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…

Old plan, New plan

With biscuit showing up on the scene, my mid-to-long-term plan needed some adjustment. The plan was:

  • Reach 570 during the summer training session, either in UCD at the June 10 match or at a match afterwards (dependant on weight loss rate and delivery date for the new jacket)
  • Hit Tier 3 selection score (573) to qualify for RIAC and Intershoot during the opening matches of the domestic season (October/November)
  • Shoot in RIAC (December in Luxembourg)
  • Hit Tier 2 selection score (577) to qualify for the European championships (either in RIAC or in domestic matches)
  • Shoot in Intershoot (February 2-4 in the Hague)
  • Shoot in the European Championships (February 14-20 in Finland)
  • Hit Tier 1 selection score (583) to qualify for the World Cup series of matches (either in Intershoot or in domestic matches)
  • Shoot in the ISSF World Cup (April 17-29 in London)
  • Shoot in the ISSF World Cup (May 13-20 in Milan)
  • Shoot in the ISSF World Cup (May 20-27 in Munich)

This worked reasonably well; I was hitting 570 in training around mid-June; shot a 574 in UCD just before Intershoot, shot in RIAC and Intershoot, but never got the weight down low enough to get the new shooting suit and I think (and Matt agrees) that that slowed progression a fair amount on the score front. But the actual technique wasn’t suffering too badly; and I thought Intershoot went pretty well. The Europeans, the World Cups are all off the table this year because biscuit was due in mid-March (in a few days actually) and I didn’t really want to leave home and there was too much to do beforehand. So I thought about the next year or two, talked it over with Matt, went through a draft or two and this is my new mid-to-long-term training plan. It’s liable to change as training and competition progresses, though I’ll try to blog major changes and evaluations as they happen 🙂

  • Get physical fitness under control by Autumn (meaning weight down to the 220-240lb region and general aerobic fitness and flexibilty improved upon)
  • Drop out of rifle shooting (or even all shooting) for a 3-6 month period after Biscuit is born (because 4am feedings and competitive target shooting at the international level don’t mix too well)
  • Buy New Equipment (new jacket, new trousers, new boots, new rifle – but wait until after the new ISSF rules are announced)
  • Resume training and competing in rifle matches domestically; get back up past the MQS level (by October/November)
  • Shoot in RIAC 2012 (December in Luxembourg)
  • Hit Tier 2 selection score (577) to qualify for the 2013 European championships (either in RIAC or in domestic matches)
  • Shoot in Intershoot 2013 (January 31-February 2 in the Hague)
  • Shoot in the 2013 European 10m Airgun Championships (February 25-March 3 in Denmark)
  • Hit Tier 1 selection score (583) to qualify for the World Cup series of matches (either in Intershoot or in domestic matches)
  • Shoot in an ISSF World Cup (2013 dates not yet released by ISSF)

New pellets

I’d been running shy on pellets over the last while; RIAC was shot using RWS R10 pistol pellets on the principle that sub-par pellets are better than no pellets at all, but the groups weren’t spectacularly brilliant and I wanted to have better pellets for Intershoot, especially after one UCD match that saw eight 9.9s…

We’d been looking to do some pellet batch testing in WTSC for a while but hadn’t gotten it sorted out yet, so proper batch testing would have to wait as there wasn’t enough time to get that sorted. I knew that Intershoot had some Qiang Yuan pellets in stock from talking with them about batch testing, and I’d had a chance to shoot a box of them before so I knew they were pretty decent so I asked Intershoot to send me down two boxes of all the head sizes of the QY pellets they had (which at the time was just the two, 4.49 and 4.50) and I clamped the rifle into our patented Really Awful Bench Clamp, shot a few shots to warm up and then ran through ten shot groups of the RWS R10 light pellets, the QY 4.49s and the QY 4.50s.

The patented WTSC Really Awful Bench Clamp

 

Personally, I strongly suspected that there’d be a small difference, but nothing major. I was in for a bit of a surprise…

 

RWS R10 light
RWS R10 light

 

Qiang Yang 4.49
Qiang Yang 4.49

 

Qiang Yang 4.50
Qiang Yang 4.50

 

Feck me. I was not expecting the group size from the 4.49 QY pellets. Thank you very much, those will do nicely. Yes, at £35(€42)/1000 they’re pretty bloody expensive for airgun pellets. But on the other hand, the trip to Intershoot is the guts of a grand anyway.  €16.50 for pellets that might save me from a 9.9 or two didn’t seem like a bad investment to me (I’d still have to pay out €12 for a tin of R10s anyway if I didn’t get the QYs). And given that Intershoot saw 28 10.0 and 10.1 shots (which you could argue were saved from 9.9-hood by decent pellets), that works out at €0.41 per ten. Seems fair to me  😀

QY do pellets in tins like everyone else btw, unlike the 200-pellet trays that I bought:

Qiang Yuan 200-pellet trays

And RWS do their R10s in the 200-pellet trays too. So whether the QY pellets are better for FrankenRifle because they’re just better than R10s or just because they were in trays and the R10s are in tins, or – and this seems more likely really – just because the 4.49 head size suits FrankenRifle better than the R10’s 4.50 head size, is an open question and at some stage, we’re going to have to do proper batch testing with a proper bench rest. But until then — and after we’ve done it as well — I’ll be taking my own advice and forgetting about it completely. Time on the range training beats time on the range batch testing every single time…

Intershoot 2012 Day Three

A more relaxed wakeup this morning – still freezing cold, but don’t have to get up quite so early as yesterday. Breakfast, then head off around noon to get to the range. Plan is simple:

  • 1230: Arrive at range, warm up
  • 1255: Assemble kit
  • 1315: Wall-watching
  • 1330: Setup on line
  • 1335: Prep time
  • 1345: START!
  • Stretch first! Back will be sore!
  • Watch the sight picture!

I’m shattered though. It’s like the last day of Intershoot all over again. My aiming feels good, and the triggering feels smooth, but my legs just aren’t cooperating to give me a solid platform or a decent hold. My feet feel like I’m standing in a small pool of sweat in my boots, they feel like there’s no padding and they’re being pushed through the socks (the socks were an experiment all this week, I traded in my normal base layer socks for a pair of underarmour compression socks to try to counter the numbness I was getting in my feet around the 40-60 shot range in a match:

Under armor recharge socks

And no, this wasn’t Rob Bryden’s idea 😀

Funny moment on QI

The experiment’s worked quite well at preventing numbness – I didn’t have a single problem with numb feet at any time, but they don’t give enough padding for the sole of the foot, so I might need to wear the base layer socks under the compression socks too. However, that won’t help the knees 😀 My knee was gone again by the end of the match – sore, unable to bend without pain, feeling like I’d pulled a hamstring.

I go through 23 shots with some difficulty (95 then 92 because of drift) but shot 24 was a seven, and mentally I gave up, I put down the rifle and walked away for a few minutes to get my head together. I came to the conclusion at that stage that the match was pretty much a lost cause in terms of a high score; and then I thought why not use the remainder of the match to test something – yesterday’s performance met the performance goals for the trip, and the match was pretty much shot, so why not at least learn something?

So I got back to the line and into position, and proceeded to try to shoot as fast as I could. Same shot routine as before, but take the shot as soon as it presents itself; no holding for any more than one to two seconds at most. The results were quite interesting.

Old Anschutz and New Anschutz :D

Shooting in Intershoot, last day

Intershoot Day 3

There was a whanger of a flier in string four, but aside from that, the standard of shooting was higher over the next few strings. Looking especially at the decimal scores, slow shooting resulted in 99.5, 96.7; shooting fast gave 99.7, 98.8 and 99.6 despite my being more physically drained than the first two strings. It’s nothing that Matt and Geoff haven’t been telling me for a looooong time, but it’s so counter-intuitive that I never really could trust myself to do it; I was hoping that doing it here would give me sufficient confidence to do it in competition more often 😀

After the match, I got my name stitched on my Ireland team jacket (they had a chap there doing embroidery for Intershoot T-shirts and the like), and looked over the new Walther LG400 rifle (I’ve been worried for a while now that if any part of my rifle broke at a match, there’d be no way to get spare parts; Matt thinks I might change over rifles during my time away from the circuit). There aren’t many rifles I’d like; the LG400 is one of them:

Walther LG400

 

We then got something to eat, watched and cheered on Ray in the finals, then packed our kit, hauled it back to the chalet, got changed and went out for a final team dinner in the local diner (lovely steak). After that, we walked back, packed away most of our kit for the morning and got some sleep. The next morning we had an early wakeup to take a team photo and bid farewell to Peter as he headed off; then we finished packing, cleaned down the chalet and hauled back to the airport by minivan.

Check-in at the KLM desk in Schipol took the guts of two hours to do. KL-bloody-M. And they tried to charge me excess baggage of €180 for the rifle instead of the €40 sports baggage charge – I pointed out that our tickets were booked via Aer Lingus and had the assistant call a colleague who sorted it out. It got to the point where the other airport staff were getting a bit narky with the girl on the checkin desk. Eventually we got through, got through security, and headed to the gate. And then Paul and I and Kealan took a few minutes to raid the duty-free for some gifts for home (married men can’t come home without gifts 😀 ). We barely made it back to gate in time! After that, the remainder of the trip back was incident-free and normal, we said our goodbyes in the airport and that was the end of the trip.

Overall the total is two new Irish records, five shooters hit the MQS scores (and the sixth missed it by a point and set an Irish record in the process), three competition personal bests, two international debuts, and a team medal. That was a good trip 🙂

 

 

PS. We got some nice coverage on TheScore.ie and the Evening Herald and there’s also an NTSA writeup.

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…. 🙂

MQS 2 – this time it’s not a fluke

Back to training after the UCD August Open, and started with Matt and I having a talk about what went wrong in the Open. With the few days rest between the Open and tonight, there was a bit of perspective and we both came to the conclusion that while there are still small technical things to work on (like my trigger finger alignment), the main problem is a complete lack of proper mental preperation for the match.

Thing is, y’see, we’ve never really worked on mental prep before. Logistical planning for matches, yes; technical training, intensively yes; physical training yes; but mental training is the next thing for us to learn how to train in. When I started shooting air back in ’98, we didn’t know how to train people to shoot properly. Safely, yes – we weren’t exactly lax in the safety department at any time – but we just didn’t know how to train people. We’d show them the rifle, show them how to safely shoot, and then just let them repeat that until they got good or went home. We practiced, we didn’t train, and there is a very significant difference. Some individual shooters would go off and get coaching from outside the country, but that rarely works, if ever. At the time, we had a contract with a coach who’d come over to train the national squad once every 4-6 weeks, and he went blue in the face saying this over and again – you can’t train properly through this “masterclass” approach. You need to have your coach there on a far more regular basis, to see you progress, to see the failures, to see you under pressure and relaxed, and to figure out what route is the fastest from where you are to where you want to go.

Dirty little secret in target shooting – while good kit is important, you gain more points per euro spent if you spend the euro on good coaching than on any other possible outlay.

Which is why people drive hundreds of kilometres to get to WTSC – it’s not the range, it’s Matt and Geoff’s coaching.

However, we’ve spent the last decade going from not knowing how to train to knowing how to train physically and technically and how to do logistics; how to train mentally has always been the next step to take, but until now, we’ve never really been ready to take it. Now, we are, and now we’re taking that step. That’s going to be the next phase of training for me and Paul and Ashling and all the other WTSC shooters.

Though we will be fixing my trigger finger alignment too 😀

Anyway, after that rather productive chat, I kitted out and we just started shooting. Nothing specific, just shoot so Matt could watch the trigger finger again. Almost immediately, I could tell the difference between Sunday and tonight – my hips weren’t moving as much when they came forward at the start of the shot routine, and I noticed that that DURC dance (face the wall, hips square to the wall, then swing your hips from left to right repeatedly. It ain’t catchy, but every DURC airgun shooter seems to do it…) wasn’t happening because I was naturally moving my hip right slightly to load and then left properly to mount the rifle. In UCD, I’d had trouble with that – perhaps my stand wasn’t as well placed as I’d thought.

Some dry-firing to start, and after 20 mins or so, ten shots to check the sights:

Sighters
Sighters

Matt didn’t say anything, so I just kept on shooting, but I kicked it over into the first string because I’d moved the sights and wanted a clean target.

String 1
String 1
String 2
String 2

Matt still hadn’t said anything by this stage and I just figured what the hell, I’d shoot a match. Wasn’t planned or anything, and it didn’t feel like my position was as rock-solid as I’d like, but I wanted a baseline after Sunday’s mess.

String 3
String 3
String 4
String 4

At this point I had to take a short break for five minutes – my right knee was in a fair amount of pain (I couldn’t bend it) and my feet were going numb. Unfortunately, this was the point where I noticed the score, and between that and the physical fun, things just went downhill fast…

String 5
String 5

And at this point, I’m thinking “Feck. Just shoot another 95/96 here and I’m looking at a new PB in the mid-70s” which is of course, the stupidest thing in the world to be thinking. It wasn’t helping that my knee was now telling me that it was formally considering seceding from the rest of me and filing for independent recognition with the UN on the grounds of inhumane treatment (I hyperextended that joint rather badly a few years back and it’s never really forgotten or forgiven me for that). The next nine shots got progressively harder and more disappointing, and the tenth was pretty much everything I had to give…

String 6
String 6

So there we go. Another MQS, under rather imperfect circumstances physically. Kindof proves Matt’s point – I was far more rested and in far less pain on Sunday, but my head wasn’t relaxed and centered and so my performance was dire; tonight I was in agony at the end, hungry and tired after a long day of work, and I still managed a 70 despite two tail-end strings that were ridiculously bad.

Talking about it with Matt afterwards, we both agree that even with the ridiculously bad suit and shoes I’m using now, there’s a 580 there for the taking. Going over the actual shots and looking at the scores, there’s a good six or seven 9.9/9.8 type shots that just squeaked out, and an 8.9 at the start – that’s not even counting the falling apart shots in the last strings. So there’s a new goal – get that 580 in the current suit. Once I do that, and change up to a proper new suit, well, that should be another few points of a jump 🙂

So bring on the mental training!

UCD August Airgun Open 2011

First match since the holiday and the rust is showing…

UCD August Airgun Open 2011
UCD August Airgun Open 2011

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.

UCD August Airgun Open 2011

UCD August Airgun Open (Relay 1) 2011
UCD August Airgun Open (Relay 1) 2011

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…

Practice match

So the plan for this evening was to shoot a practice 60-shot match. With the UCD Open coming up on the 17th, I thought practice matches for the next few sessions would be a good idea. So I got to the range about 1830h and got kit prepped and ready, and started my prep time at 1900h. And straight into sweating and feeling like I was in a straitjacket and having issues with flexibility of the jacket and so on. Not a great start. It wasn’t helped by the sighters – that first shot was well out in to the white and gave me something to look at for the rest of the match:

Sighters
Sighters

The reason the sights were so far out was a purely mechanical one that I spotted on Friday and which Paul confirmed – if you’re putting on the MEC rearsight and just slide it on the rail and tighten the clamp, it clamps like so:

MEC Free rearsight clamped without pressure
MEC Free rearsight clamped without pressure

The weight of the rearsight is all behind the clamp, and you can see it’s making it lean back a little. Tightening the clamp won’t bring it down onto the rail at the nose of the sights, and you can’t consistently replicate the angle it finally comes to with the rail if you just tighten the clamp. So you’d be sighting in every time you put on the rearsight. Friday saw me zeroed in with the rearsight at an angle like this. Today, instead, I did what I’d planned to, and applied pressure at the nose of the rearsight to hold it down to the rail, and then clamped it in place:

MEC Free rearsight clamped with pressure on the nose
MEC Free rearsight clamped with pressure on the nose

The difference may not look like much, but it’s there and visible and rather critical – that much of a change takes you from an inner ten to an outer two, right out in the white of the card. It took seventy-odd clicks to get back to the inner ten…

Once the sighters were done, I was now looking at being behind on my time plan (which is 10 min for sighters, 90 seconds per match shot, and 5 mins in reserve), and of course, that’s stress, and I’m still watching to fine-tune sights. I didn’t handle the mental game well for the first string as a result and it was awful:

String 1
String 1

Too high, and too much wobble. By this point, I’m still sweating and fighting the jacket; but the thing about a horrible start is that your mind decides that the match is now lost (which, to be fair, it is) so it might as well relax – exactly the thing you’ve been trying to get it to do for the last ten shots…

String 2
String 2

And immediately things start to improve. Yes, it’s not perfect or even average yet, but it’s getting better. Odd fliers out to the right hand side though. So I put the head down and get on with the shooting, figuring that I want to walk away as it’s so bad, but I need the physical acclimatisation if nothing else…

String 3
String 3
String 3 closeup
String 3 closeup

And feck. That’s really quite good. Dammit. Sights are a bit low and left, and I have one flier at six o’clock, but that’s a nice group apart from that (and by this time, I’m actually back in the flow with a solid-feeling platform in my position and my temperature and breathing are back to normal). So I tweak the sights a bit and go back to it…

String 4
String 4
String 4 closeup
String 4 closeup

Mother-loving son of a ….

That wouldhave been my first tun in air rifle.

Gah. Okay, head back down, on with it, time’s pressing now…

String 5
String 5
String 5 closeup
String 5 closeup

Oh sweet suffering cats. I know the last shot was a complete flier, but why am I drifting to the right here? Some sort of sight picture problem perhaps. On with it, time’s ticking…

String 6
String 6
String 6 closeup
String 6 closeup

And feck. Finished two minutes after the time limit, so shots 9 and 10 of that string wouldn’t count – not that that last shot did me any favours – though I knew the moment it broke that it was bad; the trigger just broke before I was ready for it. No idea where the other flier came from though.

Still. 560 with an 88 (and a 98 with an 8) is not bad. The scores histogram shows 32×10, 18×9, 9×8 and 1×7; compared to the last good match I had (the DURC Open back in November before all the new changes), that’s pretty okay (that one was 29×10, 26×9, 5×8). Tidy up the start and watch the sights adjustments, and that would be a pretty decent score. And that’s after a long day in the office too.

A few more practice matches needed, but Sunday is looking good so far…

Refocussing

A straightforward enough day’s training, with a few dry-firing shots to warm up and then about 30 shots live. Matt turned away the screen for the last 15-20 shots, showing that I’ve left my focus slip from process to result:

Last six training shots
Last six training shots

That last shot was knocked out by a rather untimely pain in the left leg (hooray for nerve damage 🙁 ). The rest of the group wasn’t too bad; so if I don’t let the focus slip, the results aren’t so bad. So the training focus is pretty obvious 🙂

 

Mind you, Paul’s groups are currently better! 😀

Paul's last ten-shot string
Paul's last ten-shot string

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