Time to dip the toes back in the water, so I went to shoot pistol at the UCD range today (only 8km away, not bad…)
Lots of old faces showing up again, some because the range is finally open again after a great upgrade to the lighting, and some because they were watching the Olympics and want back in (and welcome!) 🙂
The shooting itself was okay, I mean, I’m no great pistol shooter but I can enjoy it – I still haven’t hit my goal (four years on!) of shooting a full match with the Izzy without dumping a shot into the white, but I’ll keep plinking. Some of the others were just pounding away on the ten ring though, and with everything from Izzys to the new Walther LP400, which was nice to see. Me, I didn’t get my head back into the game until the final string, and by that time the arm muscles had given up and gone home 😀 But it was nice finding the mental still point again.
Now, to figure out how to get back to regular training. There’s probably a Rika in my future…
New lights – 4.5kW of high frequency florescents. Makes an *enormous* difference to the shooting – it’s like a whole new range!
…for a while at least. With biscuit’s due date rapidly incoming, rifle training is shut down for now, and shooting pistol in the UCD Open is the last match I’ll be in for a while, and it’s purely as a plinking match for me, a bit of fun. So I grabbed the Izzy case and wandered over to UCD, said hi to folks and set up on the firing point, and take my first sighter shot:
You know what? Feck that, that’ll do 😀 Went straight into the match after that (hey, it’s for fun, right? 😀 )
The rest of the match went quite well, I still haven’t achieved my goal of shooting a full match with no shots in the white, but it was closer this time and I broke 500 so that was a good match scorewise. I forced myself to put down the pistol for 30 seconds between each shot for the first 40 shots; then took a longish break and then came back and shot the last 20 shots non-stop quite quickly; I think the results show the whole shoot-a-string-and-then-take-a-break approach beats the pause-between-each-shot approach.
And it’s a nice strong finish to go out on, at least for a few months 🙂
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”…
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 😀
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.
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).
Discussed how to approach the Nationals with Matt in training on the friday beforehand. We both know that the new position and shot routine isn’t fully ironed out yet – in every session I keep learning one or two more of the little things about the new setup that I knew backwards about the old one, like what goes wrong, what to watch for that’s not obvious from within the position and so on. And the jacket, well. That jacket is the bane of my life at the moment, and has a date with a BBQ pit, a pint of petrol and a match when the new one arrives – at the moment, I’m damn near shooting without a jacket for all the lumbar stabilisation it gives me. So I wasn’t expecting an MQS from this match, just an improvement on the last day and maybe to get a good view of what the position can do, and maybe to learn some new things to watch.