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…
So tonight became a session with the RIKA to check to see (objectively) how the hold has improved, with some nice results.
Started off a bit late as work ran on, got into the kit, hooked up the RIKA and started dry-firing to get settled, then some warm-up shots to cernter myself, then fired some calibration shots for the RIKA:
Then we covered the screen of the RIKA (so I wouldn’t be distracted) and shot a few ten-shot strings:
My head was *not* in the game for that one 🙂 Took a few minutes, centered myself a little, and continued on:
And of course the RIKA didn’t capture that string properly (for some reason the software only recorded seven of the ten shots). So back to the line and put in another ten:
Not as good as the second string, but it did turn out to be instructive – you can clearly tell on the RIKA trace that that 7 is from the trigger, not the hold:
You can also see from comparing with earlier RIKA traces that the hold has gotten much, much better. For example, this was last night:
Okay, it’s a bit easier to see with just the trace from a single shot. So here’s a single average shot from last night:
And here’s one from three months ago:
The amplitude of the vertical wobble is about the same, but the left-right wobble is much less and so is the drift (the longer-term wobble caused by sway and other large position problems) – and that earlier graph was the best I could find from that session, but the one from last night was average – there were better ones than that last night:
I mean, that’s nearly textbook, right there. Now, to get that to happen every time…. 🙂
Friday’s training is best summed up in one single shot:
(Excuse the speed being off, screen capture software wasn’t quite on the ball today)
Seems my approach is okay, and my hold is okay, and even my triggering is fine (some of the time) but my release (deciding to pull the trigger, rather than the actual pull itself) is just shite.
Lots of mental exercises needed for that one.
Meanwhile, move the buttons in by about two inches on the jacket and I’m getting a little more support from it now. Still rubbish, and it’s still going in a barbecue pit with a pint of petrol and a match, but at least I’m not in as much pain at the end of the night’s training now.
UCD was an utter disaster for me. A complete kick to the gut. The groups were so haywire that I was sure there was some sort of deep problem with my match prep or shot routine, and that would mean that months of work was wasted.
So last night, the objective was simple – find the cause of the problem. I thought it’d take all night. I set up the firing point just as I had in UCD, and killed the lights at mid-range and the near end of the range to simulate the lighting in UCD (which is much darker than WTSC because it’s a larger space and damned hard to light properly):
And I’m sitting there behind that, in the chair putting on my boots when I spot the problem. See, normally in WTSC I train on that firing point because I have the RIKA set up there and it saves time. But when I set up normally, it looks like this:
Spot the difference? Here, look at the UCD setup in the same lighting:
Hint: It’s the ruler. The two floor panels come together to form a reference line of sorts that I’d been using subconsciously while training, but while that line is parallel to the line to the target, it’s about four inches forward of it. So when I laid down the ruler in UCD and built the position around that, I was building the position perfectly — but four inches to the left of where it should have been.
There’s an upside to this — ie. it’s a simple fix. But it’s really annoying that such a small stupid mistake cost so much.
So having a hypothesis that made sense, now was time to test it. First off, ten shots in the UCD setup:
And the RIKA traces:
Then ten shots in the normal WTSC setup:
And the RIKA traces:
Ignoring fliers, the normal WTSC setup group is smaller (it’s offset, but ignore that, the sights aren’t dialled in between strings), but not by a heck of a lot. But I’ve not shot since sunday, so I have more energy and maybe that’s making the earlier shots better? So five more shots in the UCD setup, because now I’m getting tired and the extra energy that might be compensating for bad setup isn’t there anymore:
And the RIKA traces:
I thought that was reasonably good supporting evidence, if not conclusive. And then I remembered that Matt had been ticked at a small flick out to the right he’d been seeing in my shooting all last week, and I wondered if I was still misaligned; so just for fun, I moved my position even more to the right of the target line:
The idea is to be as sure as I can be that the rifle’s plumb line (a vertical line down to the floor from the barrel when in position) is intersecting the line to the target. And this new position seemed to work very well – my balance in position felt much better, and while my triggering was awful a lot of the time, that’s a seperate problem. I’ll be trying this position more in the sessions to come, but I’m quite hopeful for it. Ten shots taken at the end of the session, while tired, looked like this:
And the RIKA traces:
Shot seven, when you ignore the RIKA calibration drift (it was actually a 10.4) is what gives me the most hope, especially when I recall that my shooting suit is old and doesn’t fit right, and that I was tired 😀
Yesterday was a shorter training run than tuesdays, only about an hour or so spent shooting on the line, but there were non-shooting activities to get through as well, with cleaning the rifle with my new cleaning kit (more on that in another post) and adding a weight at the muzzle end of the barrel.
The weight proved awkward – we didn’t have any of the over-barrel weights I was hoping to use and my anschutz-specific barrel weight (the only one I have to hand) is on a shelf over the workbench in DURC which is awkward when you’re in WTSC 😀 I scoured around looking for unused weights but didn’t find anything that would fit, and then I found some leftover lead from when we were making up the weights for my home training setup (which is a wooden stock weighed with lead to let me do balance work at home). A bit of rolling and a lot of electrical tape later and viola, a standard WTSC bodge job homemade barrel weight 🙂
Some of the more observant readers may have noticed that this homemade contraption is hanging a little low and that the air cylinder appears to be closer to the barrel than the edge of the weight… and they’d be correct. On dissassembling the rifle after training, I found that the weight prevented removal of the cylinder, and as you can see, it’s taped in place. So out with the penknife, cut away all the tape, then rework the weight so that it’s thinner underneath and all the weight’s up above the barrel:
The air cylinder can now be inserted and removed at will, and as soon as the match on Sunday’s over, I’ll get something a little less… homemade sorted out.
The idea behind doing this in the first place was simple enough – a little weight out at the far end of the barrel will add to the barrel’s inertia and make it easier to reduce side-to-side wobble in the hold. Allegedly. In theory. I have to say that I think there was an improvement, but it’ll take more RIKA time tonight to tell for sure and to quantify it. I’ll have to shoot on better shooting days than last night (when my position and hold didn’t feel as solid as they have on other days) in order to confirm it.
However, last night did have some good results. I was working on the hold initially, but Matt changed focus a few shots in after noticing that when I was settling towards the pre-aim, the RIKA showed me hovering off to the top right of the target, and then moving in during the preaim; and then as I was dropping my head to the cheekpiece, moving out to the right again. After a while of looking at it, I noticed that during my preaim, I’m lining up a spot on the rearsight and the center of the foresight ring with a plumbline down from the bull; but because of the shape of my face, when I drop my cheek to the cheekpiece, it pushes the rifle out the right slightly. The fix seemed simple; now, instead of the foresight ring being on the plumbline, I use the gap between the foresight ring and the right-hand-side cant bar in the foresight tunnel:
With that change made, the preaim is a little finickier, but the aim gets much better. The results show this:
The two nines were fliers shot before the changes to the preaim, as the RIKA shows:
Again, ignore the score values as the RIKA calibration was a tad off:
And here are the traces, looking at the hold:
And looking at the approach:
Long gap there between shots #3 and #4 as we changed the pre-aim routine (and started the RIKA saving the last 30 seconds before the shot instead of the last 10). And then there’s the really good bit of the evening, between shots #8 and #9. There’s a hole in my mental game where I catch sight of a string of tens and think “just one more…” and then promptly stuff it up and shoot an eight. We’ve been working on that too – it’s why the shot routine has morphed into a series of changes and checks, along the lines of “Do step 1; check step 1; only go on to step 2 if step 1 passes the check” and so on. Tonight it worked for the first time – it was hairy and difficult and nearly didn’t several times, but eventually I was able to rely on the checklist approach to get me through the shot and put in a decent execution (and was rewarded with a 10.0). That is the part of the evening I’m really chuffed with.
So tonight, we’re going to test the new routine a bit more, and also shoot on the RIKA with a few different foresight sizes – that group above was shot with a 3.8 foresight (which is a wee bit small for those who don’t shoot much air rifle, it’s as low as my foresight can adjust to, and normally you just use that for training and shoot a match on a higher setting). We need to shoot some shots on the RIKA at 3.8, 4.0, 4.2 and 4.4 to get an idea of what the effect on the hold will be. Given that you normally set the foresight according to the range lighting, it’s worth knowing what the different sizes will do to the hold; though I’m reasonably sure that the change in lighting might also be a factor in the hold…
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).
After a few comments on the blinders made up the last day (thanks to David and Liam), I’ve dumped the 0.25mm PTFE side blinders. The thinness of the material meant that the side blinder wouldn’t stop curling round and that’d get me hauled up by EC on the line 🙁
So 0.5mm PTFE instead, and all’s well.
Also, I got some new material for the non-aiming eye blinder, 0.5mm perspex. The idea was to try to get the maximum amount of light through (the perspex is transparent). The idea was to get a blinder like Hannah’s here:
The problem now is to find a way to fuzz up the image. First attempt is to use scotch tape and doesn’t work too badly, but I’ll keep looking because it lets in as much as the PTFE and if so, why not just use the PTFE.
The single piece of tape doesn’t work quite so well – the alignment has to be just right or it all goes sideways…
And when fully obscured, it might as well be PTFE. But it works…
Meanwhile, the dry-firing on the RIKA is improving from the last day, but the RIKA’s calibration is drifting to the left within ten rounds 🙁
Readjusted calibration and shot the next series with eyes closed for the second either side of trigger release.
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? 😀