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…

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

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…

 

A good solid evening’s training

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…

Cobra pose to Downward facing dog pose
Don't worry, that cracking and popping noise is just your shoulders...

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):

Training series 1, eyes open

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):

Composite of RIKA traces
Composite of RIKA traces

RIKA-captured points of impact

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:

Training series 2

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:

Training series 3, Shooting for the Stars exercise

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:

Final training series

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).

…yup, that was a mistake. D’Oh…

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!

 

...and back to this again.
...and back to this again.

 

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…

 

Edge-of-buttplate position
Edge-of-buttplate position

 

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.

 

Training shots, 1-10
Training shots, 1-10

 

 

 

Training shots, 5-14
Training shots, 5-14

 

 

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…

 

Kurt Thune shooting braces
Kurt Thune shooting braces

 

 

I may have made a mistake…

…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.

Buttplate tweak - not a mistake. Probably.
Buttplate tweak - not a mistake. Probably.

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:

Control group, shot eyes open

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:

Control group, shot eyes open, as captured by 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:

 

Control group, shot eyes open, composite of all RIKA traces
Control group, shot eyes open, composite of all RIKA traces
Control group, shot eyes open, RIKA trace analysis
Control group, shot eyes open, RIKA trace analysis

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?

 

Test group, shot eyes shut
Test group, shot eyes shut

Yeah, I’m going to go ahead and call that a real problem. The RIKA agrees (again, the calibration’s off…)

 

Test group, shot eyes shut, as captured by RIKA
Test group, shot eyes shut, as captured by RIKA

 

Test group, shot eyes shut, composite of all RIKA traces
Test group, shot eyes shut, composite of all RIKA traces

 

Test group, shot eyes shut, RIKA trace analysis
Test group, shot eyes shut, RIKA trace analysis

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.

From this...
From this...
...to this.
...to this.

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? 😀

Friday night Rika training

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:

Evaluation series 1

(One wierd flier, but otherwise okay)

Evaluation series 1 and 2

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:

Evaluation series 3

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:

Rika group picture

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).

Rika Traces

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.


First day’s training on the new Megalink targets

All set up and ready to go...

So today was the first chance I got to do any real training on the Megalinks. It wasn’t the best day’s shooting – my gym time was stepped up a bit this morning and I was shattered – but it wasn’t too horrible. Shooting in just the jacket and street clothes is really highlighting my problems with sway and settling, which is good in the long term, but a right royal kick in the gut in the short term. Plus, I’m going to have to start working on core strength before I mangle my back again.

All set up and ready to go...

Setup was easy, though I can’t say it was any faster than with paper targets. You notice the noise from the Megalinks after every shot as they wind on the paper roll. You would miss it in UCD over the fan noise; not sure how loud it is in Rathdrum; but in WTSC it’s very, very noticable, even distracting.

As I said, big problems with sway at the start (as well as trying to dial in the sights). By the end, an hour in, I’d gotten something of a handle on things, but I was still getting twitches and serious fliers as a result of them:

Last string

So I stopped there as I didn’t think I was getting very far. I need to start doing some balance work every day, that’s all there is to it really. Where the heck I find the time for that, I don’t know.

Since the last day when we set everything up, the second Megalink target has been changed over from air pistol to air rifle, as I thought it would be:

Megalink #2 reset to 10m Air Rifle shooting

And someone’s already had the first inevitable whoopsie with the targets 😀

Whoops!

Meh, it’s armor plate, that’s what it’s there for. I bet it was still mortifying though!

WTSC gets Megalink targets!

So we’ve not mentioned anything about this, but for the last few weeks, WTSC has been sourcing two new Megalink electronic targets for the range, to help train for competitions on ranges which use them, as well as to allow us to do some forms of training that are a bit more difficult at the moment.

They were shipped from Norway earlier this month and arrived in Dublin early this week, and as soon as customs duties and VAT were paid, we took delivery of them (on Wednesday) and last night saw myself, Matt and Geoff working away setting them up. You don’t see too many photos of the setup process, so I took photos all the way through from unpacking to the final setup:

The Megalinks installed (for now)

Continue reading “WTSC gets Megalink targets!”