Irish Olympic target shooting

It’s finally here…

As I mentioned before in the entries about Intershoot, I’d been worried that with FrankenRifle’s model no longer in production by Anschutz, if any part of it broke at or en route to a match (if you check your travel insurance, you’ll find Baggage Handlers listed under Acts Of God), there’d be no way to get replacements. At home, no worries, a week or three of waiting and I’d have them, but at an international match, unless the manufacturer has it on site in the maintenance tent, you’re pretty stuffed. And after paying the guts of two grand to go to even a small international, that would be deeply suboptimal. So when we learned Calum was on the way, Matt and I decided that while I was out of commission, I’d change rifles. We looked through all the catalogs with the criteria that it had to be something that would be popular so spares were easy, and it had to suit my shooting style. We narrowed it down to the MEC Mark 1 Revolution stock, probably wrapped round a Walther 300XT action:

MEC Mark 1 Revolution

 

Or a Walther LG300 Carbontec:

Walther LG300 Carbontec

 

Or, the model we went with because it was cheaper then the other two and because the stock looked like it could be taken down, the new Walther LG400 Alutec Expert:

Walther LG400 Alutec Expert

 

I got to try the LG400 at Intershoot and we’d seen the stock at RIAC before that, so I knew it’d fit me and I liked the overall design (I’m not a fan of the Walther Anatomic lines – dunno why, but I just don’t like wood on my rifles, I’m not a classicist I guess), so we sat down with the UK walther rep and worked out the details, the order went in and was paid for… and then Calum was born.

You know that plan I had that said I’d be gone for 3-6 months and then return to training? Yeah… about that…

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Calum is now two. He’s walking and talking (like the cast from a 1970s undubbed Hong Kong kung fu movie, but still). And today, the rifle finally arrived. Yeesh. But… it’s finally here! Fanfare please!

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So shiny…

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And all the gadgets and doodads (wow, how many different hex keys do I need? Oh, apparently all of them. Okay…)

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I love that carbon fibre cladding on the barrel. It’s allegedly to improve stiffness and so on. Stiffer than… steel? Er. Okay. But it’s much prettier than any bluing job I’ve ever seen so I don’t care :D

Carbon fibre cladding

 

And all the shininess. This is a major change since FrankenRifle, which to be fair, was showing its age in the worn bits of the paintjob.

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I love that austerity of design. Sod the idea of wooden stuff or ornamentation, we’re going to be functional and metallic and if you don’t like it, go buy a different rifle :D

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Cheekpiece adjustment is nice and easy, and the takedown joint is right there in the middle of the photo. One bolt and the whole buttplate comes off. However, that joint is not as robust as I’d hoped. If I took this rifle apart every day, I think I’d be ordering spare parts rather earlier than I expected :( So for international travel in a smaller Peli, sure, but for domestic driving round I don’t think it’ll work. I’ll have to think about this. I love that pistol grip though…

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Lovely synthetic material, the grip size fits my hand without adjustment (the Anschutz was fine but their largest size wasn’t largest enough and I had to build it up with plastic wood and patience). And that stippled part under the palm of the hand just latches on to you for a really firm grip. The whole thing’s on a ball and socket joint so you can adjust it six ways from sunday as well. Nice bit of design that.

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And it’s a 300 bar cylinder, which doesn’t mean a huge amount I suppose, other than longer training sessions before refilling…

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The buttplate is a MEC Contact III unit, which is a lovely piece of kit I’ve used before. Absolutely nothing wrong with that and the length adjustment is very straightforward.

Once I’d had a look over it with Geoff, I tried the dry-firing mechanism (and that’s a damn useful feature, not having to unscrew cylinders and so on – just cock the trigger and flick the toggle switch. Very convenient mid-match). Damn, but that is one nice trigger. Sooooo much cleaner and crisper than FrankenRifle’s was, and Geoff was impressed with it as well. So only one thing left to do and that was to take it to the range and test it :)

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Damn. Been too long since I was here. And it’s a little messy, but we just had the intervarsities. Anyway…

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:)

First shots into a paper target. The rifle’s not yet set up properly, it’s just roughly in the “big enough to shoot with” sort of area. Lots of fine tuning left to do here, months of work. And I’m not wearing kit, I’m wearing a t-shirt and jeans and hiking boots and I’ve not trained for two years. The wobble… oh wow, that wobble… (and my hold is awful as well, boom, boom). Still, it’s not the worst in the world once the sights get about forty clicks up.

The loading is neat by the way. Raise the arm (which is sturdier than it looks and which I think I might reverse later on so it opens by dropping the arm instead of raising it – that’d make it easier to load while in position) and put the pellet in the channel:

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Then just close the arm and that pin guides the pellet to the proper placement. But, nice small feature:

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That little red ring on the piston there only shows up when there’s a pellet in the breech. Doesn’t show up when the rifle’s not loaded:

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That’s a tiny little feature, but the number of times I’ve had to look and double-check mid-match because of stress makes it a nice little feature indeed. Clever!

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Okay, the sights are reasonable at this stage – not accurate yet, but on the scoring area at least and with no kit, I don’t feel able to trust shots enough to tweak further. But still:

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I’m happy enough with that for a start back after two years with no kit and no prep work :)

 

I think I like this new rifle quite a bit :) FrankenRifle will stay around for another week or three yet while settings get copied over and paperwork gets done to swap licences over and then it will make its way to it’s new home at DURC. I’ve a lot of fond memories of that rifle, it was my first MQS, my first international medal, many, many, many hours of training, and it’s nice to know it’s going to go back to where it started for the next shooter to use :)

Of course now the new rifle needs a new nickname…

 

 

 

 

…and back!

816455475

 

Shooting at the UCD Air Open
Thanks to whomever took this at the UCD Air Open!

Okay, the score was diabolical, the muscle strength wasn’t there where I needed it, the trigger still feels like I’m pulling a rusty lever through a mix of wet sand and grit and the shot goes off almost randomly as a result, but…

I got to the range on time, I got the match shot, and when helping with the rifle coaching and the admiring of John’s new FWB800 (which is pretty sweet), all the knowledge and muscle memory was still there, like Intershoot was only last week. The import licence is sorted for the new toy, so who knows? Next UCD match, I might be back shooting rifle…

Ooooo… new wireless SCATT sensor…

For home training, or for training on the range, it’s close to impossible to replace something like a SCATT (or RIKA or Noptel) trainer. However, the sensor you have to sling under your rifle or pistol is a bit of a pain – it’s fiddly to put on, fiddly to take off, fiddly to adjust, and the wire drags no matter how careful you are with it, so it can put you off.

So this looks like a very neat piece of useful kit :

SCATT WS-1
The big frame on the left is the normal end frame, most of the systems use one of these, no big deal. The sensor on the other hand, is a nice little change:

Scatt WS-1 sensor

 

Wireless. Excellent. :) You could potentially mount this thing permanently to your rifle and that way it’d be the same setup for training and for competition, and you might even be able to rig up a more sturdy permanent mount too.

The only drawback seems to be the €1300-or-so price tag. Ouch…

Changwon, 2013 – the first ISSF Rifle/Pistol World Cup with the new Finals format

And the Men’s Air Rifle Finals are up on youtube:

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Even allowing for the point that the London Games had more build-up and that Changwon’s RO was useless as an announcer by comparison to London (and even allowing for ISSF’s logistics issues), I still think this new format isn’t an improvement. There’s no real sense of tension during the match until the final shot and even there – well, I’ve seen more tension in chess games (and I mean in a lot of chess games).

Worse yet, there’s no excitement watching someone from the back of the pack fight up to the front because:

(a) there’s noone at the front or the back of the pack, this ridiculous start-from-zero rule means there’s no pack at all anymore, and the eliminations kick in too early and too fast to allow a proper pack to form; and

(b) instead of watching and rooting for an underdog charging up through the pack, you’re just watching the more well-known guys fall, so it sneaks up on you, and you’re left going “Oh, so-and-so is out, who’s left – who’s that?”.

And to add to that, it devalues the medals. I watched Campriani, acknowledged as one of the best rifle shooters of the last few years and who just won the 2012 shooter of the year award, go out in the first elimination on the basis of eight shots and I’m thinking “well, that medal’s not worth much now, you survived against one of the best in the world for less than a ten-shot strong, instead of the 70+ you’d have had to have beaten him in for the Olympic Gold medal. Big woop.”  I once bested Vaclav Haman (then ranked fourth in the world) for a few shots; at the time I couldn’t hit the MQS and couldn’t maintain the lead for a string, but for those few, I was all of 0.2 points ahead of one of the world’s best shooters. That’s worthy of being thought of as a nice, somewhat self-deprecatingly funny training story for a new shooter, worth a laugh at the time; under these stupid new finals rules, it would have been enough for him to be eliminated despite him being a far better shooter then and now than I have ever been.

This is not a good thing. It means we’re not giving the gold medal to the best shooter on the day anymore :(

Poisonous response

Another mass shooting in the US, and again the inevitable way people on the internet deal with tragedies like this. They all want a convenient, quick, easy solution, a thing to blame. Next thing I know, I’m reading comments on Irish news sites aimed at Irish people saying (and this is a direct quote from TheJournal.ie) : “Responsible gun owners are merely those who have not yet killed another human being”.

So apparently, despite the fact that every licenced firearms owner in Ireland is personally vouched for by a Garda Superintendent or Chief Superintendent, and has gone through more rigorous checks than any other normal citizen goes through, I’m apparently a baby-murderer-in-waiting.

Forget the medals won for my country in an Olympic sport. Forget the hundreds of people I’ve helped to train to take part in my sport safely. Forget that we’ve had an accident-free record since the 1800s in Ireland. We’re baby-murderers according to a lot of the nice folks calling for “debate” on gun control laws – and if we object, then we’re even worse than baby-murderers, we’re obviously gun fetishists who want to arm teachers and all the students as a solution, who think that more guns automatically solves all problems, and who are so blinkered and/or stupid that we’re not worthy of having a voice in the debate.

Meanwhile, most of us are sitting there wondering when the hell we forgot about the 20 children and got so focused on this ever-so-special debate, led by the great posters on the internet who are leading the charge to save society from the evil gun owners who have no interest in seeing children safe and innocent and free from harm. (We kill puppies and hate rainbows in our spare time, just so as you know).

Me, I don’t particularly feel comfortable with the loudest rabblerousers leading a lynch mob from a graveyard as being how we do things, but hey, who’d listen to me? I just want to kill your kids, apparently.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go hug my 8-month-old son before I have to murder him…

Centra Duplex

I got one of these (direct from MEC, but you can get them from Intershoot.co.uk 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…

Some suggestions for the ISSF

The new post-London rule changes from ISSF are out, and some of them aren’t great at all. But there’s still time to change things before November, and in the hope that someone somewhere might read this to the right person at some point, I thought I’d put up a few suggestions for ISSF to achieve their stated goal:

All Olympic sports today must become more dynamic, attract more fans, engage the public with more drama and provide great shows for youth, spectators, television and the media.

As I’ve said many times before in many places, the problem with being a spectator of ISSF shooting is not that it’s boring; it’s that you can’t see it.

Look at football (any kind of football) and you see people spread out over a large physical area and a visible ball being passed around as the visually distinct teams try to move it to a visually identifiable goal. You can see the game happen, as it happens.

In shooting the game is too small to see with the naked eye from the stands, and unless you know what you’re looking for, it’s not visible to the naked eye from even a few feet away. The average punter won’t notice Debevec’s position being any different from Emmon’s in kneeling; won’t notice the signs that Piasecki is having a good day or a bad; won’t be able to tell who’s really handling the pressure in a finals. That is the challange you have to overcome. Do that, and you’ll get interested fans and drama and great shows. Changing the number of belt loops won’t change that.

Look at the London Olympics, specifically the Mens Air Rifle Finals. The gold medal came down to the last shot, and the audience went wild watching that last shot.

Why did they go wild? Was it the tension caused by several hundred people watching one man standing there on the line taking the final shot of the match, everyone knowing he would win or lose the gold medal depending on whether his score was higher or lower than a 9.7? Was it seeing that shot land and knowing instantly that he’d won it? Was it the commentator taking the entire audience to that point by walking them through the progression of the finals and winding them up for that final shot?

Or was it down to the blinders being smaller? The belt loops fewer? The buttplate being restricted from turning on an axis parallel to the boreline of the rifle? The shooter walking in a normal fashion? The dress code being adhered to? I don’t think so.

So with that in mind, here are my suggestions for how to meet that challange and achive the goal ISSF has set itself:

  • Make it mandatory for World Cup level events and above to have wireless Noptel/Scatt/Rika electronic trainer setups attached to barrels for finals and presented on screens above the shooter. Show the spectators the shooter’s approach to the target, their settling, their hold and their wobble and their triggering. We’ve tried that before in a Eurosport shooting match some years ago and it was magnificent – and more to the point, we know it can be done and how…
  • Make it a contractual obligation with Suis Ascor, Megalink and any other ISSF-approved electronic target manufacturer to produce software that lets you share scores live on the web (and by software, I mean software that works well, is robust and easy to use, not the poke-your-own-eyes-out-with-a-butternut-squash nightmare they currently have). Every shot, as it’s fired, should be up on the web, whether on a custom website or on Facebook or Twitter or all three. It isn’t rocket science, it’s a fairly simple task, using standard well-understood tools (I say this as an engineer who’s done this for a while).
  • Hire the commentator from the London Games to be the official ISSF commentator on the ISSF youtube channel and for all ISSF major events in the future.
  • Make it mandatory to use Twitter and Facebook duing ISSF major events and to up the amount of interaction we see. One single press release with an image from an event was a good step forward, ten years ago; today it’s just not cutting it, and the demographic ISSF want to capture is used to far more. More than half the shooters from the international circuit are on Facebook, and lots are on Twitter as well. If you can access both from a mobile phone, and you have professionally paid PROs at these events, then you can tweet/facebook from them too.
  • Drop this idea of resetting scores to zero for finals. If you have to do this duelling model for finals – and you don’t, London proved that – you can do it without doing the resetting of scores. Archery’s been doing that for twenty years now. And beware – if you show a wildly different style of shooting to the public in the finals than they’d encounter when they try the sport themselves, you’ll be sabotaging yourself…

 

New ISSF Rules for 2013-2016

The new, much-anticipated, rule changes for post-London are now out (or at least, a summary of them) and are the subject of much discussion around the web at the moment.

New ISSF RULES 2012

Lots of changes to times for matches, to kit, and a scarily inexact comment about banning Vibration Reduction Systems from all rifles and pistols, without a clear definition of what those would be.

Not comforting reading and while most of the changes are things we could live with, and a few are changes that will make events more efficient and which aren’t bad ideas in and of themselves; I still think the thinking behind these changes is failing to acknowledge one very fundamental principle. All of these changes are being justified by wanting to make the sport more exciting and accessible to the general public. But none of these changes are things the general public will ever see or notice. Belt loops, shoe shapes, times during qualifications – nobody ever sees those unless they’re eager to see them, and if they’re eager to see them, then they’re not the demographic the ISSF is looking to attract, they’re the demographic we already have.

Look at London, and ask yourself – why were the crowd going wild for the last shot of the Mens Air Rifle Finals?

Was it the tension caused by several hundred people watching one man standing there on the line taking the final shot of the match, everyone knowing he would win or lose the gold medal depending on whether his score was higher or lower than a 9.7? Was it seeing that shot land and knowing instantly that he’d won it? Was it the commentator taking the entire audience to that point by walking them through the progression of the finals and winding them up for that final shot?

Or was it down to the blinders being smaller? The belt loops fewer? The buttplate being restricted from turning on an axis parallel to the boreline of the rifle? The shooter walking in a normal fashion? The dress code being adhered to?

I don’t think it was any of the latter, do you?

If you want to bring in a spectator who knows nothing of the sport and get them excited, you have to show the spectator what you’re doing. Look at football (any kind of football) and you see people spread out over a large physical area and a visible ball being passed around as the visually distinct teams try to move it to a visually identifiable goal. You can see the game happen as it happens.

In shooting the game is too small to see with the naked eye from the stands, and unless you know what you’re looking for, it’s not visible to the naked eye from even a few feet away. The average punter won’t notice Debevec’s position being any different from Emmon’s in kneeling; won’t notice the signs that Piasecki is having a good day or a bad; won’t be able to tell who’s really handling the pressure in a finals. Unless you show them, with big screens showing electronic target results, cameras showing the shooters close-up, commentators explaining the state of play for neophytes, even things like strapping noptels or the like to the rifles.

You want to attract people to our sport? Do that. Don’t write rules that nobody understands and that seem to ban every firearm made since the late 80s!

 

This smells of change for change’s sake, and change made without sufficient analysis or data. And that’s bad news for our sport.

Back on the range…

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 :D 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…

Some photos:

Lighting upgrade to the UCD range

New lights – 4.5kW of high frequency florescents. Makes an *enormous* difference to the shooting – it’s like a whole new range!

John giving an example of what the Izzy can do

Jim back on the line after years away

 

Caroline back for the first shoot since Intershoot

 

Liz coming back and taking second in the ladies' 40-shot...

 

Joe drilling out the ten ring

 

Firing line, detail 1

 

Firing line, detail 2

 

Aisling setting a new PB and new club record (387)

 

 

 

Playmobil finals hall

So obviously, when you have a kid, they need toys. And naturally, no good parent gives their kids toys untested, right?

5202 Playmobil Target Shooter
5202 Playmobil Target Shooter

:mrgreen:

Besides, this beats toy soldiers any day. (And more seriously for a moment, it’s nice to see the sport get this kind of exposure with kids). So, let’s see, need eight for a finals hall…

Over the shoulder

 

From the target line...

 

Firing line (yes, it's to scale!)

 

Note the to-scale firing line :D

 

But is this rifle or pistol we're shooting here?

 

The new finals hall :)

 

Leaving aside the giggles for a moment (if you can), our sport gets very little good publicity. Even this week, in the middle of one of the most outstanding Olympic Games in a long while (in terms of performance standards), despite the good image being protrayed, we had medal winning Olympic shooters having to tell the press that our sport isn’t connected to gun violence. The fencers weren’t asked about edged weapon violence despite a similar event happening at the same time in Bejing; boxers aren’t asked to justify their sport in the light of drunken idiots beating each other up outside the pub at closing time; dressage riders aren’t asked about stray ponies being mistreated in inner city Dublin. But shooters get vilified all the time, precisely because we aren’t a familiar, known quantity. The Olympics do a huge amount to help with this, but they’re out of the news cycle for four years at a time. So silly toys like this one, which show what our sport looks like so that we’re a familiar image from a person’s childhood; that’s not a silly end result. It’s wonderful.

Frankly, if you like shooting, I think you should go search for a few of these and buy them now, to give out as birthday and xmas presents later. It’s not like they’ll break the bank, they worked out at about a fiver each on ebay…

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