Centra Duplex

I got one of these (direct from MEC, but you can get them from Intershoot.co.ukย now) a while ago to try out.

Centra Duplex parts unpacked...

Looked great, but had a few problems – for a start, my rearsight got a little complicated:

All we need now is a kitchen sink...

Okay, so some of that got stripped off, but even after that, it was still a bit… busy:

Centra Duplex in match configuration

Now, I have a fairly pronounced cant on the rifle, so that introduced another problem – the duplex is only anchored at the top and I don’t know if it’s my one alone or the design, but when you cant it, the iris doesn’t hang vertically, it moves slightly to one side and makes a mess of your sight picture, so you’re fiddling with its adjustment a fair bit to try to get everything aligned. And speaking of which, the sight picture itself gets a bit more complicated as well:

Centra Duplex Sight Picture

The problem is that the gap between the rear iris ring on the outside and the middle ring of the duplex is just as critical as the centering of the foresight ring in the rear iris, and unless the duplex is perfectly centered in the rear iris – and locked solidly in place – then you get a sight picture like the one above, and if you’re mid-match and fixating on the target, you don’t notice the small drift offcenter of the duplex in the rear iris.

Now I know these can work; I saw one or two being used to good effect in Intershoot and in RIAC by the Dutch team (it’s hard to see but look at the rearsight of Peter, second from the left in the photo):

But for me, the Duplex is now sitting in the pile of Bits I Bought Because They Were A Good Idea At The Time But They Haven’t Worked Out So Far But Maybe With A Bit Of Work They Will Later On…

Intershoot 2012 Day Two

Up at a reasonable 0700 or so this morning. Sweet brass monkey eunuchs but it’s cold. Somewhere between -8C and -10C. Peter’s diesel estate wouldn’t start first time yesterday for the first time since he’s had it because of the temperature, and today it’s colder. And I don’t like the look of that fairly large cloudbank we can see off in the eastern sky either. We do *not* want hail today thanks.

Down for breakfast (Rolled oats, water, milk and five minutes on the hob for excellent porridge! Breakfast of champions! Three minutes more than for that microwaved gunk, but it’s more than worth it!), and a cup of coffee, we pack the few things we’re carrying with us — my netbook and shooting diary (got it printed up as a book and it turned out nicely, we must see if we can sell a few of them to raise money for WTSC‘s new range fund), fruit and water for all of us, and Paul’s rifle and stand — and we head off for the range. It’s a brisk mile of a walk, interrupted only to scare the wits out of the chaparone for the Welsh junior squad by trying to be helpful and offer directions to the range without realising that they might have odd notions about strange Irish chaps wearing low-pulled caps, sunglasses against the glare and wind, and wearing neck gaiters over faces (did I mention it was cold?) ๐Ÿ˜€

Hey, it was *cold*, okay?
Oh well, it was character-building for them ๐Ÿ˜€

Anyway, on to the range, and we got out our kit and got our heads into the game. Aisling was still shooting, having had the ungodly-hour start this morning, so we watched her for a while, but she seemed to be coping well so we left Kealan to keep watch and went to get ready. The plan from the diary was again, quite simple:

  • 0815 Leave for range
  • 0830 Arrive at range, warm up
  • 0900 Assemble kit
  • 0920 Wall-watching
  • 0930 Kit on line, ready to go
  • 0935 Prep time
  • 0945 START!
  • Watch inner position and feet.

The sight picture was the lesson learnt from yesterday; I figured if I could watch it for this match as my main focus, I’d do reasonably well. My head was in the game, at least for most of the match; though I confess I did check the score near the end. Stupid, stupid, stupid…

Starters went off well, my zero looked okay and I spent a dozen or so shots just getting into the rythym and watching the sight picture. The backdrop was different today, we were back up on the firing points we’d trained on on the first day, so that was familiar. We were also smack in the middle of the webcam’s field of vision but alas, nobody thought to snag a photo of us ๐Ÿ˜€


Some folk commented about the shortened sleeves of the jacket here btw (it’s hard not to notice them) – the truth is that the only problem was that I didn’t cut enough off the right arm. I should have taken another two inches off of it. The arm doesn’t give you any support in standing – all it gives you there is a shoulder pad to put the rifle’s buttplate on. The rest of the arm is only there for those who shoot three positions – the sleeve’s needed for prone and useful for kneeling. Honestly, I might well just hack off the arm on the new Kustermann jacket too. But if you do hack it off, do so well above the elbow – otherwise when you bend you arm to reach the pistol grip, you may hit the material of the jacket above the elbow with your forearm, bowing it outwards and creating unnecessary wrinkles which can muck up your buttplate positioning. The left arm does need the sleeve, for the arm-side contact point, but that one got cut too, just because the arm was too long – it was down to my thumbs ๐Ÿ˜€

The sight picture worked really well – I’d mount the rifle as normal, watch the target while settling (looking over the rearsight, which is very easy with the MEC Free rearsight), check the foresight against the background to be sure it’s in roughly the right place and isn’t swinging about all over the place, then lowered my head down to the cheekpiece. But while lowering my head, I’d look through the rearsight for a final pre-aiming view, at which point the foresight tunnel would appear to be just touching the top of the inside of the rearsight. That let me check my horizontal centering, and then lower my head gently while fully exhaling to the cheekpiece to center vertically. Triggering followed naturally on from there.

The final pre-aim and head-drop

Of course, that didn’t settle down until the middle of the first string, so there were two wild eights in there (well centered, just high because the cheek pressure on the cheekpiece was wrong)… but there was only one more in the next 55 shots, which was far, far better than the last few international matches. The series scores weren’t the highest I’ve ever shot, but they were consistent: 94, 95, 97, a slip down to 93 thanks to that third eight, then two consistent 96s to finish. And of course, I did check the score in the last string. Stupid, stupid, stupid…

Still, turned out well enough – a new International PB of 571 and my first international MQS ๐Ÿ™‚ In fact, it’s a new competition PB overall – I’ve shot 574 at home in UCD in front of the NTSA before coming out to Intershoot, but not during an official match.

Intershoot Day 2I was rather happy with that, in fact, and went off to decompress (my feet felt awful, like someone had put them in a vice and tried to squash them flat) and get some food (I was starving by the end), log into facebook and skype home and find a cup of coffee.ย  Which is why, when they called out the team medals and I realised we were in contention, I had to sprint down from the spectators gallery. But I wasn’t caught as off-guard as Ray was, because he’d just finished shooting in his second finals of the week (Ray made the finals on all three days) and was just changing out of his shooting kit into his tracksuit when they called us up for third place (that’s why Ray is in his socks in the photos ๐Ÿ™‚ ).










Oh yeah, third place, did I mention that? International medal for Ireland. You know, just another thursday…


Climbing onto the podium


Wooot! My first international medal! :)
Wooot! My first international medal! ๐Ÿ™‚

That’s what the Americans so endearingly refer to as a shit-eating grin, and it took several hours to get it off my face ๐Ÿ˜€


Third place, Mens Air Rifle Teams

Right now, some Irish readers who aren’t shooters are probably wondering why a third place medal is a big deal. Here’s why. The team medals went, in order to:

  1. The Netherlands shooting team
    • turned up in their own bus (as in, they owned it, custom painted, the works);
    • had several coaches (famous ones like Dick Boschmann, who’ve written all the textbooks on shooting – open up the first few pages of Ways of the Rifle, the widest-selling ISSF textbook of all time and you’ll find their coaches right there), managers, gofers and so on;
    • are all fully-funded, full-time shooters and have been for a few years aimed at London 2012, and all started years before we can have a licence in Ireland;
  2. England shooting team
    • fully funded full-time shooters who started years before we can have a licence in Ireland;
    • had the largest team contingent there with coaches and managers and staff;
  3. Us
    • there on holidays from work, training in our free time, paying for everything out of our own pockets;
    • one overworked sod as staff doing all the paperwork, management and dogsbody duties;
    • our coach back here on the other end of a phone line;
    • doing all our own cooking, shopping, and all the sundry stuff the others had taken care of for them (and that’s rather a lot – do you know how much 7 adults working 12-hour days in subzero temperatures at a rifle match can eat, and still lose weight?);

And despite all that whinging, we were only 20 points behind the English team, and only 32 behind the Netherlands team (out of 1800 points) and when you look to the PBs of our team we could have pulled up 16 points right there just by equalling our best. Add to that the point that my kit was ten years old and way past its best-before date and the point that my rifle hasn’t been serviced in the past ten years (the lads on the circuit will have theirs serviced at a minimum once a year, and more normally at every major international match by the manufacturers (who go to the matches to do so) and that’s another few points from the kit alone. So when you take the kit element out of it, our scores were right up there in contention for the gold medal.

Now don’t get me wrong – the lads on the other teams are lovely chaps, all of us are friends and they’d be the first to offer to help if anything went wrong in a match and vice versa (it’s not unheard of for competing nations to loan each other everything and anything on the line (yes, rifles included), and we usually stay in the same places and eat together) and I’m actually rather proud to get to compete with them and when Huckle shot that 598 we were all thrilled for him because he’s worked so hard for it.

It’s just that looking at those scores, there’s a part of me that wonders at how,ย  in only our free time outside of our full-time jobs, we’re close enough to full-time fully-funded Olympic teams that the gap could be closed with just money, and not that much money at that. And that part of me is desperately proud of what us little Irish shooters can manage to do.

But hey, that’s just me.


Anyway, we figured that we’d pack up the kit and head back to the chalet, maybe get a nap in the afternoon after lunch. So we walked out the door to find that that cloudbank in the eastern sky that morning had shown up after all:



Feck. Three inches or so of snow inside of four hours. This does not bode well…

Headed back...

Pooh and Piglet on a big adventure! :D


…but in the meantime it’s all pretty! ๐Ÿ˜€ (If fecking cold when all you’re wearing is underarmour and a light tracksuit designed for warmer climes!)

So back to the chalet, stopping along the way to photograph a very arty frozen beach (it was so cold, the wind was catching the spray from the waves and by the time it hit us, it had frozen into ice)…

Frozen beach

Frozen beach

Frozen beach

Frozen beach, The Hague

…and also in the campsite shop to do another round of shopping, picking up more chicken for dinner tonight, some herbs and spices (exotic things like pepper!), some hamburgers and baps for a lunchtime treat and a packet of chocolate biscuits because feck it, medal ๐Ÿ˜€

After lunch (burger-flipping!), we watched Caroline maintain her score from yesterday, Peter shooting well, and I got started on dinner (chicken marinated in ginger, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic and white wine, cooked in barbecue sauce with tomatoes and mushrooms and other veg, served with egg-fried rice made from the first day’s rice pilaf leftovers – which won me the title of chef de partie, which roughly translates to wheresmebloodydinner ๐Ÿ˜€ ). After dinner, it was sauna time, and since it’s not every day in Ireland that you have both a sauna and a foot of snow on the ground…

Natural plunge pool!

Sauna, snowbank, sauna, snowbank, sauna, shower, bed. Perfect.


Oh, and, did I mention?




PS. We heard later (we only ran into the lads once during the entire trip because we were always on different shifts in the range) that the Northern Irish Pistol Team also won a bronze medal in their event — well done lads! Ain’t it a grand view from the podium? ๐Ÿ˜€ )

Practice match

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:

MEC Free rearsight clamped without pressure
MEC Free rearsight clamped without pressure

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:

MEC Free rearsight clamped with pressure on the nose
MEC Free rearsight clamped with pressure on the nose

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:

String 1
String 1

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…

String 2
String 2

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…

String 3
String 3
String 3 closeup
String 3 closeup

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…

String 4
String 4
String 4 closeup
String 4 closeup

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…

String 5
String 5
String 5 closeup
String 5 closeup

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…

String 6
String 6
String 6 closeup
String 6 closeup

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…

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 ๐Ÿ˜€

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, thenย tighten the clamp. Kinda wish that was in the thing’s manual…

Mirror, mirror…

When I was shooting a lot of smallbore, I had a small mirror attachment on the back of my rearsight iris as an alignment aid. It worked quite well, so I thought I’d try it on the Tiny iris on the Free rearsight. Trouble was, the Tiny wasn’t compatible with the rearsight mirror I had and the mirrors I’d seen on the Tiny had to be built into the iris itself; and there are just too many tiny parts in the Tiny (har, har) to do the work myself. However, Centra now have an alternative push-on mirror as well. So a few emails with their sales guys later (thanks Johann!) and I had a package on my desk:

It arrives!

One monumental amount of packaging later, and there’s my new mirror:

So much packaging for such a small item!


So this evening, after some dry-firing and some live-firing to warm up, I attached the mirror to the rearsight:

Mirror attached

Mirror in place

The idea is pretty simple. Here’s the rearsight normally;

Rearsight w/o mirror

And with the mirror in place, you now have another concentricย aperture behind the rearsight iris:

Rearsight w/mirror

And the idea is that when you look through that aperture with your eye properly aligned, your pupil (which you can see in the reflection) will be eclipsed by the aperture and your iris surrounds it, the way that the camera lens is eclipsed by it here:

Shooters eye view through mirror and rearsight

Unfortunately, when I tried using it tonight, it didn’t work as well as it had in the past. I couldn’t arrange my head behind the mirror so that I was looking through the aperture at the same time my pupil was eclipsed. Either I had the eclipse and no sight alignment, or I had sight alignment and my pupil was off in the top right of the mirror looking back at itself (which is more than a little disturbing ๐Ÿ˜€ ). I tried ten shots with the mirror and ten without anyway, just to see what the groups would look like:

10 shots without mirror
10 shots without mirror


10 shots with mirror
10 shots with mirror


Mirror group on right, no-mirror group on left
Mirror group on right, no-mirror group on left

Leaving aside the score as the sights were slightly off anyway, the no-mirror group seems to be the smaller of the two – it would all fit within the eight ring bar one shot which clips it – the mirror group clips it on both sides with multiple shots. Without the eclipsing of the pupil, I’m getting an asymmetric sight picture and my sight alignment seems to be off a bit as a result. It’s not by much, but it’s enough. It’s a bit disappointing really, but I’m not throwing it in the bin just yet – I won’t experiment too much with it until after the UCD match on the 17th, but I’ll try it out again at some point, to be sure it’s not just tiredness mucking up the shooting.

Which way’s up again?

When I started shooting (back in ’94), the sights on the smallbore rifle I started out with(Ah, DURC#8, I remember it well ๐Ÿ˜€ ) looked like this:

Anschutz 6827 sights

Over the next few years, we got more fancy-looking sights, but they all had one thing in common with these, and that was that the sight remained upright relative to the rail on the rifle, so that the elevation knob (marked with T and H above) operated in the vertical plane defined by the rifle stock and the windage knob (L and R) at right angles to this. This makes a lot of sense if your rifle is held vertically (and indeed, many top shooters now have upright rifles when in position, abandoning older principles of shooting to maintain that, such as keeping your head upright). However, if – like me – you cant the rifle (ie, tilt it towards you), your elevation knob is now working at an angle. This was why I paid a bit extra when I first bought my rifles to get the fancy schmancy sights:

Anschutz 7020 sights

The reason was fairly simple – while the 6827 sights above are fixed, these 7020 sights rotate, allowing you to cant the rifle and have your sights upright, like so:

Canted 7020 sights

This becomes useful when you have to adjust those sights, for when you’re grouping well, but the center of the group is off to one side of the target. With the sights upright like this, all you have to do is figure out how far left or right you are and how far up or down you are on the target, and adjust the sights directly. But with the fixed sights above, you have to play with angles in your head and try to remember how many clicks up and how many clicks over it takes to move the shot horizontally on the target. Which, in a match, is a pain in the fundament.

Hence the hassle with the MEC Free rearsight. It’s a lovely bit of kit, but it doesn’t cant ๐Ÿ™

MEC Free sight does not cant....

So when the rifle is in position, the rearsight is canted, and that means it’s back to guesswork again. And to add insult to injury, it has two windage knobs – one on either side as you can see – which is lovely and symmetrical, but can lead to confusion when you adjust the wrong one in the heat of a match and move the shots in the wrong direction (because, being on a common axle, they of course have different senses when seen from different sides – you’ll note the earlier sights avoid this by having only one windage knob). And the elevation knob , being under the sight instead of on top of it, also confuses your mental model of how the sight adjusts.

It’s not exactly rocket science, it’s more along the lines of “No, your otherย left…”, but who needs that in a match? Especially when it costs points and time and mental calm to get it wrong?

Hence a bit of experimentation this evening to make sure I had the sense of how the adjustments work correct in my head:

MEC Free clicking around the target

That’s two shots, then 30 clicks left and one shot, 30 up + 30 left and one shot, 30 up + 60 right and one shot, and 60 down and one last shot, which landed back in the central group, so I’m happy enough with that. This done, a bit of computer graphics fun later, and I have this printed out on a handy reference card to keep with me at the firing point (and yes, in colour – colour printers are a bloody useful thing!):

MEC Free Rearsight Adjustment Reference Diagram
MEC Free Rearsight Adjustment Reference Diagram


Still only approximate, but good enough for government work…