There are plenty of these newfangled whizbang devices on the market these days; the Noptel, RIKA Home Trainer, SCATT, Kurt, etc, but very little written on their practical use. Firstly we will discuss why you should use one. Then we will go into how to set it up to gain the most benefit from them.
I guess I should first qualify my own experience with these units. Obviously I know the RIKA system best, but for some months I used a SCATT system in Australia a couple of years ago. Most software in this field has similar settings and features.
Perhaps it is because none of these units were developed in a country where English is the first language that there are no helpful instructions for analyzing the information they provide. This is a guide to hopefully help you better understand how to get the most from your trainer.
For the purposes of brevity (that’s from the Latin word “brevis” meaning “lazy typist”) I’ll be referring to Electronic Trainers as ETs. This is in no way an attempt to appear more scientific or scholarly. I’d just like to make this clear from the outset. Neither would I appreciate any smart alec emails titled “Phone Home”.
In too many instances I have seen ETs used simply as a convenient means of shooting a match. It won’t do any harm, but it’s like using a semi trailer to go to the corner shop for a bottle of milk. You have, after all, the ultimate tool for working smarter rather than harder to improve your shooting technique.
Although these trainers have the ability to simulate “real” shooting – scaled down targets and scoring rings in direct proportion to an actual match – it would be a mistake to compare scores shot on an ET to scores shot live, both competition and practice. This was never the intention of their design.
It is better to think of an ET as being a diagnostic tool. The most important information to be taken from an ET session has little to do with a final score. For a shooter who is taking his training seriously, there are many parts of shooting performance that can be broken down into specific components. Size of average hold, time taken for completion of shot, hold stability during actual shot release (trigger control), consistency in follow through and variations between hold area and hit area are just a few of the important ones.
From a specific ET session it should be possible to identify a particular trait or problem within your shooting technique. This will indicate that you need work on this problem for perhaps a week or two. The next session on the ET will give an indication of whether the exercises you have done have improved this aspect of your shooting.
I’m assuming you are setting up your ET at home. If you have a RIKA you will have the flexibility of not needing a set distance, since you can print targets to any specified range up to 10 meters. Otherwise you will have a 5 or 10 meter range, possibly near your PC. Ideally range-like surroundings (garage or basement) give a more realistic backdrop than a lounge complete with competing television set.
Always shoot in the same clothing you would be wearing at the range. For this reason a plushly carpeted lounge also detracts from simulating “real” shooting conditions. Obviously you should also set the target at a relative height and have good lighting both on the target and your sights.
Try to locate the receiver unit’s cord in such a way that it does not swing below the barrel when you come on to the target. This can be done by either anchoring an end directly below the barrel or draping the cord up your arm and around your shoulder. Try to remember you have done this before rushing off to feed the cat halfway through the match, as none of these units bounce well off the floor.
It is also a good idea to have some means of protecting the sensor where it is clamped to the end of the barrel. With a rifle you can use a bipod. Using a pistol you just have to be careful never to bump the end of it, otherwise you will find your zero could have moved. I used to use a higher than normal bench and rest the pistol on the flat of the grip, thereby keeping the sensor well clear of the bench.
Otherwise you should do everything as you would while shooting. The same breathing, shot sequence, follow through and ideally timing. If you have an older computer you might find you’ll have to wait a little while between shots for it to catch its breath.
Just because your ET has come with default settings, don’t be afraid to change them to suit yourself. Otherwise much of the information you receive will not be of much use.
The first thing I do is expand the maximum run time of the trace to at least 20 seconds. Many of them come set at 5 seconds with dire warnings of taking up unnecessary space in the computer’s memory if you go over that. What it will do is give all of your shots a maximum recorded time of 5 seconds, whether you take 6 or 16 seconds to complete the shot. You will never know just how long you are taking, and this could be something in your technique that needs to be addressed.
If you are given a choice of scoring ring for holding this should be selected depending on the level you have attained. A 560 shooter should be trying to hold 9 ring or better. A 530 shooter should be trying to hold 8 ring, and I’d recommend anybody else to select the 7 ring, or the size of the black. What this will provide is a percentage of time (that you can specify) before the shot is broken that is held within this area. Most ETs will already give the ten ring as a separate percentage, but this secondary hold area is up to you. I generally set the time value at 2 seconds, as my optimum hold time after I have settled into the aiming area is 3-5 seconds, and it will give a good indication of how I am holding. Shooters who prefer to hold for a shorter time may wish to shorten this accordingly.
It is also possible to extend your trace further than one second after the shot. This is handy for checking that your follow through does in fact exist. Many junior or inexperienced shooters will assure you that they do in fact have a follow through, but the straight line that zips off the target immediately out of the shot hole is a dead giveaway.
If your ET has the capability of offsetting the shot on a time basis, it is an interesting experiment to set it at plus 0.5 to 1.0 seconds and see what the possible result would have been. A good follow through should net a higher score as trigger release no longer plays a part in the hold.
This function also gives a good indication if trigger control is not as finely tuned as it should be. By setting to minus 0.2 to 0.3 of a second, if the projected score is noticeably higher than your actual result, it probably indicates poor trigger release. We typically have a reaction time of approximately two to three tenths of a second between recognizing a good sight picture and sending the message through our nervous system to set off the shot. If we consistently pull the shot from the center of the target to a less central point of impact we have certainly fired consciously and have to work on a means of setting off the trigger in a more subtle manner.
In my next article I will expand further the finer points of making the most of the information available from an ET.
For those wishing to experiment with the software, the RIKA program can be downloaded for free from our site. We have also made available an extra demo for air pistol, with an air rifle file soon to be added.
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