“Failure is not falling down but refusing to get up."

Shooting during the British Open
Shooting during the British Open Championships in Bisley

It’s taken a few days to write this, not because I’m disappointed with the scores from Bisley (though I am), but because I’ve been taking a few days off from target shooting to wind down. Bisley was, like last year, physically and mentally rather draining – I’m still getting back up to normal even now, a week later.

The scores weren’t even close to what I’d hoped. The first match saw a 553; the second a 551; and the Championships themselves a 562. Nonetheless, I’m actually finding I’m satisfied with the weekend – the scores were well below my goal, but I feel I learnt a great deal about what was going wrong with my shooting and I can live with that.

Winning a prize in the ASI/Feinwerkbau match helped a bit too 😀

ASI/Feinwerkbau results

So, what happened? Well, left with Claire a bit too early on Thursday morning and got to the airport well ahead of time (had been expecting bad traffic; happily none to be seen). All the gear was at that time already en route by van and ferry to Bisley (thanks to Paddy and Dick for driving for fourteen hours to get it there!). The entire team assembled and made its way through security (with far less hassles this year than last year) and had a rather uneventful flight (with occasional pauses to rub Iain’s head for good luck) to Heathrow, and a similarly uneventful trip to Bisley itself. We arrived around 1600 or so, sorted out who was in which room, and agreed to head off to a local restaurant for dinner. Meanwhile, took Claire around the LRC so we could get a look at where we were going the next day. Dinner was fine, then an early night with an alarm call for me at around nine, but the others much earlier (I was the last one shooting on Friday, so we thought there wasn’t much point in me going on the training line or through equipment control first).

Turned out that that plan didn’t work so well. The others were on the range training when I got there so Matt suggested that we just go up and get through equipment control before the others, who were still training. So I assembled my gear and wandered upstairs for equipment control.

Equipment Control Gauges
The new stiffness gauge in equipment control
Equipment Control Gauges
Various thickness gauges
Equipment Control Gauges
The rifle measurements table

My gear passed easily; others had a bit more trouble with the new stiffness gauge giving some odd readings at first until someone figured out that it was trapping fibres from a previous jacket. With that over with, it was back downstairs, a quick wander round the pretty things in the NSRA shop 🙂 and onto to air rifle range in the Cooper Range for some training.

I was pretty happy with my training downstairs, though the groups still seemed a bit too large for comfort, circling around the nine ring as before. Shot for about forty minutes or so, just getting my head back into the flow of things and then packed the gear and left it upstairs in the air rifle range with everyone elses, and went back to the George’s Lodge to get a nap. Slept lightly for an hour or two, work at five and had a light snack and went over to the range. Got the kit ready, was ready well ahead of time and got my head into the game well enough, but when I got on the line, it all went sideways. Or more accurately, everywhere. The same pattern as it had been that morning and before in wilkinstown, but much worse – now circling the nine ring rather than the ten. Nothing worked. And it completely threw my head so that by the end of the second string I was pretty much shell-shocked. Forget a 570, I put in a 553 and didn’t expect it would be that good at the time. It was rather a solid kick in the head. We went back to St.George’s, put on a coat and headed off with the rest for dinner, feeling rather low. Came back, had a hot bath and went to bed feeling horrendously low. In retrospect; that was the big mistake. Sitting down with Matt at that point would have been far more useful, but I didn’t figure this out until later.

The next day was an early rise. In the breakfast hall by 0710, and not the first there (though decidedly not the last either. Finished breakfast, wandered to the range, got ready for the 1045 shoot and got to the line, as before, and exactly the same thing happened again. Slightly worse result this time, 551. And by the end, I was completely calm, just putting shots down the barrel exactly as in training; only nothing was working as in training. I couldn’t tell from where I was of course, but the others could see I’d started to over-hold again, same as I did last year. So this was a second kick in the head in a row. Not so good.

We went out that evening as a group to Woking, wandered round bookstores, drank coffee, read books, had dinner and met up for some bowling around six; then back to Bisley, reasonably refreshed. Collected everyone, went to the L&M and watched Tommy Tiernan (there’s something surreal about a bunch of shooters from around Navan watching Tiernan on a telly in the middle of Bisley Camp 😀 ) and tried to relax.

Got to talk to Matt for a half-hour at the end of the night and got to talking about what was going wrong, and here we found the technical crux of the problem. In training, I’d had to open my rear iris enormously compared to normal. Usually, it’s meant to be kept to between 1.1 and 1.2mm; but because of my eye relief, we’d had to open it to 1.4-1.5mm to get a clear sight picture. And with the darkness of the LRC range, in order to maintain that level of light in the sight picture, I’d had to crank the rearsight to 1.8. Which was of course far too large and it was causing the ring-around-the-nine problem. Having identified a technical problem helped a lot; at least it gave me something I could correct.

Next morning, set up the rifle sights as I’d discussed with Matt and got on the line, finding I was a place over from Chris Hector. Nice to have a good pace car 😀 Matt and I had also talked about speeding up my shot plan a lot, and I spent a fair bit of time in sighting trying that. It wasn’t so much running faster through the match as it was not spending so long in the hold – everything else actually slowed a little. I tried to get through the match taking no longer than three seconds in the hold before breaking position and rebuilding and for the most part it seemed to work. I was tired, however, so I didn’t reach the score I feel I could have on the first day had I shot the same way then; but I was so relieved that the sight changes and the revised shot plan had worked that I frankly didn’t care. I came off the line knowing that I’d been in a pretty deep state of despair at my performance the day before and had managed to haul it out for the last day, even if not to the level I wanted it at. 562’s nothing to write home about, but putting it in under those conditions is definitely something to put into the training diary.

Anyway, didn’t come away with nothing but memories and electrical burns from all the static off the LRC range floor; there’s a gold medal for a class prize from the ASI match on it’s way. Not much, but a gold medal more than nothing 😀 It was also good to see that the other shooters went past last year’s results; a total of four golds, two silvers, three bronzes, three finals places and four cash prizes and five PBs recorded, not too shabby all told.

And next year I’ll kick Chris Hector’s ass 😀

For the next week at least, no shooting though. It’s time now to take a breath, get my feet back under me and decide where I go next. And pretty much everyone else is thinking the same thing – noone’s been on the range in a week or more at this point and are under orders not to show up for a while more yet. I’ll be thinking about this one for a while. I may not post again till it’s sorted. Anyway, in a month or so there’s a fairly large prizegiving to do, so that will take up some time; and so will working on the WTSC website. So I’m not dropping out, just regathering 🙂

Full Team in the L&M
The full team in the L&M

Just the Shooters
Just the shooters…

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