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.

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