Tuesday, 27 September 2011

IBSA Open European Championships 2011

I realise its been over a week since the Open European Championships, however I was quite busy in getting some university work completed which probably should have recieved greater attention while I was in Slovakia.

Firstly journey went without any problems. This was the first time I had flown with my air rifle, however that all went smoothly. There was a little bit of confusion at Vienna airport in knowing where to find the air rifle, however it was found and there was no problem. From Vienna we had road transport arranged by the organiser.

The Wednesday was set aside for the equipment control and training. As my training time was not until late in the afternoon I decided to have a bit of a break until then. At the training session, as here in the UK loading is normally done by the assistant as the specialist scope we use can make it difficult to load the rifle, we decided to ask whether it would be permitted for my assistant to load for me. We managed to get approval for this.

The Thursday saw the day of the standing competition, the one which was my main focus as its the discipline I am experienced in. We heard word in the morning that there was some disatisfaction over my assistant loading for me and as I started my sighting shots we were officially informed that I would have to load the rifle for myself. I possibly took more sighting shots than I would normally so that I could get used to the new shooting procedure of me loading. Luckily this change did not seem to affect me and I completed the competition with a score of 585. This was possibly slightly unfortunate as there were three people on 586. Anyway this got me 6th place which saw me into my first international final. I had a couple of bad shots in the final, however I had finished the main competition sufficiently ahead of 7th place that I maintained 6th place. This was possibly lower than I wanted, however the top scores were tighter than I had been expecting.

The Friday was for the three position competition, my first ever competition doing other positions than standing. For some reason IBSA have decided to adopt sitting positions to replace the prone and kneeling and so we had not got a suitable seat and table for doing these positions. I am grateful to the Danish team for loaning me a suitable table and seat. Also while the IBSA rules seem to be very clear about slings not being permitted, it had been decided that slings would be allowed for the competition. Thank you to the team from Finland for loaning me a sling. The three position started with the sitting position for prone, I must have been lucky with finding the position as it was feeling quite good and comfortable. There were some moments where I was just doing the shooting and I was so unaware of how many shots I had taken that I became concerned in case I did too many and so needed to check how many I had done. I finished the prone part with a score of 394, which while may be not going to be the top score it was certainly good for my first go. Next came the kneeling, which did not go so good. I must have not found the position as it was uncomfortable and unstable. At one point I was ready to withdraw from the competition, but some how I managed to push myself on and completed the competition with a score of 375. There was little time to recover as there was still the standing to do. I completed the standing with a score of 388, which may be is lower than I would have liked, but considering what I had done just before that I was still happy with this score. I finished the three position with a total of 1157 which gave me 13th place.

The Saturday was the day of the prone competition, after my good experience with the prone the day before I was looking forward to this competition. I did not quite find the position I had found the day before for the prone, however it was still feeling very stable and I felt able to continue. I completed this competition with a score of 593, which I felt was fairly good considering the amount I had done before. This saw me in at 10th place, which I was quite happy with.

You can find a full copy of the results here.

I really enjoyed the time at the championships, may be I would have preferred the kneeling to have been a bit easier. Also I hope that may be more people in the UK could take up doing the prone discipline, then may be in future others could be going to such championships.

I imagine my next main competition is going to be the British Championships in March. I don't know whether I will be able to encourage some adoption of the prone position before the British Championships, however I hope at least it can be discussed at the British Championships and may be future years will have the prone discipline as well.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

UK VI winter league results

Today I received the results for the VI winter leagues. It was very pleasing to see a few things with these results, possibly the nicest thing for me being that I had won both division one in both stand assisted and free-standing. It was a bit of a shame to see that in my free-standing my average had gone down a bit, however last summer I think I had a particularly good season and it was going to be hard to improve on it.

Some of the other things which were pleasing to see is how the results have been produced. This was the first time I have been sent an electronic copy of the results, so making it much easier for me to look through to see how other people are coming along. Also it appears that this season when people score 100 in a given round the number of inner tens have been counted and used to find a winner for the round. While this is an improvement to see, the spreadsheet being used does need some tweaking as inner tens seem to be contributing towards the total score and so can raise the average.

I think this set of results is a big step forward from some of the situations in the past and hopefully the slight problems can be ironed out. Now I suppose I should look towards the summer league and focus on that. I know that some might be disappointed with this, but as I need to focus on what I will do in Slovakia, I will only be entering the free-standing league.

Shooting jacket and trousers

Last Monday I went to Wolverhampton to pick up my shooting jacket and trousers and to also do some training with my assistant who will be going with me to Slovakia. This was the first time I have ever used shooting trousers and it certainly is different. Unfortunately due to time restrictions the training wasn't as long as I had hoped for and I didn't really get the chance to get used to the new jacket and trousers. However the training was useful as it was the first time I had tried out the system for communicating shot information with my assistant.

I managed to get some more training done this Thursday at my shooting club and it really gave me a chance to get used to the new jacket and trousers. Towards the end of the shoot I really could feel the additional support being provided by the shooting trousers. The jacket isn't quite so noticable as it still need a bit of adjustment to make it really fit me well. In all though I am very pleased with what I have got and if my score for the Thursday evening is anything to go by this will be money well spent.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Shooting positions

Here in the UK visually impaired shooters do two types of shooting, both from the standing position, one where the rifle is supported by a stand with a spring in it (the spring is to allow the rifle to still move freely) and the other is where the shooter entirely supports the weight of the rifle (the normal standing position sighted shooters would do). Currently only the free standing position is recognised internationally out of these two types we do.

However there are other positions which visually impaired shooters do in international competitions. These are to take the place of 3 position and prone, but they are done from the sitting position because the author of the IBSA rules believes there are issues surrounding the size of prone tables which are used to bring shooters up to the correct height for the target. While I have some dislike for this option, as I feel shooting for the disabled should really only have minimal alterations where the alterations are necessary, I feel that unless there is a chance of this being widely adopted we may do best to fit in with what others are doing.

When I go over to Slovakia for the European championships I have agreed to do the 3 position and prone as well as the standing, although the standing is the only discipline I have done up to now. I hope by taking part in these other disciplines I will be able to find out much about those disciplines and may be introduce others to the 3 position and prone in this country. If sufficient interest was shown may be others will be able to participate in international competitions in the future.

So as to find out about how these positions are done, I asked the competition organiser for photos of how 3 position and prone are done. Unfortunately I haven't been able to get the chance to try out the positions for myself since receiving the photos, but I sent a copy of them to some of the visually impaired shooters in Aberdeen and they have given it a quick go. If their feedback is anything to go on, they are really enjoying it and there is talk that it may be made available for people to try at this year's Scottish championships. All this talk is getting me wanting to have a go at these positions, but I must remember that it is the standing where I will be competitive and so most of my effort must go into training for that.

I know there may be others who want to have a go, unfortunately I am unsure that I have permission to publish those photos on the internet, but if you look at the IBSA rules then you will probably get a fairly detailed view of what is needed. When I have a go at these positions I will get some photos taken and put them online, however I cannot say how good my position will be in 3 position and prone due to my lack of experience in those disciplines.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Interview with insight radio

Today I did a phone interview with RNIB's insight radio discussing visually impaired shooting and a bit about how I got into the sport. There is a listen again feature on the insight radio website and you will want to look for the morning mix of Thursday 28 April. The interview with me isn't until quite a way in, so if you only want to listen to my interview then skip in 2 hours.

It may be worth me repeating the story of how I got into shooting and why I find it so enjoyable, as I don't think any visually impaired shooters have put such information about themselves on the internet and it may be interesting for those who might consider taking up the sport. I won't write it out now as it is late, but if there is interest then I will do it another day.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

The state of information on VI shooting on the internet

Today I have been looking at how much information really is out there on shooting for the visually impaired. As before its quite shocking, bits and pieces here and there, some of it interesting, some of it a little bit brief and some of it just wrong. May be those of us inside the VI shooting community need to try and put that right.

I suppose if I am going to say anything about this, I better put some of what I have done in order. I don't know how many of you reading this have seen www.shootingwiki.org. There is a page on blind shooting there (thankfully pretty accurate). However it did link to a list which I had set up on the topic of shooting for the blind, but now pretty well a dead list. Therefore I thought let's start by pointing people to an active list like http://groups.google.com/group/blind-target-shooting-uk.

Now to some of the wrong stuff. Why is it that people keep thinking the Swarovski scope is laser based? Even in a video which IBSA link to which demonstrates blind shooting says the scope is laser based.

I suppose I am not complaining at those who make the mistake and possibly give wrong information without knowing, I am more complaining of those like IBSA who should know better linking to this wrong information. That is probably enough of me saying stuff about this, may be I should pay attention to what I say and just get on with producing correct information and trying to spread that about.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Communicating shot information

There are quite a number of things with my shooting which I think will need a bit of adapting to fully comply with the international rules. One thing which struck me right from the beginning is how the assistant communicates information about where shots go.

Here in the UK, at national level we allow the shooter and assistant to communicate by speaking to each other. However the IBSA rules for shooting will not allow this, information such as shot information needs to be communicated in a non-spoken form. The IBSA rules suggests a way through tapping the shooter at different points on the arm to indicate score and tapping the shooters back to indicate shot position. I really feel this method is inadequate as it only provides the shooter with individual shot information, but to be able to perform sight adjustments you need to understand what the group of shots is like.

I am currently devising a system with my coach which we feel will provide all information needed so I will be able to adjust my own rifle sights. It is not quite completed yet but we think we have the basic idea worked out.

The system I intend to use is basically having a tactile diagram of the target mounted on a cork board and pins will be stuck in the diagram to indicate shot positions. It seems like we will use two boards and have a maximum of five pins to each board. By doing this I should always have a record for at least the last five shots and by feeling the diagram I should be able to identify what the group of shots is like.

As I said, I think the system still needs a bit of work, we need to find the best sizing for the diagram and the thickness of the scoring rings. Hopefully we will have this system worked out soon and I will try and write this system up more fully.

While I understand at national level we want to not put people off doing the sport, I would like to see the top level visually impaired shooters being a bit more international ready, in the hope that future years we may be able to get a team together for international competitions. So if this idea proves successful for me, may be others will want to try and adopt a similar system.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Equipment

I thought it may be a good starting point to discuss the equipment I personally use. A number of items I am using are of a high end nature and so may be more expensive than some other options. However at the level I intend to compete it is important to have good equipment.

The rifle I use is a Steyr LG110. I really like this rifle, its a good quality rifle but the biggest thing which is an advantage to me as a blind person is the connect version comes apart so it can be packed in a small case for easy transportation. Also the loading mechanism on this rifle will not interfer with the scope being mounted on top.

The Swarovski ZEB618 scope is the only item which is specialist to blind people. This scope contains electronics to convert the amount of light it receives into a varying pitch tone which one can listen to through headphones. There isn't much more to say on the scope itself, other than to note it needs a power supply and it does not contain a volume control for the headphones, therefore you probably will want to ensure your headphones have an inline volume control. The other thing to be aware of is that the size of the scope may get in the way of some rifle loading mechanisms, however there are plenty of rifles where this is not an issue. On some where the loading mechanism is an issue, it may be possible to make adaptations but this is probably not recommended unless you really know what you are doing.

I power the Swarovski scope with a PP3 9V battery. This required a cable to connect the battery to the DC input socket of the scope to be made and some velcro to fit the battery to the rifle. Some of the advantages to using batteries is that it removes mains hum from the output sound and also reduces the number of wires coming from the rifle, which is a big advantage when doing free standing.

I use a set of Sennheiser HD280 headphones to listen to my Swarovski scope. These are probably much better than are really needed, although I am certain I can hear a difference between these and some of the cheap headphones when I do shooting. These headphones lack a volume control so I needed to buy a inline volume control for them.

There are also items such as the lamp which is used to illuminate the target, but as that is provided by the club I have little details on those.

As I do free standing shooting, I do use items such as a shooting jacket, shooting glove and shooting boots. I won't list these now as I am in the process of getting a shooting jacket and trousers and so intend to discuss them and give photos for your amusement in a later posting. So please check back if you want to see some of the strange things us free standing shooters wear.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Introduction

Welcome to my blog about myself doing air rifle shooting as a blind person. I hope that this blog will be informative to many people on how this sport is done, and potentially will encourage others to take up or progress in this sport. There are many things currently going on which I probably will discuss in later posts. The most exciting thing at the moment in my shooting life is related to me going to the European championships in Slovakia this September. There are so many things which I need to get organised, until now I hadn't realised how much was involved in organising attending an international competition. I will keep you informed through this blog as things progress. I also hope that once this particular competition is over I will keep the flow going about my shooting.

So for the moment, all I will say is please check back and I hope you enjoy reading.

In Australia for the World Championships

As the World Championships gets closer, now less than a week away, I thought it was time to write another blog post. Last week saw me take t...