Sunday, 31 December 2017

Home training

With the holiday period over the last week the chances to get to the shooting club were going to be limited so I was given some home work and sent home with my rifle to do some dry-fire training. Whilst in the past I have taken the rifle home to do some trigger training to improve my trigger technique, this was the first time I was going to try and use the EcoAims VIS500 in training mode at home.

Fortunately my house is about 10m from the very front wall to the very back wall and there is a straight path between them, so this seemed the perfect placement for dry-fire training at home. OK, I will be aiming over a slightly shorter distance as I need a bit of space for me, but it probably is still more than 8m between the IR LED and the EcoAims scope.

As the aim of this exercise was so that I could learn about the sound of the EcoAims VIS500 and also have the opportunity to experiment with the various settings, I decided to make the task slightly easier by sitting with the rifle resting on a support. Good job I did as I have not yet fully worked out the placement of everything and a reliable way for me to align myself with the LED, and there have been some minutes of just searching around to get the target sound. Once I located the target I normally was able to keep finding it for the rest of that training session. Standing though could have been quite a challenge and probably will not happen until we have designed some foot templates to assist me in aligning myself correctly.

This probably was the first time I ever really spent much time with the EcoAims training software. It may be due to it being my first time with it and needing to learn how it works, but I just get the feeling that what I was able to do was very limited. Part of this may be due to the fact that a good amount of the software is not accessible to my screen reader, so there definitely are features I cannot access.

It was good that whilst I was doing my dry-fire training that the software was speaking out a score when the trigger is pulled. Whilst it gives me an indication of whether what I thought I heard was really correct, one needs to remember these are not scoring devices, the slightly shorter range and the fact the VIS500 does not account for cant both would lead to inaccuracies in scoring. The first problem I noticed was that if using my usual headphones which block out some background noise combined with the fact that one tries to continue to hold the same position for a second or two after firing, I normally could not hear the score being spoken over the sound of the VIS500. Changing to a lighter weight set of headphones which block less noise did help. I am not sure if there is a keypress so that one could have the score repeated. Another solution would be if the software had a setting to delay the speaking of scores by a few seconds, giving the shooter the chance to come off target first.

As well as being able to know what the last score was, it would be useful if I had a way to go back through a number of shots and review the whole session. This would be particularly useful when trying out something new and comparing it to before making the change. This might be possible with the software, but due to the lack of accessibility with a screen reader I could not find out how to get this information. Again may be there is a key press and the software may self voice this information.

Knowing scores is only a small part of what one needs to know when training and trying to improve shooting, it is also useful to have the trace showing how the rifle was moving throughout the aiming process. Now I did find a replay option in the menu, but again due to the lack of screen reader accessibility I am unsure exactly how this works and if I could make use of it independently. This is one thing Scatt does have, the audio output mode which allows its trace to be played in sound. In fact at some point I am going to be given some of my Scatt traces and some of a sighted shooter so I can compare how they sound, something which would not be possible without the audio playback feature of Scatt.

So in summary, it is great to have a way of dry-fire training at home and to get some sort of indication of the quality of the shot from the computer, the software to me as a VI shooter trying to use it independently feels very limited and probably at this point is no where near what Scatt is as a training tool. However the EcoAims software is free with the VIS500 scope, where as it would cost quite a bit for a Scatt MX02. It is software, so may be over time EcoAims could provide updates and possibly could look at resolving some of these issues. Also if we compare this with what one previously had with the Swarovski, IE. no estimation of score, this is definitely a step forward already for doing home training for VI shooters.

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Sound adjustments, inner zones

In my last post I said I would discuss some findings from adjusting the sound parameters of the EcoAims VIS500, so here we go.

I had always been interested to know how things are moving whilst I am shooting with the different aiming devices. Whilst the EcoAims training software allows you to view the position according to the VIS500, I had reason I wanted to ideally use Scatt. Here are some of my reasons:

  1. Scatt is familiar to many shooters, they know how to use the software, they know what its accuracy is like, etc.
  2. It is always nice to have something independently confirming what is going on, it helps confirm how accurate the VIS500 really is.
  3. The EcoAims training software is not particularly accessible with a screen reader. I am not really sure how much information I could get out of it. Also Scatt have some examples of writing software to handle the data from Scatt files, so as a software developer may be I could do other things to process my shooting data.

One problem though is that the EcoAims VIS500 uses the IR LED near the target and this is a similar frequency to the IR used by older Scatt devices, so the two systems would be likely to interfere with each other. However as someone at my club has a Scatt MX02 which is purely optical and needs no IR target, so we gave it a go and I was pleased to find that yes you can use a Scatt MX02 with the EcoAims VIS500 without any issue.

Now my assistant could see exactly what was going on whilst I was shooting, time to observe. The interesting thing which started to come up was that there were occasions when I might get my hold nice and steady, but just in the 8 ring of the rifle target. Yes when I did this normally I would take the shot and get an 8. I just did not seem to be identifying that the tone was not quite right. Using a headphone amplifier with two headphone outputs, my assistant started to listen to the sound as well whilst I was shooting. We reached the conclusion that there just seemed to be something about the tone there which was making me think may be I had a 10 when I did not.

The VIS500 has two zones, one where it produces pulsing tone and one where it is constant. You can adjust the size of these zones and also whether the pulsing is inside or outside the inner zone. Regardless of which zone you are in, the tone still varies in pitch to indicate how far you are from the centre, so in the past I had almost ignored this feature just having it pulsing outside and leaving the size at the default size.

However needing something to make it clearly different between a steady hold in the 8 ring and a steady hold in the 10 ring, it was time to adjust the size of the zone setting. We adjusted the zone to be of a size so that if I am in the 8 ring it will pulse and if I am in the 9 ring or better then it will be constant. Not being sure what the number means in the EcoAims software, we did some testing with the rifle on the bench, with my assistant observing the position on the Scatt and also listening to the tones from the VIS500. Initially we tried setting the parameter to 10, but I was still occasionally getting that 8 ring hold, so we shrank the zone a little more and set the parameter to 8.

Having made this change, I have been told my hold now is a lot more in the middle and never in the 8 ring, or if it is then I am identifying it quickly and not taking the shot. I guess this really should not have come as a surprise as I have seen elsewhere that may be you need a significant tone change as you approach the middle of the target. Wim mentions something similar in a post on the Kedok blog.

Does this mean I am being converted to an inner tone idea and will I start to love the VIASS? Well yes I am now seeing value in having two distinct zones, but I still feel the VIASS has got this slightly wrong. My problem with the VIASS is that once you enter its inner zone area you only have a single tone and no indication of position in the zone or the movement. With the VIS500 and from what I understand of Kedok, the tone will still vary in pitch and give you a sense of the position and movement of the rifle within that zone. Also when you still have this positional information, it means that it is slightly less important to match the zone size to the shooter's ability and may be the VIS500 and Kedok are more suitable as club equipment which may be used by a number of shooters.

Monday, 18 December 2017

Position training

Yesterday I mentioned how I am going through a process of rebuilding my shooting position and I said there were a couple of interesting things which have come up. Today I will mention trying to find the correct position and approaching the target correctly. Both of these things are really important to do correctly, if the position isn't stable or if you need to force the rifle onto the target then you will probably find you will be fighting for the rest of the shot.

I have heard many people say that if you learn your shooting position enough then you will feel when it is not right. I understand some of this, but the biggest problem for me is that until you have learnt the position and know how to feel what is going on, then how can you train it? The real problem being that I cannot use some of the normal training tools, like watching yourself in a mirror or videoing your shooting and observing. In fact the only way I can detect what my body is doing whilst shooting is by how it feels, but we have established that is what I am trying to learn. At this point the only solution I seem to have is to have someone sighted observe me whilst shooting and for them to comment on what they see happening.

Similar applies to the path I follow as I lift up the rifle and approach the target. Again sighted shooters may use techniques like having a laser pointer attached to the rifle and to get it to follow a specific line. What makes it worse is that if I don't find the target then the audio aiming system gives no clue as to which side of the target I am pointing and so I don't even know which way to adjust next time I try.

I feel that needing to have someone sighted observe and help with these tasks is probably limiting my ability to train the position and target approach. Some time ago it was decided I needed to sort out my trigger action and so I took my rifle home for a couple of weeks and did some trigger training every day for those two weeks. The difference that two weeks made was amazing and I am sure that something similar for position training would be benefitial too. If anyone has any ideas on how I could do position training independently then that would be great if you could share those ideas.

In my next post I intend to discuss some findings I have made about the EcoAims VIS500 and the audio parameters.

Sunday, 17 December 2017

Rebuilding the shooting position

Well it has been longer than I intended again since I wrote anything here, other things in life just keep coming up and getting in the way.

We are now well into the winter season of shooting competitions. For this winter I have decided to really commit to just using the EcoAims VIS500 and learning everything I can about how it works, including any peculiarities it may have.

If you want to track my progress in the competitions over the winter, I am competing in the International Home Range Cup being organised by Patrick from Austria, results and information here and also the Cambridgeshire Target Shooting Association 10m air rifle league results here.

Unfortunately after the summer with the air pistol, when I picked up the air rifle again something was just not quite right and after a very bad first round in the Cambridgeshire it was time to revisit everything about my shooting and rebuild the position, hopefully getting a better one in the process. Thanks to the support of some members of my shooting club, we have increased the amount of training I am doing and with the work on the position the scores are improving and I think there is still space for more improvement to still come.

Much of what I have done is probably what all shooters should do from time to time when attempting to improve their shooting, but there have been a few things which have come up which are quite interesting. Over the next few days I will write some more posts on those specific things.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Thoughts on best achievements

Back between 2003 and 2007 I studied physics at university. Last week I had a phone call from someone writing on vision impaired people and physics. You are probably thinking, what has this all to do with shooting? Within the conversation with the journalist he mentioned that he had done a web search and seen that I also do shooting and he asked the question of what would I describe as my best achievement in shooting. This question has come up before when talking with people about VI shooting, so may be it is time to also answer it here on this blog.

I am going to pick three which have particular significance to me, although there are others which also mean something to me.

  1. Back around the late 1990s and early 2000s the British always had a team go over to the Dutch Open Championships. In 2000 it was my first time in being selected to go with the team and first time I had shot in a competition in another country. It was the biggest thing I had done in shooting at that point and I definitely had nerves. Dispite feeling that pressure, I won the supported competition (standing, shooting from a support rest). Since then I have done things which are a greater achievement, but this probably is where I really started getting that competitive thing in shooting and the hunger to push further.
  2. Next we jump forward to 2014 and the IPC Shooting VI demonstration event in Suhl in Germany. Whilst the number of shooters participating were only a few, we had all been selected as top VI shooters for the demonstration event, so I was competing against the best. Also we were using unfamiliar equipment as IPC Shooting wanted to run it with the equipment they wanted for the future. The equipment was the EcoAims Biathlon equipment, fortunately things have been tweaked since there to make it better for target shooting and also the plan is to still use actual air rifles. I think the first time I had ever used the system was in the practice the day before competition. So I was really pleased to win that competition and the trophy is one I really value.
  3. Finally but not least is the first medal I won in the Cambridgeshire postal league competition here in the UK. Why does a UK postal league competition, it was not even the first division, have more significance to me than some of the international achievements and medals? Well this competition is a standard shooting competition against sighted shooters and also using the smaller air rifle target. So due to the number of shooters who take part and also because of the smaller target, I had absolutely no room for silly mistakes and to be able to successfully compete against sighted shooters helped me gain an idea where my shooting is against more than just the VI shooting community.

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Progress with air pistol

Back at the start of March once the British championships were over I took the decision to take a break from the air rifle and really give some time over to the air pistol. Over the winter I had been getting the feeling that postal competitions had slightly taken over my air rifle shooting and were determining what I was prepared to do in my training. The main problem being that I was focusing on keeping the score best for the immediate rather than being able to try out things which might work out better in the long term but with a short term negative impact on score. As I have not done much more than prove the concept with the air pistol until the start of March, I felt focusing on the air pistol would be a good break as I would have no expectations of what I should be able to do and so would not be constantly comparing what I achieve against expectations.

Back at the start of March I was probably getting scores around 90 average for 10 shots, may be low 90s on a good day. Then about a couple of weeks ago something seemed to click with me.

Yes that is a 578 with 60 shots and this week was also similar at 575.

So what had clicked? After all I have not adjusted much since originally trying the air pistol. I cannot be certain, but one thing is that I have become very aware of sensing the position, it is very different to sensing the position with the air rifle. With the air rifle if something is not quite in the right place then another contact point probably will not line up and so you know very quickly something is not right, but with the air pistol there are so few contact points that you really need to feel it internally. Also to help with the position I have placed an elastic band around the support bar of the support stand to provide me with a reference point when checking the placement of the pistol on the stand after loading.

The other thing to come out of spending so much time with the air pistol is that may be I am starting to get more familiar with the VIASS. Back with the rifle I found myself continually comparing it with the Swarovski, both in the sound it makes and also in the scores I achieved and due to needing to shoot postal competitions I would keep changing it back to the Swarovski so that my competition cards would be as good as possible. With the pistol I don't have the choice, the Swarovski won't fit and until the start of March I had no previous pistol scores to compare.

So now where with the air pistol? Unfortunately here in the UK supported air pistol is not widely adopted and there are no competitions. Development of supported air pistol, both for VI shooters and also for anyone else who may find shooting air pistol without a support stand, is one task. Also at my club we are going to see what we can find out about supported air pistol in other countries and whether there is any postal competitions I could compete in. In the meantime I am enjoying shooting the air pistol without the pressures of constantly thinking about shooting competition cards.

Why I do mental training

Readers of my FaceBook page will know that recently I have started putting a lot of attention on mental training. So why am I doing this, w...