UCD July Airgun Open 2011

Not a great match at all for me, this one. Hit the MQS (570) a few days earlier, and expected to get a decent shot at it this time as well. It didn’t go that way…

 UCD July Airgun Open

UCD July Open 2011
UCD July Open 2011

You can see the standard devolving through the strings – string 5 is particularly bad. There were some external problems – I couldn’t get sight alignment reliably because of the range lighting – there’s a plank across the back of the range above the targets which acts both as a mounting point for the target numbers and a baffle for the lights at the target end of the range; but the plank is not as well lit as the back wall the targets are mounted on. When you look at it with the naked eye, it’s not so bad, but when you look through the sights, that plank is very, very dark and the effect is that you get a black bar across the top of your sight picture and instead of centering the foresight in the circle of the rearsight, you’re trying to center in that circle with a big chunk taken off at the top. Ray and Paul have managed to do this; I’ve not got the hang of it yet.

There were internal problems too – I didn’t handle having sight alignment problems very well at all, and it felt like I’d gone from an environment where I had a good technical setup and coaching support to one where I had neither. Both of which aren’t external, they’re internal problems. There’s a deep need here to work on the mental side of things now and Matt’s been moving towards this a lot of late. Technically, there’s only one major thing left in my setup (my trigger finger alignment) and a few very minor tweaks (my right leg position, my match logistics & prep, that sort of thing) – the main thing holding me down right now is securely located between my ears.

UCD July Open, Relay 1
UCD July Open, Relay 1

 

*sigh*

Still, as Liam said on the day, “every day’s a schoolday”…

MQS

It took ten years, and the last push has taken eight months of hard work, both physically (I’ve lost over 30lb), mentally (lots of visualisation exercises, and lots of not listening to my own head), technically (3hrs on the range, 3 days a week, plus matches on the weekends and time training at home) and even financially (buying new kit and the like – and there’s more of that coming). It’s taken hard work and time from Matt and Geoff with coaching, but finally – I hit the MQS score of 570 in men’s air rifle tonight 🙂

MQS!
MQS!

(Excuse the 120-67 totals in strings 4 and 5, didn’t hit the “next series” button on the megalink fast enough)

Groups were pretty okay:

String 1
String 1
String 2
String 2
String 3
String 3
String 4
String 4
String 5 (part one)
String 5 (part one)
String 5 (part two)
String 5 (part two)
String 6
String 6

Scores histogram’s pretty okay as well:

Scores Histogram

1 2 3 4 5 6 Total
10 8 6 4 2 7 6 33
9 2 3 6 7 2 4 24
8 0 1 0 1 1 0 3
Total  98  95  94  91  96  96 570

And there’s still room to improve easily enough – that 91 for example, is down to my head being thrown, and there are two 8.9s in there (hell, cleaning the rifle could cause those…).

But to be honest, I’m still too busy celebrating finally hitting the MQS (and setting a new PB, natch) to worry for now 🙂

Practice match

So the plan for this evening was to shoot a practice 60-shot match. With the UCD Open coming up on the 17th, I thought practice matches for the next few sessions would be a good idea. So I got to the range about 1830h and got kit prepped and ready, and started my prep time at 1900h. And straight into sweating and feeling like I was in a straitjacket and having issues with flexibility of the jacket and so on. Not a great start. It wasn’t helped by the sighters – that first shot was well out in to the white and gave me something to look at for the rest of the match:

Sighters
Sighters

The reason the sights were so far out was a purely mechanical one that I spotted on Friday and which Paul confirmed – if you’re putting on the MEC rearsight and just slide it on the rail and tighten the clamp, it clamps like so:

MEC Free rearsight clamped without pressure
MEC Free rearsight clamped without pressure

The weight of the rearsight is all behind the clamp, and you can see it’s making it lean back a little. Tightening the clamp won’t bring it down onto the rail at the nose of the sights, and you can’t consistently replicate the angle it finally comes to with the rail if you just tighten the clamp. So you’d be sighting in every time you put on the rearsight. Friday saw me zeroed in with the rearsight at an angle like this. Today, instead, I did what I’d planned to, and applied pressure at the nose of the rearsight to hold it down to the rail, and then clamped it in place:

MEC Free rearsight clamped with pressure on the nose
MEC Free rearsight clamped with pressure on the nose

The difference may not look like much, but it’s there and visible and rather critical – that much of a change takes you from an inner ten to an outer two, right out in the white of the card. It took seventy-odd clicks to get back to the inner ten…

Once the sighters were done, I was now looking at being behind on my time plan (which is 10 min for sighters, 90 seconds per match shot, and 5 mins in reserve), and of course, that’s stress, and I’m still watching to fine-tune sights. I didn’t handle the mental game well for the first string as a result and it was awful:

String 1
String 1

Too high, and too much wobble. By this point, I’m still sweating and fighting the jacket; but the thing about a horrible start is that your mind decides that the match is now lost (which, to be fair, it is) so it might as well relax – exactly the thing you’ve been trying to get it to do for the last ten shots…

String 2
String 2

And immediately things start to improve. Yes, it’s not perfect or even average yet, but it’s getting better. Odd fliers out to the right hand side though. So I put the head down and get on with the shooting, figuring that I want to walk away as it’s so bad, but I need the physical acclimatisation if nothing else…

String 3
String 3
String 3 closeup
String 3 closeup

And feck. That’s really quite good. Dammit. Sights are a bit low and left, and I have one flier at six o’clock, but that’s a nice group apart from that (and by this time, I’m actually back in the flow with a solid-feeling platform in my position and my temperature and breathing are back to normal). So I tweak the sights a bit and go back to it…

String 4
String 4
String 4 closeup
String 4 closeup

Mother-loving son of a ….

That wouldhave been my first tun in air rifle.

Gah. Okay, head back down, on with it, time’s pressing now…

String 5
String 5
String 5 closeup
String 5 closeup

Oh sweet suffering cats. I know the last shot was a complete flier, but why am I drifting to the right here? Some sort of sight picture problem perhaps. On with it, time’s ticking…

String 6
String 6
String 6 closeup
String 6 closeup

And feck. Finished two minutes after the time limit, so shots 9 and 10 of that string wouldn’t count – not that that last shot did me any favours – though I knew the moment it broke that it was bad; the trigger just broke before I was ready for it. No idea where the other flier came from though.

Still. 560 with an 88 (and a 98 with an 8) is not bad. The scores histogram shows 32×10, 18×9, 9×8 and 1×7; compared to the last good match I had (the DURC Open back in November before all the new changes), that’s pretty okay (that one was 29×10, 26×9, 5×8). Tidy up the start and watch the sights adjustments, and that would be a pretty decent score. And that’s after a long day in the office too.

A few more practice matches needed, but Sunday is looking good so far…

Buttons and lessons

A pretty good evening’s training tonight. Got to the range around half seven and after the normal breathing exercises (look, if you drive for an hour in Irish traffic to get to the range, some deep breathing is pretty mandatory to get rid of the terror or urge to kill, depending on which end of the traffic you were on), some dry-firing for an hour or so, working on focussing on the process instead of the result. And of course, some chat over the latest toys in the Centra/MEC catalog with the others 😀

Friday nights are turning into the club training night again, with Matt, myself, Paul and Ashling now training regularly there, which is nice to see again.

Adjusted the jacket a bit as well – I’ve not been bothering with the fourth and fifth buttons on the jacket as when I started back late last year, they wouldn’t close properly. 30lb lost since then, so I’ve shot with the fourth closed, but I noticed that while the belly’s not the problem anymore, the shape of the jacket is still all wrong, and it was fighting the position and my breathing; moved the button about an inch with Matt’s help and suddenly it’s gone from fighting me to working with me. Excellent. More dry-firing..

And then after the dry-firing, some live-firing, and I noticed the sights were off, deep in the 8-ring, which was odd as yesterday they were fine. I adjusted them, and shot a ten-shot string for score:

Ten-shot string for score

Not perfect, the sights were a few clicks out at the start (about six in total – the Free is about 9-10 clicks per ring), but after I recovered that, the rest were fairly on target. If I’d shot the string with the sights on, it’d have been a 99. Not bad for a crummy jacket…

Of course, never a night without finding a new problem – while taking the rifle apart, I noticed that the Free rearsight, even though it was clamped to the rail securely, was not flat on the rail – it was tipped ever so slightly backwards (I think it’s because it won’t sit flat on a surface due to its design, and the clamp doesn’t drag it down and forward as you tighten it). Which, if it’s not tipping a consistent amount – and I don’t see how it could be – would explain why I keep having to adjust my sights on the same range without changing the rifle setup in between days.

Oh well. From now on, when assembling the rifle, press down on the front of the MEC rearsight, then tighten the clamp. Kinda wish that was in the thing’s manual…

Mirror, mirror…

When I was shooting a lot of smallbore, I had a small mirror attachment on the back of my rearsight iris as an alignment aid. It worked quite well, so I thought I’d try it on the Tiny iris on the Free rearsight. Trouble was, the Tiny wasn’t compatible with the rearsight mirror I had and the mirrors I’d seen on the Tiny had to be built into the iris itself; and there are just too many tiny parts in the Tiny (har, har) to do the work myself. However, Centra now have an alternative push-on mirror as well. So a few emails with their sales guys later (thanks Johann!) and I had a package on my desk:

It arrives!

One monumental amount of packaging later, and there’s my new mirror:

So much packaging for such a small item!

Mirror

So this evening, after some dry-firing and some live-firing to warm up, I attached the mirror to the rearsight:

Mirror attached

Mirror in place

The idea is pretty simple. Here’s the rearsight normally;

Rearsight w/o mirror

And with the mirror in place, you now have another concentric aperture behind the rearsight iris:

Rearsight w/mirror

And the idea is that when you look through that aperture with your eye properly aligned, your pupil (which you can see in the reflection) will be eclipsed by the aperture and your iris surrounds it, the way that the camera lens is eclipsed by it here:

Shooters eye view through mirror and rearsight

Unfortunately, when I tried using it tonight, it didn’t work as well as it had in the past. I couldn’t arrange my head behind the mirror so that I was looking through the aperture at the same time my pupil was eclipsed. Either I had the eclipse and no sight alignment, or I had sight alignment and my pupil was off in the top right of the mirror looking back at itself (which is more than a little disturbing 😀 ). I tried ten shots with the mirror and ten without anyway, just to see what the groups would look like:

10 shots without mirror
10 shots without mirror

 

10 shots with mirror
10 shots with mirror

 

Mirror group on right, no-mirror group on left
Mirror group on right, no-mirror group on left

Leaving aside the score as the sights were slightly off anyway, the no-mirror group seems to be the smaller of the two – it would all fit within the eight ring bar one shot which clips it – the mirror group clips it on both sides with multiple shots. Without the eclipsing of the pupil, I’m getting an asymmetric sight picture and my sight alignment seems to be off a bit as a result. It’s not by much, but it’s enough. It’s a bit disappointing really, but I’m not throwing it in the bin just yet – I won’t experiment too much with it until after the UCD match on the 17th, but I’ll try it out again at some point, to be sure it’s not just tiredness mucking up the shooting.

Refocussing

A straightforward enough day’s training, with a few dry-firing shots to warm up and then about 30 shots live. Matt turned away the screen for the last 15-20 shots, showing that I’ve left my focus slip from process to result:

Last six training shots
Last six training shots

That last shot was knocked out by a rather untimely pain in the left leg (hooray for nerve damage 🙁 ). The rest of the group wasn’t too bad; so if I don’t let the focus slip, the results aren’t so bad. So the training focus is pretty obvious 🙂

 

Mind you, Paul’s groups are currently better! 😀

Paul's last ten-shot string
Paul's last ten-shot string