Checking on progress with the RIKA

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:

RIKA Calibration shots

Then we covered the screen of the RIKA (so I wouldn’t be distracted) and shot a few ten-shot strings:

RIKA String 1

My head was *not* in the game for that one 🙂 Took a few minutes, centered myself a little, and continued on:

RIKA String 2

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:

RIKA String 3

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:

RIKA Trace Composite 18.08.11

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:

RIKA Trace x-y graph

And here’s one from three months ago:

RIKA Trace x-y graph from 25.05.11

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:

RIKA Trace x-y graph

I mean, that’s nearly textbook, right there. Now, to get that to happen every time…. 🙂

Painting the ten…

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.


Training series 1
Training series 1
Training series 2
Training series 2
Training series 3
Training series 3

DIY barrel weight plus proper mental game equals tens!

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 🙂

DIY 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:


DIY barrel weight, Mk2
DIY barrel weight, Mk2
DIY barrel weight, Mk2
DIY barrel weight, Mk2


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:


Plumbline movement against foresight during pre-aim
Plumbline movement against foresight during pre-aim


With that change made, the preaim is a little finickier, but the aim gets much better. The results show this:

Training series 1

The two nines were fliers shot before the changes to the preaim, as the RIKA shows:


RIKA time-v-score chart
RIKA time-v-score chart


Again, ignore the score values as the RIKA calibration was a tad off:

RIKA point of impact captures

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…

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).

More blinder work

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 🙁

DIY blinder, front view

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:

Hannah Polak

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.

Blinder, partial obscuring

The single piece of tape doesn’t work quite so well – the alignment has to be just right or it all goes sideways…

Blinder, fully obscured

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 🙁


Training series 1 (eyes open)
Training series 1 (eyes open)



Readjusted calibration and shot the next series with eyes closed for the second either side of trigger release.


Training series 2 (eyes closed)

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... this. 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? 😀

Even bad days have some use I guess…

Tuesday was not a great day for my shooting. I was tired and my head wouldn’t settle, and nothing seemed to work right. Still, on with the training, even through the hold wasn’t great (on friday, it’d sit in the nine ring on the rika trace; tuesday, it would maybe hold inside the seven ring.

The exercise was the same as before, shot routine as normal, hold on target, then close eyes, count off a second or so, and then fire. The idea is that if my NPA (Natural Point of Aim for the non-shooters, it’s where the rifle would point if you didn’t deliberately or subconciously try to point it somewhere, and it’s where the aim will be the most stable – we want that in the centre of the target if possible, but because you can be subconciously moving the rifle to the target, it can be hard to spot problems here) is off, then the rifle will head towards the NPA as soon as I close my eyes and the shot and the trace will show me where it’s headed for. Fired ten reasonable shots this way:

Training series, eyes shut


And the traces show the same tale:

Superimposing them all makes it a (bit) clearer (remember, the electronic target and the electronic trainer aren’t perfectly in sync (and in theory never can be), so the points of impact vary a bit, so it’s the shape of the traces you’re looking at:

Rika Traces from 24.05.11, composited

So in each case, as you can see, the rifle heads away from the hold area as soon as I close my eyes, and the shot never lands in the hold area at all. That’s more than a hinky triggering, that’s a hold error right there, and it’s what Matt was talking about (how he could see it, I don’t know – this is why the NCTC think he’s a genius).

But this isn’t the end of the exercise. As you can tell, this was an off day for me even without this. So the results aren’t perfect. Compare the X/Y graphs from tuesday:

Rika X-Y analysis, 24.05.11, composite

to those from Friday:

Rika Traces

You can tell just by looking at how Friday’s graph is so much less noisy that the hold was better that day.

So, not a good day. But the upside is, the problem was more pronounced because of that. Being too unfocussed mentally and too tired physically to cheat the rifle into the ten ring with subconcious muscling means that I could see the problem free and clear.

But what does it look like when I’m not having an off day? And was that off day making a mountain out of a molehill? The data isn’t really exhaustive. And you can’t make a change based on one set of data like this. People do – there are Irish shooters who’ll shoot nine 10s and then a nine, and who’ll haul out the hex key to tweak something on the rifle because of the nine. Changing the rifle, or changing the position or indeed anything about the shot routine, however, isn’t something so small and trivial. If you change even a small thing, it can take hundreds of shots (a) to get the change right and be able to trust it in a match, and (b) to know if the change actually fixed the problem in the first place. So you have to be really conservative and not fix something until you know it’s a problem with the setup instead of faulty execution (of course, if it is a problem with the setup, you then often have to switch gears and be completely unorthodox in finding a solution! 😀 ).

So today, I do this all again, and hopefully it won’t be an off day and my hold will be better this time, and if the results are the same, then it’s time (with my coaches) to try to find a solution…

Rika testing

This evening’s training was a bit of a trial for tomorrow more than anything else. Yesterday’s shooting with my eyes shut was a good indicator that there was something wrong, but the air pressure problem prevented any real diagnosis, and the more I thought about it, the less I could see it doing to help because I couldn’t tell if it was bad triggering or bad hold that caused the problem. So today, I wanted to set up the Rika to see what my hold looked like. I didn’t quite think this through though, and wound up trying to set up the Rika after warming up – while still in full kit. If ISSF think the “penguin walk” is a bad thing, they’ve not seen the penguin try to get over a 3′ table while in full kit…

Anyway. Finally got the Rika set up. For those who don’t shoot, the Rika is an electronic training aid, made up of three main parts: the target, which has two small infra-red LEDs on it and which holds a normal paper target and sits down the range in the usual place or as close to it as you can get:

RIKA Target

Then there’s a sensor that’s slung under the barrel of the rifle, and an interface box that’s basicly all the magic electronics that interprets the sensor and gives a very basic (two-line dot-matrix) interface.

RIKA Sensor and Interface box

This interface box plugs into the PC and that’s where the real magic happens…


But, while that video trace is really useful, it’s not the only data the software can give you…

Cant angle report

RIKA score-v-time graph

RIKA hold area statistic report

And these statistics (and a few others) can be run over groups of shots as well as individual shots.

So tomorrow’s plan is to shoot a few strings with Matt observing to get some baseline data and see how things are going. An evaluation day, in other words…

ISSF makes it into Youtube’s Top Three

From the ISSF website:

Shooting Sport TV Channel made it to YouTube’s top-3
The ISSF Channel turned out to be the third most viewed YouTube Partner’s Sport Channel of Germany, last week, during the fist stage of the 2011 ISSF World Cup Series held in Concepcion, Chile.

More than 12.000 views within a week, and thousand of spectator watching shotgun shooting finals & highlights every day, pushed the ISSF TV Channel up to the top-3 of the most viewed Partner’s Sport Channel of YouTube in Germany, last week (7-13 March).

Since January, the International Shooting Sport Federation shares TV footage of its main competitions on YouTube, in the frame of the “YouTube Sports Hub” launched by SportAccord.

The ISSF YouTube Channel,, already offers a library of 145 videos, covering the main ISSF Championships of the 2010 season, and the full coverage of the first 2011 ISSF World Cup Stage in Concepcion, Chile.

Since the channel became operative, three months ago, it was visited by almost 40 thousand viewers, and more than 295 thousand of videos were played, making of the ISSF channel one of the most viewed sport channels on YouTube.

And that’s just the beginning. The best shooting sport’s footage of the 2011 ISSF World Cup Series and of the 2011 ISSF Shotgun World Championship will be broadcasted on YouTube as well, in the months to come. Highlights, interviews and full-length finals will be available for the shooting sport fans to comment, rate and share.

New videos will be uploaded next week, as the ISSF Combined World Cup Stage in Sydney, Australia, will start, on the 21st of March.


Sweet. Nice to see the kind of impact modern media can have like this – this is the sort of thing that gets the sport noticed by advertisers, and advertisers drive TV coverage, and TV coverage drives public opinion, and public opinion drives laws. So it’s good news for everyone in the long run, ISSF or not. And it’s a great direction for ISSF to go in, because it opens up our sport to everyone – at the Olympics, NBC says what goes to air and what doesn’t, and even with all the camera crews there, we might not ever get to see the footage. With youtube, you just upload the whole thing and let folks go see their sport.

And the numbers they’ve gone in proves a long-known point: Shooting, in terms of how many active participants there are in it, is one of the world’s largest and most successful sports, bar none.