Wednesday 27 February 2019

Life when not shooting

Being a vision impaired shooter does not mean you always pick up a rifle every day. For the last two days my rifle has stayed in its case. However this does not mean I am not doing things which contribute to my shooting.

I thought in this post I could give you a bit of an idea what I do when not actually shooting.

Probably most of my time actually is taken up by work. I work full time as a software developer. Normally this has very little overlap with my shooting, other than I do need to earn an income as there is currently no support for VI shooters in the UK. I have dabbled in mixing my skills as a software developer with my shooting by creating some apps to help me. The only shooting app I have published is VI shoot which allows you to configure your VIASS from an Android device.

My fitness regime is another significant part of my life. Some people think of shooting as a very static sport with very little movement, however you need a good level of fitness and muscle control to actually do it well. Normally I will be on my rowing machine for half an hour every day, core strength is very important for shooting. Tomorrow morning I will be going to do some yoga, again works on the core strength but also it should help my balance. I hope to get some pictures and/or video of me doing yoga for you to see.

Unfortunately being an international sports person does come with some administration from time to time. Over the last couple of days I have been getting together my forms for registering as a World Shooting ParaSport athlete as well as my medical diagnosis form for sight classification. This year probably will have more than usual administration as VI shooting has been adopted by World Shooting ParaSport and there is a new sight classification system as well. It does feel a bit of a nuisance but I guess its required and hopefully in future years there will be much less to do.

This is just some of what I do when not shooting. I will do posts like this from time to time to give you an idea of other things I do when not actually shooting.

Monday 25 February 2019

British Open Airgun Championships report

I was silent here over the last two days because I was at the British Open Airgun Championships and it was difficult to find time with a good internet connection to be able to post any updates here. So here goes a full report of how I got on at the championships.

Saturday was an early start with a long drive to get to the competition. Fortunately my sighted assistant does the driving, so we arrived safely and with plenty of time to spare before my first match of the weekend. I was feeling a bit nervous as this was the first time a vision impaired shooter has shot at the British Open Airgun Championships. I think I apply pressure to myself in these situations as I want to show how well vision impaired shooters potentially can shoot.

I started sighters and all seemed to be going OK, until a minute before end of sighting time when the target failed to score shots. Fortunately we had set up a reserve firing point with a LED and so I was moved to the reserve space. After a few more sighters I seemed to settle in and moved onto competition shots. Considering the nerves and the disruption of moving to another firing point, I finished the first match with a respectable 556.1 which is better than my competition scores from last year.

Sunday was also an early start as my assistant was shooting in the first detail of the day, so breakfast was had at the shooting range. My second match was not until later that afternoon, so I spent most of the day trying to find non-shooting related things to do to keep my mind occupied.

Fortunately I had no technical issues in the second match, but it seems like I didn't quite get the initial set up of my position correct. Also quite early on my feet started to hurt from all the standing, people say it is due to the type of flooring in the shooting range. Things seemed very difficult and my scores were not what I would hope for, but I could just not work out what was wrong. Around shot 30 I made a slight adjustment to my position and things improved significantly and scores returned to normal. Due to the problems at the start my finishing score for the match was 538.3 which is much lower than I normally do. However I think I have learnt some important things from this match so its not all bad.

The competition I entered was the aggregate in class C, so the final positions are worked out from combining the two match results. Due to the low score in the second match I finished a long way down in the class, but I don't think winning was the main goal this year, I was doing it for competition experience and I think it definitely served that purpose.

Finally I would like to thank the NSRA for having the medical dispensation scheme and allowing me to compete in this competition. As well as giving me some valuable competition experience, I think having me at these increases the awareness of vision impaired shooting amongst the wider shooting community. I also hope that this will encourage other vision impaired shooters to move forward with their shooting and join me at some of these competitions.

Friday 22 February 2019

History and development of vision impaired shooting

Today's post is probably of greatest interest to those either new to vision impaired shooting or have only seen it a number of years ago. I intend to give a little bit of history of vision impaired shooting and how it has developed over the years.

Firstly a quick summary of how someone with impaired vision shoots. The vision impaired shooter uses the same equipment as would a sighted air rifle shooter, with the one change where the standard sights are replaced with an electronic device which produces via headphones an audio signal to indicate the point of aim. The shooter also has a sighted assistant who may help the shooter locate the correct target and provide details such as where a shot hit the target. For more details please see this page about vision impaired shooting.

Back when I started shooting, around 22 years ago, the aiming device was quite different to the current system. The old Swarovski ZE-B618 was a light based system, where the target was the reverse of the normal target, it required a white centre and a black surround. It also required the target to be illuminated by a 50W halogen lamp. The sound produced by this equipment could be affected by many factors, the quality of the target, the brightness of the lamp and even other light sources such as sunshine through windows in the room. The general view at the time was that an air pistol sized target was the most appropriate target for vision impaired shooters.

Due to me starting shooting at a young age and the equipment available at my school's shooting club, I shot with the rifle supported on a rest. This is how the majority of vision impaired shooters were shooting then and many still do shoot using the support rest. However there were a few who were shooting in the conventional standing position without any additional support for the rifle. Soon after Holwell Rifle Club obtained the aiming equipment for vision impaired shooting in 2005, I started to shoot in the conventional standing position without the support rest.

The scores being achieved back in 2005 were much lower than they are now. For a vision impaired shooter shooting in the conventional standing position, the highest score achieved in competition was 570 integer score on an air pistol target. Over the years the standard has improved, to a point where I could achieve a 600 integer on air pistol targets. However in 2014 I could tell that internationally it was likely that there would be a changed to air rifle sized targets for vision impaired shooting, so with support from my shooting club I started to enter local leagues shooting against sighted shooters using air rifle targets. At this point I felt my shooting really could be compared against any other air rifle shooter.

Due to the target requirements of the Swarovski aiming device, it was difficult for me to get permission to go to any standard shooting competition. However once the newer digital aiming devices started to become available the situation began to change. The newer digital aiming devices only require a battery powered infrared LED to be placed near the target. Also these systems are not affected by differences in lighting condition in the shooting range. This makes it much simpler for competition organisers as the only alteration needed to let me shoot is to place the LED near the target. I remember the comment of how simple it was from the organisers of my first competition with sighted shooters.

Vision impaired shooting has really come a long way since vision impaired shooting of yesteryears and I now feel I can be treated like any other shooter. So when you watch me shoot this weekend, remember I am doing everything the same as all the other shooters, the only difference is I am using my ears instead of my eyes.

Thursday 21 February 2019

First competition of 2019: British Open Airgun Championships

This weekend will see my first competition of 2019, the British Open Airgun Championships. This is going to be a big competition for me, it is the highest level competition to date shooting alongside sighted shooters and I believe the first time a vision impaired shooter has competed in this championships. Also this will be the first competition for me with my new shooting suit. I admit I am feeling a bit excited and nervous about this competition. It is strange how I seem to get more nervous about national level competitions against sighted shooters than I do at some international vision impaired shooting competitions.

I would encourage anyone who is at the competition to come and speak with me or my assistant if you want to know more about me or how vision impaired shooting is done. I will be there both Saturday and Sunday, so I should have plenty of time when I am not shooting to have discussions.

If you cannot make it to the competition, then you will be able to follow my progress as I intend to post updates on both my twitter account and also on my FaceBook page. Additionally at the end of the weekend I will write a follow-up post here on my blog.

Wednesday 20 February 2019

EcoAims sound curve details

Update: The original posting of this blog post contained a mistake on where curves B and C start to rise in tone, this is now corrected.

In yesterday's post about the EcoAims software I mentioned that the sound curves tab in the VIS500 setup tool has no description of the different curves. Daniel Walø sent me a message with some information about the different sound curves.

Graph showing different sound curves, X axis is distance from target centre and Y axis is pitch of sound.

The above graph probably is the simplest explanation for those who can see. The X axis is the distance from the target centre in mm and the Y axis is the pitch of the sound in Hz.

For those who cannot see the graph, here is a text description based upon the description Daniel gave me. Curve A is steeper than the other curves, with the tone starting to rise about 25mm from the target centre and most noticeably rising about 5mm from the target centre. Both curves B and C start to rise further from the target centre than curve A, and so do not rise as noticeably in the very centre. Curve B is steeper than curve C.

Even with this information, I think I would still suggest you try each sound curve and decide which you prefer or which works best. I don't think anyone has really done research into what would be the best audio signal for shooting, but my experience is starting to tell me it might not be quite what you might expect.

I also feel it would be good if EcoAims could add some more detail into their software to help the user select the curves. May be a text description of each curve, better still may be an audio sample which could be played.

Tuesday 19 February 2019

EcoAims software information and tips

After a few days of blog admin updates, back to information about shooting equipment. This post will be of particular interest for users of the EcoAims VIS500 as I will be discussing the EcoAims software.

Over the last couple of weeks I have helped a couple of friends with their EcoAims VIS500 aiming devices and the software. This reminded me about the situation with the software and I think it might be useful to give some tips here for everyone. There are two pieces of software for the VIS500, the training software and the setup tool.

The training software

The training software allows the computer to show where the gun is pointing and will estimate the score of shots. This means you can use your EcoAims VIS500 as an electronic trainer and do dry-fire training. Whilst this may seem like a nice feature, unfortunately in reality it is not of great value:

  1. The software is not really accessible with a screen reader and so those who rely on a screen reader will only be able to hear the shot score at the time of taking the shot. You will not even be able to configure software settings. To get the most from the software you probably will want sighted assistance.
  2. Sighted people tell me that even when you can see, the information available is very limited in comparison to what is provided in other electronic trainers, for example Scatt. When using Scatt, there is an amazing amount of statistics available, enough to confuse many people but in the right hands a really valuable resource to allow you detailed analysis of your shooting.
My recommendation is, if you want serious electronic training, then you will need to buy something else.

The VIS500 setup tool

Thankfully as it is more important, the setup tool can be used by a screen reader user independently, however this is still not entirely issue free as some of the labelling of the controls is not correctly read. If you know the order of the controls as you tab around the window, then you will be able to access everything.

Below is a description of the user interface for version 1.1.

IMPORTANT: Remember to press the read parameters button to retrieve the settings from the VIS500. When you have finished changing the settings, remember to press the set parameters button to save the settings back to the aiming device. Failing to press the button to set the values will lead to no changes in the device settings.

The sound tab
  1. On time edit box; the length of time the pulsed tone will be on, the length of the pulse.
  2. Off time edit box; the length of time the pulsed tone will be off, or the time between pulses.
  3. Off amplitude edit box; how lound the tone will be for the off part of the pulsed tone. Low values will be quieter and high values will be louder.
  4. Pulse region; whether you want the tone to pulse inside or outside the zone. Select inside to have it pulse near the target centre, select outside to have it pulse near the target edge.
  5. Pulse zone size slider; Select how large you want the zone for the pulsed tone to be.
Sound curve tab

This tab only consists of three radiobuttons to select between three different sound curves, A, B or C. A sound curve is how the pitch varies relative to the centre. I have not found a description for the different sound curves and I can only recommend try them all and select which you prefer or shoot best with.

Sensor tab

On this tab there is just one slider to set the sensitivity of the shot sensor. Lower values make the scope less sensitive and higher values make it more sensitive. I found that normally only one or two values works well for a particular rifle, correctly detecting shots whilst not incorrectly detecting other bumps and clicks.

Software version tab

This allows you to check the version of the software installed in the VIS500. Unfortunately if you have an old version you would need to send it to EcoAims or may be a dealer to get the software updated.

Using it with a Mac

EcoAims have no version of the software for MacOSX. Users of those computers will need to either:

  1. Install windows on their Mac, through virtual machine software such as VmWare or directly with BootCamp
  2. Alternatively find a Windows PC, even a fairly cheap PC should run the software as it is not very heavy on resources.
Even if there were software for MacOSX, the experience may not be too good. I once had my VIS500 connected to my Mac when it booted into MacOSX and it seems like VoiceOver was getting input events from the VIS500, as if it thought the VIS500 was a Braille display or something, which was sending VoiceOver crazy. When I disconnected the VIS500 VoiceOver went back to normal. I doubt this can be corrected by EcoAims without entirely redesigning how the VIS500 communicates with the computer.

Monday 18 February 2019

Find me on social media

As things start leading up to the World Shooting ParaSport World Championships later this year in Sydney, Australia, I have decided with my coach we need to raise my profile online more. Whilst I hope you will continue to come here to read extended posts on what i am doing with my shooting, I know life can get busy. So I am starting to create a presence on social media.

For the twitter users, you can follow my personal twitter account @mwhapples. I have configured twitter to automatically send out tweats about new blog posts, so by following me on twitter you will know when to come back here for new posts. As well as updates about blog posts, I will from time to time tweat additional things which may not get mentioned here on this blog.

For those who prefer facebook, you can visit at my shooting page on facebook. Unfortunately facebook has limited the ability for automatic posting, but I will manually post updates about the blog as well as other news.

For those of you who don't like social media, I will keep writing all the most important stuff here and you can always follow by email for update notifications.

Sunday 17 February 2019

New blog address and helpful hints

Again another short blog post today. If you look to the address bar, you should notice that the web address for the blog is different. The new address is I would encourage you to use this new web address for the blog, however for the foreseeable future the old blogspot address should keep working. You may ask why the change of the address? There are a few reasons, it is nice to have the address match the name of the blog and should I move to a different blog provider then I will be able to keep this new address.

Whilst talking about the blog, today I got asked a question about following the blog and getting email updates. There are two ways to follow the blog, by email or through your blogger reading list. If you want to get emails when new posts appear, then you need to follow by email. On any blog page you will find a section headed "Follow by email" which contains a box to enter your email and a button to submit the request. If you want to follow by recieving notifications in your blogger reading list, then look for the "followers" section and use the "Follow" link in that section.

Saturday 16 February 2019

Melton Times Sports Awards

After such a long post yesterday, just a short post today. I am a finalist in the Melton Times Sports Awards in the disabled sports person category. It came to me as a bit of a surprise last week when I got an email telling me that I am a finalist this year, as I was not actually aware I had been nominated until then. As the awards will be presented on 28 February, we will have to wait and find out who gets the award.

Friday 15 February 2019

New shooting suit

It may have been some time since I last posted, however I am still doing shooting. Before getting on to 2019, a post about something which happened at the very end of last year. I got a new shooting jacket and trousers from Mouche.

My old shooting jacket and trousers, I got second hand back in about 2011, and whilst it had been altered, it had just got to a point where it was not fitting me well. Unusually for shooting clothes it appears mine had grown, there was just too much material for it to give any good amount of support. With the World Championships coming up in October 2019, it felt like it would be a good time to change it.

Having heard good things from other members at my shooting club about their Mouche jackets and trousers, mid December found me on a flight out to Germany. As I was not going to arrive until about lunch time, the first day consisted mainly of being measured, getting an initial fit on the jacket and selecting the colours. The measuring process was thorough, but being carried out efficiently by Ursula it did not take too long, so giving me and my coach some time to explore the town and get some food. When we returned later in the afternoon, there was an initial version of the base part of the jacket to try for fit. My first impression was how different it felt to my old shooting jacket, which made it difficult for me to know what felt right or wrong. As for selecting the colours, a job I never know how to approach as not being able to see the colours means I will not be able to form my own views without influence from others. There was one thing I knew I wanted, it should be easy for people to spot me and it should be quite distinct. After a bit of discussion we settled on the colours and there was nothing more for me to do that day.

Picture of initial jacket fitting.Picture of initial jacket fitting.Picture of initial jacket fitting.

The next morning when I returned, the trousers were ready for some initial fitting. Again how strange it felt in comparison to my old shooting trousers, but I think I was getting used to the idea it was going to feel a lot tighter. Unfortunately for me there was not going to be quite enough of one of the colours to do my original design, so time to decide upon an alternative colour scheme. Once that was done, again time to let work be done on finishing the jacket and trousers, so I went of with my coach in search of a Christmas market, but we were too early as it was due to start that weekend.

Picture of initial fitting of trousersPicture of initial fitting of trousersPicture of initial fitting of trousers

Later that day when I returned the suit was nearly complete and time for the final fitting. Also time to try it in both the standing and prone positions. I think now I was starting to notice the support I was getting from the new suit and what my old suit was lacking. This was also a changce for my coach to see how it all was looking on me. A few more tweaks and it was all done and ready for me to take home.

Picture of final fittingPicture of final fittingPicture of final fittingPicture of final fittingPicture of final fittingPicture of final fittingPicture of final fitting

Once home, I eagerly awaited my first training session with my new suit. Although feeling different to what I was used to, everything seemed to be good. Unfortunately with Christmas and new year, along with some refurbishment at my shooting club, it meant I then had a break of a few weeks after my first week of using the new suit. When I resumed shooting after the new year, I must have forgotten how the new suit felt as it took me a bit of time to get comfortable with my shooting again. However since then I have got more comfortable with my shooting and am really pleased with my new shooting kit.

Picture of me in new shooting suit with 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...