NTSA National Air Rifle Championships 2011

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.

And for the most part, I got that:

Air Rifle Nationals 2011 overall shot group

Looking at the match string by string shows the progress the training has made with the new position and routine so far:
Score card

It’s not a bad start, there are bad fliers but we were seeing precisely the same kind of fliers last week in training (to the same place, with the same symptoms) so that’s a technical glitch in the setup that we have to fix.

But the timing of the shots was good, the shot routine worked, I didn’t have to crop out any parts of it because of time pressure, and when it worked, it worked nicely – that central group in the first ten-shot series was effectively shot with no jacket support at all, after about 25-30 minutes of shooting sighters, 10 minutes of dry-firing before that, and 10-15 minutes of holding exercises before that. If I can do that after the guts of an hour spent shooting already, how high is this going to top out at with less weight, more core training and a new jacket?

Second string, that technical glitch is cropping up more often. I don’t know what’s causing it – but it is just a technical glitch. It’s something specific that has an error in it in my shot routine, and finding one specific error in a shot routine is just a technical task. I’ll go over the video of the match and compare the good shots and the errors and find the problem, or Matt and Geoff will watch me shoot until they spot it. But either way, it’ll be caught. And again, aside from the glitch, the central group is good here.

By the third string, I’m starting to get tired. I managed to tweak my back at some point in the first two strings – that’s the problem with having basicly no jacket support, you can shoot one ten or ten tens easily enough, but sixty will leave you with lumbar pain if not nerve damage (if you do it often enough, your vertebrae can pinch off nerves). There are two fliers here as well, though not as high as before, possibly because of altering my sights (all the shots seemed high to me). But that central group is starting to open up. At this point, I’m about an hour into the match.

The next two strings show the same kind of progression – a few fliers , not as coherent as before (the group on the fliers is opening up as well, which leads Matt to think this is possibly a sight picture problem), and the central group is progressively opening up too.

The final string sees no fliers but a few bad shots, and everything’s starting to go low as my back reaches its limit. Finished with two minutes on the clock; that’s after taking a break for a few minutes mid-match to clear my head and with a fair few aborted shots (either because of chicken finger in one or two shots, or the rifle just not settling down in all the rest). So things are speeding up a bit, but they need to get faster still.

The match plan worked as well – good nights sleep, good breakfast (porridge with brown sugar – a nice lot of unprocessed carbs and a small hit of sugar to get the metabolism going), got there in plenty of time to set up and warm up before preperation time, so all of prep time was dry-firing and checking my position which was good. It’s a social challange more than anything else really – I like the people I shoot with, I don’t get to see them all the time and it’s really tempting to chat to them to catch up before a match because often they have to leave after shooting, but if I do that, I wind up getting set up during prep rather than prepping during prep 🙁 So I guess I need to be more of an antisocial bastard before I shoot 😀

I did find that my lack of side blinders is a bit of a hindrance during the match – the shooters to my right or left aren’t the distraction really, but the muzzles of their rifles moving about as they settle into position is surprisingly distracting. A thin blinder, the same dimensions as the one over my left eye, but coming over the side like so is more than adaquate to filter stuff out:


Would be nice to get these in opaque/frosted plastic or something more permanent (and to maintain light levels at both eyes), so there’s another DIY project to try and test…

I think I’m going to have to change out the underarmour as well – the cold gear was brilliant all winter long, but I was overheating quite a bit at the start of the match, possibly because it was closing on 20°C outside and the range wasn’t very far behind – if UCD, which is almost a cold cellar by comparison, is like that, WTSC is going to be even worse – I can remember Matt cranking up the central heating in the middle of July in there on hot sunny days to train for Bisley, and if you think shooting in 20°C is hot, you should try shooting in full kit with the thermometer reading twice that. You actually need to work hydration into your match plan to avoid passing out, let alone to avoid bad shots 😀

So where from here? Next match isn’t for well over a month on the calendar right now (June 11 and 12 in UCD). I’m not sure if that break is good (more training in WTSC) or bad (less match pressure for diagnostics), but I do know that my goals haven’t changed much. Drop the weight, buy a new jacket (and possibly trousers and boots, depending on how things go), and meanwhile keep working on the shot routine and the position, relearning all the little bits and pieces and streamlining and learning that shot routine so that it goes step by step by step with checks along the way; work on core strength in the gym, do technical work on the rifle itself (cleaning, DIY tweaks, ammo testing, etc, etc, etc) and so on.

The season opens domestically in Ireland again with the UCD Open on October 20/21; the first International at the level I should be looking at is probably RIAC in December, then Intershoot at the start of February and then the European Championships hit in mid-to-late February, and then there’s a World Cup event in London in April. That’s as far as I’m looking at the moment (there are three other World Cups before the Games, but I don’t have those in any sort of plan as yet, it’d be wildly premature I think).

International selection has been tweaked slightly by the NTSA – the procedure is the same from the shooter’s point of view, but they’ve reduced admin overhead by calculating minimum scores once per Olympic cycle, and per Tier of competition rather than per-competition. Which makes sense and the standards are about the same:

1World Championships and World Cups582
2European Championships, European Cups and other Continental championships577
3Subsidiary competitions such as Grand Prix, Intershoot etc573
4National Championships and other international competitions570

If all goes as I would like, I’d hit the MQS mark either in UCD in June or shortly afterwards (that’s dependant on the weight and the jacket). Then it’s on to the Tier 3 minimum score in time for RIAC and then hit the Tier 2 level about the time of Intershoot (which I’d also like to shoot in), go to the Europeans and then it’s a sprint for Tier 1 in time for London (with Milan and Munich as possible fallbacks in case of small setbacks along the way). And for the first time in a long time, I don’t think it’s just hope – this new position feels stable enough, and the new shot routine feels efficient and discrete (in the step-by-step sense, not the tell-noone sense) enough to get past the MQS that’s been just out of reach for way too long.

1 thought on “NTSA National Air Rifle Championships 2011

  • You have to get that jacket pronto, you are risking your back. that jacket is a liability for your health, not to mention your progression and your coach should burn it for you when your not looking, I just know its crossed his mind.

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