Playmobil finals hall

So obviously, when you have a kid, they need toys. And naturally, no good parent gives their kids toys untested, right?

5202 Playmobil Target Shooter
5202 Playmobil Target Shooter

:mrgreen:

Besides, this beats toy soldiers any day. (And more seriously for a moment, it’s nice to see the sport get this kind of exposure with kids). So, let’s see, need eight for a finals hall…

Over the shoulder

 

From the target line...

 

Firing line (yes, it's to scale!)

 

Note the to-scale firing line :D

 

But is this rifle or pistol we're shooting here?

 

The new finals hall :)

 

Leaving aside the giggles for a moment (if you can), our sport gets very little good publicity. Even this week, in the middle of one of the most outstanding Olympic Games in a long while (in terms of performance standards), despite the good image being protrayed, we had medal winning Olympic shooters having to tell the press that our sport isn’t connected to gun violence. The fencers weren’t asked about edged weapon violence despite a similar event happening at the same time in Bejing; boxers aren’t asked to justify their sport in the light of drunken idiots beating each other up outside the pub at closing time; dressage riders aren’t asked about stray ponies being mistreated in inner city Dublin. But shooters get vilified all the time, precisely because we aren’t a familiar, known quantity. The Olympics do a huge amount to help with this, but they’re out of the news cycle for four years at a time. So silly toys like this one, which show what our sport looks like so that we’re a familiar image from a person’s childhood; that’s not a silly end result. It’s wonderful.

Frankly, if you like shooting, I think you should go search for a few of these and buy them now, to give out as birthday and xmas presents later. It’s not like they’ll break the bank, they worked out at about a fiver each on ebay…

The last match…

…for a while at least. With biscuit’s due date rapidly incoming, rifle training is shut down for now, and shooting pistol in the UCD Open is the last match I’ll be in for a while, and it’s purely as a plinking match for me, a bit of fun. So I grabbed the Izzy case and wandered over to UCD, said hi to folks and set up on the firing point, and take my first sighter shot:

Sighter shot

You know what? Feck that, that’ll do 😀 Went straight into the match after that (hey, it’s for fun, right? 😀 )

The rest of the match went quite well, I still haven’t achieved my goal of shooting a full match with no shots in the white, but it was closer this time and I broke 500 so that was a good match scorewise. I forced myself to put down the pistol for 30 seconds between each shot for the first 40 shots; then took a longish break and then came back and shot the last 20 shots non-stop quite quickly; I think the results show the whole shoot-a-string-and-then-take-a-break approach beats the pause-between-each-shot approach.

UCD Air Open II

UCD Air Rifle Open II

And it’s a nice strong finish to go out on, at least for a few months 🙂

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 😀

Peashooters: NTSA National Air Rifle Championships 2011

Peas And Potatoes

The Peashooters list from the NTSA National Airgun Championships 2011 is up:

Shooter Club
Ray Kane DFST
Sean Baldwin DFST
Terry Wearen DFST
Aisling Miller DURC
Emily Wallace DURC
Frank Lavery DURC
Heather McLoughlin DURC
Ivan De Wergifosse DURC
Katharina Wilhelm DURC
Logan Hasenbeck DURC
Michael Cullinan DURC
Siobhan Scarlett DURC
Cillian O’Sullivan UCDRC
Claire Leyden UCDRC
Donal Bourke UCDRC
Joe Thompson UCDRC
John Lancaster UCDRC
Tian Carey UCDRC
Yuecong Wang UCDRC
Laura Cunningham WTSC
Mark Dennehy WTSC
Paul O’Boyle WTSC
Susan Cunningham WTSC

 

And here’s the Spudgun list :

 

Shooter Club
Peter Friend Addiscombe RC
Joe Conroy Fermoy
Tom O’Brien MPAI
John Lancaster UCDRC

 

Congratulations all 😀

Peashooters: UCD Open II

Peas And Potatoes

The Peashooters list from the UCD Open is up:

Sean Baldwin DFST
Terry Wearen DFST
Aisling Miller DURC
Emily Wallace DURC
Frank Lavery DURC
Kate Wilhelm DURC
Michael Cullinan DURC
Siobhan Scarlett DURC
Cillian O’Sullivan UCDRC
Donal Bourke UCDRC
John Lancaster UCDRC
Tian Carey UCDRC
Mark Dennehy WTSC
Paul O’Boyle WTSC

John (from UCD) and I were talking about this idea and we thought we should also have an air pistol version – garden peas aren’t really at the same level of difficulty for pistols, so we took the score you had to hit to hit a pea, figured where than landed on an air pistol target and walked through the vegetable bin to see what qualified, and guess what, small new potatoes do

So here’s the Spudgun list :

Tom O’Brien MPAI
John O’Brien RRPC

Congratulations all 😀

Peashooting

One of the many funny jokes airgun shooters get from people who’ve never tried the sport because airguns aren’t loud enough for them, is the title of “Peashooter”.

I’ve been thinking about that, and I’ve had a fun thought.

How about the NTSA – or one of the airgun clubs – brings in something akin to the old DURC Standards, namely the “Pea Shooter” title?

See, here’s the thing. Your average garden pea is about 8mm in diameter. That’s just inside the 10.5mm diameter of the 8 ring on an air rifle target:

10mAR Pea Target

In fact, if my math is right, you have to shoot a 8.4 or higher to hit the area on the target that’s the size of your average garden pea. Which is about the 516/336 level in air rifle, which is a good point for a mid-range novice prize.

Seriously – this might be a neat way to get people to enjoy the first few months of the sport – get some badges made up, like the old DURC standards, it’d be easy enough to measure off the electronic targets, no extra prizes, just a list of “pea shooters” published in the results and rankings, that sort of thing…

Vickers Jubilee

One of the fun things about being in a club that’s been around a while is that some interesting stuff builds up in the historical archives. I’ve an interesting bit or two from the archives to put up on this blog but I thought I’d start with last night’s fun, the Vickers Jubilee.

Vickers BSA Martini Jubilee

I’m generally not an admirer of firearms, oddly enough. I’m a great fan of target shooting, but oohing and aahing over a firearm makes as much sense to me as oohing and aahing over a shovel. But there have been exceptions – for example, there was a display case of early target shooting muskets in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam a few years ago, which had so much filigree and enamel work done that they were more a cross of painting and sculpture than they were firearms:

Ornate target shooting matchlock musket Closeup of the ornate inlays and carvings on a target shooting matchlock musket

Tinderlock target shooting musket

And some firearms have been so optimised for function that the craftsmanship displayed has a kind of intrinsic aesthetic beauty, something that you can appreciate as a separate thing from what the craft itself actually is. For example, one particular target shooting .223 rifle out in the Midlands has had so much work done on its trigger by its owner that it is now every bit as crisp and clean a trigger release as any match rifle; yet the trigger unit itself is just a standard one, polished and worked to perfection over long hours in the workshop.

223 Target Rifle

Shooting with the Vickers gave that sense of excellent craftsmanship and more – this rifle is simply not from our time. Originally manufactured in 1939, it hails from a time when craftsmanship standards were somewhat higher than today and manufacturing philosophy was not the same as it is today. This is evident almost no matter where you look on the rifle, in both fine details and gross features.

For example, in all modern rifles, the barrel is pinned, clamped, or otherwise connected to the receiver; this allows replacement barrels to be swapped in. This is done fairly often for fullbore rifles, some calibres more than others; but infrequently for smallbore, if ever.

The reason that we have this design feature at all in modern smallbore rifles is advertised as the ability to allow high-end shooters to replace barrels after hundreds of thousands of rounds have finally begun to erode the barrel, or in case of accidental damage — but really, its purpose is to allow for manufacturing defects in a barrel to not require the entire rifle be scrapped, and to allow separate manufacturing of barrel and receiver, thus increasing production rates and flexibility (so you can have a barrel made in one factory mated to a receiver made in another, or whatever works out cheapest for the manufacturer).

Vickers barrel and receiver

On the Vickers however, as you can see, the action and the barrel are all one piece of metal. To hell with manufacturing a hundred barrels, throwing away the three or four that aren’t up to snuff and making rifles with all the rest; this is the Waterford crystal approach, where you make a rifle in one piece and if it’s not up to snuff, it gets scrapped. There’s more investment on the part of the gunsmith here, and a higher requirement for skill and precision from the gunsmith. And with much of the rifle being handmade or handfinished, that’s more and more evident as you start looking for it.

It’s also fascinating to see alternative engineering approaches to problems. For example, in modern rearsights, the iris is like that on a camera, with several leaves that come together to create an iris that’s infinitely adustable over a set range. You can dial in whatever iris setting you want; this is very useful in an outdoor match or an indoor one if the lighting is a bit nonstandard. But the mechanics of such an iris, while relatively easy to create today with CNC milling and CAD design and laser-cut metal parts, were quite expensive in 1939; so the Vickers uses a more low-tech solution which nevertheless works quite well: behind the rearsight eyecup, there’s a small rotatable indexed wheel with several holes of varying sizes drilled into it.

Vickers rearsight

Vickers rearsight seen from behind

So when you’re looking through the rearsight iris, you are effectively getting one of a few preset iris settings. It’s not as flexible as the modern system, but it does have several advantages over our modern leaf-type irises:

  • It’s a lot cheaper to manufacture
  • It’s a lot more robust and reliable; leaf-types can break and need repair, a hole in a piece of metal is pretty much unbreakable
  • There are far fewer possible settings, leaving the shooter less to get his head caught up in. The sights do the minimum that’s required to give the shooter what he needs; they are not suffering from feature-creep!
  • The rearsight is much physically smaller and thinner than a leaf-type can be easily made to be; modern rearsights like the MEC Free sight and the Centra Spy are trying to get back to this small rearsight model and top shooters are snapping them up like hotcakes; but the Jubilee was there in 1939…

So some Vickers engineer out there achieved 70 years ago, what todays MEC and Centra engineers are now trying to achieve again today. It’s somewhat ironic.

Original advert for the Vickers 'Perfection' Rearsight
Original advert for the Vickers 'Perfection' Rearsight (courtesy of the UK Historic Arms Resource Centre Miniature Calibre Rifles Research Site at www.rifleman.org.uk )

The sights are not the only design trend that Vickers had in 1939 that we’re only seeing crop up again today. The stock itself is lightweight and ambidextrous, making the rifle usable for juniors, ladies, left- and right-handed shooters, equally. Universal design in 1939?! Today you can find several rifles that are ambidextrous in the catalogs, but only because it’s become one of the modern design trends – ten years ago your choices were far more limited.

There are no headspacing issues. None. The falling-block design just doesn’t have that problem. Nor do you have problems with lock times, the falling-block trigger mechanism has the fastest lock time of any rifle action bar the modern rotating-block and metal storm designs, neither of which are really target shooting mechanisms! In fact, lets look at that trigger mechanism for a moment:

Falling Block Trigger mechanism

How robust is that? Compared to the match 54 trigger, this thing is a solid hunk of steel fit to be used as a hammer! And once put to that use, you would almost expect it to be unaffected when it returned to its original job as a trigger. In action, its feel is wonderfully crisp and precise, if much heavier than modern triggers. It feels like it breaks around the 1lb to 2lb level, though I’ve not taken a trigger gauge to it. But look at how few moving parts there are – there are, in total, five components, though to be fair one does house four more including the main spring and the firing pin.

Vickers Trigger Parts

Vickers Trigger
Vickers Trigger (diagram courtesy of the UK Historic Arms Resource Centre Miniature Calibre Rifles Research Site at www.rifleman.org.uk)

It’s hard to explain how wonderfully elegant this trigger mechanism is without showing the modern counterpart, so here’s a look at the Match 54 trigger (the nearly ubiquitous trigger in modern match rifles):

Anschutz Match 54 Trigger

Doesn’t look too complex there, with everything nicely coloured, but that diagram is masking several things to just show the operational parts. Contrast the number of parts in the Vickers trigger above with the number in the Match 54 trigger as shown in the user’s manual below:

Anschutz Match 54 Trigger Exploded

Now, granted, the Match 54 does have significant advantages over the Martini action trigger. It is far more adjustable, as the first diagram shows, allowing for a very custom trigger setup. Whatever the shooter’s preference is, the Match 54 can probably cater to it, whereas the Martini allows for some adjustment of trigger weight, but not much, and that’s about it really. And the Match 54 can operate at far lower trigger weights reliably; the Martini is never going to get much below the 1lb-2lb level and remain utterly reliable. That doesn’t mean that it’s an impediment however — as a few minutes of shooting without any jacket or sling will show you, the trigger is more than good enough to get the job done:

Perfect ten shot with the Vickers at 25 yards

In fact, that’s the thing about the Vickers that jumps out at you and slaps you round the face a few times — if you’re looking for a club gun, one you will train someone to shoot on, there really isn’t anything better than the Vickers being made today. It blows every current match rifle out of the water in terms of suitability for beginners. Think about it:

  • This is an ambidextrous stock, so that’s the left and right handers taken care of with one rifle, saving money for the club.
  • It’s safe, with a trigger that’s hard to set off accidentally.
  • It’s perfectly accurate and doesn’t suffer from any of the problems with esoteric things like headspacing and the like that modern match rifles have.
  • The accessory rail is compatible with all the modern handstops and doodads, so you don’t have to convert those over if you move up to a more modern rifle.
  • The sights are robust enough to work well after seventy years, though you do have to adapt to their working in the opposite sense to the german sights we’ve all been using for the last few decades; but that’s a trivial adaptation.
  • The rifle itself is very lightweight, making it suited for juniors and seniors in both genders.
  • It’s monumentally uncomplicated. You can take the trigger apart completely without a single tool beyond a ballpoint pen to poke out the pins (and if your fingernails are up to it, you don’t even need that). You can take this rifle to the firing point, take it into less than a dozen pieces to show a beginner how it all works, reassemble it and fire it, all in about quarter of an hour. The depth of understanding a beginner can gain from this is enormous and you just cannot do this with a modern rifle – too many parts, too many tools needed, and you’re sunk if you lose even one tiny little grub screw, which on a range is a near-certainty.
  • It’s reliable. Look, this thing was made in 1939, it’s passed through at least two owners before DURC got their hands on it, and it was  a club gun for college students for years until it was retired in 1990; and after all that use and abuse and wear and tear, it took less than a half-hour of pottering before it was back and ready to go into service again drilling out the ten as if it was only made last tuesday and hasn’t gotten properly warmed up yet. And it’s built as though the design spec said it had to be usable as a hammer every other weekday. Compare this with the incredibly delicate handling needed with some modern rifles like the Hammerli AR30 or the like. This may well be the single most reliable firearm I have ever picked up.

And then to all that you add the last point, the clincher for money-starved clubs everywhere during the recession: the cost. Granted, you can only get them second-hand. Granted, the easiest place to find them is the back room of any UK gunshop, which may not be terribly convenient. And granted, sooner or later these things are going to become collectors items. But right now, a Vickers Jubilee can be picked up second-hand for about €60.

No, not a misprint. Sixty (six-zero) euro.

How the heck Anschutz and the other manufacturers are supposed to compete with that for a club or beginners rifle, I don’t know, unless it’s through hoping noone’s ever heard of the Vickers. It really is the most impressive little unassuming firearm I’ve seen in a very long time.

 

For more information on the Vickers, and its many contemporary rifles, I recommend the excellent UK Historic Arms Resource Centre Miniature Calibre Rifles Research site, which has a wealth of information on these lovely little bits of engineering.

Original advert for the Vickers BSA Martini Jubilee rifle
Original advert for the Vickers Jubilee rifle (courtesy of the UK Historic Arms Resource Centre Miniature Calibre Rifles Research Site at www.rifleman.org.uk)
Original advert for the Vickers BSA Martini Jubilee rifle
Original advert for the Vickers Jubilee rifle (courtesy of the UK Historic Arms Resource Centre Miniature Calibre Rifles Research Site at www.rifleman.org.uk)