For home training, or for training on the range, it’s close to impossible to replace something like a SCATT (or RIKA or Noptel) trainer. However, the sensor you have to sling under your rifle or pistol is a bit of a pain – it’s fiddly to put on, fiddly to take off, fiddly to adjust, and the wire drags no matter how careful you are with it, so it can put you off.
So this looks like a very neat piece of useful kit :
The big frame on the left is the normal end frame, most of the systems use one of these, no big deal. The sensor on the other hand, is a nice little change:
Wireless. Excellent. 🙂 You could potentially mount this thing permanently to your rifle and that way it’d be the same setup for training and for competition, and you might even be able to rig up a more sturdy permanent mount too.
The only drawback seems to be the €1300-or-so price tag. Ouch…
Time to dip the toes back in the water, so I went to shoot pistol at the UCD range today (only 8km away, not bad…)
Lots of old faces showing up again, some because the range is finally open again after a great upgrade to the lighting, and some because they were watching the Olympics and want back in (and welcome!) 🙂
The shooting itself was okay, I mean, I’m no great pistol shooter but I can enjoy it – I still haven’t hit my goal (four years on!) of shooting a full match with the Izzy without dumping a shot into the white, but I’ll keep plinking. Some of the others were just pounding away on the ten ring though, and with everything from Izzys to the new Walther LP400, which was nice to see. Me, I didn’t get my head back into the game until the final string, and by that time the arm muscles had given up and gone home 😀 But it was nice finding the mental still point again.
Now, to figure out how to get back to regular training. There’s probably a Rika in my future…
New lights – 4.5kW of high frequency florescents. Makes an *enormous* difference to the shooting – it’s like a whole new range!
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:
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:
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:
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:
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…
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…
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…
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…
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…
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…
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:
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 🙂
Friday was a pretty good day’s training, but that peak performance level felt just out of reach, thanks to various things going sideways.
Early start, got to the range around ten to seven or so, meeting up with Paul at the door of the range. Usual startup – the yoga mat is really helping with the warmup and while going from the cobra to the downward facing dog postures looks daft, it’s really efficient at getting the muscles that you use in position all warmed up. It’s also spectacularly efficient in making you look daft and alarming everyone with the noises it creates…
That done, I took a few minutes to run twenty shots through the new chronograph, then got set up for RIKA training. First ten shots were standard, look-where-you’re-going stuff and went really well (would have gone better if the sights had been tweaked though – hardware problem #1):
And the RIKA traces showed that this would have been an outstanding string if I’d tweaked those sights. (Again, the RIKA’s calibration is drifting, so watch the traces, not the points of impact, which are almost random at this point):
Not bad, though getting a bit hinky at the end – shot eight was a bad trigger and shot nine wasn’t great either, but that could have been a decent 96-97 if the sights had been on. I have no idea what happened to shot 6. At all. The RIKA trace was fine, with really good hold, trigger release and follow-through, but the shot was an 8.8. I really, really have no idea what happened there. For all I know it could have been bad ammo (which would be the first time I’ve seen a verifiable case of that in the last few years). Mind you, if it was bad ammo, and it can do that much damage to a really good shot execution, then I really need to get a selection box of pellets and test out sizes (which isn’t that easy in Ireland, but there’s got to be some way to do that…).
Next up was ten shots fired with the target and RIKA screens turned away, and it felt like a decent string – no really hairy shots, all with pretty good holds and good approaches:
Er, wtf? 0.0?
Turns out, the paper tape from the megalink had hit off the RIKA sensor and tripod, doubled back and fed back up into the megalink. End result, one very confused target and the last two shots at least were utter silliness. Still, it started well enough…
So Matt extracted the tape from the target, set everything up again, we fired off a few more rounds in calibration exercises, and then did Matt’s new exercise (well, new to my training plan, anyone from WTSC will remember it as the “shooting at the stars” exercise). The idea is to approach to target and hold as normal, then look off to the right of the target (or left, if you’re a left-handed shooter). You then keep your focus there, maintaining the hold with the periheperal vision only, and then fire and follow-through, all on periheperal vision. The results… were pretty much as you’d expect:
Traces show it pretty clearly as well – mostly it’s okay, but if the hold wasn’t set up correctly, the NPA heads right off to the right as soon as the focus leaves the target:
But the payoff comes when you take then next few shots after the exercise:
Yes, I know, but ignore the last four shots where my back is having fun and my mental focus is being worked on by Matt, Paul and Aisling chatting about rifles in the background (which is disturbingly effective at being disturbing, by the way). All three of the first, focussed shots landed in the same hole and the traces tell the story nicely:
Very tight holds, very clean trigger releases, very even follow-through. No NPA problems. Matt’s exercise really does work on focussing the attention on the NPA during the setup of the position.
So, one week to the next match out in UCD. Three days training left. Almost all of which will be dry-firing and working on Matt’s exercise. And trying to sort out the blinder design – I tried a different kind of tape on the perspex than scotch tape and it worked really well. Trying ordinary sellotape next. There’s a happy medium in here and I’m going to find it…
As to the match itself, the plan’s simple enough:
Be on the first detail;
Have porridge for breakfast;
Get there early;
Warm up and set up kit before prep time starts;
Check sights for correct apertures for the lighting on the UCDRC range;
Check buttplate height as UCDRC’s targets are slightly lower than the WTSC targets;
Set up position in relation to shooting stand (as practiced) and dry-fire throughout prep time;
Turn away the monitor and only check every few shots for any required changes to sights;
Stay hydrated during the match;
Tweak rearsight arpeture as required during the match;
Use both side blinders and the older earplugs to keep out distracting noises/sights;
The goal is to try to shoot all 60 shots with the right shot routine, the right mental focus, and running all the in-position checks against balance and inner position as I go (I deliberately don’t have a target score in mind for this match, and won’t until I get my new shooting suit).
Arrived at the range, stretched (need to buy a yoga mat for this, you wouldn’t believe how dusty the floor of a rifle range can get…) and warmed up, and started shooting with Matt watching. A few dry-fire shots to get settled into position, and then some live shots. And it was fairly obvious within those few shots that the cheekpiece change from yesterday isn’t working. The position felt loose and unstable and imprecise. Rolled the change back, chalked it up to being an idiot. Lesson learnt, a simple quick fix never is!
Once that was set back to the original settings (and fine-tuned to get it right), things got somewhat better. The cheekpiece pressure was still there though; but moving the buttplate out on my arm by about a centimetre fixed that, at least for today. Position marked for next time…
That done, back to the live-firing, and Matt had me focussing on settling properly, first during the pre-aim, then above the target, and only then pausing breathing and letting the target sink onto the target and settle for the shot. The results weren’t too shabby, but lots more practice needed.
Also found that using braces instead of a belt on the shooting trousers gave better lumbar support – I’m guessing I’d make it to 40 shots before the backache starts now. Need to get a better set of braces than the snickers workwear elasticated set though 😀 The single-shoulder variety that connects to the buttons on the trousers would be perfect…
…or a major improvement. I don’t know yet, and probably won’t know for a week or so.
First of all, I tweaked my buttplate. That change has been a while coming, it was needed and expected and is reversible. Basicly, I just raised the buttplate a little – I was settling into position below the aiming mark too often, and this fixed that. So that’s okay.
The worry is the other change I made.
After yesterday’s session, and the last few training sessions both with and without Matt watching, I’ve been watching that rightward drift of my NPA and trying to find the cause or to fix it. Turning my feet so that they’re no longer parallel is not really an option, as it compromised my stability. Turning on the spot proved very difficult, and not repeatably consistently. Moving my right foot forward opened my hips to the target line and compromised stability. Moving the buttplate further out along my arm put it firmly on the bicep muscle, which was a recipe for pulse and twitches. The other problem with these solutions was that they didn’t seem to work anyway – that rightward drift kept creeping back in, no matter what I tried.
So last night I try the same exercise as on Tuesday. And I’m in a pretty good state compared to Tuesday, which is good, more data to check. After warm-up and dry-firing, the first ten shots of the exercise (the control group, shot eyes open) go down well:
Just two fliers, shot 6 and shot 10. The RIKA is tracking away, but again, the calibration isn’t matching Megalink to RIKA perfectly — this is the same group on the RIKA:
So again, watch the individual trace shapes, not their location on the target because the calibration seems to be drifting from shot to shot (other shooters have noticed this on this RIKA unit as well, not just me):
So it’s not bad, the shots all land in the hold area, more or less, and the hold area’s small enough:
So that’s not a bad control group. Not the best I’ve ever shot, but more than good enough to work with. Tuesday saw a major drift of the NPA to the right when I fired with both eyes closed, but was that because I was having an off day or because of a real issue?
Yeah, I’m going to go ahead and call that a real problem. The RIKA agrees (again, the calibration’s off…)
Okay. So that’s a conservative tweak, a good control group, a good test group, a problem clearly spotted, and good data all round. So far so good. Here’s where it gets a bit hinky.
When I drop my head into position, and look through the rearsight on target, I could tell there was something pushing the rifle out of my cheek and trying to rotate it around the axis of the barrel (or a parallel axis a bit lower down). It showed up on Tuesday, and I’ve seen in a match or two in the past, but I had it down as a product of a bad day. But I got to thinking when it showed up today as well (when I wasn’t having a bad day) and I started looking at it, and after some experimenting, I came to the conclusion that the cheekpiece came just a smidge too far out to the left of the rifle, so that when I dropped my head into position initially and compressed the flesh of my cheek, it was okay, but as the flesh decompressed, it pushed the cheekpiece away from my cheekbone.
Solution? Move the cheekpiece.
The angle of the cheekpiece is now shallower, and it has been moved to the right by about four mm. Which doesn’t sound like much, but makes a large difference. It’s also been raised just a smidge to compensate for the angle change, but that’s more a consequence than a change in itself.
The results seemed very promising – the rifle is no longer shoved out of my face, my head’s just sitting there on the cheekpiece comfortably without any side pressure and with the foresight nicely centered in the rearsight. And the RIKA trace shows a good hold with this:
So why the worry? Well, first off, it’s like I said yesterday – changing the rifle setup is a Big Thing™. Having made the change, it’s going to be a week or so before I know I made it correctly (ie. did I move it far enough left or change the angle too much, etc), and longer before I know if it fixed the problem properly. And ideally, I should probably have waited another few sessions first. Dumb rookie mistake.
Hopefully, there’ll be some dumb luck to go with the dumb mistake, and this will lead to an improvement… we’ll find out over the next few sessions… and then there’ll be a few hundred dry-firing cycles to run through to properly bed the change in.
What, you thought a quick change to the rifle would be quick? 😀
Tuesday was not a great day for my shooting. I was tired and my head wouldn’t settle, and nothing seemed to work right. Still, on with the training, even through the hold wasn’t great (on friday, it’d sit in the nine ring on the rika trace; tuesday, it would maybe hold inside the seven ring.
The exercise was the same as before, shot routine as normal, hold on target, then close eyes, count off a second or so, and then fire. The idea is that if my NPA (Natural Point of Aim for the non-shooters, it’s where the rifle would point if you didn’t deliberately or subconciously try to point it somewhere, and it’s where the aim will be the most stable – we want that in the centre of the target if possible, but because you can be subconciously moving the rifle to the target, it can be hard to spot problems here) is off, then the rifle will head towards the NPA as soon as I close my eyes and the shot and the trace will show me where it’s headed for. Fired ten reasonable shots this way:
And the traces show the same tale:
Superimposing them all makes it a (bit) clearer (remember, the electronic target and the electronic trainer aren’t perfectly in sync (and in theory never can be), so the points of impact vary a bit, so it’s the shape of the traces you’re looking at:
So in each case, as you can see, the rifle heads away from the hold area as soon as I close my eyes, and the shot never lands in the hold area at all. That’s more than a hinky triggering, that’s a hold error right there, and it’s what Matt was talking about (how he could see it, I don’t know – this is why the NCTC think he’s a genius).
But this isn’t the end of the exercise. As you can tell, this was an off day for me even without this. So the results aren’t perfect. Compare the X/Y graphs from tuesday:
to those from Friday:
You can tell just by looking at how Friday’s graph is so much less noisy that the hold was better that day.
So, not a good day. But the upside is, the problem was more pronounced because of that. Being too unfocussed mentally and too tired physically to cheat the rifle into the ten ring with subconcious muscling means that I could see the problem free and clear.
But what does it look like when I’m not having an off day? And was that off day making a mountain out of a molehill? The data isn’t really exhaustive. And you can’t make a change based on one set of data like this. People do – there are Irish shooters who’ll shoot nine 10s and then a nine, and who’ll haul out the hex key to tweak something on the rifle because of the nine. Changing the rifle, or changing the position or indeed anything about the shot routine, however, isn’t something so small and trivial. If you change even a small thing, it can take hundreds of shots (a) to get the change right and be able to trust it in a match, and (b) to know if the change actually fixed the problem in the first place. So you have to be really conservative and not fix something until you know it’s a problem with the setup instead of faulty execution (of course, if it is a problem with the setup, you then often have to switch gears and be completely unorthodox in finding a solution! 😀 ).
So today, I do this all again, and hopefully it won’t be an off day and my hold will be better this time, and if the results are the same, then it’s time (with my coaches) to try to find a solution…
So evaluation day didn’t go quite as well as hoped. Got to the range a bit late, got set up with some dry-firing and then set up for the Rika. Calibration took a while longer than I expected (and we never did get it perfectly synced to the electronic targets) and then I put 20 shots in on the Rika. The targets looked okay-ish:
(One wierd flier, but otherwise okay)
Again, a weird flier but otherwise okay. Looking at the Rika traces showed the fliers are coming from the triggering, so at least I know what to work on.
Unfortunately, we mucked up the setup of the Rika and lost the traces, and by this time my back was sore – that being the role of the jacket, not to help you shoot a ten but to help you shoot more than 20 of them in a row, which seems to be where my limit is at the moment. Something else to work on..
So I put another ten rounds in while still on the Rika:
Not a horrible group, if a bit loose (which was more to do with the back I think). Here’s the Rika trace:
Note that the traces didn’t match the points of impact exactly:
Minor differences between group sizes and shape – seems the Rika configuration drifts over time. Looking at the score-v-time graphs, they’re reasonable enough (reasonably level up to the release and no big spikes around release).
So, new plan. Work on back muscles to push the muscle limit past 20 shots, and work on the triggering to eliminate those weird fliers. Which probably means more Rika time in the next few weeks.
This evening’s training was a bit of a trial for tomorrow more than anything else. Yesterday’s shooting with my eyes shut was a good indicator that there was something wrong, but the air pressure problem prevented any real diagnosis, and the more I thought about it, the less I could see it doing to help because I couldn’t tell if it was bad triggering or bad hold that caused the problem. So today, I wanted to set up the Rika to see what my hold looked like. I didn’t quite think this through though, and wound up trying to set up the Rika after warming up – while still in full kit. If ISSF think the “penguin walk” is a bad thing, they’ve not seen the penguin try to get over a 3′ table while in full kit…
Anyway. Finally got the Rika set up. For those who don’t shoot, the Rika is an electronic training aid, made up of three main parts: the target, which has two small infra-red LEDs on it and which holds a normal paper target and sits down the range in the usual place or as close to it as you can get:
Then there’s a sensor that’s slung under the barrel of the rifle, and an interface box that’s basicly all the magic electronics that interprets the sensor and gives a very basic (two-line dot-matrix) interface.
This interface box plugs into the PC and that’s where the real magic happens…
But, while that video trace is really useful, it’s not the only data the software can give you…
And these statistics (and a few others) can be run over groups of shots as well as individual shots.
So tomorrow’s plan is to shoot a few strings with Matt observing to get some baseline data and see how things are going. An evaluation day, in other words…