angle my index finger is at to the hand when it’s curled, that setup works to give a solid contact point for the finger and a clean trigger release.

Shots are getting hinky there at the very end, but otherwise, not a bad result for two hours of work. Next time will be dry-firing and then more dry-firing and more hold-with-periheperal-vision training.

 

Also, a new blinder type got tested:

 

New blinder
New blinder

 

 

Shooter's eye view through the new blinder
Shooter's eye view through the new blinder

It works quite well, and it’s a definite improvement on the earlier blinders, but its not quite perfect yet. Need to get some sort of adhesive tape that allows a lot of light through, but not much in the way of an image. Still, that’ll do for the match on sunday if I don’t make a better one before then…