Sunday 25 November 2018

First time experience for me and the UK

Yesterday saw me shooting at the Surrey air gun match at Bisley. The reason this is worth noting is because it is the first time I shot in a shoulder-to-shoulder competition against sighted shooters and we believe the first time a VI person in the UK has shot in a mainstream shooting competition rather than VI specific competitions.

As it was a new experience for me and also new for the competition organisers to, I travelled with my coach down to Bisley on Friday, so that the organisers could see the VI shooting equipment and what would be involved, as well as giving me a chance to do some training on the competition range.

Saturday was the day of the competition. It was slightly surprising the nerves I was feeling, at a similar level to those I get at high-level international VI competitions. I think with it being the first shoulder-to-shoulder for a VI shooter against sighted shooters, I had put pressure on myself to do well to show how well VI shooters can actually shoot. I know I have shot in leagues against sighted shooters, but somehow that feels slightly different as many of the people in the league may not know that I am VI as they do not see me shooting, at a shoulder-to-shoulder everyone would be able to see me shooting and so I felt I was representing VI shooting to everyone else there.

As for how did I do. I think my nerves did affect me at the beginning, but over time I seemed to settle down and the scores started to improve. My total score was 543.5 which I am fairly happy with, it is my best competition score for this year and if my early shots had been around the average of my later shots, then my score would have been much higher. The nerves should get better as I do more of these competitions, so I hope in future my scores will improve. In a couple of weeks I will be shooting at the inter-regional, so we need to wait and see how I get on there.

Tuesday 2 October 2018

New information pages

I thought it was about time to bring the information pages up to date. I have made the page about how the vision impaired shoot discuss the newer aiming devices, there is a more detailed page on the possible audio aiming systems and then there is a page discussing the possible disciplines and competitions. Would be nice to get some feedback telling me how these possibly could be improved and if there are any other topics you would like me to discuss.

Monday 1 October 2018

The importance of training

Well been a bit of time since my last post, but that does not mean I haven't been busy with my shooting. The last few months has seen me doing much hard training in preparation for the World Cup which happened last week in Chateauroux, France. I was only competing in the standing event and you can watch the standing VI final on YouTube.

It was a fairly exciting final with the silver and gold medals only being determined right at the end after the final shot. So I won't spoil it and say where I finished at this point. I will mention it at the end of this blog post, but I encourage you to watch the video.

So back to the main topic of this post. As I said the last few months has consisted of lots of training for me, trying to prepare me for the competition. Things like making sure I know exactly what happens when, ensure I would be comfortable with any background noise and also to handle the pressure as it was the highest level competition I have entered to this date. Unfortunately my coach was unable to go with me to the world cup, so I had someone else stand in as my assistant and we did a number of training sessions with them as well to ensure they knew exactly what to do as well. With a couple of excellent training sessions with some personal bests, we thought we had everything worked out when it came to departing for France last week.

Everything seemed to be going reasonably well in France, got equipment control done in plenty of time, was comfortable in the pre-event training and just before the call to the line I was doing all the final preparations, such as stretching and getting my mind in the zone, all to the times I wanted. Then came the call to the line for the qualifying and I was about to do all the very final things, like buttoning up the shooting jacket and putting on the glove, when my assistant broke process and disturbed me and took me straight to the firing line before I could do these final things. This in turn lead to further errors in set up, such as equipment not being on the line when I arrived there and me realising that I had not got my shooting glove on when I was about to pick up the rifle. At this point I was getting quite annoyed and angry, my mind was no longer in the zone and things were not ready due to a small deviation from the process we had agreed. I now had to try and get myself back in the zone and looking back the qualifying is just a bit of a blur to me. However checking the scores, whilst I am not happy with the score I got for qualifying as I don't feel it represents what I can do, it does look like may be I was not fully back to normal for the first series of 10 shots, but after that it looks like may be I did settle down.

Whilst disappointed with the qualifying, it found me in third place and so I needed to try and put it behind me for the final. There is not really much to report on the final, other than to say at the beginning my position seemed to be placing me above the target and it took me a little time to correct my position.This meant I was in second place all the way through the final, however I was closing the gap to first at the end with only 2.1 difference on the last shot. My opponent took her shot before me, getting a 7.9 and leaving a chance for me to win. Unfortunately I was just unable to come up with a 10 and so finished with the silver medal.

I think the thing to take away from this is the importance of the training and sticking exactly to the process. I am certain that without that error in setting up for the qualifying, I would have achieved a much better score in qualification. Whether it made any difference to the final I do not know, I like to think I had the strength to get past it for the final, but there is a chance I still was thinking about it.

Tuesday 15 May 2018

Radio interview

Today I did an interview with the BBC Radio4 In Touch programme about VI shooting. It will be broadcast later today at 20:40 British Summer Time.

For those of you not familiar with the In Touch programme, it is a weekly BBc Radio4 programme with news, views and information for people with vision impairment.

UPDATE: Should you have missed the programme or want to listen again then you can do this by visiting the programme page and pressing the listen again button. For those who don't want to sign in to iPlayer, you will have to wait for the podcast version to be made available, it should be available soon. My interview is the last item of the show, a few minutes before the end.

Sunday 13 May 2018

ISCH win

Last week saw the International Shooting Competition of Hanover (ISCH) and they had VI shooting in the programme of events this year. It has been a few years now since I have been to an international competition, so it was quite nice to be back competing at an international.

There were a few things different this time. This time rather than flying the journey was done by road, what a difference it makes when you can just drop all the equipment into a car and just forget about it for the rest of the journey and this time my body was feeling the benefit of having not been carrying round heavy bags. The other difference was that Pauline who now assists me at my local club went as my assistant for the competition, so we were able to train how things would work in competition better than in the past where I have had a different assistant at the competition.

As you may have guest from the title of this post, I did win in the standing discipline which was the only discipline I was competing in. In the qualifying I was feeling very comfortable with my shooting and finished with a very good lead. In the final I was finding things slightly harder and had a few bad shots and so that was much closer throughout the whole final. I am very pleased with this win, after all the work and changes which have been made to my position over the last few months the win just confirms the hard work has paid off.

It was great to be there and meet up with so many others involved in shooting. A number of people were encouraging me to take up prone more seriously and also to compete in that. If travelling by car to competition is going to become more regular then I may be tempted to do it. Anyway back to the hard work of training, there is the world cup in France in September I would like to go to if possible, ISCH has woken me up again to international competition.

Friday 6 April 2018

VIASS, I knew the plastic clamp was a mistake

Whilst doing some home training with my new LG400 I decided to try fitting the VIASS to it. To my surprise it was not quite as simple as I had been expecting. Initially the LG400 looks like it should be very good for VI shooting as the loading lever can be fitted on either side, either going up or going down when in the open position. Having the lever going down means that there should be no problems in fitting a scope to the rifle as nothing comes above the mounting rail. Well that is what I thought, but it turns out that on the right hand side of the rifle there are a couple of linking rods connecting the spindle of the lever to the sliding mechanism of the bolt and when the loading port is in the open position these actually rise up alongside the mounting rail. Unfortunately the bulky plastic clamp of the VIASS is just too wide and will get in the way of these linking rods.

Not all is lost if you want to fit the VIASS to the LG400, there are a couple of possible solutions. The first is to use a sight raising block to mount the VIASS and the LG400 comes with a sight raising block which is suitable. However if you want to avoid raising the VIASS more than you need to the other option is to consider fitting it to the rail just in front of the loading port, but this does place the VIASS further from you which means you may need to reach further when making adjustments. I cannot help thinking neither of these need to be done if the VIASS had been slightly differently designed. If it had either used a narrower clamp like that on the EcoAims VIS500 or used standard scope mounts then this problem would simply have not occurred.

Sunday 1 April 2018

New rifle

Last week I got my new air rifle, a Walther LG400 Alutec Expert. Some of you might be thinking, so why the new rifle? We may all like getting our hands on nice new bits of shooting kit and the Walther is that, but there were a few other reasons as well.

Probably the first is that for the last ten years or so I have only been shooting with my Steyr LG110 and prior to that with club rifles which don't really come to the same standard. I was given the chance to have the Walther on a trial period, so I thought may be it is time to try something different to see how it compares to the Steyr. Its always good to try a few things so you really get the chance to know what you like.

There also have been a few other things in the past where the Steyr just does not quite seem to be ideal. My steyr has had a few small alterations, mainly to alter the palm rest for the supporting hand and the cheek piece. Probably one of the biggest concerns I had on the Steyr is that for some reason my LG110 did not like going between dry-fire and live firing, with the next shot after a dry-fire always going low, in the 3 ring of a air rifle target. So with my Steyr, I had to avoid doing dry-fire within competitions.

So how does the Walther compare? Its probably a bit early to say as I have only had it a week and there is much tweaking to do, but initially it all feels good. Having said that though, the Steyr is still a good rifle and the differences probably are either personal preference or only really make the difference when you are trying to convert 9s on the air rifle target into 10s. There are still a few things about the Steyr I think I prefer, such as how dead it feels as you release the shot, but is that just learning something new after 10 years of the same?

Sunday 18 February 2018

EcoAims VIS500 reviewed

In a number of previous posts I have mentioned about the EcoAims VIS500 and that it at the moment is my aiming device of choice when I am shooting air rifle. However I realise I have never really done a post about the VIS500 to give you an overview of the device and my view on its good and bad points. So time to put that right, in this post I will give a bit of a review of the EcoAims VIS500.

Who is EcoAims?

For those of you who have not heard of EcoAims before, they are a company who make a number of electronic shooting devices, such as modern pentathlon laser pistols and the VI biathlon system which has been used in paralympic biathlon events since 2002. So I would expect that they should have good experience in tracking the point of aim of a gun. However the VIS500 as far as I know is the first product from EcoAims which is to be attached to a gun and used whilst live firing.

The VIS500

Now to the actual device. Like the VIASS Pro, the VIS500 is an infrared based system, requiring an IR LED to be placed near the target. It has been approved for use in international competitions by both IBSA and WSPS, so big tick for those who are interested in international competition.

The VIS500 has a fairly slim design to it, however you will still need to be careful of guns with loading mechanisms which come upwards as they could clash with the VIS500. This is actually part of the reason why I cannot use the VIS500 on the Walther LP400 air pistol. Also it is worth noting that the mounting clamp on the VIS500 is shorter than the device and is only at the rear end, meaning that you have a good amount of scope protruding forward of the mounting point, the second part as to why it will not fit on the air pistol when using standard parts for mounting.

The build quality of the VIS500 feels good. Whilst there are some plastic parts, metal is used in the places where I feel it requires it, such as the mounting clamp and support frame.

The sighting adjusters are mechanical adjusters operated by a dial on the top and right hand side. Whilst I like the electronic adjustments on the VIASS, the intuitive nature of making adjustments, the reliability of adjustments and the ability to adjust it from a computer to set specific values thus making it simpler to swap between different guns or shooters, it must be said that a good set of mechanical adjusters will also do a good job. Although the mechanism on the VIS500 feels slightly basic, having the adjusters move the rear end of the device about, the adjusters do seem to be working fairly well in use.

The VIS500 is the only aiming device I have used with the battery built in. I have mixed views on this. It is good not to have additional cables providing power or needing to find somewhere to mount a battery pack to the rifle. However it has the disadvantage that you need the VIS500 to charge its battery, no just taking the battery home to charge. Also it is not possible to have a spare battery for it, although as a backup I guess you could have a USB charger or a USB battery. The other disadvantage is that by having the battery built in, it makes the VIS500 heavier than the VIASS. Personally the weight of the VIS500 is not a problem for me with the rifle, it might be if it were to be used on an air pistol.

On the left hand side of the VIS500, you have a mini USB port for power and connecting with the EcoAims software on a PC, the power button and three indicator LEDs. Whilst in my role of IBSA shooting chair person I have concerns over the presence of indicator LEDs and whether it could impact upon sight classification by giving some shooters additional information, the LEDs are useful for the assistant in training. There is a power indicator which doubles as a low battery warning by changing colour when the internal battery is low, an on target indicator and a shot indicator which flashes when the VIS500 detects a shot being taken.

There is no on-board volume control, you will need an inline volume control and EcoAims supplies one in the package. The final thing to note about the physical design is the headphone socket. The placement pointing forwards and upwards near the top front end of the scope may seem slightly odd at first, but in actual use it seems well placed. By not placing it on either side it will work equally well for either a left or right handed shooter, you can route the cable off to which ever side of the gun you prefer. To have the cable exit at the rear could have had problems for the shooter as the cable might get in the way of head placement on the rear of the stock. For me I have found using an extension cable looping it back along the left side of the rifle, tucking it under the cheek piece and around the cheek piece support and then down to the shooting jacket pocket where I plug in my headphones works well and I never notice the cable in use.

The sound

This is where you will notice the origins of the VIS500 and that the biathlon system was the previous audio aiming system from EcoAims. It definitely has similarities to the sound of the biathlon system, but it has also definitely evolved into something else. The VIS500 has three main different regions, off target, outer region of target and inner region. When the VIS500 cannot detect the IR LED it produces a low beep every second or so, I guess to just remind you it is on. Once the VIS500 can detect the IR LED, it starts producing a varying pitch tone, increasing in pitch as it gets closer to the target centre. Unlike the Swarovski the VIS500 has a stepped tone, you hear it jump from one tone to another where as the Swarovski smoothly transitioned. At first this can seem off putting, but I have found that as I have got used to it I probably can shoot just as well with the VIS500 as I could with the Swarovski. Also as the shooter's technique improves and they become more stable and the movement is slower, the steps become less noticeable as the jumps become less and also less frequent.

I mentioned that there is an inner and outer target region, what is the difference between these? In the configuration software for the PC, there is a setting where you can define the radius of a zone in the middle of the target and you can have the tone pulse inside or outside of that region. The speed of the pulsing can be selected in the configuration software, allowing you to define the on and off durations. Even when the tone pulses it will still change pitch depending on the point of aim. I have my VIS500 set so that when the rifle is pointing outside the 9 ring of a air rifle target it will pulse and if it is pointing at the 9 or better it will be a constant tone. Having it change from pulsing to constant just gives me a very clear indication when I am getting very close to the target centre and helps me assess how good my hold is. I do like how even with the inner zone you still get the change in pitch as it means I can still seek out the very best point of aim and have an idea of the amount of movement. This is what I don't like about the VIASS, its inner zone just had a single tone with no variation in pitch inside the inner zone.

As well as being able to change the inner and outer zones, it is possible to select from three different sound curves. A sound curve is how the pitch changes for the distance from the target centre. As an example you could have it change linearly with the distance from the target centre, or you could have it that the pitch changes quicker in the centre than near the outside. Unfortunately the software just labels the three different curves A, B and C, it would be nice to know what each curve is meant to be like.

The software

EcoAims has software for configuring some parameters of the VIS500 and also some training software so it can be used for dry-fire training. Other than the sound customisations I mentioned above, the configuration software allows adjusting the shot sensor. I have already discussed the training software in a previous post. In summary though I would say the training software is a nice extra but would not be a big pull for choosing the VIS500 as for a VI person it is fairly limited what can be done. Also having the separate software for configuration and training is slightly awkward at times, mainly when setting the shot sensor level as you can only have one of the software tools open at a time and so you may find yourself switching between them more than you want.


Well you may already know my view on the VIS500. Whilst seeming simpler than the VIASS, the VIS500 works very well and is well thought through. I feel some of the simplicity helps as you do not have too many settings to confuse you and it is not as critical to configure the sound parameters optimally. The settings which can be configured on the VIS500 do add value and are useful.

The VIS500 is let down by its mounting options, always having a significant amount of it protruding forward of the mounting point making it impossible to fit in some cases without designing custom parts. Also the sound will put off some as the steps in tone is not as pleasing to listen to as the devices with a smoothly varying tone.

Having seen the VIS500 at different times as it developed and evolved from the biathlon system, I know how EcoAims has gradually made the VIS500 a better device. Over that time my feeling towards the EcoAims VIS500 has gradually changed and now I am at a point where out of the VIASS and the VIS500 I choose the VIS500 for rifle use. I just hope that EcoAims will continue to build on what they have now to continue making improvements to overcome the few remaining issues.

Wednesday 10 January 2018

I cant explain the bad shots

Firstly I must say sorry to those of you who don't like word play or those who do not natively speak English, but I just couldn't resist it in the title.

Recently we had been noticing that when I am shooting that I would have a string of good shots, a bad shot being considered an 8 on the air rifle target, but then I would just get a random 6 or 5 on its own and the good shots resuming afterwards. What was most concerning was that those random 6s or 5s actually sounded fairly reasonable. So it was time to do some experimenting to find out what was going on.

One thought was that may be the equipment was doing something strange, may be the EcoAims VIS500 was walking. So to test this I spent an evening at the shooting club sitting down with the rifle on a support rest and the computer connected to the EcoAims VIS500. I did live firing so we could compare where the VIS500 claimed the shot went and where the MegaLink target scored the shot. After around 80 shots, no fliers in the 6 ring and both the EcoAims software and the MegaLink were in fairly close agreement. So seems like its not the equipment, unfortunately that means I was doing something.

One concern I have had for some time with the IR LED based systems like the VIS500 and the VIASS is how the IR LED is offset from the target. The problem with this is that if the rifle is canted over by differing amounts then this might affect where the shot goes. To test if this could account for the random fliers I was getting, it was time to cant over the rifle on the support stand and fire a few shots and see what happens. The original plan was to try 10 shots canted one way then 10 with another cant, however it became very clear sooner this could be the problem. The only thing to notice is that if you mount the IR LED above the target, then the shot goes the other way to wat you might normally expect from canting the rifle. Remember normally because of the path of a pellet dropping over the 10m the barrel is pointing above what you are looking at through the sights, but with the VIS500 it is looking at the IR LED which will be above where the barrel is pointing.

Unfortunately this seems to be a design problem of the IR based systems, with a single LED they cannot see the cant and cannot account for it. Also the further the LED is from the center of the target, the larger the affect from canting the rifle will be, I just hope that WSPS have sufficient wisdom to not standardise the placement too far from the target center.

So looks like we now know what I need to train, detecting and reducing the variation in the cant of the rifle.

Experience of creating shooting videos

You may be aware that over the last few weeks I have been creating some videos for IBSA on vision impaired shooting. It has been quite an ex...