First match since the holiday and the rust is showing…
My balance was all over the place, and things just refused to settle down. Anxiety levels were high, but it’s that annoying kind of anxiety that you can’t see as anxiety when it’s happening; think of it as just a generally heightened level of mental tension rather than anything specific – like the way you sometimes realise your shoulders are so tense that they’re touching your earlobes, but you didn’t have any one specific muscle in pain?
The sight picture problem from the July Open was completely gone though, thanks to the efforts of the UCD folk who spent the morning installing new lighting, and to moving to a new firing point (the ones in the center have more ambient lighting than the ones at either end because of the difficulty in mounting lights safely downrange). So that was a welcome relief, but it did just highlight the poor hold in the position 🙁
End result was that despite good logistical prep, despite decent time management, despite taking a break to talk with Matt and Geoff half-way through, despite lots of dry-firing and settling at the start, things just refused to calm down and settle into place the way they’ve done in training.
Matt says it’ll come, and so does everyone else, and I know they’re right – it’s just that knowing it’ll happen doesn’t make waiting for it any easier 😀
On the upside, Ashling set a brand new PB of 375 (that’s the ladies MQS, which is a nice result after such a short stint of training with Matt), and Paul blew everyone away with a new PB of 589 (up from 577 in less than a month – proof that it does come when you train long enough…) And Emma is coming back to training as well, and will be coming out to WTSC to train with us on Friday nights, so the WTSC gang is getting better and getting bigger again, which is nice to see after a few years of a lull…
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 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.
Still, as Liam said on the day, “every day’s a schoolday”…
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 🙂
(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:
Scores histogram’s pretty okay as well:
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 🙂
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…
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.
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.
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:
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:
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:
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…
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).
We shoot with both eyes open, and so one eye sees the foresight directly and one sees it through the rearsight. Plus, on a competition firing line, there’s movement to either side from the other shooters. Neither of these is conducive to good shooting – so, we wear blinders on the non-aiming eye and also to block out the sides. However, a few years back the ISSF introduced rules about the blinders (ostensibly to promote the sport on television… which was a bit daft since the blinders were hardly the issue. But never mind, on we go…):
So at the time I used a very small blinder that just barely covered the foresight to avoid breaking equipment control rules:
It worked reasonably well if everything was perfect and nothing went wrong, but if anything was off, even by a little, it just didn’t work and the glasses had to be resettled and adjusted. So a few years ago I changed back to the largest size of shooting frame blinder under the ISSF rules:
But then recently, the eye test showed that I didn’t need the frames, so I started using blinders made up from cut-down target cards:
And also one for the sides (because that movement off to the side is remarkably distracting when you’re in a match and not everything is going according to plan):
But as I mentioned earlier, they don’t exactly hold up over use (the card just breaks down and gets grimy), so a bit of DIY (ebay is your friend) and here’s what they look like made up in PTFE (0.25mm thickness works well for the non-aiming eye and the blinder to the non-aiming eye’s side; 0.5mm is better for the aiming eye’s side blinder):
The problem with the side blinders is that, as you can see from the rules, the side blinder can only be 40mm deep; and if they’re in at an angle like this (because that’s the only way to get them positioned without using duct tape), the shooter wearing frames has more of the area covered over than the shooter without frames. Happily, a longer blind, a 90 degree bend and some scotch tape and problem solved…
Not a bad result for a simple bit of DIY. Could be improved (maybe swipe the headband from a pair of headphones instead of that 90 degree bend), but it’ll do for now..
…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? 😀